Hello Everyone! Lets get it started!
Below is a list of the books that I read in 2017. These are in alphabetical order according to the last name of the author, not according to which books I thought were better than others. You will notice that when I latch onto an author I tend to read 3-4 books from them in a season. I hope this helps to show you some new books that you would like to check out at some point this year. Hopefully, this year I can get some more fiction in, but as you can see, theology and philosophy tend to be my most favorite topics!
Enjoy, and comment if there was one on this list you also read or have a question about!
Tolle lege! (That’s latin for “Take up and read!”)
- What is the Bible? by Rob Bell – I’ll say it, I think Rob gets a bad rap. To anyone that has been to a decent seminary, they will notice that he is simply putting to contemporary language things that are bought up in an Mdiv program. I have met Rob personally and found that he purposefully avoids “church lingo” in order to get the ideas across to as many people as possible.
- The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three by Cynthia Bourgeault – I met Cynthia a few weeks ago at Villanova University, where she came to present on this book. The Trinity is a part of Christian dogma that has been largely overlooked or not quite unlocked for its profound depths. This was a unique read to say the least.
- Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault – Without a doubt, this book helped to reclaim Jesus as a teacher of wisdom for me. Too often Christian circles look at Jesus from a soteriological or salvific perspective while downplaying his ethics or his parables. This will make you look at Jesus in a more balanced way.
- The Heart of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault – Prayer has been a topic on my mind the past year, possibly due to this book. Centering prayer is a way of praying that perhaps dates back to the medieval age and is one of the most calming and anchoring forms of prayer I have ever had the good fortune of stumbling across.
- Why Did I Do That? by Joseph Burgo – This is completely about defense mechanisms. The reasons why we deflect, project, split, rationalize and downplay things that challenge us is fascinating to me. Every one of us have a defense mechanism that we use to ward off change, even if it would be a change for our benefit. If you know you have a hard time changing or know someone who has a hard time admitting the reality of a situation, this is a great intro to the topic.
- Why I Left, Why I Stayed by Tony and Bart Campolo – In a world devoid of conversation, this was an honest and vulnerable read. A conversation between an evangelical preacher and his now humanist son, this book is about the reasons why someone might leave the Christian faith and why others might stay with it. The tone of the book is really interesting because you can feel that this really was the way for two opposing views within the same family to reconcile. Hopefully, this will help foster compassion for whatever the opposite view is from yours.
- The Folly of God by John Caputo – I had the good fortune of meeting Jack a few weeks ago over beers. Jack is an incredible and gentle soul, who is at the same time a titan of intellectual thought in regards to philosophy and theology. The Folly of God is a provocative piece in radical theology that is trying to respond to the death of God movement. Incredible stuff here.
- The Road Back to You by Ian Cron – So, I have been into the enneagram for about two years now. At first I was a 1, but I am dead set that I am a 5. This is a good introductory book to the enneagram, and is divided up according to the different personality types that the enneagram has. Plus, it gives a list of things for each type to work on, things that are tough but ultimately for the good health of each type.
- From Whom God Hid Nothing by Meister Eckhart – Probably one of the most well known Christian mystics, he is also one of the densest to read. As you go through his writings you ask if he even cares about logic, but then he seems to show you that there is a deeper logic beneath it all. For instance, “I pray God rid me of God.” It is a paradox that is orthodox, may God rid me of my own idolatry of God.
- Spirit of fire: The Life and Vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Ursula King – 2016 was more the year where I read a bunch of Teilhard, but this past year, I found some of the ancillary writings by him and building off him. Spirit of Fire is a biography with some stunning photos. I believe Teilhard was ahead of his time in that he was willing to do a hard look at Christianity in the 20th century yet maintain a deep and earthly spirituality. Teilhard completely recaptured my sense of deep wonder at all things, and that God is deeply present in all things.
- Toward the Future by Teilhard de Chardin – A collection of great pieces written by Teilhard.
- The Heart of Matter by Teilhard de Chardin – Another collection of great pieces written by Teilhard.
- Crucified Love by Ilia Delio – For about 2 years now, I have been on a Franciscan kick. St. Francis has long be an important figure to me, and I feel fortunate to have met Ilia Delio. This book is about the theology and spirituality of St. Francis and St. Bonaventure, two of the most influential figures of Franciscanism alongside St. Clare. This is an incredible book about what is the most important staple of Franciscan spirituality, the burning love of the Crucified One.
- Franciscan Prayer by Ilia Delio – St. Clare of Assisi wrote a number of letters in a pastoral fashion to others of her day. Building off of one simple phrase, Ilia Delio dives into how Franciscan prayer always leads into imitation of Christ as well as a deeply incarnational spirituality.
- Making All Things New by Ilia Delio – Making All Things New recaptured for me what Catholic really means. Granted, raised protestant, Catholic was not a part of my usual vocabulary, it never had a negative connotation for me as it does for some. However, Catholic means “concerning the whole”, and so for this book to emphasize that the Christian faith is “concerned with the whole of everything” really stuck with me. In an age where most faith perspectives seem to discount some things as “unspiritual” or “neutral at best”, this was so refreshing. The Christian faith is and should be concerned with everything, if it isn’t then it isn’t the Christian faith.
- The Unbearable Wholeness of Being by Ilia Delio – Much in the same stream of thought as Making All Things New, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being will challenge you in a good way. Not only does it reference the theological emphasis of wholeness, but also has a surprising amount of engagement with science, quantum physics, and the power of love as the force that unites us teleologically.
- Teilhard’s Mysticism by Kathleen Duffy – By use of concentric circles, Kathleen Duffy expounds upon the layers of Teilhard’s faith. Ever going deeper and deeper, Teilhard’s mysticism had nothing to do with escaping this world. Its a short read, but it is dense. This will serve well as an introduction to Teilhard’s thought.
- Cinders by Jacques Derrida – I don’t think I understood what I read. But I feel smarter for having read it. Does that count? Cinders is a short read born out of a reflection of Derrida’s. The whole piece seems to point towards the fact that none of us can ever really name something, only what it was in the moment that you named it. Since everything is in constant motion or in the process of becoming (or unbecoming), the cinder is a perfect symbol for that. A cinder is here and then it is gone in an instant.
- Lacan on Love by Bruce Fink – Jacques Lacan was a psychoanalyst in the tradition of Freud, and Bruce Fink does a decent job here of summarizing as best he can, Lacan’s perspectives on love. This is a challenging read, some of which is almost directly Freudian but other parts are rather philosophical and rightfully challenge the modern concept of love. I read this more for its philosophy than its psychoanalytic insights. Give it a try if you are up for it.
- Pond River Ocean Rain by Chaz Howard – Chaz is the man. He and his whole family exude a deep reverence for faith and for living it out well. Pond River Ocean Rain is a profound read. Comprised of poems and reflections that lead to discussion questions, it is no doubt a pastoral work that was born out of a personal journey done with integrity. You do not need to be a theologian to read this, and neither must you be a consistent church goer in order to find this book helpful.
- The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Huertz – I am a rather large fan of the enneagram. I find it to be one of the better personality typologies out there, and the fact that many of the major religions of the world find it insightful for spiritual development only add to its legitimacy for me. Christopher does a great job of presenting the enneagram in a different way from most authors but the real treat was the second half of the book. For me, his insights on what each personality type needs to do as a spiritual discipline is worth the price of the book. So good.
- Backpacking with the Saints by Beldon Lane – So, in all honesty, when I started reading this book I thought, “Dang, someone else already wrote the book I want to write.” That being said, it is still a great read. Beldon Lane is a professor who spends time out hiking with one book at a time. Clearly, a man after my own heart. Each chapter is about a different saint and a different hike. This is an impactful read if you already enjoy a spirituality of the outdoors.
- Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue – A little late to the party, but I finally got around to reading this. It is really in two parts, first comes the autobiography then comes the series of chapters trying to address different issues. Its a good read and I am sure it scratches the itch that some people might have. I don’t think it resonated with me as much as other authors but perhaps it is because I am not questioning everything as some other reader might be doing. At bare minimum, it will expose you to the struggles that many are going through right now in regards to their own evangelicalism.
- The Dark Knight: The Master Race by Frank Miller – I had been waiting for this one for quite a while once I knew it was happening. Frank Miller completely changed the way people look at Batman with his The Dark Knight Returns. The comic inspired the third Nolan Batman movie, and rightly so. Every depiction of the Caped Crusader was campy and rather colorful, not deep and brooding. The Master Race has Batman and Superman teaming up against a couple hundred Kryptonians. And my oh my is it a page turner.
- All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly – Superman comics are better than most think. If you were to look up the top ten Superman comics, this one would definitely be on the list. Faced with his own mortality, this story arc shows Superman at his best, still inspiring, still seeking to change the world for the better even down to his last moments. This is a surprising and colorful piece.
- The Rebirthing of God by John Philipp Newell – John Philipp Newell spent some time as a chaplain in Ireland, I believe. This has since led him to have a Christian spirituality that is flavored by Celtic culture. This is a short but engaging read that has so much to do with where Christianity needs to go in the 3rd millennium. Fascinatingly enough, the way forward is the way back. By looking back at some of the earliest celtic Christians, he gives some good advice as towards where Christianity needs to be going. This is book may also make you chuckle a few times as it did me.
- The Divine Magician by Pete Rollins – In the past year, I have met up with Pete Rollins twice. Once in New York City and another time in New Jersey. Both of these times he was in the area to present content from The Divine Magician. This is an interesting book to say the least. Despite the fact that it does not engage the whole of Scripture, it is a treatise on the phenomena of being called to be Christ to the world. In some ways, it reminded me of a poem by St. Teresa of Avila entitled “Christ Has No Body.” If you like Paul Tillich, I think you will like this.
- The Fidelity of Betrayal by Pete Rollins – If I am remembering correctly, this book signals the turn in Pete’s thinking from his earlier books. How (Not) to Speak of God was a fantastic treatise on the mystics, but this is, I believe, where Pete starts to show where he takes some cues from Slavoj Zizek and his interpretation of Christianity. In some ways, this book is quite rabbinical in that it is kind of midrash all about the person of Judas. It is an engaging read, of course, but be careful to know what midrash is before you start reading this. Otherwise, you will just think this is a heretical book, which is a false accusation.
- The Orthodox Heretic by Pete Rollins – This little book is great. Pete Rollins took a page from Kierkegaard’s book and took to writing some of his own parables. The parables he came up with have wit, often a great twist, and absolutely leave you saying, “You know what, I think he’s right.” Some parables may resonate with you more than others, but if you are looking for an engaging read, this is a great pocket sized one.
- The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder – Yes, I still read comic books. Sometimes the brain needs a break from theology, philosophy, and rhetoric. The Black Mirror finds Dick Grayson as Batman after there is a series of crimes that leave Gotham reeling. Believe it or not, this comic really tries to dive into the nature of evil and what kind of force is best to combat it. Its a chilling read, but is still one of the best Batman comics out there.
- Teresa of Avila by Mirabai Starr – Teresa of Avila is one of my favorite Christian mystics. She was a completely human saint, with her own foibles and outbursts but yet with a dynamic and poetic approach to the faith that I found rather stirring. Two summers ago I met Mirabai Starr and she may very well be a figure as unique as Teresa. This is not quite the normal biography of the saint, but it is a quick and reflective read that can fit in your pocket. It will certainly give you much to think about.
- Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich – I don’t know what took me so long to read this. I read Courage to Be years ago, but took my time getting to this one. Although it is a short read, it has some profound insights about the nature of faith, what is true faith, what is demonic faith, and so forth. If you give it a chance, it will only cause your perspective of what faith is to grow.
- The Cloud of Unknowing by Unknown – No one should call themselves a fan of Christian mystics if they have not read The Cloud of Unknowing. We do not know who wrote this text, quite possibly a woman during the early medieval ages, or simply someone who knew they would be misunderstood and so kept their name anonymous. The Cloud of Unknowing is a text that stands in direct opposition to scholastic theology, stating that in order to come to know God one must, at some point, start to suspend or leave logic and reasoning behind. This fantastic book is pointing us toward the reality that God is so far beyond comprehension that apprehension is the best we can do. This also has some incredible statements about defining prayer.
- Integral Meditation by Ken Wilber – Ken Wilber is a game changer of a thinker. Having floated back and forth between Buddhist and Christian circles, he has a fair number of insights as toward how one can meditate and reflect on their life better. I can’t say that this book has led me to meditate or pray more, but it certainly has influenced the way I meditate or pray.
- Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber – In some ways, this book is a predecessor to The Religion of Tomorrow. However, this was the first book I read that introduced me to the integral framework. Using a lattice framework and four boxes, Ken changed the way I think about how faith encourages the growth of a whole person. And, if you ask me, that is a massively needed topic.
- The Religion of Tomorrow by Ken Wilber – Man, this is a thick book. A couple hundred pages all on the topic of an integrated approach to religion. You could say that Ken was working toward this book for quite some time. If you have read some of his earlier books, this compiles a fair amount of their content and then goes further. The main gist of this book is that for religion to have legitimacy in the future, it needs to be something that integrates the whole person into the whole world. Compartmentalization of the person from the body from the society from the planet is completely missing the point. Ken is known as the Einstein of Consciousness, and if you agree that good religion wakes people up in a number of different ways, then this book will help redeem religion for you.