Monday, December 31, 2012

The Second Annual Wonderfully Flawed Book Awards for 2012 (nonfiction)

Well, once again, we need to take this list by categories, just because there are too many good books to narrow it down to just one list.  Let's start with Spiritual Nonfiction, because I read a lot of it and because some of the year's favorites are in that category.

This is the book I'm selecting as Book of the Year for 2012.  Truly, I wish every Christian I know (male and female)  would read it so we could all talk about it.   Using some of information from the bestseller Half the Sky, this book challenges us to transform the way we work together as men and women in the capital-C church to make a difference in a world where women and men together are deeply affected by our brokenness related to gender roles.  (Incidentally, I hadn't read it yet when I wrote this, but it addresses the same issues so much better than I could.)   At times stop-and-read-that-again profound and at times did-she-really-just-say-that challenging, this book casts a vision for a world in which both women and men (and especially women, under the circumstances) can find their value as children of God and can find new ways to express courage and love in their relationships with each other.  There are no gender politics here and no denominational battles, just the harsh reality of what our failure to support each other is costing us and the inspiring vision of what could be.

This was the year I really discovered N. T. Wright and this was my favorite of the books I've read of his so far.  This book gave me a really clear picture of what it means that God is reconciling the world to himself and restoring it to his original design, both in the afterlife and in the implications for the here-and-now.  Wright uses Scripture well to challenge some of our cherished beliefs about heaven, taking on both the cherubs-and-harps mythology and some of the eastern influences about a disembodied existence after death.  Best of all, he clearly connects all of it to God's mandate for Kingdom living now and reminds us that God loves this world and expects us to get to work loving it too--no pie-in-the-sky dogma here.

Runners-up for Spiritual Nonfiction:  My Own Worst Enemy by Janet Davis--Janet is my dear friend and does for Scripture what Monet did for water lilies; she helps you see the essence beyond the substance.  This is also a very practical book for women (and men) who struggle with self-sabotage and seeing themselves as people of worth and calling.  Also, Practicing the Way of Jesus:  Life Together in the Kingdom of Love by Mark Scandrette is an interesting and challenging story about what happens when people exchange the idea of  spiritual formation as religious theory and instead take it on as experimental practice.

Now let's look at General Nonfiction.  I said in the 2011 Book Awards that the book I was reading, Terrorists in Love, would be on the list for 2012 and it is.  Credible journalism together with riveting storytelling make this a fascinating read, forcing us to exchange the stereotypes and caricatures for stories of real people in all their humanity and pathos and brutality.

You knew I would have Brene Brown's newest book on the awards list, didn't you?  As always, she does a fabulous job of conveying the inherent vulnerability of being human and gives us a road map for responding with courage and vulnerability and resilience.  There's not much new here if you've read her other books and follow her TED talks and her blog, but it's all together in one place and is a book I'll read again.

Runner-up for General Nonfiction:  Marriage Rules by Harriet Lerner.  Not as profound as her other books but still immensely practical and readable, this is sort of a devotional book for couples.  Each chapter is a page or two long and reminds us to balance self and togetherness in our most intimate relationships.

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