Friday, December 23, 2011
The Best Books Read in 2011
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- Over the past three years I’ve written the “Best Books of the Year” article for the ASSIST News Service. Each time, I focused on books that were released in that particular year. But this year I’m doing something different. I’m discussing books that I read this year that had the greatest impact on me, new or old.
Like my previous “Best Of” articles, I must state my particular biases: one, all books are educational in the sense that I hope someone will learn something from them; and two, most come from a distinctly Christian viewpoint.
I don’t agree with all the ideas espoused by each author, and I disagree with a couple of them in several particular ways, but I picked books that caused me to ponder deeply, think about God and His creation, and put into perspective what it means to be human.
So as one passionate reader to another, I present the ten best books I read in 2011.
2. Simply Jesus, by N. T Wright. Harper One. 2011. Wright’s summary of Jesus’ life and impact is eloquent, inspiring, and even controversial. Simply Jesus is a wonderful digest of Wright’s thoughts concerning Jesus and the implications of His life, death, and resurrection.
3. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament, by Daniel B. Wallace (editor). Kregel Publications. 2011. With all the hoopla Bart Ehrnam creates with each book release (his most recent, Forged) calling into question the reliability and authenticity of the Bible, it is a great privilege to read a scholar of equal repute challenge and dissect the thoughts of Ehrman and other biblical critics. Though technical at times, this is a must-read for people wanting to gain a better understanding of the issues facing biblical scholarship.
5. Witness (Systematic Theology, Volume 3), by James Wm. McClendon. Abingdon Press. 2000. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to discover McClendon (1924-2000), but 2011 was my year. Not only did I read Biography as Theology (1974), I read Witness. Here’s the bottom line: anyone who can discuss Navajo culture, the music of Charles Ives, the art of Georgia O’Keeffe, and the philosophy of Wittgenstein in one book is worth the read. And I was not disappointed.
6. Painting with O’Keeffe, by John David Poling. Texas Tech University Press. 1999. On a recent trip to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico I happened to pick up John Poling’s memoir of his interaction with the famed artist, Georgia O’Keeffe. Though specific to his dealings as handyman and assistant to O’Keeffe, I found the book a fascinating look into an aging artist and her work. Poling is professor of philosophy and religion at Saint Mary’s University, so his insights into the aesthetics and the meaning of art were greatly appreciated, as was the task of telling the truth in the midst of controversy. On a personal level I was interested in the book because Poling is the son of my former childhood pastor, Dr. David Poling.
7. The Art of Prayer, by Timothy Jones. Water Brook. 2005. This past February I was able to attend the C3 Conference at St. George Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. At this gathering I met many wonderful Christian folks: Makoto Fujimura, Frederica Mathewes-Green, and Ken Myers. I picked up books by each author. But it was Timothy Jones’ book on prayer that I read first. Practical, insightful, and honest, The Art of Prayer, is a gentle reminder to continue the great and adventurous conversation with our Father—our soul depends on it.
8. Christianity Beyond Belief, by Todd D. Hunter. IVP. 2009. On a trip to California this year, my wife Melanie and I were able to visit a friend in Newport Beach. She invited us to attend Church with her. We were excited to do so. I was looking forward to meet her pastor, Todd D. Hunter, to discuss his work within the newly formed Anglican Missions in America. I picked up his book, Christianity Beyond Belief, and was pleased with the wisdom and insight provided by the book. Hunter breaks down the Christian journey into four unique elements: Cooperative Friends of Jesus, Living in Creative Goodness, For the Sake of Others, and Through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
9. Soliloquies, by Makoto Fujimura. Square Halo Books. 2009. And God in the Gallery by Daniel A. Siedell. Baker Books. 2008. OK, I’m cheating here. Instead of one book, I choose two books on art. While preparing to host the George Rouault exhibit, Miserere Series, at our Church this year, I thought I should do some reading. In Fujimura’s short book he discusses the works of Rouault, comparing it with his own work as an artist. In Siedell’s book, he provides a framework for understanding and interpreting modern art. The bottom line: art is important and should be viewed, created, and interpreted by Christians.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.