I grew up in home where reading was a natural part of life. My parent’s idea of reading was having four to five books going at the same time and being able to talk about each one at the dinner table. I kept that habit. Fortunately, I married someone who reads at the same pace. Our home is a veritable multi-dimensional library. Our two children adopted the same reading style. Whenever we get together, books are at the center of our conversations. And our two grandsons have already shown signs of having a ravenous appetite for reading.
A lot of the folks I hang out usually spend a considerable amount of time talking about the books we read. So I thought I would put together my top thirteen books I read in 2016. I have not included two books that I wrote reviews for Mike Morrell’s Speakeasy. You can find my reviews on this blog. Those books were The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski and The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell.
Here are the other eleven books that fill out my top thirteen. I’m listing the books by author and not in any particular order. Hope you might find some of these titles intriguing.
The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability, Nancy Eiseland. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone with any leadership role in any religion. While Eiseland writes from a Christian perspective, she challenges the religious notion that God has a “perfect image.” She demands that the church create imagery of spiritual access for those who find simply getting inside the church building a challenge.
Charles Williams: The Third Inkling, Grevel Lindop. This is the first biography of the esoteric and eccentric Charles Williams. I have been fascinated with Williams’ novels and theology as well his involvement in the hermetic ideals. Lindop took years to research and write this book, which contains fresh materials unavailable to previous researchers. If you want to get a different insight on the Inklings, C.S. Lewis, T.S Eliot, and Dylan Thomas this book is not shy on detail.
Alchemical Psychology, James Hillman. He wrote, “Metaphor is the dream work of language,” and “Alchemical soulmaking is illuminated lunacy.” Either quote was enough to get me into the book. Hillman is a renowned Jungian psychologist that has brought his own brilliant insights to the world of depth psychology. This book is a collection of Hillman’s lectures on fives phases of alchemy. He includes a profound chapter on “blue” and his understanding of the value of living in the world of being “in between.”
How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human, Eduardo Kohn. My good friend, anthropologist and theologian Gaymon Bennett, recommended this book. Anthropologist, Eduardo Kohn, spent four years among the Runa people who live in Ecuador’s Upper Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered if your dog dreams or if trees think, Kohn takes on both subjects through witness and personal experience. The book has insights and implications for understanding the world as the presence of the divine, but never speaks of God.
Revelations of the Magi, Brent Landau. My daughter-in-law gave me this book for Christmas and I couldn’t put it down. Landau was a high school classmate of my daughter-in-law. He studied at Harvard and Cambridge. This book is a translation with his commentary on a rare and forgotten second century book written in Syriac. Landau’s conclusions shed new light on the universal nature of pre-Nicene Creed Christianity.
The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, Amy Jill-Levine. Colleague, the Rev. Nordon Winger recommended I read this book. The author is an excellent storyteller. She uses her humor and personal stories to allow us access into the “Jewishness” of Jesus. This book is approachable while offering unique insights and details into Jesus’ world and his life.
Spiritual Doorway to the Brain, Kevin Nelson. My friend, Dr. Candace Lewis who is a neuroscientist recommended this book. Medical doctor and neuroscientist, Nelson has studied thousands of near death experiences. His open approach to the question of what happens at the moment of death is refreshing and enlightening. He uses his research in RIM sleep as a means of accessing a platform to analyze what happens as we approach death. As a scientist he makes no claims about the existence of God or the afterlife, but leaves the question open for the reader.
The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction, Peter Rollins. His most recent book, The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith, is a follow up to this volume. Rollins writes in terms of Radical Theology. He is imaginative and is creating a new way to engage the biblical stories of God, Jesus, and Paul. A lot of “spiritual but not religious,” and “nones” are showing up to hear him speak.
The Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human, Daniel Siegel. My son is a psychologist and recommended this book to me. Siegel, a psychiatrist, if proposing some integrated pathways to understanding the mind as being more than confined to our brain, or even our bodies. His ground breaking work is proposing the mind as a relationship beyond the individual, both with sentient beings as well as creation itself.
Howard Thurman: Essential Writings, Howard Thurman. I had previously read some of Thurman’s work. This book is a compendium of his best writing. I used the book as a study guide on the issue of racism in America. The others in the group were taken with Thurman’s work and moved by his poetic style, interfaith understanding, and universal faith.
Time and Timelessness: Temporality in the Theory of Carl Jung, Angeliki Yiassemides. This is a unique, concise, and brilliant approach to a yet unstudied concept of Jung’s understanding of time. Jung never wrote specifically about the topic, making Yiassemides work much needed. This study brings some light to Jung’s ideas on life in the now and what might be to come. Her style is approachable, yet substantial.