I read a ton of books in 2008, but most of them did not come out this year. However, I did read a few that were released since January, and the following is a list of my top five favorite books of 2008.
5) The Reason for God, Tim Keller
I love Tim Keller. The Manhattan-based pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian has a strong but compassionate way about him, and his writing voice demonstrates this. He commands a very high level of respect. This book is a pretty straightforward apologetic for Christianity, but it’s one that feels more humane and less didactic/argumentative than some of the others (though no less rigorous). It’s a compelling, smart argument for belief in an age of skepticism, for meaning in a meaningless age.
4) Culture Making, Andy Crouch
In the midst of a glut of “Christians and culture” type books, this one stands out because it takes a step back and forces us to contend with the very word, “culture.” What is it? How do we “make it”? Andy Crouch offers a thoughtful, extremely helpful reality-check of a book for anyone with an inkling to “change the culture” in any way. It goes beyond all the usual clichés and offers a back-to-basics, from-the-Bible justification for why Christians should be thinking about but also participating in culture making. It’s a rare book that challenges Christians to do more than just criticize or boycott culture but to make and remake it ourselves.
3) Hot, Flat & Crowded, Thomas Friedman
I don’t know if there is a more urgent, more sharply written call-to-arms nonfiction book out there right now. Friedman’s epic, well-researched new book is a diagnosis of the challenges facing our world as it gets hotter, flatter (i.e. more developed), and more crowded, as well as a set of specific plans for how America can lead the way in the necessary “green revolution.” Regardless of your politics, you will find Friedman’s arguments compelling, scary, and inspiring. Our world is facing a crisis, and it goes beyond global warming. There are simply too many people, and resources are running out. We have to start thinking about sustainability, and this book is a huge step in the right direction.
2) Home, Marilynne Robinson
I have to admit: it’s hard for me to find time to read new fiction. But Marilynne Robinson is someone I always make an exception for. The Harper Lee-esque writer has offered us some of the most lyrical fiction of recent decades with books like Housekeeping and Gilead, and her new book, Home (a sequel to Gilead) does not disappoint. It’s a calm, solemn, subtle work that puts us firmly in the Iowa town of Gilead and the lives of a trio of characters—a father, a daughter, and a prodigal son. Not much happens, per se, but the book is about so much. It’s a profound, elegant treasure of American prose.
1) Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright
The latest from British theologian N.T. Wright is a stunning, paradigm re-alignment of a book that challenges Christians to re-think their faith in light of a fuller understanding of the Resurrection. Is the purpose of Christianity being able to go to heaven when we die? Wright convincingly argues that no, in light of the Resurrection, there is much more to life than the afterlife. We are living the Resurrection on Earth now, as the Church, a body of renewal and restoration for an aching, needy world. This is an important, challenging book, and essential reading for any Christian serious about understanding the meaning of what they believe and why they believe it.