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2008-2009 Annotated Bibliography

December 30, 2009

Every 2 years (or so) Justin and I send out a Christmas letter. This year, I wrote most of it and Justin formatted it. Somehow, once I finished, my verbosity showed itself in five pages of text. I thought, “Justin can format this down,” but (and I should know this) you can’t put ten pounds of sugar in a five pound bag. When he was finished, it was still four pages. “No one’s going to read all that!” I said, so we cut out the annotated bibliography.

So, here it is…our top 10 recommended books from 2008-2009. Mine are out of over 80 books and they’re the ones I’d most widely recommend to all sorts and ages of people. I’m not sure about the details of Justin’s, but his list includes some true tomes. (i.e. Good reading which can double as a cockroach killer!)

Justin Recommends:

Justification by N. T. Wright (Biblical studies, 2009)

One of the best living biblical scholars answers his critics. Justin also blogged about this on his book blog earlier this year. Read the full review here.

Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined America’s Elite by D. Michael Lindsay (non-fiction/cultural studies, 2008)

Just a few decades ago there were few Evangelicals at Harvard, on Wall Street, in the halls of Congress or in Hollywood. This book details why and how Evangelicals have made inroads in these key culture-shaping areas.

Fading Feast: A Compendium of Disappearing American Regional Foods by Raymond Solokov (non-fiction, 1998)

Have you ever had a real Indiana persimmion? How about moonshine? Local oysters? Solokov is tireless and entertaining in his accounts of regional specialties disappearing at alarming rates.

The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland (fiction, 2007)

Every Coupland novel is a must read for Justin, due to their strong Vancouver content–but this one was superior to many of his recent efforts.  A bored former executive punches the clock at Office Depot and works on a novel that is discovered by curious co-workers. And they actually like it.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (fiction, 1996)

Justin loves big sprawling novels. Whether Irving’s Owen Meany or Duncan’s Brothers K, Justin appreciates the sheer bloody-mindedness that finishing these books require. Thus, though he hasn’t finished it yet, he can recommend the first 350 pages (out of 1000+) as the best book he’s ever read on competitive tennis and Quebecois secession.

Joy recommends:

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (memoir, 2009)

What does it take to tell a good story? And, more importantly, what does it take to live a good story? When Donald Miller is approached by two filmmakers wanting to make a film from his bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz, Miller starts asking himself these questions and finding surprising (and sometimes depressing) answers. I was the lucky writer chosen to write Relevant’s study guide to this book.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler (memoir/essay, 2007)

Have you ever had to eat alone? What did you eat? I reviewed this collection of personal essays here and also wrote an article in response to it. This book is thought-provoking and entertaining.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (memoir/cultural studies, 2007)

Once a year, I have the wonderful responsibility of teaching a Developing a Christian Mind course at Calvin College. My course, entitled “What’s for Dinner?” examines attitudes and practices related to contemporary eating and how it intersects with the Christian life. This Kingsolver book is one of my textbooks and it’s a student favorite. “Don’t stop using this book!” they evaluated this past January. I won’t.

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (theology/Christian life, 2008)

The Apostles Creed affirms the resurrection of the body. In this book, Wright examines the current language surrounding death and dying and how it conflicts with orthodox theology. This is a terrific, well-written book about the kingdom of God and Christian hope.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (young adult fiction, 2007)

Gary Schmidt is an English faculty member at Calvin College; I was lucky enough to take a course with him this past spring. This book intersects themes of junior high life in the 1960’s, family relationships, Shakespeare, and what it means to become an adult. It is a wonderful book for young people—and adults—alike.

Justin and I hope you find a book or two on this list that you’ll read and enjoy. Happy holidays, everyone!

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