I was tagged in a note by Jennifer Pluck on Facebook. The rules are that you have to list 15 books that you’ve read and that will always stick with you. I do not usually participate in these “memes” but decided to participate in this one because it is about books, one of the great loves of my life. So, instead of writing a Facebook note I decided to post my list here, with short commentary about each book. The books are not listed in any particular order, so do not read preference into the order in which they are presented.
The Elsewhere Community by Hugh Kenner
- This book helped refine my love of poetry and the poets themselves. It also taught me the importance of finding my own “elsewhere community.” I read this book for the first time back in 2005, I believe. After I finished reading it I was struck with the desire to write Hugh Kenner and let him know of the impact of his book on me only to find out that he had been dead some 2 years.
The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
- I read this book for one of my undergraduate classes, though I do not remember which one. I was, and continue to be, intrigued at how certain things “take off”,so to speak, and other things don’t. Gladwell speaks to just this issue and he does it very well. This book taught me that even reading about yawning makes you yawn. Crazy.
Night by Elie Wiesel
- This book has immense meaning for me. I have read it numerous times. Every time I read it I continue to be amazed at how poignantly Wiesel is able to describe a situation with so few words. This book was the impetus for my studies of the Holocaust and especially post-Holocaust theology. This book ensured that my theology would never be the same again. This book also sparked the influence that Jewish theology (once again, especially post-Holocaust theology) would have on my own personal faith and theology.
A Kierkegaard Anthology by Søren Kierkegaard and Robert Bretall
- This book made me, for a while at least, existentialist. I have since realized that I actually do not agree with Kierkegaard on as many fronts as I once thought, but he has nevertheless been extremely influential in my own philosophy (and theology). Moreover, I am in awe of how well he did so many things: philosopher, theologian, author, novelist, etc.
Encountering Evil:Live Options in Theodicy edited by Stephen Davis
- This book helped me understand more clearly that I am not settled in my theodicy. I still struggle with it on a regular basis and many of the answers that work for others are not sufficient for me. The following three statements cannot simultaneously be true: God is all-loving, God is all-powerful, evil exists. This book presents various ways to solve that problem, though all have problems of their own. Also, because of this book, I waver between having a process theodicy and a theodicy of protest.
The Jesus Dynasty by James Tabor
- I did my undergraduate work under the tutelage of Dr. Tabor so i recognize that I may be a bit biased on this one. This book is a great look into the family of Jesus and the implications of what we do and don’t know about him and his family. Moreover, though Dr. Tabor is not the leading Jesus scholar that he may want to be or others may want him to be, he has my respect for the archaeology background that he brings to his work. Dr. Tabor more effectively incorporates archaeology into his picture of the New Testament world than any other Jesus/NT scholar that I know of.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- Because this book speaks to more than just the coming of age of an adolescent boy.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
- A page-turner for sure. It certainly has many “facts” wrong, but it is written in a very provocative manner.
The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury
- It’s a mystery novel about templar legends and archaeology. Basically this type of novel is my version of a dirty romance novel. I can’t get enough of them.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
- It’s just fantastic. It’s a “feminist” essay that says a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write. It is also taught me that reading stream of consciousness can actually be enjoyable.
After Auschwitz by Richard Rubenstein
- I learned Jewish death-of-God theology from Rubenstein. I also learned that it is much more compelling than Christian death-of-God theology. The Holocaust changed the world. The Holocaust changed how I see God. Nothing can be the same after Auschwitz.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
- This was required reading for me at some point in my schooling. I loved it though. I felt Jonas’ struggles as he learned more and more of the truth. Today it reminds me of a lyric by Tracy Chapman: “If you knew that you would find a truth that brings up pain that can’t be soothed, would you change?”
- This Hindu text that has influenced Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, and T. S. Eliot has also influenced me. The way it talks about ones duty is certainly quite different than we understand today, but it is intriguing nonetheless. Moreover, the first time I read this work I was struck by similarities with our own New Testament, such as a collection of “I Am” statements.
The Religion of Ancient Israel by Patrick Miller
- This is certainly an academic book, but it is well written and quite an easy read. Beyond that it taught me that the type of historian that I am (or hope to be anyway) is a social historian. The sociohistorical approach that Miller takes to the religion of Ancient Israel is the same approach I find myself taking, though I didn’t know that it was a sociohistorical approach until I read this book.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
- That such a young girl could write such memorable words still fascinates me. The perspective we get of the Holocaust from this work is completely different from any other. One need only read one sentence of this diary to be forever touched: “That’s the difficulty in these times: ideals,dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered. It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”