Top Ten Books of 2007 ~ BitterSweetLife

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Top Ten Books of 2007

This was not easy.

At the end of last year, a slew of "Top Ten" book lists appeared, sometimes even "Top Twenty" (Is that cheating?). But not here. Not at this blog. Because I was still deliberating. Still picking the contenders.

As we reach mid-January, I'm finally prepared to name names and tag titles. But as we begin, I need to warn you: This list refuses to be artificially limited by publication date--in other words, I'm drawing from the great books I read in 2007, not merely the great books that were published in 2007. I came up with these results by placing the finalists on a list and moving each volume up or down as merited by its neighbors, until the random list sorted itself into a numbered one.

One more thing: Since this list contains both fiction and nonfiction, to get a better idea of a book's relative merit, compare it to the other books in its genre--fiction to fiction, non to non. Now, on to the countdown. Click the titles for full reviews.

10. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
Captivating edged out Rob Bell's Sex God for the last slot. While neither book earned unreserved enthusiasm, both approached sex and gender issues in creative and helpful ways. Captivating was more directly applied, however, and a couple stellar chapters were worth the price of the book.

9. The Luminous Dusk by Dale Allison
Allison's essays on finding God in the midst of clamorous technology and shrinking silence are demanding to read, but they are also eloquent and sharp-edged--and they expose "hearing Jesus' voice" for the pitched battle it is, so we can get ready to fight for a real experience of "spirit and truth."

8. Communion with the Triune God by John Owen
Owen's way with words? Belabored. His insight into intimacy with God? Remarkable. Communion with the Triune God rewards the reader who is willing to wade through Puritan prose in ways that contemporary spirituality books rarely, if ever, do.

7. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Sometimes his love affair with words makes him overly flowery, but Helprin showcases an epic imagination in this mythic urban tale, chock-full of memorable characters and lovely sentiments.

6. From Achilles to Christ by Louis Markos
And you thought Achilles was just a ticked, ripped guy who killed people. Markos examines the great Greek and Roman myths and reveals how God inserted sign posts for the coming of his son in the "pagan" stories. From Achilles to Christ is fascinating, highly readable, and awe-inspiring in the way it reflects God's compassion and foresight.

5. What I Think I Did by Larry Woiwode
In his autobiography, Woiwode weaves together the present, where he fights to stay alive, with the past, where he lives a Bohemian life, waiting to make it as a writer. His story is fascinating, his writing is poetic, and once the narrative really takes hold, What I Think I Did is hard to put down.

4. When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg
John Ortberg uses humor like a scalpel and his own life like a mirror. When you stop snickering, you realize that he has just diagnosed your problem as well as his, and pointed to the solution: abandon selfish ambitions and return to the things you thought you already knew, like loving Jesus. I stick to my appraisal of Ortberg as a happier, funnier Philip Yancey.

3. Ain't Too Proud to Beg by Telford Work
There are a lot of books on prayer, and many books on The Lord's Prayer, but I haven't encountered any that are as earnest and penetrating as Ain't Too Proud to Beg. Work wrestles with pointed questions of evil, sickness, unbelief and sovereignty, then purposefully turns to the Prayer, and lets it dictate his ultimate response. In a unique way, the movements of the Lord's Prayer are the heartbeat and hinge of each chapter, and Work's conclusions are articulate and stirring.

2. The Harry Potter Books by J.K. Rowling
As an antidote to the information-dumping of grad school, I read a lot of fiction--and the Harry Potter books were a treat. J.K. Rowling knows how to sell books, but she also knows how to write. Her stories are wonderfully imaginative, with trickily twisted plots, lovable (or truly awful) characters, and a sense of humor. Also, as I said in my full review, Rowling's stance is more Christian than Wiccan.

1. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
It was hardly fair to the other books on this list that I re-read and reviewed one of Lewis' masterpieces this semester. But fair's fair, and sixty-two years after its publication (1945), The Great Divorce more than holds its own. With metaphorical brilliance and his usual deft touch, Lewis describes a bus trip from Hell to Heaven, casting light on the nature of the afterlife: "heavier," and more vivid, joyous and robust than anything we have ever imagined--or precisely the opposite--a bleak expanse of selfish, wispy, isolated ghosts. Do yourself a favor and consider this book required reading.

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Benjamin said...

While I haven't read most of the books on your list, I agree spot-on about Lewis' Great Divorce. Few authors can compress most of their interests into so-short a book; Lewis does just that.

k.murphy said...

love reading about what you are reading...I just blogged today on some of my all-time (not 2007) favs that molded me...and continue to do so. Funny, I shouldve added Mere Christianity to that list - read it 10 years ago or so. But, I've tried to re-read it recently and I think all this mommydom has stolen some brain brain seems to get paralyzed when I try to go too goal will be to hit The Great Divorce sometime in this life...but I may have to get my kids in upper school before I take it on. Brain cells still droppin like flies around here...

Ariel said...

Right on, Benjamin. IMO, Lewis tends to dominate whatever list he finds himself on. The Great Divorce is one of his best...and Lewis' "average" books beat the stuffing out of most other authors' best work.

love reading about what you are reading...I just blogged today on some of my all-time (not 2007) favs that molded brain seems to get paralyzed when I try to go too deep...

Cool, I'll take a look at your list. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't know what you're talking about on the brain cell count. Reading with kids in the house is ridiculously hard, which is why I find myself looking around for undemanding fiction these days. :/

When the noise and chaos abates for a few minutes, my first thought is not usually, "Now what was the heart of that argument for God's existence?"


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife