Tuesday, February 4, 2014

11 Books You Should Read in 2014

Reading has long been one of my favorite pastimes, but it is difficult to find time to read for pleasure when I am smothered by a stack of required textbooks and essays. I set a goal to read 15 books in 2013. I fell a little short, but no bother: I'm in the middle of D.Q. McInerny's promising Being Logical, and I will soon pick up Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Here, then, are 11 books I read in 2013 which you should peruse this new year. And if you've read something great, please leave a commentI love suggestions.

(1) Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky's gripping classic considers the meaninglessness of responsibility in a culture in the clutches of nihilism. Who is to blame for the brutal murder of two hapless women in St. Petersburg? Is it communism? Is it Russia? Is it Raskolnikov, the story's sorry protagonist? Crime and Punishment is an exhausting journey through the muddled mind of a man betrayed by his actions and encouraged by a complacent culture.

(2) Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would, Chad Thompson
Many Christians aren't living up to Christ's injunction to love all men, including gay men and lesbian women. That's the conclusion Thompson reaches in this important book. National trends seem to indicate increasing polarization between Christians and gays. Somewhere in the middle is the love and light of Christ, often withheld from or rebuffed by one or both groups. As followers of Christ, Christians should be at the forefront in offering love, understanding, and empathy to homosexuals. 

(3) The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
The chilling conversations between Screwtape and nephew Wormwood, both devils enlisted in the service of Satan, will make you think twice before deliberately engaging in sin. Petty gossip isn't all that petty and white lies are actually pretty colorful, we discover, as Lewis challenges the casual Christian to think about the meaning of his or her deliberate actions. In an increasingly immoral world we have to choose sides. Complacency is victory for the devil and his minions.

(4) 13 for Luck, Agatha Christie
This delightful collection of short stories from the undisputed Queen of Crime is sure to please. Revel in the genius of Hercule Poirot as he solves "The Market Basing Mystery." Wonder at the wisdom of Jane Marple in "The Blue Geranium." And don't be surprised when Inspector Evans uncovers an "Accident." Classic Christie, through and through.

(5) Night, Elie Wiesel
Words are insufficient to describe the story Wiesel himself said couldn't be told in words. His haunting narrative will hardly seem incomplete, thoughin barely 100 pages he explicates the atrocities and agonies of Nazi prison camps. Why does he do it? Silence aids the enemy. Integrity demands that fallen Jews are not forgotten.

(6) Time and Psychological Explanation, Brent Slife
Western culture takes for granted its assumption of a world defined by linear time. How might we treat each other differently if we rejected this assumption? In what other ways might one interpret the world? Slife's masterpiece is an important alternative voice in a field and culture dominated by deterministic thinking.

(7) Following Christ, Stephen Robinson
The invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to have a meaningful relationship with Christ. Robinson illustrates this central theme of Christianity through a series of engaging parables. Atonement is not merely some historical event we turn to in times of crisis. Rather, Atonement is the active, vibrant love of a Savior who understands. He loves, He heals, He cares, and He forgives in the here and now. 

(8) Quiet, Susan Cain
Introverts often feel alone in a culture obsessed with "the extrovert ideal." Susan Cain demystifies the supposed superiority of extroversion by showing how other cultures view introverts. Extroverts and introverts, Cain argues, should build on each other's strengths, and both personality types should be nurtured and appreciated. Show some love for the introverts in your life: give them Quiet.

(9) The Double Helix, James Watson
The famed scientist who, along with a group of colleagues, discovered DNA is equal parts humorous, scientific, and carefree in The Double Helix. For non-chemists like me it will be hard to hurdle through the technical humdrum, but Watson's conclusions are worth the abbreviated wait. His camp's sheer joy upon discovering DNA is matched only by the well-deserved posthumous nod to Rosalind Franklin, who died before the others were awarded Nobel Prizes. 

(10) Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder
Sophie's whimsical journey through the history of philosophy is a welcome introduction to a discipline rarely studied and even less rarely understood. It's been said, "You can either do it well or you can do it poorly, but you can't not do philosophy." Here, Gaarder does it well.

(11) Turning Freud Upside Down, Jackson, Fischer and Dant
The problem with Freud and most of his contemporary cohorts is they don't account for human agency. Most people feel their choices imply responsibility. Most people believe they are guided or at least created by a higher power. Modern psychology rejects these assumptions and postulates instead a world defined by necessary determinism. The title is an allusion to Isaiah's prophecy that the restoration of the gospel would turn upside down conventional thought. This essential volume demonstrates that to be the case.


  1. Good list. I got an anthology of CS Lewis books for Christmas, and I am looking forward to reading everything in it this year! The Great Divorce is superb.

  2. awesome! i needed a good book to read for Chemistry, thanks for the idea!

  3. Jessica, I'm reading The Great Divorce right now and I LOVE it! So cool that you have a Lewis anthology.

    And AnnaLynn, anytime! I hope you enjoy the book.