So every blogger is required by blogging law to have some kind of list at the end of the year. I don’t know why—no one ever reads them. But anyway, here is mine.
This year, I had a personal goal to complete 52 books; I overachieved and finished 62. Here they are, ranked by “tier”…
TIER ONE – GREAT BOOKS/MUST READS - these are eleven books I highly recommend to any reader of my blog
· Words of Radiance, Sanderson – a brilliant entry in the best fantasy series since Game of Thrones
· Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute – a must-read for any leader, forcing you to look at your tendency to self-deceive
· The Martian, Weir – well deserving of the great Matt Damon movie that followed, this book is gold for the hard sci-fi fan
· The Lost World of Genesis 1, Walton – I’ve read probably a hundred books on Genesis 1. This is the best, and the only “must read” in my mind.
· The Wingfeather Saga (four books), Peterson – I LOVED these books. Must-read by any fantasy fan. Reads like young adult lit and it is brilliantly clever. You won’t be able to stop after the first half of book one.
· Seveneves, Stephensen – very long, very detailed, and very very good. A great sci-fi book that has the best first line I’ve ever read…”The moon blew up with no warning and for no apparent reason.” From there on it is fantastic hard sci-fi.
· Unoffendable, Hanson – I read this one three times this year. It is AMAZING. Must-read for any Christian. I’ll read this over and over. It can change your life.
· Preaching, Keller – A must-read for any preacher. It does a great job of focusing you on Christocentric preaching, and I now use his appendix process to prep for any sermon.
TIER TWO – GOOD/ RECOMMENDED
· Mistakes Were Made but Not By Me, Tavris/Aronson – an interesting look into the art of self-deception; not as good as its match in tier one, and it never quite lives up to the great title
· Prayer, Keller – yet another fantastic book by today’s most thought-provoking Christian author
· Red Rising, Brown – a solid sci-fi book about a lower class staging a long-shot uprising; pretty good start
· Stealing from God, Turek – a great introduction to the Christian apologetic principles of examining self-defeating arguments
· Steelheart, Sanderson – what if people got superpowers…and they were all selfish and mean? A great and fun read.
· Firefight, Sanderson – the sequel to Steelheart, not as good but also solid.
· The Weight of Glory, Lewis – a Christian classic for a reason, this series of essays by CS Lewis was a re-read for me but well worth it
· Didache, Anonymous – one of the most important Christian writings of all time other than the New Testament; it is as ancient as the Biblical books and very helpful
· The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, Wilken – might seem a bit thick to some, which is why it dropped to Tier Two. But it was very good for viewing the NT as an outsider would.
· The Lost World of Adam and Eve, Walton – not as good as his other book, but still an important one for Christians
· Ethan of Athos, Bujold – the last of the Vorkosigan Saga that I had not read, and I really liked it. As always, Bujold tells a great story. Maybe the most underrated of the sci-fi writers out there.
· The Problem of Pain, Lewis – not Lewis’ greatest, but I re-read this in preparation for a sermon and it’s a good handling of the problem of suffering.
· The Celebration of Discipline, Foster – a very strong overview of Christian disciplines
· Cryptonomicon, Stephensen – a novel that explores cryptography in the past and the future; it’s good but this isn’t for the faint of heart…only true Stephensen fans need to bother
· The Girl With All The Gifts – one of the more fun zombie books I’ve ever read, about a girl who doesn’t know she’s a zombie (spoiler alert?)
· Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World, Adeney – a bit boring to be honest; however it does a great job of detailing what it is like to be a Christian, in an international business environment, and how to deal with ethics across cultural boundaries.
· Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, Volume I (A-Da), Yamauchi & Wilson – Not really a “sit down and read” kind of book (although I did). It gives good reference info on both Jewish and Christian life. Will be great when the whole series is complete.
· An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, Almossawi – a good but incomplete introduction to logical fallacies and bad argumentation. Good read. Will probably use with my kids one day.
TIER THREE – MEH / NOT BAD, NOT GREAT
· Caverns and Creatures I, II, and III, Bevan – you can read each in a day, a moderately-humorous take on dungeons and dragons; if you played D&D growing up, you’ll get a few laughs at least.
· Golden Son, Brown – a bit of a let-down as a sequel to Red Rising; hoping this can be redeemed in the third book
· Three Theories of Everything, Potter – an interesting idea looking at monism, dualism, and trinitarianism. I liked it overall but it oversimplifies some things and doesn’t address some others. Stealing from God is a better book to think about world philosophy.
· Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, Walls – an attempt to “retake” purgatory into Protestantism; brings up some good ideas and does a good job with its main thrust, but at least from my side I don’t feel like I learned anything new (might not be the case for others)
· Starhawk, McDevitt – the best of the three McDevitt books I read this year, but that is faint praise. “Meh” is a great description. Good enough to keep reading, nothing you’ll remember later.
· Gladhearted Disciples, Folmsbee – pretty solid overall as a discipleship guide to retaking joy as a Christian discipline; overdoes some things and some I just flat disagree with
· Wired, Richards – pretty solid, low-thinking-required fun book; what would happen if someone can temporarily achieve genius-level abilities but also becomes a megalomaniac in the process?
· Simply Jesus, Wright – not as good as his other works, I didn’t feel like I learned a lot (and usually after Wright my brain hurts from the new ideas)
· The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - I was enjoying this rip-off of Firefly until the last few chapters, where it just kinda ended. Good book, anticlimactic.
· Ancient Christian Worship, McGowan – It was okay and gave some good historical perspective on a few things, but this could have been done in a series of 5-6 blog posts instead of a book.
· The Magicians, Grossman – billed as a “grown up’s” Harry Potter, this was an interesting idea which was super-interesting for half the book, a bit interesting for a quarter of the book, and not at all interesting by the end. I had no desire to read the sequel, but I’m not sad I read this one.
· Doubling Groups 2.0, Hunt – a 2-3 hour read about the strategy of doubling small groups used by Andy Stanley’s church; to say this is a “niche read” is an understatement
· You and Me Forever, Chan and Chan – Francis Chan & wife wrote a marriage study, and my wife and I just found it to be okay. I would imagine for some marriages this would be revolutionary and life-giving; for us, it just wasn’t “our need” I suppose.
· Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, Hatmaker – There are 2-3 things from this book that were life-changing and will stay with me forever. It would have been a great blog post—not even a series, just a blog post. But it was 300 pages or so, which made it seem really padded.
TIER FOUR – DON’T BOTHER
· The Forever War, Haldeman – way over-sold; a short-story level idea stretched into novel length
· The Shepherd of Hermas, Anonymous – a Christian classic and important book, but really a tough slog. I’d recommend reading a summary instead
· The Cassandra Project, McDevitt/Resnick – Not good. Really, really not good. Why bother re-releasing McDevitt’s first book with some updates, if you are still going to have them use floppy disks and have a priest be “torn apart” by questions that someone with two minutes and access to Google can answer?
· The Hercules Text, McDevitt – I don’t even remember reading this McDevitt book. And I love McDevitt…but this year he is striking out.
· When to Rob a Bank, Levitt/Dubner – I felt ripped off here. I’m a huge fan of their other work (Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics) but this was just their blog, printed on paper. I already read their blog.
· Jumper, Gould – overrated. Was surprised this was made into a film; I found it an okay idea, executed averagely
· Invasion, Platt and Truant – So terrible. So, so terrible. Such a cool idea and the first hundred pages or so, I was hooked. But I’ve never wanted the bad guys to kill all the good guys as much as I did in this book.
· Posthuman Books I-IV, Simpson – Oh, never mind what I said about invasion. THIS is the most I’ve ever wanted everyone to die. If this is what transhumanists think the future should be, they are all insane. And terrible writers.
· Daredevil, Comptons – This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Unless you are reading it with your kids for nostalgia (as I was), don’t bother.
· You Are A Superstar, Packard – Ditto above, as this is a CYOA book as well.
· Homeschool Sex Machine, Pierce – I loved a couple of blog posts and thought that a book by this guy must be good. It wasn’t. Wish I hadn’t read it and had stuck with the blog.
· American Gods, Gaiman – I don’t get this book’s popularity at all. I love mythology; I love fantasy; I love everything that this book was billed as. I hated this book. This is the only book on the list I couldn’t finish, but since I made it to page 350, I’m counting it as read. At that point, I quit because it just wasn’t good, not because of laziness. I do not get the appeal of this book. It was just not interesting. At all. It had the feeling of a book that people think is very profound without actually saying anything profound. And guys, it’s not like I was that picky this year – I finished all the “Posthuman” series even though my eyes almost got stuck in the “eye roll” position.
· What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me, Platt – Nothing to see here. What you think it will say, it says.
· Future Visions, various – billed as groundbreaking sci-fi after consultations with Microsoft’s futurists, it was really just a handful of short stories that range from meh to seriously, that’s it? There was one semi-interesting one, but even that was just okay.