Eugene Cho

the best book you read this past year and…

Well, it’s that time of the year where folks start sharing their “best of” lists. I’ll likely post a couple myself but I thought this would be a good one for all of us to participate in.

Two very simple questions:

  • What was the best book you’ve read this year?
  • What’s the one book you want to read in 2010?

Here are my answers.

This past year:

  • Christ Plays in a Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson – A magnificent book that helps define a nebulous term – spiritual theology. It’s probably close to being on my ‘must read’ recommendation. Here’s a quote for you“The single most important thing to understand in spiritual theology is that it is not about theology … it is a cultivated disposition to live theology.”
  • I’ve also been devouring bits and pieces of Frederick Douglass’ writing. One of these days, I’ll share the letter he wrote to his former “master.” It’s stunning.

For the upcoming year:

  • I’m still trying to knock out that book/month goal but on the top of my list is to read Half the Sky by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It helps that the ODW staff and interns are reading it together right now.

Alright, how about you?

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63 Responses

  1. Debbie says:

    Best book of 2009: Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf.

    Want to read in 2010: Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World by Bernard Adeney

  2. Amber Himes says:

    It’s a toss up between two books, by the same author, as a matter of fact (Markus Zusak):

    The Book Thief
    I Am The Messenger

    Both highly recommended. Go fiction! 🙂

    And squeezing in one more…because it’s really just a booklet, but packs a punch! Raymond Fung’s The Isaiah Vision: An Ecumenical Strategy for Congregational Evangelism. Definitely my favorite non-fiction of this past year…if not the last 5 years.

  3. chadkmiller says:

    2009: Live Sent by Jason C. Dukes

    One of the first books that made me think more about what it means to see the church as an active, living, breathing organism that must be present

    2010: Follow Me to Freedom – by John Perkins and Shane Claiborne

    This sounds like a fascinating partnership of writers and looking forward to getting a copy of it!

  4. My coworker loaned me The Book Thief, and I’ve yet to start it, so I guess that’s my 2010 book. Best book this year? Probably Blink by Malcom Gladwell.

  5. Danny says:

    Right now it’s a tossup between:

    “Contours of Pauline Theology” by Tom Holland – Absolutely amazing. Blows apart the theory of Hellenism influencing Pauline Christianity and examines Paul’s theology from a purely Jewish perspective. It’s groundbreaking.


    “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality” by Jack Rogers – A bit more controversial than the other one 🙂 But incredibly interesting. It’s one of the more succinct, yet thorough, explanations of Christocentric hermeneutic and its use concerning homosexuality as found in examples in the Bible. Incredibly a worthwhile read.

  6. Amaryah says:

    Best Book of 2009:

    Sula by Toni Morrison. So brilliant.

    Book I want to read in 2010:

    God is Red by Vine DeLoria

  7. I’ve started my “best of 2009” post…hope to get it up today. Best book I’ve read this year?

    The Christ of the Indian Road, by E Stanley Jones — which you, Eugene, should appreciate since you prefer books by dead guys!

    What do I want read in 2010? Hmm…where to begin?

  8. Teresa says:

    Half the Sky was the best for 2009
    Stones to Schools by Greg Mortenson will be the first read for 2010

  9. Chris says:

    2009: The Lexus & the Olive Tree – Thomas Friedman: What a fantastic exposition of globalization and of our incredibly fast-changing world.

    2010: Dead Aid – Dambisa Moyo: A look into what we have done wrong in terms of our governmental aid to Africa…and a blueprint for a smarter way forward.

    Thanks, Eugene, for your work & ministry. I am excited about ODW!


    Chris Horst

  10. pjchris says:

    I’ve started Half the Sky, too. Haven’t gotten very far yet, but hope to make more headway in Jan.

    For this year our c-group has been reading Truly the Community by Marva Dawn. Great book!

  11. Andy M says:

    I didn’t really read as much this year as I would have liked. Looking back, I think I needed a bit of a break because the previous couple years I was cramming about as much as I possibly could into my head.

    Two good books that I read though were Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, and Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Neil Postman. Both very interesting and mind opening, as they challenge current paradigms.

    This next year I think I’ll start with Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne, and God & Empire by Crossan.

  12. Kyle Reed says:

    Flickering Pixles by Shane Hipps

    I know a lot of people did not like it, but it gave me a lot to think about and cleared a lot of things up for me.

  13. paulglavic says:

    Best of 2009: either Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals by William J. Webb or Organic Community by Joseph Myers or Justification by N.T. Wright

    Looking forward to: The Teaching of the Twelve by Tony Jones

  14. Favorite Read of ’09 – Keller’s

    Looking Forward to ’10 – Goodwin’s

  15. luke says:

    ’09–A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman.
    I usually am not too keen on leadership books but this was truly fascinating, especially on a sociological level.

    ’10–I’m really looking forward to finally reading The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder.

  16. Last year the most significant book was “The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira: the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto.” The manuscript was found in the rubble many years after the war ended. I have 3 books coming for Christmas from my wish list: “Time on Two Crosses” by Bayard Rustin. (a key figure in the civil rights movement, early gay rights advocate, communist, poet, adviser to Dr. King). “The Dialectics of Reason” a dialog between Jurgen habermas and Pope Benedict XVI, and “How To Do Things With Tears,” a book of poems by Allen Grossman. I’m thinking of putting “Half The Sky” on the list given all the recomendations above. Have a blessed Holyday all.

  17. Alex Oh says:

    Banana: the Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World.

    After reading this, you will know a lot about bananas and its crazy history.

  18. Amy Savage says:

    2 Favorites are:

    The Hole in Our Gospel – Richard Stearns

    Scared – Tom Davis

  19. Andrew says:

    Best book of 2009: it’s a tie between Take This Bread by Sarah Miles and Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner

    Want to read in 2010: The Next Evangelicalism by Soong Chan Rah

  20. The best books I’ve read in 2009:

    – “In 6 steps, what would Jesus do?” (available only in Portuguese) by Paulo Brabo, ISBN: 978-85-62877-01-8. My rating: 1000 stars.
    – “Understanding Postmodernity” (available only in Portuguese) by Mary Rute Gomes Esperandio. My rating: 1000 stars.
    – “What Would Jesus Deconstruct: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church” by
    John D. Caputo.
    – “Adventures in Missing the Point”, by McLaren & Campolo.

    For 2010, I’m reading some more South American authors:
    – Comments on the Lausanne Covenant by Stott
    – What is Integral Mission, by René Padilla
    – They Shall Inherit the earth, by Carlos Queiroz
    – The church, the country and the world: challanges of an engaged faith, by Robinson Cavalcanti, ISBN 85-86539-14-7.
    – The classics of Liberation Theology: Boff, Enrique Dussell, Juan Luiz Segundo and Miguez Bonino.

  21. Jeff Lam says:

    my favorite book this year was “the trouble with black boys… and other reflections on race, equity, and the future of public education” by pedro noguera.

    and i also really liked “the curious incident of the dog in the night time” by mark’s not cool for lit snobs to confess enjoying pop literature, but i really liked this one. it’s one of the funniest novels i’ve ever read, and i read it while on my honeymoon, so it brings back happy memories.

    next up, i have nocturnes by kazuo ishiguro. i loved his previous novels, and this is his first foray into short stories.

  22. Marc says:

    Best read of 2009 is a toss-up between:

    1. The Blue Parakeet – Scot McKnight
    2. Island: The Collected Stories – Alistair McLeod
    3. The Politics of Jesus – Yoder
    4. Narratives of a Vulnerable God – Placher

    Forced into a decision, I’m inclined to go with the collected stories of McLeod, because they “moved” me most and I can’t take one of those theological books over the others.

    Hope to read in 2010:

    The New Testament and the People of God – N.T. Wright

  23. Margaret says:

    Ah jeez. This has been a great year for reading so I don’t know how I’ll whittle things down…

    Beloved by Toni Morrison

    The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

    Models of God by Sallie McFague

    For 2010 I’d like to read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book of essays, and finish Catherine Keller’s theology of creation that I’ve been plugging away at.

  24. Brian says:

    I really enjoyed “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. In-depth look at how Lincoln navigated the political waters to save the nation.

    I’m onto: “An Imperfect Offering” by James Orbinski. Thoughtful, painful, narrative reflections from the former head of Doctors Without Borders

  25. LL says:

    I can’t pick a favorite book of the year; it’s like asking me to pick a favorite child 🙂

    I’m going to read “Stones Into Schools,” Greg Mortenson’s latest, in 2010 for sure.

  26. Tonya says:

    Favorites – Harry Potter series. I read for a living (teaching college writing) so the pure pleasure value puts them at the top.

    In January (when I’m off) I plan to read Origin of Species (Darwin) because I’ve never read it and I think Christians should read it before forming an opinion about it.

  27. Kacie says:

    Best book of ’09 was fiction, “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. Indian book, fantastic… I mean really. Read it.

    Looking forward to in ’10 – I hope to read “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.

    My theology reading has been almost fully in “The Mission of God” by Christopher Wright, which is good but a lot more in depth than I expected and I have slugged through the exegesis of it. Whew.

  28. Henry Zonio says:

    Best book read this year: Fasting by Scot McKnight
    He’s got some great insight into the practice of fasting and what it means

    To read: ??? Not sure yet… there are so many!

  29. Ric Wild says:

    I think it might have come out in ’08, but Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” was an important read. “The Monkey and the Fish” by Dave Gibbons was formational to my ideas of leadership in the church. But the book that had the greatest affect on me is Joseph Barndt’s “Dismantling Racism”. It’s been in print for quite some time now, but I just read it this year!

  30. Daniel Kim says:

    The Best book I Read This year:

    1. The Medici Effect – Frans Johannson
    2. Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom
    3. The Prodigal God – Tim Keller

    What I want to read in 2010:

    1. Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus

  31. Best of 2009:
    The Reason for God by Tim Keller
    Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman
    They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball

    Looking forward to in 2010:
    Something by N.T. Wright

  32. chad m says:

    Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright was incredible
    What is the What? by Dave Eggers

    can’t say i look forward to any books…they usually find me!

  33. Well, 2009 isn’t over yet, so I can only say that *so far* the most impactful read of the year was Soong-Chan Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism….

    …but that led me to some really great novels by so-called ethnic authors. The biggest stand-outs were probably Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (both set in Afghanistan), and Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s “Purple Hibiscus” and “Half of a Yellow Sun.” (Look up her talk on — it’s fabulous.)

    First on the list for 2010 is Scot McKnight’s “A Community Called Atonement.” I’ve got some wrestling to do with that doctrine.

  34. Steve says:

    2009 toss up:
    Forgotten God by Francis Chan
    Prodigal God by Tim Keller

    life changing for any good person out there

    next year:
    I will do MUFHH by Oswald Chambers religiously 🙂

  35. For some reason, for me this was the year of the memoir. I love reading first-person accounts of life, especially ones in which people change and grow… in one direction or another. It’s the process that fascinates me.

    CRAZY FOR GOD – Frank Schaeffer (Francis’s son’s journey away from Evangelicalism.)

    SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME – Ron Hall (Homeless man and art dealer become friends, lives changed.)

    SON OF A PREACHER MAN – Jay Bakker (Jim & Tammy’s boy tells all.)

    THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE – Kevin Roose (Agnostic undercover at Liberty U.)

    BEAUTIFUL BOY – David Scheff (Meth addiction from a dad’s perspective.)

    TWEAK – Nic Scheff (David’s son’s perspective. Read this one second.)

    THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY – A.J. Jacobs (Esquire writer lives by every command in the Bible for a year.)

    I really appreciated these books as well:

    LOVE IS AN ORIENTATION – Andrew Marin (Elevating the Conversation between the Church and the LGBT community.)

    DEEP CHURCH – Jim Belcher (Finding a “Third Way” between Evangelicals and Emergent.)

    THE BLUE PARAKEET – Scot McKnight (How do we read the Bible. And how does that apply to women in ministry?)

    THE NEW CHRISTIANS – Tony Jones (Kind of a memoir. This is Tony’s history of Emergent.)

    Fiction… I loved Kent Haruf’s PLAINSONG & EVENTIDE.

  36. Sorry. That was more than one book. 🙂

  37. elderj says:

    I can’t remember what I read this year vs. last year.

  38. Dave Peters says:

    I just finished reading Half the Sky. Its a must read for everyone. We must be informed and choose to be Jesus to women struggling against oppression.

  39. Eugene Cho says:

    Amazing the influence of N.T. Wright. Not that long after his passing in the future, he may be known as the formative writer post C.S. Lewis.

  40. Barry says:

    By the end of this year, I should hit 40 books. Here are a few of my favorites.

    1. N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope.
    2. Daily Life in Ancient Rome – Florence Dupont
    3. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Donald Miller
    4. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
    5. The whole Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

  41. Sandy Liao says:

    Definitely a 3-way tie:

    1)Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
    Definitely an eye opener. Sometimes it’s good to know clear instructions about leading a Christian life and this book is great for new Christians.

    2)Captivating, by John Eldredge
    I love what captivating brings to a Christian woman. I love that God woos us 🙂

    3)The Shack by William P. Young
    I love the grace that the book offers. I feel like it’s a prayer of forgiveness from the Lord.

    Want to read:
    Crazy love by Francis Chan
    I started reading the first chapter already. It’s quite challenging. It certainly makes you think about how you are living out your Christian life.

    Man am I grateful for all those wonderful books that bring me closer to knowing God.

  42. Esther says:

    I could cheat like some of you have and list multiple books but i’ll restrain myself. Just finishing up A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – beautiful book – a must read if you ask me. CS Lewis’ letters to Vanauken hold so much wisdom.

  43. Sarah says:

    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is my favorite read of 2009.

    As for 2010, too many to count! But, for the immediate future: Sky Burial by Xin Ran.

  44. I can’t believe I forgot Soon-Chan’s The Next Evangelicalism. Really helpful and eye-opening.

  45. ER says:

    Exclusion and Embrace and The Next Evangelicalism were 2 of my favorite reads from this year that were already mentioned.

    Another one on my list of 2009 faves: When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert. A must-read for those interested in global and local poverty alleviation.

  46. Leah says:

    Favorite of 2009 was Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (possibly because I just finished it and it’s still fresh in my mind but it was a really amazing book!).

    Top of the list for 2010 is a reread of the Poisonwood Bible–one of my all-time faves that I haven’t reread in several years, time to enjoy it again.

  47. diane says:

    Definitely ” Half the Sky… and 6th grade bio. fiction(which is an easy read in the kids section) – I, Juan de Paraga

  48. Peter says:

    “The Principle of the Path”. We read/shared that book for our Bible study and it was definitely an eye-opener, to say the least

  49. Andy M says:

    My wife just gave me “God In Search of Man” by Abraham Joshua Heschel for Christmas, so that jumped to the top of my list for next year.

  50. Amy Moffitt says:

    Deep Economy by Bill McKibben rocked my world. Looking forward to The Emergent Gospel: Theology from the Underside of History.

  51. Jeff Miller says:

    2009 = “Monkey and Fish” by Dave Gibbons
    2010 = living out what have read & learned in past

  52. Liz says:

    I always end up enjoying good fiction more than non-fiction … wonder what that says about me???

    If I have to pick just one I would say my favorite this year was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (I know, I was late reading it since it came out in 2003, but I had no idea how much I was going to love it)

  53. Julie says:

    2 picks from 2009:

    Irrisistible Revolution by Shane Clairborne

    Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

    next book I want to read:

    Show Them No Mercy: Four views on ot genocide (and what it means for today)

  54. Laurel says:

    OH! I’m answering your questions out of order. I have Half the Sky on order from Amazon right now, I’m reading it and Modern Slavery: the Secret Lives of 27 million people for school, independent research for my Senior Essay which will compare Human trafficing in Seattle and Stockholm.

    Anyway, best books of 2009, both by Rob Bell: SexGod and Velvet Elvis. Loved them both.

  55. […] Here’s the conversation we had a year ago over the same question. […]

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Bittersweet month but so much gratitude to my team at @onedayswages. January marks a major transition as 2 of our 3 full time staff move on to their next chapters.

@melissasarapack (2nd from left) has been with me for nearly 4 years - first as our Development Director and then our Communications Director. This was her 2nd stint with me as she was my Live Music & Art Director at @QCafe many years ago. Thank you, Cush, for your friendship and commitment. You embodied our values and it kept moving us forward.

@philipkeeton (far left) has been with me for nearly the entirety of ODW. That's a long time. We've had our shares of ups and downs but  he's one of a kind. He was my right hand person that provided great leadership for our scrappy team of staff, volunteers, and interns. PK: Brother, you're gonna be missed but so excited for your next season. I didn't say this enough: I appreciate you. Thank you. And I hate Alabama football.

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#Deeper #RootsMatter 41 years ago today, our family immigrated to the United States from Seoul, South Korea. I was six years old; the youngest of three sons. My father, when he was also six, fled from what is now known as North Korea. Just recently, he shared with me that he and some of his family had been in a refugee camp when war and violence broke out on the Korean peninsula. It's emotional thinking about what my brothers and I went through coming to a completely foreign country. It wasn't easy. And then, I think about what my parents had to go through:

They fled their homes near Pyongyang which also meant leaving some of their extended families.

They experienced unfathomable hunger and poverty.

They experienced the pain of war.

They immigrated again to the United States as adults with minimal resources and a handful of English words.

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I'm thinking of my brothers today. I'm thinking of my parents and honoring them for their sacrifice and tenacity. And finally, I'm thinking of refugees and immigrants all around the world that are yearning for family, peace, hope, and opportunities. Don't reduce Martin Luther King Jr. to a yearly quote on social media. Live out the dream. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Confront evil. Be a truth-teller. Seek justice. Love mercy. Pursue reconciliation. Build bridges. Love your neighbors. Forgive your enemies. Pray unceasingly. Live a committed life of peace, love, and justice.

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Be brave. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's the full context of his famous quote: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." An important word for the Church...

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