Humbly offered, here are my offerings of some of the best and/or most intriguing books I read this year:
1. Bossypants, Tina Fey. I really didn't know much about Tiny Fey but her spot-on Sarah Palin impression. This is not a book I would have picked out, but I found it provocative, insightful, and of course, laugh-out-loud funny. Several over her comedy/humor insights work for sermons too.
2. Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Perhaps it seems like cheating to include this charming little book for children (although it did win a Caldecott prize). However, the true story it relays is about Wilson Bentley, who loved snow and wanted to share the beauty of snowflakes with the world.
3. Tattoos on the Heart, Father Greg Boyle. Stories and anecdotes about Father Boyle's work with gangs in L.A., and the power of God's boundless compasison.
4. Mighty Be Our Power, Leymah Gbowee. Powerful story of the women behind the peace movement in Liberia.
5. A Door Set Open, Peter Steinke. I think, anyway, his best book. Change is difficult, but the best way to effect change is to through mission.
6. Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean. Prof. Dean has done a lot of research with mainline youth and finds that most of them hold to a sort of content-less faith in a a feel-good God, that has very little to do with the faith we say we profess. She also says that it's our fault. I think I agree with her. But, what should we do now?
7. Giving to God, Mark Allan Powell. I also read (and liked) Not Your Parents' Offering Plate. While I'm still not about the practical implications of Powell's book, I will say that, in the end, it is actually more radical than the other one. Especially intrigued by the idea that our gifts to our congregations are actually just our share in an obligation to our community, but not the sum of our giving to God. But how many of us feel that sense of community obligation to our congregation?
8. Faceless Killers, Henning Mankell. I've read a few mysteries this year; I think this was the best one. I'll be looking for more of Mankell in the next year. Sort of noirish and dark, but it's Swedish, so what can you expect?
9. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese. Really epic story that ranges from India to Ethiopia to New York City. Tragic and beautiful.
10. Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me, Ian Cron. I will say that this book was not what I expected, in some ways. I expected more CIA intrigue, I'll admit. But I read a lot of memoirs (I'll admit) and this one was compelling for all the reasons that I read memoris -- the narrative of coming-to-faith, the sense of the hound of heaven at the heels, the strange and the familiar (some elements of Cron's faith story, especially the scenes from the 70s charismatic movement, were eerily familiar).
11. The Grace of Silence, Michele Norris. Another memoir of sorts, by NPR journalist who grew up in my back yard (south Minneapolis). She researches the stories of her father and her grandmother, finding compellling secrets, unanswered questions, legacies of the civil rights movement, and our inability to talk about race.