what were your favorite books of 2011?

December 23, 2011

Just a few days left in 2011.  It’s been quite an insane year for the Horn tribe… just see my previous post for a brief update.  I never seem to be able to get to all the books I hope to but the ones I was able to digest have not disappointed.  The top two are bookends of 2011 for me.  One I just finished and the other I read in the first week of January.  Without giving full reviews of their content I offer you a few thoughts:

Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places by Chuck DeGroat

I just finished this book about a week ago and it is the catalyst for this post because it forced me to re-evaluate my own personal journey in general and specifically this past year.  I can’t overstate how much I love this book!  Like all the other books I would make such a statement about (and they are few), the author touches a nerve that is both refreshing and at times  painful.  I honestly told my wife that this is the book I should have written… that is if I was a Ph.D., a therapist and a pastor.  DeGroat does a masterful job weaving his own personal experiences, as well as his interactions as a therapist, with a reformed theological foundation and uses the story of the Exodus to parallel our personal transformations.  One of my many favorite passages:

“So used to self-reliance, we may balk at the notion that we cannot rescue ourselves.  Relinquishing control, opening our hearts to a liberator outside ourselves, can fill us with fear.  If we’ve been hurt or wounded in a relationship, it is particularly difficult, perhaps, to imagine a God who will actually show up when we are at the end of our resources.  What’s more, this God does not invite us into a painless future, a quick fix.  The sea crossing leads into desert territory, which, as we will see, holds dangers that require us to remember the Passover again and again.  What will we hold on to in these times of trial?”

This will be one of the few books I continue to wrestle with and use as a resource when I need to be reminded of the freedom from “Egypt” that is mine.

Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions:  Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women by Dan Brennan

This was the first book I read in 2011 and there simply isn’t enough room here to fully nuance out the particulars.  Pitty it has taken me this long to write on the subject.  It was also the first book, other than the Bible, that my wife and I have read together.  One of the endorsements of this book reads, “A must read for people seeking to build authentic Christian community.”  I fully concur.  This book holds significant sentimental value for my wife and I as it has opened the door for us to have better communication as we’ve experienced the influence of friendships on our own marriage.  Side note:  sorry Dan, but I’m no fan of  the term “cross-gender” or any other adjective attached to the word friend.  I much prefer the simple beauty and natural neutrality of the word “friend.”  But I digress.  Here is what I love about Dan’s book… he attempts (and succeeds I think) at rescuing the idea of friendship from the vice grips of a over-sexualized worldview (what he calls “romantic myth”) and grounds it fully in a robust theological understanding of the Church and a hope-filled eschatology.  Validating my own experience Dan writes, “The sexual theology of our evangelical churches has been too small and defensive.”  Word.  He continues, “From a Christian perspective, the complex brother-sister bond as a nonromantic model for male-female friendships holds great power and promise.”

The power and the promise of this book is that it will disrupt your thinking and at times have you nodding your head as if “DUH!”  Then you realize the waters that you swim in are the very waters he’s trying to help you move through into a place of greater freedom to love and be loved.  Not everyone is going to agree with all of Dan’s conclusions or assumptions but navigating any friendship can be complicated and Dan is a great guide as this book reveals.

I’m way over my self-imposed word limit for blogging so I’ll simply mention two other books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year:

Notes from a the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World by N.D. Wilson – This is a one-of-kind book!  Great read!

Free of Charge:  Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace by Miroslav Volf – Anything by Volf is worth digesting slowly and often.

What have been your favorite books this year?

Bring on 2012!


2 Responses to “what were your favorite books of 2011?”

  1. Tim Says:

    Found your blog through your RT – thanks by the way.
    Some interesting titles here – love Volf, though I haven’t read Free of Charge yet. Read Public Faith back in Nov. and most of Allah before him speak at Gordon Conwell Sem.

    Being born to Egyptian immigrants , interested in Leaving Egypt – lol. Will check that out on Amazon.

    I have Sacred Unions on my shelf. Every so often when I’m looking at that shelf it provokes my interest but I get distracted by other books. Will take your words regarding you and your wife’s experience to heart.

    Catch you soon.

  2. Kevin Says:

    I have found that books can be extremely powerful if digested at the right time, and can be much less if taken in at the wrong time. A friend of mine from Denver says Abba’s Child was and still is the most powerful book he has read – and he is a well read person. I read it and it didn’t hit me at all. I did, however, read a book this year where the timing was right for me – From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality. It was a very powerful read for me in 2011

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