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Brian's Recommendations

Favorite Books 2006

In 2006 I read SO MANY excellent books, old and new. Here are about 20 of my
favorites ... in no order of importance:

The Kite Runner, The Poisonwood Bible (Kingsolver), Small Gods (Pratchett), My Name is Asher Lev (Potok)

A Passion for Islam (Murphy), No god but God (Aslan), The Great Turning (Korten), Beyond Growth (Daly), A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Payne), Our Endangered Values (Carter), War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Hedges)

Wendell Berry, Denise Levertov, Mary Oliver

Chronicles (Dylan)

Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor (Boff), Jesus Christ Liberator (Sobrino), A Future for Africa (Katongole), Sex and the Single Savior (Martin), Jesus and Empire (Horsley), God and Empire (Crossan), How (not) to Speak of God (Rollins)

Irresistable Revolution (Claiborne)

There have been many other good books too, but it's hard to know when to stop! The best of the best, for me, was Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor (Leonardo Boff). It filled my mind and heart with worship.



Favorite Books from 2005

Some Great Reads from 2005
I can't believe how many tremendous books are being published. Add to
them the great books from the past that I've only recently discovered,
and sometimes I hope I can live to be 125 just so I won't miss too
much. But even then, I would still miss so much, because there are
more excellent books waiting for us than one person could ever digest.

So - here are ten top recommendations from my little corner of the world.

First, I read several books on faith and social justice this year.
Among them, four stood out.
1. Jim Wallis, God's Politics.
2. Jimmy Carter, Our Endangered Values
3. Rabbi Michael Lerner, The Left Hand of God (to be released in 06)
All three of these books seek to begin a dialogue after many years of
monologue by the Religious Right. I found each of them alarming and
inspiring at the same time.
4. C. K. Prahalad, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. While
this book is not religious, it makes one point very well - and I think
it maps out a plan for helping the poor that could bring together
caring Christians from the left and right.

I always try to keep some good fiction and poetry on my reading list.
Of special pleasure this year were two books:
5. Wendell Berry, The Memory of Old Jack. Tender, humane, insightful,
heart-breaking, and beautiful ... I feel like a better human being
after I read Berry's work.
6. Garrison Keillor, ed., Good Poems. Put this one beside your bed
and read a few each night. You'll feel afresh what an amazing thing
language is.

Three works of theology were most stimulating to me this year. Both
of them came to me in manuscript form in 2005; they'll be released in
7. Andrew Perriman, The Coming of the Son of Man. This book is the
best introduction I'm aware of to a fresh perspective on eschatology.
Many of us know that we desperately need an alternative to the "left
behind" eschatology that is so popular (and unhelpful) these days.
Here it is. Andrew takes some ideas that N. T. Wright has been
proposing for several years, ideas that Tim King's
"transmillennialism" also engages (but not yet in a popular book), and
grapples with them in Paul as well as Jesus.
8. Pete Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God. I expect that some of my
friends will not like this book, but I loved it. As an old English
major whose studies took him into the epistemological deep end of the
postmodern pool, I find in Pete Rollins someone who has learned to
swim without being able to touch bottom.
9. Walter Wink, The Powers That Be. This book helped me a great deal
in my work on The Secret Message of Jesus. It takes ideas from
several of Wink's books and makes them easily - and provocatively -

On the Bible, I especially enjoyed ...
10. Judith Kunst, The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter with Jewish
. This manusript (to be released in 06) brought together most
or all of what I've learned about helping people approach the Bible,
and much more. A special bonus - Kunst writes beautiful prose, and
she also includes some of her poetry in this book. I hope we'll see
much more from her in the years to come.


Books - Bibliography Style

Percy, Walker. The Message in the Bottle. Noonday (F, S & G), 1954 (1975), 335 pages.
Sobel, Dava. Galileo’s Daughter. Penguin USA, 2000. 420 pages.
Friedman, Thomas. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Anchor Books, 2000. 512 pages.
*Diamond, Jared. Guns Germs and Steel. W.W. Norton & Company, 1999. 480 pages.
*Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom ???. 270 pages.
*David Bosch, Transforming Mission, Orbis, 1991, 587 pages.
Anderson, Walter Truett. The Truth About the Truth.
Johnson, Stephen. Emergence. Scribner, 2002. 288 pages.
Haught, John. God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution. Westview, 2000. 221 pages.
Middleton, J. Richard, and Walsh, Brian J. Truth is Stranger Than It Used to Be. InverVarsity, 1995. 250 pages.
Caputo, John D., and Scanlon, Michael J., eds. God, the Gift, and Postmodernism. Indiana Univ., 1999. 322 pages.
Caputo, John D. The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion. Indiana Univ., 1997. 379 pages.
Smith, Huston. Beyond the Post-Modern Mind. Quest, 1989. 281 pages.
Senge, Peter. The Fifth Discipline. Currency, 1994. 424 pages.
Berry, Wendell. Sex, Community, Freedom, and Economy. Pantheon Books, 1994. 208 pages.
Berry, Wendell. Life is a Miracle: An Essay against Modern Superstition. Counterpoint, 2000. 153 pages.
Manji, Irshad. The Trouble with Islam. St. Martins, 2003. 219 pages.
Wilber, Ken. A Theory of Everything. Shambala, 2000. 189 pages.
Wilber, Ken. The Marriage of Sense and Soul. Broadway, 1998. 225 pages.

Theology/Ministry/Biblical Studies (2242 required)
Brueggemann, Walter. Texts Under Negotiation. Fortress Press, 1994. 117 pages.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. Fortress Press, 2001. 151 pages.
Brueggemann, Walter. Finally Comes the Poet. Fortress Press, 1990. 165 pages.
Bandy, Tom. Mission Mover: Beyond Education for Church Leadership. Abingdon, July 2004.
Markides, Kyriacos. The Mountain of Silence. Image, 2001. 256 pages.
Philips, Timothy R., and Okholm, Dennis L, eds., The Nature of Confession: Evangelicals and Postliberals in Conversation. InterVarsity, 1996. 298 pages.
Peters, Ted. God - The World’s Future: Systematic Theology for a New Era. Fortress, 2000. 402 pages.
Zahniser, A. H. Mathias. Symbol and Ceremony: Making Disciples Across Cultures. MARC, 1997. 236 pages.
*Donovan, Vincent. Christianity Rediscovered. Orbis, 2003 (1978). 169 pages.
Myers, Joseph. The Search to Belong. Emergent/YS, 2003. 181 pages.
Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace. Abingdon, 1996. 336 pages.
Westerhoff, III, John H. Will Our Children Have Faith? Seabury, 1976. 143 pages.
Jones, Tony. Postmodern Youth Ministry. Zondervan, 2001. 240 pages.
Jones, Tony. The Sacred Way. Youth Specialties, 2004. 222 pages.
Polkinghorne, John. The Faith of a Physicist. Fortress, 1996, 206 pages.
Tanner, Kathryn. Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology. Fortress, 1997, 196 pages.
Green, Joel, and Baker, Mark. Recovering the Scandal of the Cross. InterVarsity, 2000. 229 pages.
Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy. Harper SanFrancisco, 1998. 448 pages.
McClendon, James. Systematic Theology, vol. 2, Doctrine
*Newbigin, Lesslie. The Open Secret. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995. 200 pages.
Newbigin, Lesslie. Truth and Authority in Modernity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996. 85 pages.
Newbigin, Lesslie. Foolishness to the Greeks. ?? pages.
Roxburgh, Alan J. The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality. Trinity Pr Intl, 1997. 64 pages.
Bosch, David Jacobus. Believing in the Future. Trinity Pr Intl, 1995. 80 pages.
*Haught. God After Darwin. Westview Press, 2001. 240 pages.
Zahniser, A. H. Mathias. Symbol and Ceremony. Missions Advanced Research &, 1997. 236 pages.
*Franke, John R. & Stanely J. Grenz. Beyond Foundationalism. Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. 296 pages.
Sweet. Postmodern Pilgrims. ???
Sweet, Leonard et al. A is for Abductive. Zondervan, 2003. 352 pages.
Sweet. Carpe Mańana. Zondervan, 2003. 208 pagse.
Smith, Chuck. The End of the World as We Know It. Waterbrook Press, 2001. 256 pages
Tomlinson, Dave. The Post-Evangelical. Emergent/YS, 2003. 146 pages.
*Webber, Robert E. The Younger Evangelicals. Baker Book House, 2002. 288 pages.
Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Faith. Baker Book House, 1999. 240 pages.
*Grenz, Stanely J. A Primer on Postmodernism. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1996. 211 pages.
Pinnock, Clark H. The Most-Moved Mover. Baker Book House, 2001. 224 pages.
Guder, Darrell L. The Missional Church. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1998. 288 pages.
Boesak, Allan. Comfort and Protest: The Apocalypse from a South African Perspective. Westminster, 1987. 140 pages.
*Kimball, Dan. The Emerging Church. Zondervan, 2003. 264 pages.
Kimball, Dan. Emerging Worship. Zondervan, 2004. 238 pages.
*Wright, N.T. The Challenge of Jesus
Wright, N. T. Trilogy: The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress)
Smith, James K. A., Introducing Radical Orthodoxy (Baker, 2004), 291 pages


Favorite Books from 2004

There have been so many other excellent books this year, including the continuing collection in the Emergent/YS line … but these stand out for special mention.

I won’t mention all the manuscripts that I endorsed this year. I sometimes get so far behind that I can’t say yes to all the endorsement requests I receive, but let me assure you that I actually read the manuscripts I am able to endorse, and I mean what I say in endorsements.

I did a lot of reading on hell/damnation/final judgment this year, researching The Last Word and the Word After That (which will be out in March, and which can be pre-ordered now on Amazon.com). I was especially impressed by Jan Bonda’s The One Purpose of God: An Answer to the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment. Also very helpful was Craig Hill’s In God’s Time: the Bible and the Future. I also re-read Dante’s Divine Comedy and was struck again by its strange mix of humor and gruesomeness.

I read and re-read a lot of Walter Brueggemann’s works this year in preparation for the emergent theological conversation with him in September. Struggling with Scripture (with William Placher and Brian Blount) and Ichabod Toward Home were especially stimulating.

I appreciated Marva Dawn’s Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God (an exploration of Paul’s concept of “principalities and powers”) and The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann (a gift from my friend Sky Diamond, giving a wonderful window into Eastern Orthodox spirituality).

I spent part of my summer in Africa with my daughter Jodi, and two novels about Africa stood out in my Africa-related reading: Things Fall Apart by Nigerian Chinua Achebe tells the story of the coming of missionaries and colonialists and the corresponding loss of old tribal ways – from the perspective of an Ibo family. It’s heartbreaking and insightful and wonderfully written. Former missionary to Uganda Greg Taylor wrote High Places, and I was greatly impressed both by the quality of his writing (like me, he writes “on the side,” with ministry work being his “day job”) and by the story, characterization, pathos, and insight of the book.

Islam, Postmodernism, and Other Futures: A Ziadding Sardar Reader introduced me to this important, brilliant, and often disturbing Muslim thinker and author.

Currently I’m slowly working my way through David Bentley Hart’s The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. It’s rich, at times difficult, and so far, very rewarding work, engaging with a lot of contemporary thinkers, and written from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.

I’ve read so many good books this year, and I can’t remember a single really bad one (at least not one that I finished). We’re blessed with so many great writers these days – and plenty of important things to write about.


Favorite Books from 2003

This has been a great year for reading. Thanks to all who have recommended good books to me this year. I’d like to pass on the favor by listing some of the many books (along with two teaching CD’s) that have helped me most this year, in no particular order.

A Theory of Everything and The Marriage of Sense and Soul
These two books by philosopher Ken Wilber are not “ChThe Next Christendomristian” books, but the way of thinking Wilber promotes and exemplifies – which he calls “integral” thinking and which I call “emergent” thinking – is powerful and important, in my opinion. (Thanks to Jay Gary for this recommendation.)

Exclusion and Embrace
This masterpiece by Miroslav Volf probably took me longer to read than anything I’ve read in years – not because it’s esoteric or hard to grasp, but because it’s so rich. I kept stopping, thinking, contemplating, writing myself notes, and praying as I read. Powerful, gripping, challenging, profound. (Thanks to Tony Jones for telling me about Volf.)

Systematic Theology
Ethics (1), Doctrine (2), Witness (3)
It’s ironic that James Wm. McClendon, Jr., known as one of the fathers of narrative theology, would write a systematic theology – but really, it’s a narrative approach to systematic theology – more what I’d call “systemic” theology. The order of the titles is a lesson in itself. This trilogy is long, but it has been nourishing me for the last year or so. (Thanks to Parush Parushev for urging me to read McClendon.)

Christianity Rediscovered
Many people know how much I’ve been helped by Protestant missiologist Lesslie Newbigin. This winsome and moving book by Catholic missionary (to the Masai in Tanzania) ranks with Newbigin’s thought, though it is less academic. I began this book years ago (maybe 20?), and didn’t get into it. This year I found it again, and it moved and inspired me.

The Mountain of Silence
Kyriacos Markides’ recollection of his time with Father Maximos, a Greek Orthodox monk and mystic, is a wonderful introduction to Eastern Orthodox spirituality. Many of us feel that the problems identified by postmodern thinkers are the problems of western rationalism; to find Christian thought less enmeshed with western rationalism, we need to go back – before the Reformation, before Augustine, to the Eastern fathers. If you want a readable introduction to the Eastern way of following Christ, this is highly recommended – along with Anthony Bloom’s “Beginning to Pray,” which began transforming my prayer life many years ago. (Thanks to Nick and Jamie Howard for this book.)

Wendell Berry
I’ve been working my way through all of Wendell Berry’s writings, and this year, especially enjoyed Life is a Miracle (essays in response to E. O. Wilson, one of modern rationalism’s arch-defenders). I’ve re-read Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community a few times now. Berry’s poetry, especially The Timbered Choir, continues to nourish me as well, and Jayber Crow was the first novel of Berry’s that I read earlier this year. I think Berry is the best Christian thinker and writer in America today. Too few Christians know about him.

The Reluctant Saint
David Soto’s biography of St. Francis is good. There are so many good ones – years ago I read Chesterton’s. The point is, whichever biographies you read, to grapple with this inspiring, sad, happy, tragic, triumphant brother in the faith.

The Lessons of St. Francis
John Michael Talbot and Steve Rabey have written a wonderful, popular-level introduction to St. Francis. (Thanks to Patsy Fratanduono.)

CD’s from N. T. Wright
Christian Hope in a Postmodern World
Creation and New Creation

These recorded lectures are available through Regent College Bookstore. They’re excellent. Bishop Wright is a brilliant ally in the struggle to engage with postmodern thought and culture.

To Be Released
In 2003, I’ve been asked to review a lot of good manuscripts awaiting publication, but three stand out.

Reading Colossians in a Postmodern Context
This commentary by Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh (whose Truth is Stranger Than It Used to Be helped me greatly back in the 90’s) is groundbreaking. For people who wonder how postmodern readers deal with the Scriptures, this book sets the stage wonderfully. It will be out with IVP in 2004 (I think). A great read!

Mission Mover
Tom Bandy has written a lot of great books, but none greater than this, in my opinion. Every seminar professor and president, every denominational official, every pastor, and every potential seminarian should read this book. It’s uncomfortable, challenging, and prophetic.

The Lost Message of Jesus
My new friend in London, Steve Chalke, has written a book that will have broad popular appeal, and will nudge our understanding of Jesus and his message out of old and tired ruts and into some fresh, open paths.

The Next Christendom
I finally finished this important book. It was disturbing to me, largely because of the statistics about population growth and the potential of "jihad versus crusade" in various parts of the world. It was also affirming of the direction I've felt for a couple of years regarding emergent (emergentvillage.com) - that we need to find and link up leaders and thinkers from across the world, especially hearing from Africa, Latin American, and Asia. If I had a chance to meet with the author, Dr. Jenkins, here are three questions I'd ask him:
1. You write a great deal about the African Independent Churches and the worldwide Pentecostal explosion. To what degree are these movements spawned, sustained, and guided (if not controlled) by Euro-American televangelism and other "western" and "northern" forms of fundamentalism - and to what degree are they going down a different path from euro-american conservative Christianity?
2. You write about how Europe (especially) has moved from Christendom to secularism or notionalism. Do you see signs of this happening among educated and 2nd generation African, Latin American, and Asian Christians? In other words, might they be on the same track as Western Christianity, but a few centuries behind and moving at a faster pace?
3. What do you wish Christians here in America would do in response to your book? What advice would you give a group like emergent?

Website for Visuals
Blair Anderson has a helpful website http://www.avisualplanet.com for visuals to be used in worship music projection and other educational venues. She's a gifted photographer and computer graphics designer.

Emergent/YS publishes resources www.shop.gospelcom.net/cgi-bin/emergentYS.storefront/3e949a8a032239f62719ac1410010644 needed by emerging church leaders. I was a member of the original editorial board and I believe each of their resources has real value.