These are the books I read in 2016. They have been arranged into only two tiers this year – since virtually every book I read was “worth it” (very odd, I have to say). My top tier books are those in which I am most confident you would be enlightened and challenged – even though the first on my list, I admit, is rather thick.
Top Tier Books:
Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (1985) by John D. Zizioulas is one of the finest books I have ever read on the theology of the Trinity and the relation to our personhood.
Since so much of the early thought on the Trinity can be attributed to the Cappadocian fathers, I have to say that I had the great pleasure of reading this while I happened to be in Turkey among the Cappadocian church caves of our early Christian ancestors.
Personhood, Zilioulas takes delight in uncovering, is best understood in relation – for we are created in God’s image; God’s being is communion, and He invites us into this hyper-relationality of the Trinity (Triune communion).
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (1989) by Henri Nouwen. This little 80 page booklet came out of the lecture he gave to the Centre for Human Development in Washington. I have read and re-read this several times, and the question Nouwen asks himself has always been a course correction for me:
Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?
Becoming Human (1998) by Jean Vanier is a beautiful little book, like so many he has written before. In speaking about L’Arche, the network of homes he founded to be with disabled adults, he writes:
… it has been this life together that has helped me become more human.
His insight on human-ness, humanity, and humane-ness – are all qualities that come out of his deep spirituality and centeredness on Christ within the context of community.
Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality (1999) by Margaret Silf.
“Inner Compass is lucidly written, down-to-earth, free of jargon, and full of hope and encouragement. Ignatius wrote his Exercises as a way of helping us to see and find the will of God… In this book she helps us to find the will of God within our own hearts, a will that is never directed to only our individual benefit, but always to the well-being of all peoples and of all creation.” Gerard W. Hughes, Cry of Justice
Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good (2014), by Steven Garber (principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture).
I had the pleasure of taking a course with the author this summer. He twined in lecture, experience, history, scripture along with skyped-in contributions from afar; it was a sumptuous feast in order to think of vocation differently than occupation. Garber encourages us to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God in order “to uncover a vocation that encompasses your whole being: one that animates your occupation, guides your management of relationships and responsibilities, and shapes your engagement with a desperate world.”
(A Close) Second Tier Books
Each of these books were a very good read for different reasons: many of them connected me to other authors (as Brooks and Garber did), or to other books by the same author (like Tournier, Vanier, and Dillard). I suspect you would not be disappointed with any from this selection:
The Road to Character (2015) by David Brooks.
Waiting for God (1951) by Simone Weil.
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge (2002) by Michael Punke.
To Understand Each Other (1962) by Paul Tournier.
The Meaning of Persons: Reflections on a Psychiatrist’s Casebook (1957) by Paul Tournier.
The Writing Life (1989) by Annie Dillard.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974) by Annie Dillard.
Healing the Masculine Soul: How God Restores Men to Real Manhood (1988) by Gordon Dalby.
The Scandal of Service: Jesus Washes our Feet (1996) by Jean Vanier.
Only to Serve: Selected Addresses of Governor General George P. Vanier (1970) by George P. Vanier.
I welcome your recommendations on the best books you read in 2016
You might notice that I read only one novel this year. It’s not that I am adverse to novels – it’s just that I don’t want a novel to waste my time. If you have a suggestion for a very good novel – please share that. Thanks.
I am still working through my shelf of “books to be read” – but sometimes new ones butt into line as it were – and get my full attention.
Thank you Rusty for this excellent list!
I am just now enjoying Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, that you so thoughtfully gave us. I look forward to savouring some of these new ones you recommend.
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R.H. (Rusty) Foerger said:
Thanks Brenda; Nouwen’s book listed here, and Vanier’s books are very “readable”. Dan put me on to Silf’s book, and though I list Zizioulas’ book – I admit it is a bit much; still and all – a very worthy read for anyone up for it. Reading anything by Tournier in this day and age is a treat (Swiss Psychiatrist from the first half of the last century). Grace to you, and Merry Christmas!