Monday, January 11, 2010

Walt's Best Reads of 2009

Once again, Derek has asked me to list my top 10 list of reads from 2009. Not all the books were published in 2009 but that’s when I read them. Consequently, my lists always run the risk of including some books others may have read a few years before I got to them. My criteria for choosing the following 10 titles was easy: choose books that made an impact on me in some significant way. Since Derek and I always have some overlap in what we’re reading, I chose books that would be unique to me. Since Derek got to his list first, I’m not including any books he might have already mentioned. Here goes. . . in no particular order. . . .

When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch (P&R). Nothing like getting vulnerable with your first choice! This book’s been around for over 10 years and sitting on my “to read” pile for almost that long. Knowing this would be a long and challenging read due to the book’s topic, I kept putting it off. I’m sorry I did. Welch goes right at the core of so many of our insecurities and problems – fear of what others might think – from a helpful, Biblical perspective. In essence, this is a book about idolatry. As a follower of Christ, it’s my hope that I will always worship the Creator and not created things. This book has helped me to get a handle on some patterns and habits that are anything but good.

The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World by Richard Stearns (Thomas Nelson). This one combines a memoir with a deep and necessary challenge to the contemporary American church. Stearns wasn’t always the President of World Vision. He was a wealthy and talented Christian businessman who had planned on staying at the top of the corporate ladder for a long, long time. Much to his surprise, God’s call knocked him off that ladder and into a deeper understanding of what it means to believe the whole Gospel. . . . not just the part about personal salvation. Stearns issues a masterful and convincing call to step away from the American Dream and into the life-giving will of God. American Christians will benefit from hearing a perspective that is necessary and corrective.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters by Timothy Keller (Dutton). Are you seeing a pattern in my choice of books? This one, too, is all about idolatry. A true prophet for the ages who has a masterful ability to humbly communicate God’s Word in a direct and understandable manner, Keller tackles the big stuff that has become far too big and important in our lives. Only God can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. This is a great book for believers and for those who aren’t there yet.

The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell (Free Press). Over the course of the last few years of studying youth culture it’s become increasingly obvious to me that perhaps the most alarming trend is the growing commitment to love, serve, honor, and obey the “holy” trinity of Me, Myself, and I. In this book, researchers Twenge and Campbell offer insights and analysis based on their ongoing research into the shape and extent of narcissism in today’s world. This is a must-read for culture watchers.

Clearing the Bases: Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, Sham Records, and a Hall of Famer's Search for the Soul of Baseball by Mike Schmidt (Harper). This read is more evidence of my shameless obsession since childhood with the Philadelphia Phillies and baseball. Schmidt, who some argue is the greatest third baseman of all-time, held down the hot corner for the Phillies during my adolescence and college years. I saw him play dozens of times. His book offers fans a peek into the hidden world of the game, along with some direct commentary and opinion on what the game has become. This was a fascinating read that offered some great insights into some of the more recent scandals, including steroids. I was especially fascinated by Schmidt’s take on how the ball, bats, and the strike zone have changed the game in significant ways.

Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance by Tony Dungy (Tyndale). I’ve always love sports books. Rare are the books by athletes that meld sports with great life lessons in deep and compelling ways. Then there’s Tony Dungy. This guy’s a man of integrity. Dungy challenges men and boys to consider what it means to live a life of integrity through a series of short chapters on matters of character. Reading this book offers a peek into what it must have been like to sit with Dungy in the locker room during halftime. I liken this book to reading the Old Testament Book of Proverbs. . . a source, no doubt, of much of what Dungy passes along to his readers. This book will get you thinking.

Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian by Gary Haugen (InterVarsity). This is another timely and convincing challenge to the church, this time from the founder of the International Justice Mission. Haugen tells it like it is, about both a hurting world and a Word that calls God’s people to exercise a costly redemptive presence. I read this book before traveling with Compassion International to East Africa. I will re-read it regularly.

The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World by Michael Horton (Baker Books). I have a short-list of authors whose every book I want to read. Horton’s on that list. This follow-up to Christless Christianity forces readers to think about both the silliness and negative consequences of our well-intentioned efforts to add to the Gospel, a problem that’s reached epidemic proportions in the market-driven church. Only the Gospel can change people. Horton unpacks this in a context full of excellent cultural critique. This isn’t an easy book. . . but it’s a must-read.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Imaculee Ilibagiza (Hay House). Hands down, this book had the greatest impact of any I read during the last year. This was one of many books I read in preparation for our trip to Rwanda. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of the dynamics and experience of the Rwandan genocide. Ilibagiza spent 100 days locked in a tiny bathroom with several other women. This testimony of the miraculous power and grace of God cannot be put down. I learned about the darkness of the human heart. I learned about the deep, deep love of God. And, I learned about me. This is an amazing story of reconciliation and forgiveness.

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld (Picador). All my reading about the Rwandan genocide left me scratching my head about the killers and what must have been going through theirs. Then, I found this book. Hatzfeld offers insight into how the tide of Hutu power picked up and swept so many away.

1 comment:

sjcoop said...

How about a good fiction book? A good story can bring us refreshment, point to truth, help us get into someone else's skin, and understand ourselves better. Have you read a good fiction book lately?