books of 2015

I try to read a lot of good books every year. Obviously, the books I read influence the ways I think.

I tried to incorporate more fiction into my reading this year. I finished Dosteyevsky's Brothers Karamozov in January. I read a paperback so I do not have any Kindle highlights to share here, although, I do highly recommend it.

Next I read George MacDonald's Salted with Fire about the conversion of a Scottish preacher from a job to an transformed relationship energized by God. Here are a few highlights.

"...his thoughts had for some time been brooding over the blessed fact, that God is not the God of the perfect only, but of the growing as well; not the God of the righteous only, but of such as hunger and thirst after righteousness." Location 895. 

"If he be the kind of person you say he is, why can't I go close up to him?" "I confess the same foolishness, my child, at times," answered the minister. "It can only be because we do not yet see God as he is—and that must be because we do not yet really understand Jesus—do not see the glory of God in his face. God is just like Jesus—exactly like him!" Location 1284

I started Les Miserable in the early spring after Salted with Fire. I am still reading it. It is a great bedtime read right before I go to sleep. These writers from the past took their time, because they had very little other entertainment to compete with. I really enjoy this book even it is taking me so long. Just as Dostoyevsky based his most holy priest on an historical person, so also does Victor Hugo, who has deep admiration for him: "did not study God; he was dazzled by him." Location 1271 churchmen, luxury is wrong, except in connection with representations and ceremonies. It seems to reveal habits which have very little that is charitable about them. An opulent priest is a contradiction. The priest must keep close to the poor. Now, can one come in contact incessantly night and day with all this distress, all these misfortunes, and this poverty, without having about one's own person a little of that misery, like the dust of labor? Is it possible to imagine a man near a brazier who is not warm? Can one imagine a workman who is working near a furnace, and who has neither a singed hair, nor blackened nails, nor a drop of sweat, nor a speck of ashes on his face? The first proof of charity in the priest, in the bishop especially, is poverty. Location 1119

I did enjoy one modern novel, on audio during a long road trip, The Martian. It was better than the movie. It was funnier, smarter, and more stressful. I also read The Leftovers after I saw an episode in a hotel room earlier this year. It's not about my favorite meals.

Speaking of funny, I read or listened to three comedian memoirs by Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Amy Poehler. Fey's was my favorite.

I have not read any history or science yet this year. Edit: I did read one science book, Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution by Fortey which was excellent. I cannot decide whether I will read next a biography of Ben Franklin or volume 1 of Herodotus's Histories.

I did read theology though. I read two books by Pete Enns, his latest one, The Bible Tells Me So, which I did a long blog series on and an earlier book of his, which I did not blog about because I was lazy, The Evolution of Adam , What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say about Human Origins. It has many gems like the following, but nothing personally earth shattering.
Together Genesis 1 and the flood story in chapters 6–9 present not a picture of history but a picture of how Israel sees itself as God’s people amid the surrounding world. This point is essentially self-evident and so shapes our expectations of what Genesis is prepared to deliver for those who read it today. These early chapters are the Word of God, but they are not history in any normally accepted sense of the word today. And they are most certainly not science. They speak another language altogether. Location 1246

I also read the excellent book by Derek Flood, Disarming Scripture, which I was not too lazy to blog through.

My oldest child is an anthropology major so I read a major anthropology work, Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It was challenging and excellent, but also old. Coincidentally, though sadly, another more recent French anthropologist who interacts with Campbell's take on mythology in culture has just passed this week, Rene Girard. His works are suddenly showing in my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I'm reading this one today, Are the Gospels Mythical? You may be surprised by his answer.  He has had tremendous influence on the thinkers of the American protestant church. Another article I came across today by Morgan Guyton helps explain Girard's mimetic theory and the scapegoat and its impact on theology.

I have so many non-fiction books on my digital nightstand. But I need to think of the next work of fiction as well, perhaps another McDonald novel. Suggestions are welcome. Look on the sidebar of the blog to find me on Twitter or Facebook.


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