Top 10 books–2019

  1. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (2005). Hannah Coulter is the only fiction title on my list, but it was by far my favorite book this year. If you are unfamiliar with Hannah Coulter, it is one of Berry’s Port William books, which are a set of novels and short stories all centered in a fictional Kentucky community. This particular novel is told from the perspective of Hannah Coulter, an elderly woman looking back on her life as a wife, mother, and farmer, mostly from the 1940s to 2001. This book, like most in the Port William series, stirred something deeply in me, memories of my childhood and the history of my forbears. If you have never read a book by Wendell Berry, please do so. He is truly an American treasure.  
  2. The Master and Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist (2019, 2nd Edition). McGilchrist is a British psychiatrist who formerly taught English literature and explored the fields of philosophy and psychology. In this book, he explored the contributions of right-mode versus left-mode processing and the effect they have on society. In my opinion, he rightly concluded that modern western culture lives primarily out of the left (what Dan Siegel might call left, linear, logical, linguistic), but that it is our right hemisphere that is more reliable and insightful. Well-referenced and well written, this book is a phenomenal contribution.
  3. A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology by J. Richard Middleton (2014). I received this gift as a book from my friend and pastor. He and I talk regularly about what it means to reconcile heaven and earth and what integration means. There is so much bad eschatology out there (think Left Behind) wise, readable books like this one from Middleton are welcome. I found myself resonating with so much of what he wrote and I likely will be revisiting it again.
  4. Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places by Chuck DeGroat (2011). For those who know me, it is little surprise that I would include one of Chuck DeGroat’s books on my list. I have read or listened to his book Wholeheartedness probably a half-dozen times. In Leaving Egypt, he connects the Exodus story–from Egypt, to Sinai, into the desert, and ending up at home–to our own life stories. For anyone who has endured seasons of disorientation, this book is for you. Bonus: His next book, When Narcissism Comes to Church, is already available for pre-order.
  5. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer (2009). Perhaps you have concluded that “wholeness” is a buzzword for me, though I hope it is much more than that. I dedicate a significant amount of my mental space to thinking about what constitutes wholeness or integration (see my banner above). Palmer is a writer and teacher who has built a career of helping people to live with courage and integrity. A Hidden Wholeness is an engaging and thoughtful book.
  6. The Cult of Trump: A Leading Mind Control Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control by Steve Hassan (2019). Earlier this year, I read Hassan’s most well-known book, Combating Cult Mind Control where he explained his BITE model (behavior control, information control, thought control, and emotional control). As a former Moonie (part of the Unification Church), Hassan writes from experience and a career dedicated to exploring techniques leaders use to influence their followers. In The Cult of Trump, Hassan applies much of his knowledge and experience to offer hypotheses as to why Trump’s influence has been so remarkable. What I most appreciated about this book, particularly as a psychologist, was Hassan’s exploration of cultural history, political influence, and the development of propaganda as a mode of influence.
  7. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg (2002). I struggled with whether to include Lovingkindness on my list because I had significant disagreements with some of Salzberg’s ideas, which are grounded in her worldview. However, there was so much good in this book that I could not exclude it. Salzberg writes in an engaging way about forgiveness, compassion, generosity, and love, even for those who may cause pain. In desiring to be a man of peace, I particularly appreciated her chapter on “equanimity,” which is calmness or what I like to think of as “settledness,” regardless of circumstance.
  8. Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human by David Benner (2011). I like David Benner. A Christian psychologist and author, he has spent his career writing about psychology and spirituality. Although Soulful Spirituality is less focused than some of his other titles such as The Gift of Being Yourself, he addressed a number of important concepts and ideas that I believe are beneficial in terms of understanding oneself and one’s relationship with God and others.
  9. Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation by Michael J. Gorman (2011). Like number 3 above, Reading Revelation Responsibly is another excellent book on understanding eschatology and the integration of heaven and earth. The title reveals an important clue, however. Living as citizens in God’s kingdom is about living in the way of the cross and not in the way of power, control, or dominion. If we begin to see Revelation not as some future dispensation, but as a way to understand our lives now, I believe it will have a significant effect. He also frequently cited Eugene Peterson’s Reversed Thunder, which is my favorite resource about John’s apocolypse.
  10. How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns (2019). The full title of Enns’s book is How the Bible actually works–in which I explain how an ancient, ambiguous, and diverse book leads us to wisdom rather than answers–and why that’s great news. Enns resigned his post at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia about 10 years ago around his views regarding the inspiration of scripture. I am including this book because it forces readers who take the Bible seriously to grapple with difficult questions about how the Bible actually works. I think Enns is right that the Bible first points us in the direction of living wisely.

Here are links to my previous lists: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

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