My good friend Chris put out a list of the books he’s read in 2009. I liked the idea so much I decided to blog my own list of books I read in 2009. Those I remembered that I’ve read, at least. Before I start, let me thank Delicious Library for their excellent software that I use to keep track of my books, especially the one’s I’ve lent out. You guys are awesome. OK, here goes:
Under the Cope of Heaven: This volume by Patricia U. Bonomi is a wonderful examination of the religious life in the colonies during the Middle and Late Colonial periods. It’s a fascinating read, and does much to explain for me why the relationships between pastors and churches are often so sketchy.
The Gettysburg Gospel: Gabor Boritt wrote this novel on the emergence of the Gettysburg Address as “American Scripture.” It’s an OK volume, though the constant shifting of tenses from past to present (often in the same paragraph) gave me a bit of a headache. The best section described Gettysburg in the aftermath of the battle – to say that this little town was overwhelmed is an understatement. I’m not sure he achieved the purpose of the volume, but the opening section makes it worth the read anyway.
The Gettysburg Diaries: I’ve never read an annotated diary before, but that’s essentially what Mark Nesbitt does with this book. He waded through hundreds of Civil War Journals before he found what he was looking for: two journals of ordinary soldiers, one from both sides, who wrote on the same days during the Gettysburg campaign. The journal entries are short (kinda like twitter updates in the 19th Century) but the color the annotations add is remarkable. You can read it in a couple of hours, and you should.
Lee: Robert E. Lee has always fascinated me, and I took our summer trip to Gettysburg as an opportunity to pick up a biography on this American icon. Clifford Dowdey does a good job with Lee’s life-story, and I found that I appreciated Lee all the more after reading this work. There are points where Dowdey’s biases really spring out – but that doesn’t take aware from the book.
Abraham Lincoln: Allen Guelzo was a professor of mine at Eastern. I’d never read this work by him but finally picked it up when I was at Gettysburg. I’m not quite through the book yet (and I forgot it when I came out to Hershey, ugh), but I’m loving every minute of it. Guezlo’s goal was to examine Lincoln’s development of thought, which makes this a different type of historical work. Next year I’ll have to read his book on the Lincoln/Douglas debates.
John Adams: This volume by David McCullough was the source material for the HBO miniseries that came out not to long ago. I can’t remember if I read this in late 2008 or in 2009, but I’m listing it here because I loved the book that much. Frankly, you could even skip the miniseries.
Flickering Pixels: When the Kindle software became available on the app store I decided that I was going to purchase one book just to see what the experience was like. A book by Shane Hipps, who is a technological critic (not a luddite, just a critic), seemed to be a good choice. I took this book with me to the BibleTech09 conference with me. You really should read this book about how technology shapes our faith.
The Harry Potter Series: I read this series every August, it’s my vacation read. Actually, I’ll often re-read the last two books of the series if I’m feeling bored. It’s great.
The Twilight Novels: My wife and her neighbors were reading these books so I sat down one week and read them. Brain candy, SERIOUS brain candy, but the mythology of the books was vaguely interesting.
Her Heart Can See: Fanny Crosby grew up in New York during the 1800’s. When she was born John Adams was still alive, when she died World War I had come and gone. Edith L. Blumhofer does a wonderful job conveying the transitions in music, religion, and culture during her remarkable life. Thanks Jim and Sarah for picking up this book for me!
Nation: Terry Pratchett took a break from his Discworld novels to write this book on the development of a nation in an alternate Earth. This was a very compelling book!
Unseen Academicals: It was difficult to read this novel. Not because it was bad, but because Terry Pratchett (who is suffering from Alzheimer’s) said he only had 2 or three novels left in him when his condition was made public. He has always said the he would write a “last” Discworld novel, and if that holds this is not it, but it’s hard to think that each book he writes draws nearer to the end of his ability to write. Still, a wonderful novel on the nature of government, distractions, and human nature.
That’s the highlights – I’ve read more than that this year, of course, but this is what I remember at the moment. I have read a ton of novels this year that aren’t on this list. I’ve also read more history than appears here. Interestingly enough, Shane Hipp’s book was the only theological work I read this year (unless you count Bonomi’s volume on Colonial Religion). Ah well, perhaps I’ll do some more reading in the development of American Religion in 2010 as I try to help churches navigate the communications revolution. For deep theological reflections I’ve got Jesus the Sage my shelf, that’ll be a January read I think.
Let me echo my friend Chris and say, “Folks, you can never go wrong buying me a gift card to a book store – ever.”
Happy 2010 everyone, and because it still it for few more days, Merry Christmas!