Hard as it may be to believe, we’re well into the second half of 2020. Here are my favorite books I’ve read this year from January to July, with occasionaly commentary. I know July is technically the second half of the year, but… I didn’t think of this idea until July.
Dan Simmons, Hyperion
Christian Wiman, Survival Is A Style
Daniel Warren Johnson, Murder Falcon - My friend Collin bought this for me as a Christmas gift, and it is one of the coolest freaking graphic novels I’ve ever read.
Meghan O’Gieblyn, Interior States - A collection of essays full of great reflections on and explorations of religion, technology, and culture. As someone who is very familiar with the evangelical subculture O’Gieblyn was raised in, her writing was especially poignant for me.
Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary
Derek Olsen, Inwardly Digest - As a newcomer to Anglicanism, Olsen’s introduction to the Book of Common Prayer was fascinating and helpful.
Pauli Murray, Dark Testament and Other Poems - A collection of poems from Pauli Murray, a civil rights activist who was also the first African-American woman to be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal church.
Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways
Georges Simenon, Maigret Takes a Room
Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart - Nouwen demonstrates how the teachings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers on prayer can help us live in our (post)modern age.
Leigh Bardugo, Ninth House - Like Harry Potter, but set at Yale and way more sinister. Bardugo’s first non-YA novel.
Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell, From Hell
Ray Bradbury, Classic Stories 1 - A compilation of Bradbury’s short stories from a few collections. I’m amazed at his ability to build convincing worlds and interesting characters in the space of a few pages.
John Scalzi, The Consuming Fire - The second book in Scalzi’s Interdependency space opera trilogy. Some biting political satire in here along with good scifi fun.
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell, March: Books 1-3 - A graphic memoir of John Lewis’s time in the civil rights movement. I read this at the end of May. I wish I had known and appreciated the extent of Lewis’s story well before I read it. Now that he’s entered into glory, I commend this to you more than ever.
Walter Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope - Brueggemann outlines how the three prophetic tasks - reality, grief, and hope - appear in the writings of the exilic prophets of the Old Testament, and shows how the circumstances they wrote to have striking parallels to 21st century America, and how they can act as a guide for the church today.
Jim Butcher, Storm Front & Fool Moon - The first two novels in the Dresden Files. Noirish urban fantasy, and great fun.
R.W.L. Moberly, The Bible in a Disenchanted Age - Moberly shows how Christians in our modern, “disenchanted” world can still take the Bible seriously as a means of God’s self-disclosure. The so-called “deconstruction” craze among “ex-vangelicals” seems so 2018, but I think his book speaks tactfully and compellingly to a lot of the questions that people were (are?) asking about scripture.
Junji Ito, Uzumaki - I had never read manga before, but Ito’s Lovecraftian tale is easily one of the best horror novels I’ve read.
Reginald Dwayne Betts, Felon - Betts’ collection of poems viscerally and movingly explore the inner experience of prisoners, and the scars on the psyche that prison leaves, even after “release”.
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy - I’ve been kicking the can down the road on reading this for years, but now seemed as good a time as any. Stevenson makes a convincing case for the necessity of reforming our criminal justice system, while also telling a profound story of the transformative power and necessity of mercy.
E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful - Published in 1973, Schumacher challenges the underlying assumptions of economics and argues for the urgent necessity of reframing our economy to value people and place over unchecked and unquestioned growth.
Clifford Beal, The Guns of Ivrea - A pirate fantasy with an historical fiction vibe, but set in a completely imagined world. One of the blurbs on the cover cited echoes of Master and Commander and Game of Thrones, and the comparison checks out
Suzanne Nossel, Dare To Speak - Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, makes a compelling case for the necessity of an open society that values free expression, while also urging those who advocate for it to be thoughtful and considerate in their use of language. I hope to have a post of booknotes from this one soon.