Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Books I'm Digesting

I've been trying to read a book a week for 2010. So far I'm on track. Here's what I've been reading lately.

The Prodigal God
. I cannot praise Timothy Keller enough. He has an air of humble wisdom about him, writing with simply clarity and the life-transforming conviction of someone who has given themselves completely to the Gospel of Christ. In The Prodigal God, Keller looks at the parable of the two sons in Luke 15 and its underlying Gospel message to both the spiritually lost and the self-righteous person. A fresh and convicting look at the power and relevance of the Gospel.

Life Together. I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's treatise on community in a single sitting at a local coffee shop. It's not often that I finish a book in one day, but Bonhoeffer's in-depth and challenging take on community is convicting. He takes on any idealized concepts of community and boils it down to the bare essentials--Christ reconciling and uniting people. Knowing that he's writing this in the context of WWII and Nazi Germany also adds an urgency to the writing; you want to take this guy seriously because he takes Jesus seriously.

Sin Boldly. Former religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Cathleen Falsani's memoir-esque look at the concept of grace was refreshing and timely. I, like many in the church, struggle with understanding the power and reality of grace. It can so often become an intangible theological concept, an invisible God pardoning me for my sins. Falsani finds grace in the most unique places--on an African safari, driving around post-Katrina New Orleans, walking the streets of Chicago--and shares her experience in an affecting and personable way. Falsani has written another book on faith and the Coen brothers' movies, so I'll likely check that one out soon.

The Moviegoer. Walker Percy's classic novel about a jaded young man in New Orleans has a transcendent charm to it, but it took me quite a while to make through the entire book. Written in first-person present-tense, we experience everything as Binx Bolling presently experiences it. There are some powerful spiritual ideas throughout the book, especially the concept of "the search" for a meaningful life beyond the ordinariness. Yet it didn't draw me in, and there isn't much of a narrative to speak of--a man's ordinary life and his somewhat cynical thoughts about it, a la Catcher in the Rye. A good book, and worth reading, but not going to make it on my favorites list.

The Screwtape Letters. I'm not sure how I managed to go all these years without fully reading C.S. Lewis' brilliantly creative and satirical book on temptation. A fictional collection of letters from an elderly demon to his young apprentice, Lewis manages to address some of the deepest struggles of the human heart with both levity and wisdom. I both laughed out loud and wept over my own sin while reading it. A quick read too.

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