Sunday, January 15, 2017

10 Books Released in 2016 You Should Read

As I've stated in a previous blog, I read more books in 2016 than I have in any other year. And several of them were released for the first time in 2016. I sorted through my personal library, and these are what I would call the ten must read books released last year. Check em out!








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Top Ten 2016 Books You Have To Read.







10. How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help is on the way, and love is already here. Jonathan Martin

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I came across this book when one of my favorite voices in American Christianity tweeted about his excitement for it. "If it's good enough for Greg Boyd, it's good enough for me," I thought. I checked it out on Amazon, and saw that nearly every one of my favorite authors offered their endorsement for it. And once you read it, it's easy to see why. In the book Jonathan Martin tells his story of falling apart, and being put back together. Martin writes with poetic imagery, and his word-smithing allows you to get lost in the book. Very powerful if you are in the middle of a shipwreck, or if anyone you love is.


“This fits the pattern of how God responds to human suffering: We come looking for answers; God sends a hot meal through a warm body. We come looking for reasons for our hunger; God sends provision to feed us. We come looking for a sermon that will explain the complexity of the cosmos to us and satiate our desire for understanding; Christ responds with, "This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, shed for you."
People try to offer us an explanation; God offers us a Eucharist.”





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9. You Will Not Have My Hate. Antoine Leiris

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Author, Antoine Leiris, lost his wife and the mother of their one year old son when terrorists attacked the Bataclan Theater in Paris. It was the deadliest attack on France since World War II. This book is the brutally painful and raw reflections Antoine had the first few weeks after losing the love of his life. It is grim and heartbreaking, but full of hope.


"On Friday evening you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred.
So no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. You want it, but to respond to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.
You would like me to be scared, for me to look at my fellow citizens with a suspicious eye, for me to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You have lost. The player still plays.
I saw her this morning. At last, after nights and days of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her more than 12 years ago.
Of course I am devastated with grief, I grant you this small victory, but it will be short-lived.
I know she will be with us every day and we will find each other in the heaven for free souls to which you will never have access. 
Us two, my son and I, we will be stronger than every army in the world. I cannot waste any more time on you as I must go back to [my son] who has just woken from his sleep.
He is only just 17 months old, he is going to eat his snack just like every other day, then we are going to play like every other day and all his life this little boy will be happy and free.
Because you will never have his hatred either."




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8. Present-over-Perfect: Leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living. Shauna Niquest

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This book is so rich in its call to simplicity, and to be connected to the sacred now, it actually inspired my New Years resolution. Shauna writes with tenderness, compassion and stark vulnerability. A important book for the frequently busy person.


“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy-tale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.”



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7. Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the devil for doubters and the disenchanted. Richard Beck

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Is the devil an actual, metaphysical being? Or is the devil a literary metaphor for the evil in humanity that opposes the will of God? These were the questions many people wrestle with, especially for believers who are barely able to muster enough faith to believe in God, let alone a Devil. Richard Beck does an incredible job breaking down the theology and philosophy of this Satan concept. He spends a good portion of the book calling out the more conservative Christian tribes for using Satan as a scapegoat so that we can avoid human responsibility, but he also spends a decent amount of time calling out the more liberal Christian tribes, who's lack of faith in demonic forces causes them to consistently make enemies and more branches of "The Other." Beck walks a fine line, and brilliantly adds a "both and..." approach to the table.




"When doubting and disenchanted Christians lose touch with the spiritual warfare worldview of the Bible, we begin to treat the suffering of the world like it’s a logical puzzle to be solved rather than a reality to be resisted. And when we treat suffering as an intellectual problem, all that happens is that our doubts and questions pile up. Our mind starts running in a circle, chasing its own tail.”



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6. Executing Grace: How the death penalty killed Jesus and why it's killing us. Shane Claiborne

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Shane is the closest thing to a modern prophet in the spirit of John the Baptist or Isaiah we have in America. He is a voice calling out to American Christians bluntly, but lovingly, telling us if our Christianity doesn't mirror Jesus, it isn't Christianity. Shane brings that same prophetic tenacity to his book Executing Grace, as he unpacks the Christian theology behind the death penalty. Whether he is exegeting Scripture, researching church history, or telling countless stories, this book is an important, and prophetic, investigative work on the death penalty.


“When we receive the gift of grace, it should transform us into grace-filled people who want to see other people given a chance, and other people loved back to life again.”



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5. Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints and Sages. Carl McColman

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Christian Mysticism is experiencing a pretty incredible resurgence among many Christians today, and this book is a wonderful starting point to learn about our mystical pioneers. I've added this book to my devotional habit. It chronicles 108 Christian Mystics, giving brief biographies and quotes. Add this to your time of reading and prayer, and it will enhance your experience significantly.


"Our words have the potential to reveal the Trinity. We must never underestimate the power our words can have. For the Father can be found in the sound of the word, the Son can be found in the meaning of the word, and the Holy Spirit can be found in the breath of the word."
 ~Hildegard of Bingen



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4. The Day The Revolution Began: Reconsidering the meaning of Jesus' Crucifixion. N.T. Wright

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N.T. Wright follows up on what his arguably his most renowned book, Surprised by Hope, with this masterpiece. Just as Wright changed the way thousands viewed the Resurrection with that book, here he applies the same scholarly work to the Crucifixion. Wright unpacks the most popular view of the Cross most evangelicals hold today, and exposes its problematic themes. But he also presents a way of looking at the Cross that is more life changing than any cruciform theology I've heard. It's a fairly dense and academic book; but for the patient reader it is worth it.



“Jesus died for our sins not so that we could sort out abstract ideas, but so that we, having been put right, could become part of God’s plan to put his whole world right. That is how the revolution works.”



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3. Finding God in the Waves: Losing my faith and finding it again through science. Mike McHargue

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Mike's blogging and podcast work has been so instrumental in my faith re-development, that when he released his first book this year, it felt like one of my best friends released their first book. I read it in three sittings, a personal record for me, and walked away from it with tears in my eyes and a heart full of love. I love agreeing with Mike and I love disagreeing with him, and I do plenty of both here. But at the heart of this book, the nature of faith and science, and the apparent tensions between them, is a philosophy and theology that adds flourishing to the human experience. In a day and age where Christians are more likely to rip each other apart for their theological differences than they are to unite, Mike takes a refreshing, non combative approach to faith, doubt, science, theology and philosophy.




“When someone in vulnerability tells you everything they’ve known has fallen apart, the correct response is not to quote scripture, the correct response is not biblical apologetics, the correct response is a hug. The correct response is to say, I love you. They have to encounter an impossible love. It’s the only way the gospel comes to life.”



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2. Water To Wine: Some of my story. Brian Zahnd

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Brian Zahnd takes us through his painful journey of faith evolution. One of many books on the subject of evolving faith I read this year, Water to Wine was the first I picked up, and is therefore the one that spoke most profoundly to me. Brian talks about the way God transformed his theology, how that transformation caused him to lose many members at his thriving evangelical church, and the beauty that comes in it all. This book is profound, it is important and it changed my life.


 “Fundamentalism is to Christianity what paint-by-numbers is to art.”





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Honorable Mentions:


The Great Spiritual Migration: How the worlds largest religion is seeking a better way to be Christian. Brian Mclaren

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Prayer: 40 Days of Practice. Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson

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Unashamed. Lecrae 

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1. The Divine Dance: Trinity and your transformation. Richard Rohr, with Mike Merrell

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This is one of, if not the most, important books I've ever read. It's hard to talk about all the content here because I want you to go read it and experience it for yourself. Richard Rohr does the best job at unpacking Trinitarian theology I've ever seen. Starting with this idea that the essence of the Trinity is relationship, and how that essence permeates all of creation. He says, “The energy in the universe is not in the planets, or in the protons or neutrons, but in the relationship between them." Going on to say that we as creations are risky expressions of that loving relationship. And that is just one or two pages of this book! I had no idea how important Trinitarian theology was to human flourishing and relationship with the Divine until I read this. I thought I knew, but I had no idea. This is a book I will be revisiting over and over again.




“Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand—it is something that you can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say, “I’ve got it.” Always and forever, mystery gets you!”





So there's my favorite books released in 2016! What was the best book you read this last year? Drop a comment and let me know!

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