This is the 10th anniversary for posting my top reads of the year.
I must confess that I didn’t get to read as many books as I would have liked in 2018, but here are my top reads. They are in no particular order.
The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz: In the midst of much craze around it, I spent the past year studying about the Enneagram. I read through the the Enneagram website, listened to the Liturgist and the Road Back to You podcasts. But, most of all, I spent the summer reading through Heuertz’s book, The Sacred Enneagram. I see the Enneagram as a valuable typing indicator, helping us understand how we perceive the world, how we relate to the world, and even how we can move toward healthy integration in life. And Heuertz proposes an added tool worth considering – how we can spiritually grow through knowledge of the Enneagram. This is my review of the book.
Friend of the Soul: A Benedictine Spirituality of Work by Norvene Vest: Who is this friend referred to in the book’s title? It is work. Through the Rule of St. Benedict, the author offers that work is to be our friend, a friend of the soul. In doing so, the book addresses three primary categories: 1) vocation, 2) stewardship and 3) obedience. I have appreciate the book so much that I have implemented material in two undergraduate classes I teach at two different colleges – one on leadership development and one on the spirituality of work. Here is my review of the book.
Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King by Matthew Bates: There are two central points to the book: 1) providing a holistic understanding of the gospel and 2) uncovering what the the word “faith,” or pistis in Greek, is all about. Bates’s work is not too different from other New Pauline Perspective theologians of the past few decades. I am a proponent for this perspective when reading the New Testament, as I believe it is better rooted in the Jewish history and narrative of the Bible. In all, I agree with Bates that pistis is best defined as allegiance. This does not mean we are working or earning salvation through obedience. But rather pistis is ultimately worked out in allegiance to, or truly following, the one we claim to believe in, Jesus the Messiah. The one niggle I would have with the book is his eight components of the gospel. His first point is that Jesus preexisted with the Father. While I do not negate this theological point, I am not convinced it is a central point of the good news. Titles such as Messiah and Son of God can perhaps point to the divine, preexistent nature of Jesus. And we definitely proclaim these within the gospel story. However, I would argue these titles primarily refer to Jesus’s Kingship-Lordship and his fulfillment of Israel’s story, over and above a preexistent state.
Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Live in a Secular World by Henri Nouwen: I love to perpetually keep myself in books on spiritual formation. Nouwen’s was one for me in 2018. He was a spiritual giant of the 20th century and his story continues to move me. Interestingly, this book uniquely developed out of a friendship with a Jewish man, which he shares about that background in the book’s prologue. In this classic work, Nouwen shares of what it means to be the beloved of God. As he offers, “Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do” (p45). At the center of the book, Nouwen uses the four words proclaimed at the Lord’s Table to identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives: taken, blessed, broken, given. My appreciation for Henri Nouwen continues to grow following my grading of Life of the Beloved.
Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal Communication Across Cultures by Myron Lustig and Jolene Kuster. As one working toward a doctorate in intercultural studies, this book was of interest to me (it was an assigned text for an online class that I taught). I’m actually becoming quite fascinated with the topic of cultural anthropology – the study of humans and how culture shapes us. This book has a more textbook feel to it, so I wouldn’t recommend it to the average person. But it does give a solid introduction into concepts related to intercultural communication.
Death Comes for the Deconstructionist by Daniel Taylor: This book tells the story of one Jon Mote, an older, divorced, grad school dropout who does private investigative work on a part-time basis. Many might identify Mote as your quintessential loser: divorced, jobless, friendless, living in a houseboat. Yet, he has just been hired to investigate the murder of his mentor, Dr. Richard Pratt, an academic, literary theorist. He is the deconstructionist to which death has come. Mote’s investigative partner is his very own sister, Judy. But there’s a little twist to the partnership – she is mentally handicapped. As Jon Mote and his sister journey through the cities of Minneapolis and Memphis in order to solve this mysterious death, a deeper investigation is takes place. Check out my review. Also, check out the sequel, Do We Not Bleed?
If interested, below are the links to my top reads from the previous nine years.