In 2013 I read, what felt like, less than ever. Nevertheless, here’s what I came up with when formulating a list. I wrote the list ether adding books right after I finished them or while cataloging the books in our study and realizing which ones I had read this year. I’ll briefly comment on anything worth noting in the list if you care to look through it.
Read in 2013
Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide by Edward Feser – This book is marvelous. I’m writing a full length review now, but if you wish to review Aquinas’ five ways more in depth than you did in Systematic Theology class or if you want an introduction to Aristotle’s metaphysics, this is a must have at a very, very low price.
Reformed and Feminist by Johanna Wijk-Bos – If you’re interested in the feminist movement in the church (whether sympathetic or not) this book is one that tries to endorse the inspiration of Scripture while exegeting it in a feminist way. Take it for what its worth. She does this with Ruth in the last few pages.
How to Read Psalms by Tremper Longman – This book is useful, cheap, and brief.
New Perspective on Jesus by James Dunn – Best insight from this is Dunn’s remark to the effect that even if all we have in the gospels are impressions of Jesus upon his followers, they are still impressions left by Jesus and thus tell us something of the man.
Philosophy and Civilization in the Middle Ages by Maurice De Wulf – Useful, I intend to reread some chapters this year to help me with chronology during that era.
The Making of the Middle Ages by R.W. Southern – same as above.
Honor by James Bowman – Good book for understanding honor and why we do not value it as much or in the same way in modern western culture. Whether you agree with his history of honor or not (which I’d say could learn a bit from Bruce Malina or Dave DeSilva for the ancient era), his cultural commentary in the last chapter is very provocative.
Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe
Fit by Lon Kilgore
Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe – The three fitness books above are pretty good. FIT and Practical Programming have a lot of very logical programming suggestions. I’m no elite athlete though, so many of them are simply infeasible for me.
Wisdom’s Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza – She defines several strains of feminism in the book. That made it the most useful. Other than it wasn’t particularly helpful for learning to interpret Scripture. It was more useful for understanding why certain feminist scholars interpret things the way they do.
Who Stole Feminism by Christina Hoff Sommers
The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers – both of these books were written by a feminist philosopher who has apparently spent a great deal of time studying logic and statistical analysis. Both books are useful for getting past a great deal of nonsense argumentation used in certain circles that make false generalizations about males based of misunderstanding things like statistics.
How God Became King by N.T. Wright – Excellent book about the gospels, but Wright often writes with an “I don’t know why this isn’t obvious to all the other people” tone that is off putting. Nevertheless, the content of the book is very useful.
The Psalms: Why They Are Essential by N.T. Wright -This is more of a meditation upon the Psalms than a book about how to interpret them. He proposes looking at the earthiness of the Psalter how time, space, and matter intersect. In other words, read to Psalms to help you answer questions like what time is it in God’s timeline, where am I in relation to God’s work on earth, and what am I doing in my body?
The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight – Excellent book about how the gospel narratievs are the gospel message that was preached by the apostles in the New Testament Era.
Being and Essence by Thomas Aquinas – Want to know what Aquinas did with the Aristotelian distinction between being and essence? Read this.
The Last Superstition by Edward Feser – Feser here defends Aristotle’s metaphysics and then some of Aquinas’ insights about God, nature, and ethics. The last superstition, for Feser, is the mechanistic universe and the abandonment of Aristotle’s metaphysics (which he right argues is presupposed in science, but since it is explicitly denied in philosophy has lead to so many crazy ideas out there).
Ancient Faith and Modern Physics by Stephen Barr – Book by a physicist who actually knows the old arguments for God’s existence and why they are valid.
Four Gospels, One Jesus? by Richard Burridge – Decent book. The gospels are ancient biography and thus give useful pictures of Christ.
Impossibility by John Barrow – This was a let down. He’s a mathematician who confuses logic with rhetoric. He often finds a logical conundrum, points out how he’s baffled by it, then thinks he’s convinced people that both sides of the debate are wrong.
Black and Tan by Doug Wilson – I’ve met Doug several times now. I read this because he’s been accused of racism several times and I just never saw it. Anyhow, he’s not a racist. He just thinks that the Civil War wasn’t about race (whether right or wrong) and he thinks that the gospel takes time to work into the hearts of whole people groups.
Lights in the Deep by Brad Torgersen – Excellent sci-fi shorts. I especially liked Outbound. Its about a boy who ends up exiting the solar system with a very unusual married couple.
The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day – Vox is a video game programmer with some very eccentric ideas about God and the world. Even his ideas which I disagree with aren’t irrational so much as (by my lights) wrong. Anyhow, in this book he fairly thoroughly dismantles the previously famous atheist superhero team of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett. The arguments are fairly obvious to anybody who chased down their footnotes or knew the history that was misreported, but Day’s statement of it all is hilarious.
The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris – Harris attempted to prove that science provides the material for constructing morality. In some sense that’s not particularly threatening. From a Christian point of view there are many goods to seek that are lesser than God but which it is a moral requirement to discover, seek, and improve our efforts toward. The problem is that Harris has to redefine what good is, thus making his book not about morality after all and he rants for pages about Francis Collins being a dangerous person. It’s neither a careful nor useful book. For a while he was offering money to anybody who could refute it in 1000 words. I still may try to write one using Aristotle and A.J. Ayers (who argues that philosophy and ethics are just non-sense).
How to Read Proverbs by Tremper Longman – Best book on proverbs ever. It’s good devotional material, good intro material, and it is brief.
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Lewis’ children’s stories are just as fun as ever.
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – I wrote my review. It is here.
Reading the Gospels Wisely by Jonathan Pennington – A much more thorough book on the gospels than Wright’s previously mentioned effort. If I were to start a seminary this would be one of the first year texts for all students. It is just that good. Here’s his description of the gospels, “Our canonical gospels are the theological, historical, and aretological (virtue-forming) biographical narratives that retell the story and proclaim the significance of Jesus Christ, who through the power of the Spirit is the Restorer of God’s reign. (pp 144)”
God and Explanations by Christopher Martin – This book covers Aquinas’ understanding of knowledge, of science, and of metaphysical demonstration. Martin goes a long way to clear up misunderstandings of Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence. Favorite quote, “If we want to know about the existence of God, or about the nature of science, we should read Aquinas, not merely the writers of this century. If we want to study Aquinas we should pay him the compliment of treating as important what he thought of as important. To study Aquinas as Aquinas is a poor piece of flattery, since Aquinas cared very little for Aquinas, while he did care for God and for science. (203)” This book is best checked out from a library because it costs 130 dollars. I found it in an e-book library at my local community college.
Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey – This is an excellent book that traces the change in philosophical worldview in our culture through our art. She isn’t correct about every discrete piece of art work, but she gets enough of it correct. It’s not a must read, but it is a pleasant read. I’m now curious about the relationship between thinking through a worldview explicitly to determine if you’re correct and that affecting your view of art and then how art can attract somebody to the worldview of the artist. The relationship between our appetites and our reason is all the more intriguing to me after this book.
The Devil and Pierre Gernet by David Bentley Hart – This is a strange collection of short stories. I love it. Many of them I think I’ll revisit. Hart describes food far too often and in too much detail. His vocabulary is also astounding. One story in particular is written from the point of view of gnosticism and is hauntingly beautiful and ultimately dissatisfying and depressing.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – This book is often over praised or under examined and unfairly dismissed. Lewis’ case for Christianity remains good in my opinion. His undeniably skillful prose also makes it pleasant to read. Few atheist writers match him for eloquence. I’d say maybe Nietzsche could be as interesting and accessible.
The Experience of God by David Bentley Hart – Best book I read all year perhaps. Hart goes through the classical arguments, definitions, and concepts surrounding the idea of God (not as a name, but as a designation for being as such). He shows how the word for God has fallen into frustrating disrepair and thus made attacking theism really easy for the uninformed.
Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy – This book is about female complicity in the rise of raunch culture. It is somewhat dated (though only 6 years old). The book is important because it points out how the “you go gurl” attitude of sleeping around and acting like a frat boy actually does not achieve female empowerment. The author is, sadly, unwilling to claim that such a lifestyle is stupid, dangerous, and evil for men and women. But it’s a start.
The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark – I know one historian who disputes Stark’s understanding of the rise of capitalism, but he’s the guy who gave me the book. It was astoundingly good. It’s about how medieval Europe, precisely because of Christianity and its desire to appropriate Aristotle’s best insights for the sake of moral progress, gave us modern science, careful philosophical reasoning, the technological revolution (because slavery became illegal), and capitalism. Good stuff.
Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield – This book packs a punch. I tried to write a review, but I need to reread it. Barfield covers too much. He essentially challenges a major shift in how we understand the ancients and therefore, how we understand ourselves, reality, and our access to reality. All of this ends in a discussion of idolatry and God’s kingdom. It is, from what I can tell, a tour de force that have been utterly ignored by people who are afraid of its import. Or maybe he’s just wrong and I missed it.
Aesop’s Fables – These are great. My mom read them to my brother when we were children. Loved them then and love them now.
Deep Exegesis by Peter Leithart – Leithart tried to recover the Quadriga in New Testament interpretation. I get it, but I think nobody will read this and be convinced. I loved the book and have used something like the quadriga for a while, but getting New Testament interpreters to take a misunderstood, maligned, and mocked system that is (on the basis of Christian liberty) adiaphora is a difficult task. I thank him for trying.
Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes – I use Descartes to teach my students problem solving, but his meditations take you through his argument for God’s existence. Good stuff.
Common Morality by Bernard Gert – He tried, but it’s mostly just a poor attempt to tell people to be nice.
Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith
Imagining the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith – Smith’s books attempt a radical revision or revisiting of an older anthropology of the human person based upon both ancient sources, post modern insights into personhood and embodied human practices, and modern brain science. It’s good stuff. Imagining the kingdom is the best of the two.
The Electric Sky by Donald Scot – Scot challenges modern cosmology. Not sure if I’m convinced, but he’s got a doctorate in electrical engineering. Doesn’t make him right, but reading the book is like reading a detective novel about stars, quasars, gravity, and electricity.
Note: I read several other books on feminist theory, but they were for a research assistantship I did and I found them unenlightening.