Standout books read in 2008

I read a lot of books in 2008. Of those books, these are the top 5 non-required ones, and then an inquiry about what you are reading or what you think I should read this year. I’m open to suggestion!

1)Sheffield, Rob. Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, one Mix Tape at a Time.
One of the best music critics of my generation writes of the searing loss of his wife in a voice that is genuine in its honesty and self-deprication, the way southern boys that listened to enough Mudhoney and Nirvana can be and mean it. I read it in a day, but didn’t make it through the first chapter without bawling. In the end, his heart scabs if not thoroughly heals, and his insights are worth a read.
2)Miller, Donald. Searching For God Knows What.
I don’t know why I thought it necessary to wait until I practically had Blue Like Jazz committed to memory to get around to reading another of Miller’s works, but it was worth the wait. I love you, Donald Miller.
3)Kinnaman, David and Lyons, Gabe. unChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters.
This is another book which has made me cry more than once, but it also made me so angry I put it under the pillow for a few days. The insights revealed through their study kept me up during the two-week period that I spent reading it. Kinnaman is a former employee of the Barna Institute, a very trusted research institute which is able to gage attitudes about Christians (so-called) and “the church.” He explores some of the main conceptions that those who do not currently regularly attend a church have about Christians and/or Christianity, and then the practices of those who do attend the church to see if perhaps we should re-examine ourselves. Anyone wanting to reach those in the church and outside the church should read this book. It’s eye-opening.
4)Nafisi. Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.
It’s one thing to hear about the Taliban, and what it asks of women. It’s another thing to read the experiences of a learned, accomplished university professor who was asked to bear these things or to give up the job that she loved and the great part of her self-identity that was wrapped up in that. If I’m honest with myself, though I try to have both empathy and sociological imagination about the mores and folkways I could never bear in other cultures, such as head scarves, etc. it’s rarely so simple as “Why don’t they just MOVE?” in the most stable of political climates; never mind in a setting such as Tehran.
5)Hagen, June Steffensen. Gender Matters: Women’s Studies for the Christian Community.
I picked this book up at a used bookstore, as I tend to do with any book about women and their role in the Church that doesn’t appear to be a cookbook as I quickly thumb through it. (That was a terribly unfunny joke. Probably only Baptists got it. Probably SBC Baptists don’t see anything funny about it).
I’m glad I bought it, because it’s not seemingly for sale anywhere, and even copies for library checkout are few and far between.
There are many good books about women and the church; leadership in the church (their main point being, why are we even still having this conversation?) However, the outstanding thing about Hagen’s book is that she talks about the sin of hiding one’s talents as a woman (alluding not indirectly to Matthew 25:25-30, but referencing them directly) being precisely the same as that of a man, and stating that for a soul to thrive they must be able to exercise and strengthen their gifts.
In her chapter (5) about poetesses, she talks of Bradstreet and Dickinson, and some lesser-known names such as Ann Hopkins and Maria Brooks who *I* certainly didn’t study alongside Christina Rossetti in college, but perhaps should have. The surface tension they struggled with and expressed through their poetry of everything they experienced within themselves but could never allow themselves to fully experience due to the societal expectations of “womanhood” are astonishingly similar.
Hagen also gives a chapters’ worth of treatment to the absence and the presence of women both in the arts and in the church. I know of no other author who has managed to pack such a wealth of information, marrying literary criticism, gender analysis and theology in 300 pages. If any of these are in your realm of interest, try to find her book on Ebay or in your local university library, or if you strike out, I’ll loan you mine.

Any suggestions for 2009 reading material?


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