Books I’ve Read Before I Died, 1/1/2014 Update

More books I’ve read before I died, since the last time I made a list.  My nieces pointed me to the first two and the rest was discovered online from various sources.

First, three SciFi/Fantasy series:

The Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher.

An everyman working detective/wizard in contemporary Chicago in a trenchcoat keeps us safe from things that go bump in the night, as well as things that would do more than that, for a price. The action is intense and breakneck, however he’s usually dealing with some very interesting moral issues as he uses his magic. He usually deals with religious issues honestly and respectfully, which I’m grateful for. There are 15 volumes already (including a short story collection), and more to come someday. Looking forward to the next installment.

The Southern Vampire Novels by Charlaine Harris (The Sookie Stackhouse novels)

Once again, a fantasy series set in contemporary Louisiana involves an unusually talented women with some faith and a strong sense of what’s right and wrong. How she works through the ethics of her choices and using her powers is interesting and instructive. I’m not sure how deep her Christian faith runs, but that could be said of any of us and she’s not presented as a saint. I’m not sure I like the latter volumes in the series as well as the earlier ones, but they’re all worth reading for fun and I will look at her epilogue when it comes out in May. I’ve watched True Blood on HBO once, which was enough; if you’re not fond of the series, go ahead and try the books because it seems like the plot goes in better directions there.

Three Parts Dead/Two Serpents Rising by Max Gladstone

This series by a talented young author brings up some core questions about belief. Three Parts Dead deals with the death of a god and how believers can try to manipulate their deities; Two Serpents Rising is about the nature of sacrifice and the temptations and tyranny of economic power. Both novels have more going on than my little summary: their characters are complex, the action moves well, and the stories extremely thought provoking. I would recommend this to all my SciFi/Fantasy friends and family out there, as well as any university students wanting a break from technical reading.

All three of these series feature great characterization and storytelling.

Three academic books:

Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem by Carol Delaney

I didn’t know one of Columbus’ main motives for seeking a new trade route to the East was to raise money for a Crusade to liberate Jerusalem. This study uncovered some very interesting data and insight into a man who was devout and had a great intention but far from being a saint.

Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean

I’ve been impressed by this book since I read it last summer, and found it a hopeful testament that Christianity will survive. The author is a Methodist seminary professor and mother of two young adults. Our American society can already be seen as post-Christian, and the lives of Millennials are considerably different than my generation (which we don’t always realize), however the challenge to live a thoroughly authentic Christian faith is one all of us can and should embrace.

Benefit of Doubt by Gregory A Boyd

An Evangelical author makes the case that Christianity is about embracing mystery rather than pronouncing Truth. His exploration of the book of Job is quite good. This mindset is a better one for Christian apologetics rather than trying to rebut atheists point by point.

And an obvious choice:

Evangelium Gaudium by Pope Francis

I’m going to be giving a series of presentations on this, and I think it’s the path to our future. For a Papal document, it’s an easy read and incredibly inspiring. The language does take a little getting used to, and I’d caution folks not to push its points too hard or read too much into it (no matter which direction), however it’s intended to be the start of a dialogue and I’m looking forward to where the conversation will go. I can’t wait to unpack his concept of “accompaniment with the poor.”

This is all for now: I’m looking forward to what will cross my path in 2014. Seven seems a good number to bring up right now. Happy reading in 2014!



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