I read 61 books in 2016. About half were for my academic work. About 20 were fiction. About 20 were audiobooks. I keep track of my reading on Goodreads. Here are the favorite books I read this year:
Favorite Serious Novel: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I wrote a dissertation chapter on Robinson’s work, which required me taking in almost her entire body of work (I did not read her dissertation on Shakespeare or her book on nuclear pollution in Britain.) Her recent trilogy (Gilead-Home-Lila) gets most of the attention, but IMHO her first book (1980) is quite simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It is an exploration of absence and presence, of exile and excess, and about trying to keep house in a world where you don’t feel quite at home. There’s even a movie (1987)!
Honorable Mention: Paul Faber, Surgeon by George MacDonald.
Favorite Fun Read: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
This was not a perfect book, but it was the most fun I had reading a book since Harry Potter. The story is set in the future, during a time when everyone spends almost their entire lives jacked into a Neuromancer/Matrix-like virtual world, playing an immersive game built on popular culture from the 1980s. It grabbed me pretty early and by the last 100 pages I couldn’t read quickly enough. Steven Spielberg is directing the movie adaptation (tbr in 2018), so we will probably hear a lot more about the story as the release date approaches.
Honorable Mention: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Favorite Theology and Culture Book: How to Survive the Apocalypse by Rob Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson.
I wasn’t sure I would like this book, especially since I haven’t seen most of the television shows that it takes as its cultural texts (e.g. Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Walking Dead). So I thought it would be like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7ooNif_qHo
And yet, the authors masterfully navigate through the ostensibly apocalyptic stories of our day, with grace and hope, and not much is lost by being unfamiliar with the particulars. Their precis of Charles Taylor’s Malaise of Modernity is an important complement to Jamie Smith’s book How (Not) to be Secular.
Favorite Book for Ministry: Making Sense of God by Tim Keller.
Since I was teaching a course on apologetics this fall, I read about a dozen apologetics-type books this year. The best by was Keller’s new book. I realize that putting Keller on a Christian “best of” list is a cliche, satirized by the Babylon Bee putting “Whatever Tim Keller wrote, probably” as their top book of 2016. But this book is truly impressive. Though it is a bit long-winded at points, Keller’s philosophical scholarship (mostly hidden in the footnotes) and pastoral sensitivity, is a gift to the church. It is an apologetic prolegomena to his bestselling Reason for God, but it exceeds the former book in almost every way.
Looking for recommendations: what should I read in 2017?