Books Read 2013

My goal is to read 40 books a year in addition to journals, articles, and commentaries. At the end of 2012 I ranked my Top Five before listing the rest. At the end of this 2013, I decided to offer a 5-star ranking for all the books. By the by, other than giving a ranking, the books are not listed in any further order. Mostly, they're listed in the order that I finished them. If there's a hyperlink it will take you to my earlier posts on the book.


Five Stars

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters. What would you do if you knew the date and place a comet would make catastrophic, life-ending impact on Earth? Would it change your behavior and choices? This is the start of a trilogy. I just added the second book to my Audible queue.


Premarital Sex in America by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker. I interviewed Mark at our annual “Winning Ways Banquet” at Hillcrest in January 2013. Sharp guy. Here's an excerpt: 10 Myths About Sex and Relationships


Lords of the North, Bernard Cornwell


Mud and the Masterpiece by John Burke


My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer. Christian Wiman

The Redeemer, by Jo Nesbo (audiobook). I'm sure I'll look for more of Nesbo's stories about Detective Harry Hole.


Lit: A Memoir, by Mary Karr


Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo


Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Lost At Sea by Jon Ronson (audiobook). Entertaining vignettes from our world. I now have his earlier work, Them, in my Audible queue.


The Man with the Electrified Brain: Adventures in Madness, Kindle Single by Simon Winchester. The author describes his college-era episode into manic-depression, and the electroshock therapy that was recommended. One of my favorite authors.


No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy (audiobook). Though the movie was good, the book was much better.


The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester (audiobook). Did I mention Winchester is one of my favorite authors? And it's always best to listen to him read his books to you via Audible.


Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. The first half deals with the philosophical struggles with the problem of pain, while the second half offers biblical guidance for enduring. Excellent resource!


The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene.


A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman. Over 20 years old now; a bestseller when it came out. I read it in preparation for a book I hope to write in 2014. She's a materialist when it comes to our origins, but the book will make you more sensitive to your senses–and more appreciative.

The Question of God: CS Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life, by Armand Nicoli. This was the companion book to a PBS special by the same name. All the Lewis quotes took me back to my C.S. Lewis course in college where we read 13 of his books in one semester. His writing has deeply shaped the course of my thinking. In this book, Nicoli (intentionally or unintentionally?) exposes the despair that results from a materialistic worldview and illustrates the merits of a biblical worldview. Whether this was his intention or not, this book serves as a great conversation-starter on faith.



Four Stars

Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World, by Bradley RE Wright. I love Wright's rejection of the pessimism and bad use of statistics by doom-sayers.


Winner Take All: China's Race for Resources and What It means for the World by Dambisa Moyo


Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer


Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name by Bryan Chappell


The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Makes me want to write. I also have Steven Pressfield's Do the Work! on tap for early 2014. Reading about writing is a good substitute for actually writing…right??


Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission by Amy Simpson. There's a ton of ignorance in our wide world about mental illness. Instead of sharing in the ignorance, the church can provide help to those who suffer (and their loved ones). This book will equip the church to do that. Here's a Simpson article to get you started.


Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (audiobook). Much better than the flick. Gruen knows how to tell a tale. Really loved the audiobook production on this one.


The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. If we found life on another planet, the Catholics would send a Jesuit, right? A fascinating investigation of intergalactic Original Sin.


Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, NT Wright. I'm always on the lookout for books addressed to the seeker. I can recommend this one–especially the first half where where he talks about where to find hints of God's presence.


A Higher Call by Adam Makos (audiobook). An engaging story of air warfare in WW2. The author presents the main character in this true story to be a hero of conscience. Frankly, though, I can understand why Germans in the post-war years did not consider the German airman in the same light.


The Rise of Christianity, by Rodney Stark. Stark asks at one point, “How could historians have so misrepresented things?” A good one-sentence summary of his motivation for writing the book–and a good one-sentence explanation for why it's so fun to read him



Three Stars

The Siege of Lachish 701BC (Bretwalda Battles) by Andrew May


Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas (audiobook). Should I lower the ranking of a book because I didn't like the audiobook presentation?


The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss. A fascinating story of terror and forgiveness, but a little little too flowery in description–for example: “Waitresses buzzed from table to table, like bees scuttling between buds on a honeysuckle shrub, taking orders and refilling drinks.” The author could learn a little from the plain-spoken Cormac McCarthy.


Sun Stand Still, by Steven Furtick (audiobook). I felt I needed this book as a prayer-prompter in early 2013. I have found that the spiritual gifts of administration and faith are very rarely given to the same person, and since I have a heapin' helpin' of the admin gift, I need help with greater boldness in audacious prayer requests. I really liked this book, but reports of Furtick's gargantuan home purchase have deeply soured me, which is probably why this book drops to a 3-star ranking in my list.


Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley


Orthodoxy, by GK Chesterton. I wanted to read it because of the memorable quotes I've read by other authors (and used myself). About the only things useful from the book were the quotes. The colloquialisms and manner of arguing does not travel well across the Atlantic or across the years.


In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson


Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin (audiobook).


Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths, Paul Louis Metzger


Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life, by Michael Kelley


Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George Marsden. If you're thinking about diving in, Marsden has a shorter version I'd recommend instead.


Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination, by Susan Ashbrook Harvey. In preparation for a book I plan to write in 2014, I read this scholarly account of the use of odors in the spiritual life of early Christians. Well-researched: I'm giving it a “3” simply because it's a tough slog for most readers.


The Fort, by Bernard Cornwell (audiobook). Not Cornwell's best. Maybe the audiobook version wasn't the best format for keeping up with the huge cast of characters, but I surely wearied of hours of gory description of brutal 18th century warfare.


Hour of the Cat by Peter Quinn (audiobook). A private eye in pre-WW2 New York investigates a murder and exposes the pro-eugenics forces operating in America.



Two Stars

Obliquity: Why our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly, by John Kay



One Star

The Gay Place, by Billy Lee Brammer. When I first moved to Austin, someone said that the definitive novel to catch the Austin spirit was this 1961 work of fiction. It may have been the definitive novel long long ago, but I couldn't finish it. Karen Olsson's novel, Waterloo comes a little closer to catching contemporary Austin. But the best book for introducing Austin's “vibe” is Joshua Long's non-fiction Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas.



Previous years:

Books Read 2009


Books Read 2010


Books Read 2011


Books Read 2012


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