This post was originally published in January 2014. Images are from the books and are not my own.
It’s that time of year, where bloggers everywhere turn to their logbooks of entertainment from the previous year and offer up their favoirtes. As one who loves lists, I too offer my selections. Today we will discuss books, with films to follow.
First, a word on “the best of 2013”. I think I read three or four books this year that were actually published in 2013, so if I stuck to that categorization, this would be a short and easy list. But of the 38 books I read this year, I’m bound to be influenced by much more then just the passing fancies of our age. It’s perhaps slightly unfair, since I could just read a stack of classics and accurately call them the “best” books I read that year. But nevertheless, in chronological order, I offer the books that most shaped me this past year, followed by list of honourable mentions.
A hefty 500 page anthology, The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Imagination features contributions, both short and long, from 50 authors, living and dead, assembled by the venerable authorty of the topic, Leland Ryken. It set a trajectory and was a travelguide for what would become a year of art exploration. The book explores, from many angles, the “realationship between imagination, belief, and words” and taught me to demand a quality in writing that reflects the author’s Creator, to confront the “aesthetic poverty of evangelicalism”, and to recognize the worldview of an author while learning from the way that author represents it.
A Good Man is Hard To Find and The Children of Men were read shortly after or at the same time as the previous volume. They both illustrated the principles Ryken’s book set out. Here are two Christian women who write well and by their writing challenge both believers and the world at large. Flannery O’Conner’s work particularly stands out for its dark short stories depiciting ordinary characters in a weary world, in which you can almost feel the eternal weight of their desicions. Much has been said about how Ms. O’Conner used violence to shock her characters and her sleepy audience into the realization of eternal truths. I find her short stores a cousin of sorts to the music of Sufjan Stevens.
The moment I heard about Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work I knew it was for me. It was so helpful I plan on rereading it every year that I find myself in the workforce. Unlike so many other evangelical perspectives on the working world, this is a wholestic, hopeful, biblical, and practical look at the culture of the workforce and how it interesects with the Christian’s calling. I want to buy a box of copies and hand them to friends and colleagues.
Seldom have I enjoyed a book more than Planet Narnia. Like a real life literary detective novel, this book adds so much to the beloved series I grew up with and to the study of Lewis. Not only is it an example of how a Christian should bring both literary and theological depth to his writing, but it also opened my eyes to the the world of Lewis scholarship something I am now itching to one day contribute to.
I slowly worked my way through The Four Holy Gospels, savouring the way the depth of its images paired to the eternal depth of its words. My Name is Asher Lev painted with words the way the author sees the world along with his internal struggle. Death By Living was enjoyable and moving, well written and entertaining. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert was an encouraging reminder to never give up on the unlikely people God throws in your path. Finally, Winter’s Tale, although convoluted at times and prehaps too long, was a book full of wisdom and beauty and is the work of fiction which I have underlined the most.
Stay tuned! Next I’ll be posting my favourite films from 2013.