Wednesday, December 26, 2012

10 Best Books of 2012

In no particular order...
by Shawn Duncan

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, David Eagleman.  This was a pure delight for the imagination!  Read it while in Pasadena at Fuller taking a class.   A much needed refresher after being in class all day.  If you ever wanted reflections on the afterlife to invite you to live this life more fully, these parables will do the trick!

When I Was a Child I Read Books, essays by Marilynne Robinson.  If you want thoughtful, critical engagement with contemporary culture, religion, politics, and the intersection of all three, this is it.  I will gladly read anything she writes.  I encountered her first as a novelist, and her pen as an essayist is just as fascinating and transformative.

Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, Heifetz and Linsky.  This book was suggested to me by a coach of sorts from The Missional Network who helped me through a personal leadership assessment tool.  This book is about how to lead in turbulent, adaptive times in ways that allow you to personally survive as you challenge the systems around you.

The Hobbit, Tolkien (illustrated by Wenzel). I must confess that I had never read any Tolkien until discovering this brilliantly illustrated version in a used bookshop in Minneapolis this fall.  I fell in love with this story right away.  It would take a longer post to tell you why Bilbo Baggins is giving me life right now. 

Still: Notes on A Mid-Faith Crisis, Lauren Winner.  If you want an honest memoir of how real spirituality works out in the complex paths of real life, read this... now.  The spiritual life comes with no quick fixes or easy answers... better, it often comes with no fixes and no answers.  Winner's wit, bite, and transparency give life to a religious world filled with corrosive kitch and simplistic rhetoric.

The Tortilla Curtain, T.C. Boyle.  Sometimes fiction brings clarity to the obscuring noise of political discourse.  This story parallels an undocumented man and his pregnant wife living in desperate poverty and want with a family living in a culture of wealth and abundance in Southern Cal.  Compelling, heart wrenching, true, and important.

The Rule of Saint Benedict, a contemporary paraphrase by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.  Benedictine spirituality has been vital for me in the last couple years.  This version updates the language and style to make RB a bit more palatable to contemporary readers.  I found it refreshing.  I needed it.  

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Austin Kleon. No matter your profession, vocation, calling, or hobby, creativity is a must.  No matter your (see the above), creativity is hard.  This little book was fun and provided a spark of renewal for me.

Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Kathleen Norris.  Like L.Winner above, Norris brings a voice of authenticity, substance, and nuance to religious literature.  This is a fascinating memoir-like book that recounts her journey back into Christianity - told through chapters defining common religious terms like grace, conversion, repentance, etc.  Rich. Restorative.

In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad. While preparing to teach a class on Christianity and Islam, this book was suggested to me by a local Muslim leader and friend.  Compelling, informative, and thoughtful.  Gave me new eyes for understanding this man whose experiences have shaped the world in significant ways for 1400 years.

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