Another year, another list.
My media log from 2010 and every year since is found here.
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How Many Books Did I Read This Year?
This year’s goal, once again was to read 60 books. Last year I fell short at 59. This year I exceeded my goal and read 63. The first book I finished was an edited volume by Cameron J. Anderson and G. Walter Hansen called God in the Modern Wing: Viewing Art with Eyes of Faith. The last book I read was Trevin Wax’s The Thrill of Orthodoxy: Rediscovering the Adventure of Christian Faith. Both books were published by InterVarsity Press. I cancelled my comic book subscriptions at mid-year, but I had enjoyed following Tom King and Greg Smallwood’s run in The Human Target. That series isn’t quite over, and I’ve stopped by Bankston’s to pick up single issues as they’ve hit the shelves.
I watched 64 movies and viewed 4 complete television series. That’s down from last year, when I watched 93 movies and 11 television series. It looks like this year we moved out of the pandemic and my viewing habits adjusted accordingly. My favorite movies this year included Zach Snyder’s Justice League, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Wrath of Man, Top Gun: Maverick, The Death of Stalin, Hard Eight, Nope, and Love Actually.
I didn’t really like Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, The Sweeney, Grown Ups, Universal Solider: Day of Reckoning, Pixels, The Courier, or Nemesis (1992). I didn’t care for Thor: Love and Thunder. I’ve begun to sour on the Marvel offerings.
In television, I did not enjoy The Book of Boba Fett: Season One. But I did like watching Bosch: Legacy and Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series.
What Were My Favorite Books This Year?
I’m very glad I read Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
But Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man stands at the top of my list of favorites from this year. It is a classic work of pastoral Christian theology. It is brief, insightful, and clear. Scougal explains reasons why so many fail to grow and mature in faith and how these obstacles can be overcome. He names mistaken ideas about religion (specifically Christianity). Many of those mistaken ideas are still present today. He then charts the way beyond them. While he does write of the importance of certain observances, virtues, and adherence to spiritual disciplines, he returns again and again to our understanding of God and what has been accomplished in, through, and by Jesus in his incarnation, death, and resurrection. This book is available on the web (such as here), though a newer edition, which is the one I read this year, was issued by Crossway. I linked Crossway’s offering above.
Other books I enjoyed and/or appreciated are John McPhee’s Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process, Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, James Clear’s Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, Joshua Mitchell’s American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time, James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful You: Discovering the Person Jesus Created You to Be, Matthew Continetti’s The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism, Clarence Thomas’s My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir, Michelle Ule’s Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional, Henri J. M. Nouwen’s Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life, Timothy Keller’s, Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I?, and Trevin Wax’s The Thrill of Orthodoxy: Rediscovering the Adventure of Christian Faith.
This last one won’t be for everyone, but I deeply appreciated R. Robert Creech’s Pastoral Theology in the Baptist Tradition: Distinctives and Directions for the Contemporary Church.
Did You Hate Anything?
I really did not like Susan L. Maros’s Calling in Context: Social Location and Vocational Formation, Elmore Leonard’s Raylan, or Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
What Are You Reading Right Now?
I’m reading Ron Chernow’s Washington, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Wendell Berry’s This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems, and Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism. I’ve also been carrying a copy of Plato’s Symposium in my bag. I will read it! I have several Christian spiritual formation works on my desk at the office, mostly on prayer, that I plan to get to early in the new year.
What Did I Learn from My Experience Reading This Year?
This year I read a lot of books that I had either requested for review of that I had been asked to read, and as a result I did not always enjoy what I was reading, even if I always enjoy that I am reading.
I also feel as though this year did not contain as much quiet and rest, and that I did not always have the opportunity to sit with and simply enjoy the process of moving through a work, immersing myself in a story or an argument, and allowing myself to ruminate on what I encountered on the page. In surveying my book selections this year, I am disappointed that my choices were not often concerned with my primary area of research and study. I read Christian living books, works of theology, and practical ministry resources. But I’m sensing a need to dive deeply into classic works in the area of Christian spirituality and Christian spiritual formation, or to spend more time in the writings of the Church Fathers, better familiarizing myself with the concerns present in early Christianity, or even chasing down some of the spiritual writings of leaders (men and women) in the monastic traditions.
I read several books this year that address contemporary concerns within American public life, or which sought to explore historical aspects of the United States. I think the United States is like all nations and cultures throughout history. Being comprised of human beings, it evidences the fallenness of human nature. But as an idea, the United States is a brilliant place, with an imperfect but effective system of government. My sense is that America does not suffer from an abundance of pride (though that can certainly be found), but rather an overwhelming amount of self-loathing, on both poles of the ideological spectrum. But I also sense the majority of citizens here, as well as a large proportion of immigrants, appreciate the place and wouldn’t trade living here not only for any other place in the world, but across all of human history.
I’m also glad to notice within myself a deepened love for the Bible. I read four chapters each day. The Bible is my daily companion. I do not find my time in Scripture to be tedious or boring. Rather, I am expectant. I am warmed. I am thankful for the Scriptures and the ways God meets me in and through these ancient writings. My recommendation to all Christians is to spend time daily in the Scriptures, whether with a verse, chapter, book, or an even longer portion. Read, and meditate. Then, be a doer of the Word, and not a hearer (reader) only!
What are you reading, and what should I add to my list?