Last year around this time I set an important goal for myself for 2015: read 75 books. It is now December 6th, and I am happy to say that I’ve already read 76 books so far (with three weeks to go in the year!).
So here are my favorites!
I’ve divided them into five categories: Theology, General Christian, Literature/Fiction, Written Plays, and Memoirs. Here are my favorites in each category, followed by the honorable mentions!
Best Theology Book(s) I Read in 2015
A tie! I couldn’t decided between my two favorites from this year, both by two of my favorite theologians.
Both books, quite apparently, are about the Trinity—my absolute favorite topic in theology! Because really, what else is there? When we talk about who God is we are at once talking about who God is for us and of the magnificent fact that God has taken hold of us and given us participation in His (Trinitarian) life! (This is an essential point I made in my book, which also emphasizes the Trinity, entitled We Belong: Trinitarian Good News.) The Trinitarian nature of the Christian God is perhaps one of the most profound ideas I’ve pondered in the last few years, and these two books present a brilliant, beautiful, and insightful summation of that doctrine.
The Trinity and the Kingdom was the 12th book I read by Jürgen Moltmann, and I must say I think it is my favorite! It not only presents a beautiful picture of the God who suffers with mankind, as he presented in The Crucified God, but a stunning picture of the Trinitarian life of God. For this reason I feel it’s one of his most complete books, one that I would recommend it to anyone looking for an introduction to Moltmann (alongside, Jesus Christ for Today’s World).
The Christian Doctrine of God is a great introduction to the thought of Thomas Torrance as well. Torrance was my first “theological love”. After reading The Mediation of Christ I knew I had found a theology worth pursuing. In this book Torrance presents a beautiful understanding of God as a Trinitarian Being.
Best General Christian Book I Read in 2015
This was also a tough one!
But I must go with Benjamin Myers (from the blog Faith and Theology), and his wonderful little book entitled Salvation in My Pocket: Fragments of Faith and Theology.
Salvation in My Pocket is a collection of short, beautiful essays on a variety of topics from Bicycling through cities or meditation on Orthodox Icons, or on Karl Barth. But all the essays are incredibly inspiring, and intelligently written. I found myself sometimes brought to tears (or at least teary-eyed) by the incredible prose Benjamin has put forth in this book. I really enjoyed reading this collection of essays, and I know I will return to this book sometime in the near future!
Best Literature/Fiction Book I Read in 2015
No question about it, my favorite book in this category was James Joyce’s odd, beautiful, enigmatic, challenging, compelling, and fascinating novel Ulysses.
Ulysses is a notoriously difficult work of modern literature. But if you are willing to put in the work Joyce demands of you, you’ll see why this book has been called the greatest book every written in the English language. It is a feat in itself, a book that took nearly two decades to write. And it shows. The book is packed full of clever allusions, unique ways of writing, and wonderful little jokes (it is, at times, a hilarious book!).
I have written a blog that recounts my favorite quotes from Ulysses. Read it here!
Best Written Play I Read in 2015
This isn’t a category I would typically read, but I wanted to include it here for one reason alone: Samuel Beckett. I read a lot of Beckett this year, and though at first I disliked his style, I have come to enjoy his plays and novels. At first I found his writings to be far to depressing and nihilistic. But I kept running into a problem. Everyone I read was saying the opposite about him. Calling him one of the most important writers of our time (he won a nobel peace prize even!). So I knew I couldn’t give up on his works.
And I am glad I stuck with him. He still daunts me from time to time but I find myself more and more siding with his perspective. There is no writer like Samuel Beckett, and if you want to read something that will explode your understanding of a novel or a play, read Beckett. He is not nihilistic, as I once thought. And while he can be bleak from time to time he is also very funny.
I do enjoy Beckett’s novels, but I think he is best known for his plays. And I enjoy these, oddly enough, the most. Particular two plays: Waiting for Godot (perhaps his most famous), and Krapp’s Last Tape.
In Waiting for Godot Beckett famously has written a play in which “nothing happens, twice”. Yet the dialogue and the general absurdity of the play makes it fascinating and at times compelling. (Watch the play here.)
In Krapp’s Last Tape Beckett shows who essential dialogues with himself on a recording from various years of his life. (Watch the play here.)
Best Memoir I Read in 2015
I am a tremendous fan of the music of Philip Glass, the prolific 20th century composer. His piano pieces especially are some of my absolute favorites! (Listen to an example here.)
And, on a side note, he was just named amongst the 10 best composers of the 20th century by the BBC!
Earlier this year when he released his memoir, I was quick to order a copy. And I was not disappointed!
Words Without Music: A Memoir is not only my favorite biography/memoir from this year, but perhaps my favorite book from this entire list! I was deeply moved and inspired by this book. The life of Philip Glass and the journey he took to become such an important composer is an exciting and challenging thing to read. While reading I felt myself come alive with a desire to create beauty, to pursue art.
I recommend this memoir to any creative individual looking to be inspired by the one of the most important living composers!
(It was really hard not to include anything from Karl Barth in this list. But without a doubt these volumes of the Church Dogmatics are definitely noteworthy!)
(A challenging book! But one I plan to return to.)
(A great thriller novel written by a friend of mine!)
(I’ve read it before, but I came to appreciate this play far more this year!)
I’d love to know your favorites, too! Leave me a comment with what books you enjoyed the most this year!
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