1. Manalive - G. K. Chesterton
Set in Chesterton's beloved 19th-century England, Manalive is a delightful and provocative story about a man who steals from himself, uses a pistol to bring people to life, proposes marriage to his wife over and over again, and travels to the end of the world to find his own home. This is the sort of book that surges over you and makes you smile at the world, like a warm fire or a good wine.
2. Dissident Discipleship - David Augsburger
If there's any book that I would recommend as a sort of manifesto for 21st-century Christianity, this would be it. Augsburger has succeeded in painting a richly textured portrait of discipleship, avoiding the trite catchphrases of a bankrupt evangelicalism and appealing to the ancient truths and wisdom of God. The book is spiritual without being merely sentimental, and serious without being stiff, presenting classical Christian orthopraxy in contemporary terms. (For a more detailed synopsis, read my section-by-section review from earlier this year.)
3. The Presence of the Kingdom - Jacques Ellul
From 20th-century France comes the voice of Christian Anarchist philosopher Jacques Ellul, denouncing the idolatry of technology and institutions, raising high the banner of grassroots faithfulness. Ellul's rigorous reasoning and controversial positions make his work stimulating and stirring; I've read three of his books, and The Presence of the Kingdom is easily my favourite. Imagine a Christianity that is not merely a "cause" to advance but is rather the lifeblood of the way things are, the heartbeat of creation, the assured destiny of the cosmos. Imagine ignoring the deceptive allurements of power, and overwhelming the world with life. Imagine: love as a conspiracy!
4. The World of Pooh - A. A. Milne
Were it not for my beloved Jessica, I might never have had the pleasure of reading this unassuming collection of "children's" stories. (Thank you, darling!) Milne has crafted a delightful world of sunshine, green, and adventure, full of wonderful characters, unusual situations, and light, gentle humour. If literature is a celebration of words, The World of Pooh is a prime specimen. Don't miss it.
5. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith - Rob Bell
If I can say so without descending to stereotypes, most of what has come from the "Emerging Church" has been unsubstantial at best. This book is different. In his nimble, straightforward style, Bell describes a Christianity that is alive, growing, and going somewhere. His sensitivity to the multi-dimensional nuances of faith in a modern and post-modern (and post-Christian) world continuously informs his writing, while his generosity remains rooted in a confidence in the truth. This is an excellent book for those who are interested in stripping away the layers and aren't prone to getting hung up on stories and analogies that disturb their sense of politically correct theology.
- St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox - G. K. Chesterton
- True Spirituality - Francis Schaeffer
- The Children of Húrin - J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God - N. T. Wright
- The Christian Imagination - Leland Ryken, Ed.
- Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander - Thomas Merton
- A Severe Mercy - Sheldon Vanauken
May the New Year bring much more growth, wisdom, and laughter. And books!
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