It’s a new year, and it’s as good a time as any to evaluate your personal reading curriculum for the year. Two of the books listed below I had the privilige of reading in manuscript form, and one I’m only halfway through myself — so even I have some reading to do…
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Seldom is one able to determine, in the midst of reading a book, that the work is something great — something above the level of the ordinary. While the term “greatness” shouldn’t be thrown about lightly, especially for a modern novel, it certainly applies to The Road. The harshness of its post-apocalyptic setting perfectly frames the limitless love of a father for his son. Make no mistake, it pains me greatly to praise so highly a work that Oprah Winfrey has likewise blessed, but I wholeheartedly recommended it for anyone who likes to read a book before the film becomes a national phenomenon.
Dolor for Misdeeds, by Colby Willen
A novel about “misdeeds” that were long ago swept under the rug, or so thinks the protagonist until the rug is taken away. Willen’s storyline examines the dolor (mental anguish) that comes from unrequited guilt. Can our mechanisms of justice make thing right, even if wrongly executed? If I didn’t know the author so well, I’d begin to suspect that he knows the mental effects of long-buried crime a little too well. This first novel from my friend of many years is recommended reading for anyone who has ever covered something up.
Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, by D.A. Carson
This short biographical work is the most powerful nonfiction book I’ve read in years. Theologian and scholar D.A. Carson’s memoir of his father is an extraordinary book about an ordinary man. What makes it extraordinary is its poignant display of how greatness cannot be measured by the sizeof one’s audience or the perceived success of one’s vocation. True greatness is measured by faithfulness, of which Tom Carson — with all his imperfections — is a vibrant example. Recommend reading for all ordinary people.
How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator, by Joe Carter and John Coleman
In today’s world, arguments supposedly advance a position. People today have conversations, not arguments. Arguments are George W. Bush — conversations are Barack Obama. Arguments are lawyers, fights, and referee reviews. Conversations are a frappuccino with friends. The fact is that argumentation is a device of communication we use everyday, whether we like it or not (don’t argue with me on this point!). Of course, it is bad argumentation that gives the device its bad rap, and to whom better to look for communication advice than the Word of God himself. Carter and Coleman ably analyze the communication methods of Jesus via classical categories and show how it might look if we used more Christlike methods of communication. It’s a helpful book for anyone who uses communication in their daily lives.
Home, by Marilynne Robinson
I’m just over halfway through, but Robinson’s follow-up to her Pulitzer-Prize winning Gilead is shaping up to be worthy in weight to its predecessor. It’s a book that examines family, failure, and faith through the eyes of people who don’t find themselves very good at any of them. So far it’s heavy with sadnesss, but not burdensomely so due to Robinson profundity of language. Recommended reading for anyone who has ever had black sheep in their family.