Best 3 Books of 2014
What were yours? My top 3:
#1 The Transcendent Self, by Catholic priest and professor Adrian Van Kaam. Maybe it’s just fussy me, but after 40 years of being a Christian, I find fresh ideas hard to find. This little-known book recommended by a retreat director literally changed my life. Best “second half of life” book I’ve read, about embracing life’s turning points as a painful stripping-away, a welcoming of the unknown, and the eventual resurrection of new joy.
#2 Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Skeptical and fearing the graphic violence, I avoided this bestseller. Glad I gave it a chance. A gripping, page-turner crime mystery of the dark side of a seemingly-perfect Swedish “Ikea” society. I love straightforward fiction like this, focused on story. And the violence was surprisingly understated.
#3 Habitat for Humanity: Building Private Homes, Building Public Religion, by sociologist Jerome Baggett. In-depth account of how the arguably best-known non-profit slowly traded Christian identity for a bigness which has created a divide between permanent “helpers” and “permanent recipients” in place of the original vision of partnership. Critical reading for Christian mission today.
The Missionary Movement in Christian History by historian Andrew Walls. Two chapters changed the whole direction of my doctoral thesis: “The American Dimension of the Missionary Movement,” and “Missionary Societies and the Fortunate Subversion of the Church.” Indispensable reading about a two-fold tragedy: how American pragmatism expanded world missions while detaching from theological moorings, and how mission societies boldly went to frontiers the complacent church refused to go.
The Enigma of China, by Qiu Xiaolong. This gem is from a crime series featuring protagonist Inspector Chen, a jaded Communist Party member whose hunting of both white and blue collar crime introduce the dark side of China’s politics of corruption, modernization, and greed. Great stories, great insights into complexities of today’s China.