Books I read (and heard) in 2009
Everyone and their mama, baby brothers, and dog do a year's end list. I tend to shy away from top anything lists because I am never creative enough to put one together. However, I do know books, so I thought I would share my favorite books I read and heard in 2009.
I started listening to audio books this year. There are a few periods during my day where I am doing repetitious activity with my work, so I tend to stand or sit in one place for a couple of hours. I would load the Ipod and listen to sermons or the podcasts of favorite radio programs. Regrettably, all of my favorite Townhall radio programs moved from free podcast downloads to subscription based podcasts. I was bugged to no end when this happened for a number of reasons, but suffice it to say, it was beyond my control. I could only grouse and seethe to myself.
I had a limited supply of James White's Dividing Line and other similar podcasts and once I exhausted them, I would be stuck doing my repetitive work in silence. So. I thought, "Why not see if there are some books I can listen to" and thus I was introduced to an entirely new world. Like the first time I saw color television (You 80's born people may not relate).
I listened to three big books via audio this past year:
The Looming Tower: AL-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Lawrence Wright weaves together the biographical and historical background of the whole Al-Qaeda movement. Honestly, if Christians want to gain a genuine insight as to why radical Muslims think the way they do, this book is a must read. The first chapter specifically, because Wright details the life of the Egyptian Islamic intellectual, Sayyid Qutb. He studied in the United States in the late 40s after WW2, and it was his bigoted, anti-west sentiments he took back with him to Egypt where he undertook the development of his views of Islam and became the leading scholar for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Heroes: From Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar to Churchill and De Gaulle. Paul Johnson is one of my favorite historians and this wonderful book is a collection of biographical sketches of historical figures of whom I only had a surface knowledge. He begins by covering biblical folks like David and Samson and moves all the way to the 20th century even covering the lives of otherwise "unheroic" people like Mae West. After I listened to the audio presentation of the book, I checked it out of the library to read some of the more interesting portions. I reproduced his brief section on Emily Dickinson.
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Stephen Ambrose is more known for his books chronicling the history of the second world war, but he has also engaged in writing about non-war related material. I have this book on my self, and I have always wanted to read his telling of the Lewis and Clark expedition, but other reading interests got in my way. When I came across the audio edition of the unbridged book, I picked it up and downloaded it onto my Ipod. It is a tremendous study of a significant portion of American history. I also gained a greater appreciation of Thomas Jefferson as our 3rd president.
Now for normal books
Faith's Reasons for Believing: An Apologetic Antidote to Mindless Christianity by Robert Reymond. This is a book gathered together from the notes and syllabus of Reymond's class on the theology of apologetics. The book is a bit heady, but is still laymen friendly. He covers how our apologetics must be built upon sound theology and how we are to use good theology in the presentation of the Christian faith. He has a big section interacting with B.B. Warfield's "Common Sense" apologetic that dominated Princeton seminary during his time teaching.
I have been teaching through the book of Daniel. Two of the commentaries most helpful for me:
Daniel in the New American Commentary series by Stephen Miller. Covers all the issues in the book. Interacts with liberal and non-premillennial scholars alike and presents a compelling case for a premillennial reading of the prophecy.
Daniel and the Latter-days by Robert Duncan Culver. The book is sadly -- and I mean grievously sad -- out of print, but used copies can be found on-line at various places. It is hands down the absolute best exegetical defenses of premillennialism I have read in print. The link takes you to an on-line edition, though I would recommend trying to get the book.
Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government by Robert Duncan Culver. Another book desperately in need of a re-print and much more difficult to find. I was given Culver's systematic theology last year and I loved it. I became interested in his books and found a copy of his study on civil government on line. In fact, if memory serves, my wife sniped it for me off Ebay.
The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack by Tim Lahaye and Thomas Ice. By far one of the worst titled books in print. There should be publishers lined up to be flogged for it. The title doesn't tell you anything as to what the book is about. What it is about, however, is a collection of articles interacting and answering the hermeneutics of preterism. I came across this book while preparing my blog articles on eschatology. The authors are not so much concerned with "hyper preterism" as they are with just the garden variety preterism. Gary Demar and Ken Gentry and their allies are the primary authors cited in the chapters. If a person wants to read sound refutation to preterism, this book provides some of the most withering that can be found any where.
Coming to Grips with Genesis. Here is another book that is a collection of essays by a group of solid scholars. With this book, they address the topic of how we are to read Genesis. Anyone claiming to believe Genesis allows for long, deep time ages will have to interact seriously with the argumentation put forth in this book. The link leads to a longer review I did this past year.
Anne Boleyn: One Short Life that Changed the English Speaking World by Colin Hamer. One of my British friends gave me this short, biographical book on the second wife of Henry VIII. The author argues that Anne had become a Reformation friendly Christian under the tutelage of the French Reformed evangelical, Marguerite d' Angouleme. Her life was tragically cut short when she married Henry and became the object of political intrigue with in his court.
An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets by Hobart Freeman. Then one final book that is also sadly out-of-print. Moody should be ashamed to have let it expire. At any rate, I was reading professor Rosscup's book evaluating commentaries earlier this year and Freeman's book is mentioned multiple times in the section on the OT prophets as a must-get introduction. I happened to find an inexpensive used copy at Amazon and snagged it. I have really enjoyed reading it. The one element of the book that I find outstanding is how Freeman arranges the introduction to the prophets in chronological order of their ministries. It was helpful in framing their ministry to Israel in the proper, historical context.
UPDATE: I had a dear saint email me and tell me that one reason Moody may have let Freeman's book go out of print is the fact he became a health-and-wealth charismatic in the mid-60s and continued so until his death in 1984. Just glancing over the Wikipedia biography of Freeman, he appears to have drifted into all sorts of wackiness. A better article detailing his "conversion" if we wish to call it that, is written by J. J. Davis, a former OT professor at Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana who was a former student of Freeman's. All I can say is that the book has no hint of his charismatic tendencies, and in point of fact, chapter 8 in the book is called "The Cessation of OT Prophesy, and Prophesy in the NT" and merely notes how the prophetic gifts played a role in the foundation of the NT Church. He doesn't say anything about the gifts being practiced in today's congregations. In spite of these disturbing revelations about the man, his book I have found to be well done and informative and a good resource for introducing the OT prophets.
Welp, those are the main books that occupied my time this past year. I just started reading Alva McClain's, Greatness of the Kingdom which I am loving, along with a few others I picked up recently at Archives in Pasadena. Hopefully, my brief reviews spur my readers on to reading good stuff this next year.