Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 Books I Read in 2010

While not all of these books were published in 2010, these are the best of the books I've been digesting throughout the past 365 days. You can check out my 2010 book journal here. These are in no particular order, and are all highly recommended:

Teen 2.0, by Robert Epstein. A lengthy treatise on the idea of extended adolescence and how teenagers are far more capable than our culture gives them credit. If you're a parent or a youth worker, you need to give this book a chance. I attempted to blog through Teen 2.0 this past summer, making it through the first eleven chapters, so if you'd like some more in-depth thoughts, check out the blog posts here. I had the pleasure of meeting Epstein this past summer, and I'd highly recommend meeting authors of books you enjoy.

I and Thou, by Martin Buber. Written by a genius 20th century Jewish theologian, I and Thou is a philosophical book about the essence of relationships, particularly the relationship between humanity and God. I had seen the influence of Buber's thoughts in numerous books, so I had to check it out for myself. A relatively short book that requires multiple readings and long ponderings to really grasp the weight of Buber's implications. 

After You Believe
, by N.T. Wright
. The follow-up to his phenomenal Surprised by Hope, Wright addresses what it means to pursue Christian character beyond legalism or simply "following your heart." Focusing on kingdom-centered values, Wright is both accessible and academic, giving heavy focus on Biblical exegesis without leaving behind the everyday follower of Christ. It's not the best Wright book I've read, but it's one of the best books I've read on Christian character.

Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I first read this in college, and I just didn't get it. I don't think I was ready for Bonhoeffer at that point. It's like how I used to like peppermint white mochas, but now my caffeinated drink of choice is a black americano. So when I picked up my copy of Life Together for a second time, I read it straight through in one sitting. The concept of Christian community takes on whole new meanings when it's written from a German pastor in the middle of WWII. A humbling read.

Father Fiction, by Donald Miller. A rewrite of Miller's To Own a Dragon, I don't think I would have appreciated Miller's humorous musings on growing up without a father before becoming a father myself. Being in the youth ministry world, I see the effects of a fatherless generation all the time, young people desperate for a man who will simply stay. I watch my son run through our home, and I catch his eye and he smiles and I wonder at the love of fathers for their children. Books like this make me want to be a better man, and Miller continues to be one of my favorite authors.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball,  by Gordon MacKenzie. A book on creativity that transcends the myriad of similar books with its unique format and quirky-yet-wise author. And how about that title? The thesis is that creative types must live in a tension between organizational "hairballs" and going off into a lonely abyss where creativity can't flourish. MacKenzie worked for Hallmark for 30 years, ultimately earning the title of "creative paradox" and fostering a culture of creativity in the business world. If you want to be creatively inspired, read this book.

The Children of Divorce, by Andrew Root. I read this at a season in my life when my own parents' marriage was falling apart. It didn't make sense that something happening so far away from me would affect me as deeply as it did. So reading Root's timely insights on the ontological effects of divorce offered healing for my soul. Honest, insightful, theologically-robust and culturally-relevant, Root's book is for anyone who has been through a divorce, both parent and child. Read my review of the book here.

Silence, by Shusako Endo. There are few novels that deal with issues of faith both overtly and with artistic nuance, but Endo's Silence accomplishes both. Endo writes about the rise of Christianity in Japan with a pained and somber tone, like a man who has wrestled with God and come back limping. Silence focuses on an idealistic Jesuit missionary and his harrowing journey into the midst of Japanese culture. We've all struggled with the silence of God in the midst of our pain. Yet it is only in the midst of these darkest hours where our faith--and His faithfulness--can shine through. I'd consider Silence one of my new favorite novels, and one I'll reread in the years to come.

The Homiletical Plot, by Eugene Lowry.
 I love stories; more than that, I love story. I love the very concept, the idea of characters and conflict and climaxes and conclusions, all intertwined with beautiful prose. As one who regularly preaches, I've always thought in terms of story, of viewing my entire sermon as a plot leading to the conclusion of the Cross. This isn't about using stories as illustrations or just preaching from narrative passages; this is about structuring one's entire sermon like the script to a movie or the chapters of a novel, defined by the story. Lowry's little book on preaching puts into words what I had been practicing for years; it's one of the better books on the art of the sermon that I've ever read.

The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, Counterfeit Gods, and Generous Justice, by Tim Keller. I read all of Keller's four most recent books in 2010, and they were all transforming in their own unique ways. Each book, while tackling very different themes and addressing disparate audiences, all bring the reader back to the heart of the gospel of Jesus. Keller writes with a humble wisdom stemming from years of following Christ well and faithfully pursuing the gospel in his own life. His writing is both intellectual and accessible, transcending the dichotomy between the world of academia and the public.

What have been your favorite books of 2010? Share them in the comments.


  1. I like Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus and It by Groeschel. Here is what my year in review books were.

  2. Joel,

    Just a few that really challenged me this year were The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel, Church Planter by Darrin Patrick ( a book for pastors, not just planters, Scouting the Divine by Margaret Feinberg, and Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson...

  3. Two Craig Groeschel books in the comments! I haven't read any of his books, but now I think I have to.