For the last five years, I have published my annual book awards in a sports-related format, mainly to gain my older brother’s approval. I’d hate for this year to be the year I break that tradition. The list of 35 eligible books I read in 2013 is available here. A book can only win one award, not counting All Star nods. Quarterly book reviews of the 35 finalists are available here: one, two, three, four. Previous awards are available here: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Without further ado…
Most Valuable Book
The Book of Sorrows by Walter Wangerin
For the first time ever, a fiction work has won the coveted award for the best book I read all year: The Book of Sorrows. Walter Wangerin’s sequel to one of my all-time favorite books (Book of the Dun Cow) stood out as an incredible work of fiction rich in symbolism, plot twists, and emotion. Marilynne Robinson’s Home was a very close runner up in a tightly contested race.
Theology All Stars
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith
Insightful book on our most basic motivators, cultural liturgies, and an all-encompassing perspective of what it means to worship as a human.
Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom on Earth by Doug Wilson
A wide-angle view of Christ’s continuing reign and the ultimately optimistic promises and purposes of God. Concise, provoking, and mainstream introduction to *gasp* postmillennialism.
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
Beautifully written treatment of the artist/writer as analogical to the Trinity, which is the best earthly analogy of the Trinity I’ve ever read or heard.
The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms by Gordon Wenham
Excellent overview of the psalms, their genres, their intent, and their singing. Will revisit often in my church music labors.
Fiction All Stars
Home by Marilynne Robinson
Beautiful, moving, sublime reinterpretation of the prodigal son parable. This is heart-wrenching, grace-filled fiction at its best.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Takes a few chapters to be able to keep track of the characters and timeline, but ultimately an enjoyable modern classic with its dark humor and intense character studies of soldiers in World War II.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
A page-turning mystery that includes secret societies, books, typography and design, and a dash of history. The juxtaposition of bibliophiles with technophiles is nerdy, but fun.
Non Fiction All Stars
Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
Timely, well-written work by a true wordsmith on the utility, potency, and urgency of preserving words and language in an age of social media and vacuousness.
Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival by Kenneth Davids
The “bible” on home roasting that kicked off my new hobby this year. I’ve consulted it dozens of times as I learned the basics of roasting and eventually delved into blending in 2013.
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
A painstakingly researched but engagingly written expose on the processed food science industry. Read it and you won’t want to eat anything processed again – organic or not.
Rookie of the Year (best 2013 book): The Psalter Reclaimed
Manager of the Year (most helpful): A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller, for its simplicity, encouragement, and challenge.
Gold Glove (best defense): Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper by Keith Mathison, for its defense of the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (as opposed to the Catholic, Lutheran, or Memorialist views).
Silver Slugger (hardest hitting): The Mind of the Maker, for being the densest book I read all year.
Most Improved (most practical): A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos, for its encouragement that family worship must happen in the Christian home, but can (and should) be simple.
Team A-Roid (biggest letdowns):
Fantasy Life: The Outrageous, Uplifting, and Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports by Matthew Berry
Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin
Preseason 2014 First Team:
Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? by Mark Jones
The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
Empire of Bones by N.D. Wilson
God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World by David Wells
Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis
Happy reading in 2014!