I had a lot to choose from. And certainly the titles I read weren’t all published in 2010; most of the books that made it on the list weren’t either. Perhaps it means I’m behind the times, or that books just have a long shelf life.
I wanted to select a work by RS Thomas whose poetry I discovered for the first time this year and enjoy (though after reading a biography of the man I was brought back down to earth). I was torn by the decision not to include the account of a favourite playwright, William Gibson, bringing his his first play to the stage. And I couldn’t include Benjamin Perrin’s Invisible Chains, a look at human trafficking in Canada, which I only just acquired and have yet to read, but expect will be fantastic.
I’ve chosen, instead, two few theological expositions, a biography, a lyrical volume of real human horror, and one of the most intriguing stories with a narrative voice like none other I’ve ever read.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
A page-turning, midnight-oil kind of read. The story of a young girl orphaned in Nazi Germany and taken in by a foster family. Her soft-hearted foster father teaches her to read with the first book she stole, the grave-digger’s hand guide she nabbed from the snowy ground where her brother was buried. Narrated by Death, the story of the Book Thief as she lives through four years of the war, is filled with impossibly delightful metaphors, tenderness and irreverence. The book left me with a revelation of humanity that, as Death experiences himself, is haunting.
Surprised by Hope, NT Wright.
Wright examines what the Christian hope is (the Redemption of all things, including matter and the human body, foreshadowed in the real space-time resurrection of Christ), what the Resurrection promises (God is surely making all things new), how the Kingdom comes (perpetually, violently, until, well, Kingdom come…) and what all of the above implies for the current life of the believer (a life of meaning, pursuing beauty, justice, and announcing the good news). It leaves you, nearly, with head spinning and hope awakening in the hardened areas of the heart. Engaging, accessible, and perpetually quotable. My first ever full-Kindle (for iPod) read.
Sold, Patricia McCormick
The story of a young Nepali girl named Lakshmi, sold by her step-father to a brothel in India. Told in short vignettes, the book is poetic, descriptive, sparse, beautiful, tragic, and breaks the heart. It’s almost impossible to put down. We need more stories like it, read by more and more people, so that there will be less and less stories like it. A gift of a book.
Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Miroslav Volf
With so much attention in my life, as of late, on ideas of justice and identity, this is a near perfect read in the given context. No other book have I dog-eared the corners of pages than Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Volf has a rare ability to make plain very complex and high-end concepts. He pulls from, engages, challenges, and often undresses major schools of thought and the brightest thinkers among them. His passage examining the parable of the prodigal so engaged and impacted me, I had to pick myself up off the floor. An important read for anyone who wonders if reconciliation and justice are possible on this planet.
Abandoned to God, David MacCasland.
Biography. A dangerous word. How are we to read and write them? I think it best for the writer to have if not admiration, a complete and invested fascination and commitment to deal fairly with the man. MacCasland puts together an incredible picture of the man, with thoroughly researched work that pieces together Chambers’ history as the beloved preacher and teacher, mostly through his own writing. He clearly paints a picture of a man who lives up to the books’ title. It’s a glowing view of Chambers, that leaves a little room to wonder about his deep struggles (which are alluded to, but ultimately little accessible due to Chambers’ near silence on the subject). What a vision of a life surrendered to God it leaves, something surely that can stir the heart of any woman or man.