After the Google homepage, there can be no doubt that GoodReads.com is the best website on the Internet. If it weren’t for this exceptionally beige and bland cataloging site, I wouldn’t have set a concrete reading goal for the last two years and I wouldn’t have pushed myself to read more. For that, I thank you, GoodReads.
Still, not even GoodReads can make me read good books. I’d say that this past year, 2017, had some excellent books, but my “Top 10” list is by no means overflowing. Without the guidance of teachers or professors, it’s hard to outline for myself a good reading list. Anyhow, here’s my top books of 2017:
10. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg – This pop-psychology book barely inches its way onto the list—if I hadn’t been forming my 2018 resolutions while reading it, I’m not sure that it would have made the #10 spot. While the writing pales compared to Gladwell—and Duhigg doesn’t quite pull all his threads together into a cohesive whole—The Power of Habit makes good use of interesting case studies and has on its side the inherent allure of psychology.
9. Eastern Religions, Michael D. Coogan – I’m presently teaching a class on World Religions and using this as one of my texts. Eastern Religions offers an insider look into the mysteries of Eastern faiths, religions so often caricatured by Christian depictions. For that reason alone, it is worth reading.
8. Centered in God, Mark E. Powell – By one of my professors, Centered in God steps its readers through a series of theological topics with a special focus on Christian spirituality. It’s meditative pace is refreshing and enlightening.
7. Prima Scriptura, Clayton Croy – While I’m sure I disagree with Croy on a number of issues, I appreciate Prima Scriptura as an introduction to biblical interpretation. In his book, Croy is able to balance an evangelical appreciation of Scripture with an intelligent, scholarly reading of the same.
6. A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Helmut Thielicke – My fondness for this book is non-translatable as it deals with the unique struggles and task of studying religion, yet I cannot help but rank it among my top books of the year.
5. The Sentry, Paul Jenkins – Because I am a man of taste, a comic book cracks our top five. The Sentry is a truly unique series in which an All-Star-Superman-esque character is introduced into Marvel continuity as a forgotten creation of Stan Lee and retconned into having always existed in the Marvel Universe. Its title character is an unreliable narrator dealing with alcoholism and a multitude of psychological disorders. It is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting comic series in recent memory.
4. Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling – So I finally got around to reading this series after having spent much of my life fleeing the scandal and sin of these witchcraft-focused young adult novels. I enjoyed the series if for nothing else but time spent with its characters and learning about its fantastical world. Moreover, the overarching plot of the seven books I thought was considerably well developed, even if I found the writing and individual scenes lacking (which is understandable for young adult novels). I stand by my minority opinion that the movies, while lacking the intricate detail that only books can supply, are the superior creative works. But don’t fret Harry Potter fans; being upped by an acclaimed series of films is nothing to be ashamed of.
3. On Writing, Stephen King – Don’t tell anyone, but the most I’ve ever read of King is ten pages from the middle of The Tommyknockers. But I can see the appeal; King is an excellent, witty, and engaging writer. The sections on writing were excellent, but where the memoir really shines is in advice on productivity and in the narrative sections. In the latter sections, especially, you can learn more on writing than any expositional book.
2. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson – After well over a thousand recommendations and endless prodding from Lauren, I read Gilead this year. I’m not sure I gave the novel its due attention, spreading my reading out over a year, but nevertheless, every time I returned to its pages I was amazed by the meditative grace of Robinson’s writing—and even the theological wisdom of her fictional narrator.
1. Theology for the Community of God, Stanley J. Grenz – It’s a textbook, an intimate systematic theology, and magnum opus. In this easily accessible work written for professionals, Grenz outlines centuries of orthodox theology in a way that seems personal to him and relevant for readers to come. If you want to understand the story of the Gospel—and the beauty and the complexity therein—this is the place to start.
I’m excited for the books of 2018. I should receive plenty of good recommendations from school, but I’ll have to continue seeking out good fiction and leisure reading. Wish me luck!