From the Bookshelf: My Favorite Books in 2014

The Secret Thoughts on An Unlikely Convert - Rosaria Butterfield.

What drives me in reading a books isn’t information.  It’s experience.  In books,  I live in different world and see through different eyes.  One of the most profound books I experienced this year was Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.  By the time she was in her thirties Rosaria was a tenured professor at a university, a published author, and a premier voice within her field of study.  Her area of expertise was queer theory.  Rosaria was a lesbian in a committed relationship, an activist for the gay community, and a scholar in the field.  Secret Thoughts is the story of her conversion to Christianity.  Actually, she says conversion is too trite a term.  Rather, it was a “train wreck.”  As an English scholar, she crafts words and thoughts with beauty often not found in Christian literature today.

Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson

Speaking of crafting words, Doug Wilson’s little book for writers was a work of art. Wilson unpacks seven principles for aspiring writers and models talented writing in the process. Don’t let the fact that this books is for writers steer you away from it.  Watching an artisan at work brings joy even if you don’t plan to learn the trade.  So it is with reading writers on writing.  My wife and I found ourselves laughing out loud frequently as we read this. We enjoyed this book so much we will be revisiting it again soon.  

Unbroken - Laura Hildebrand.  

I’m a sucker for those “read the book before the movie” lists. And when multiple tell me this is one of the best books they’ve ever read, I usually read it. If you haven’t read the book or seen a preview for the movie, Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and WW2 veteran.  Louie’s bomber crashed in the Pacific, killing all but three. After 47 days drifting in a raft he was captured and imprisoned in the most despicable of Japanese POW camps.  I cannot say that a I liked this book.  I do not revel in reading about the pervasive suffering of others.  But I am glad I read this book.


Concerning Christian Liberty by Martin Luther

Some of the most helpful advice I’ve received about thinking through difficult life or theology issues is to read a different generation.  It is helpful advice because it reminds me there’s nothing new under the sun, and it gives a perspective not clouded by contemporary thinking.  So this summer as our church studied passages commonly associated with “Christian liberty” I thought it best to go back about 500 years for study.  Too often we associate “Christian liberty” with supposedly gray areas in the Christian life (movies, music, etc.).  But historically, Christian liberty is not freedom to do, but freedom from the Law.   Concerning Christian Liberty was richly theological and deeply devotional.

Harry Potter (books 4-7) In June 2013, I began my time at Hogwarts. I finally finished this fall, and boy was my wife happy to have me back! Rowling is still no Lewis, and I often found myself longing for more redemptive writing, but the world J.K. Rowling created was seamless and mesmerizing. Seven very long books with the same characters, same villains, and growing plot—this is just good, fun writing! Yes, many Christians do boycott the Harry Potter books for witch and wizard themes.  While I’ll have to explore this some other time, I found their arguments unconvincing. The more prominent danger of Harry Potter, at least for myself, was not the magic but how easy it was to become entrenched in another unreal world.  

\Here are other great nonfiction books I read: Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung Embracing Shared Ministry by Joseph Kellerman; Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith;   The Lord’s Supper edited by Tom Schreiner and Shawn Wright.  Another fiction book I loved was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.