Best Reads of 2011

Several years ago I began keeping an annotated list of every book I read each year. It has been a very useful discipline and resource for later. As part of my own review of this past year I will post here what have been the best books I have read this past year. Included in this list are only books I read all the way through. I am not addressing here commentaries or other reference books which might be consulted (my thoughts on the best new Bible reference works published in the last year can be found here). I have also listed our favorites of books read to my children this year at my blog on children’s literature.

Here then are my favorites from the year in general categories.
1. An Autobiography, R. G. Collingwood- A fascinating little book. I got lost some in the philosophical debate chapters but much challenging and rousing stuff on childhood, education and politics (completed in 1938).
2. Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI’s Story of Courage and Faith, Maurice Possley and John Woodbridge (audio)- This is a fascinating story covering spiritual biography, World War II history, and intrigue. I suggested to Dr. Woodbridge it would work well as a movie and he hinted there was some discussion in that direction.
3. Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin, Bill Kauffman- Kauffmann does not know how to be boring, and he clearly warms to his topic here.This is a well written biography and powerful argument for Anti-Federalist views. Since the Anti-Federalists are so often unknown today and when they are recognized they are maligned and misunderstood, this book ought to be read. Thanks to Eric Smith for loaning me this book!
4. The Revolution: A Manifesto, Ron Paul (audio)- Very good! Paul’s candor and adherence to the constitution is refereshing. He is knowledgeable on the issues so this book would be useful to any US citizen.
5. Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution, and Surprising Release of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Clint Johnson- I have not seen much on this part of history and Johnson tells the story well. There were some surprising grammar errors, but Johnson writes in a balanced manner neither vilifying nor excusing. Shows stubbornness and other negatives of Davis but also his honor & perseverance. He corrects some common historical misunderstandings.

6. The Year Of The Warrior, Lars Walker- This is a Viking story mixed with fantasy. I would never have known of it or probably paid it serious attention if Hunter Baker had not so warmly and consistently commended it. I was hooked right away with this tale of a priest in training who is captured by marauding Vikings eventually becoming the priest for a Christian Viking leader. Walker takes historical facts known of the time and era and weaves them into a powerful story. This becomes a powerful tale of pastoral ministry.
I also read his Blood and Judgment, which is a fascinating, well-informed fantasy take on Hamlet. Thanks Hunter!
7. Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry (audio)- Classic Wendell Berry, this novel really appealed to me. The story is a wonderful vehicle for extolling the value of family, community, place and tradition. There are good examples for various aspects of life. Interestingly, the Okinawa chapter was very “preachy”, even protruding from the narrative. I gave copies to my mom and my wife and daughter for Christmas.
8. Noah Primeval: Chronicles of the Nephilim Book I, Brian Godawa- I mentioned this in more detail in a recent post, so here I will simply say it was nicely done. Another book in biblical fiction I appreciated was Day of War (Lion of War Series) by Cliff Graham. David’s “mighty men” sound like modern special ops with ninja moves, but it was a good read and brought to life some of the biblical characters.

9. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer- A real gem, powerful on prayer and the use of the Psalms.

10. The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, Peter Hitchens (audio)- Excellent! You have probably heard recently about what a good writer his recently deceased writer his brother was. Peter Hitchens is also a very gifted writer. He reminded me of C. S. Lewis often both in his content and in the fact that like Lewis Hitchens was a delight to read not only because of the truth he wrote but simply for the sheer delight of how well he writes.
This book could have been listed under politics/history as well because it is a sharp analysis/critique of culture as well. Thanks to Phil Eyster for insisting I make time to read this book!
11. The Orthodox Pastor: A Guide to Pastoral Theology, Archbishop John Shahovsky- I stumbled across this book at a conference and read it on my plane ride home. It embodies Eastern Orthodox so there are obviously places where I differ, but it was also rich with wisdom and insight. I hope to post more on this book later.
12. The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, Douglas Bond- This is a brief introduction to Knox which does a great job of introducing the man and his relevance for us today. In his engaging way Bond brings Knox to life.


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