Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book Awards: Best Books (Read) In 2008, Part 1

Awarded by Derek Melleby

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. But two surprising things happened when I sat down to award the first annual CPYU Bookshelf’s “best books of the year.” First, I came up with an interesting criterion to determine the winners. As I stared at my bookshelf, I reflected on the past year and thought: What books did I recommend to friends? What parts of books did I read aloud to my wife? What books did I quote from in writing? What books did I give as gifts? Basically, what books were on my mind the most over the last year? Second, and this is remarkable, after thinking through those questions, I started to pull books from the shelf. Guess how many I pulled? You guessed it: 10 books. How perfect!

The following books receive a CPYU Bookshelf Best Book of 2008 Award. This post will be in two parts, five books each. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Enjoy the list and feel free to add your own!

(Drum roll please.)

Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places, L.L. Barkat (Intervarsity Press). On a number of occasions, I heard my good friend and Hearts & Minds Bookstore owner, Byron Borger, rave about this memoir, but it took me a few months before I finally picked up my own copy to read. I’m glad I did. I read it devotionally during a summer family vacation. I seemed to be always reading paragraphs to anyone who would listen. Barkat has a painful and powerful story to tell and she does so gracefully. This is perhaps the best written book on the list. Each chapter concludes with a biblical reflection connecting the main ideas to Scripture. She doesn’t “proof text,” but rather eloquently inserts her story into God’s story without saying that that is what she is doing. Truly a masterpiece. Simply Beautiful.

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life, Colin Duriez (Crossway Books). This biography was inspiring. I knew the basics of Schaeffer’s life: pastor, missionary, apologist and founder of the L’Abri Community in Switzerland. I have a few friends who met him or were mentored by him and their stories helped to fill-in bits and pieces of his life. But Duriez’s book lays it all out there, filling in gaps and painting a clearer picture of this 20th Century prophet. Most importantly, Schaeffer was a humble, honest man who cared deeply about others and who spoke truth with love and compassion. Click here to read my fuller review.

Sex & The Soul: Juggling Sexality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses, Donna Freitas (Oxford University Press). It’s no surprise that many college students experiment sexually during this season of life. Freitas, however, was curious to know if students connected their spirituality with their sexuality. The short answer: no. The majority of college students, even those that claim to be “spiritual” say that their faith has little to do with how they navigate the “hook-up” culture. There is one exception: evangelical students want their faith to make a difference in all areas of life. What is lacking, for many of them, is a safe-place to discuss sexuality openly and honestly. Freitas’ statistics and interviews are sobering. This book is for anyone who cares about college students and about those heading off to college. It paints a realistic picture of the college cultural landscape and offers solid advice on how to help students connect their spirituality with their sexuality. Click here to read a fuller review.

Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America’s Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don’t), Michael J. Gerson (HarperOne). I started reading this book at the end of 2007, but didn’t finish it until early 2008. So, it makes the ’08 list. And, it was an election year, so I felt compelled to include something I read about politics. Gerson was a speech writer for much of George W. Bush’s presidency. Here he tells many of the behind-the-scenes-daily-grind-business of being a speechwriter and president. Learning about the work and craft of speech writing was fascinating and worth the price of the book. But it’s about much more. This book is not just for people who are right-of-center politically. Ultimately it is about casting a vision for the Republican Party (and country) that gets us past the red/blue, win-at-all-costs, political climate and pushes readers to think more deeply about the crucial role America’s government should play domestically and abroad. Gerson’s argument needs to be heard by both those on the right and left.

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, Timothy Keller (Dutton Books). Keller published two books in 2008 and both of them are very worthy of the award. But, I was so excited when I realized that I had chosen 10 off the top of my head and didn’t want to mess it up! His first book, The Reason for God (a New York Times bestseller), is certainly award-worthy, but this second book gets the coveted prize. Here Keller takes a closer look at Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, revealing its radical message that speaks directly to both irreligious and religious people. Click here to read a fuller review.

Part 2 coming soon…

1 comment:

L.L. Barkat said...

Derek, I am humbled by your kind words about Stone Crossings. (I found this through a Google alert in case you are wondering. :)

Thank you, and I'm glad you were blessed by the story I lived and in many ways am still living (for memories do continue to shape us).