Eugene Cho

best books you’ve read this past year and…

Well, it’s that time of the year. The last few weeks of the year where it’s apropos to ask questions about reflections, aspirations, and of course, a question that starts with, “What’s the best…?”

So, let’s do an easy one today in hopes of getting some responses from many people. You know how this works.

  1. I ask you a question.
  2. You answer.
  3. We solve world peace.

So, here are the questions:

  • What are couple of the best books you’ve read this past year?
  • What are couple books on your “to read” list for 2011?

My answers:

Best books this past year:

  • Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. Re-read it for the ump-teenth time. Something about Holden Caulfield.
  • Testament of Hope by MLK.  Another re-read but technically a different experience when it’s not part of a professor’s syllabi. And I’m still reading through it currently.
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. It’s often overlooked because of Beloved.

Books on my to-read-list:

  • Sabbath by Abraham Heschel
  • Race: A Theological Account, J. Kameron Carter
  • What’s so Amazing About Grace by Phillip Yancey. Time to re-read this.

Your turn.

And if you’re interested:

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50 Responses

  1. Best books I’ve read this year:

    -Evolving in Monkey Town by my good friend Rachel Held Evans
    -Green Like God by Jonathan Merritt
    -O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett
    -Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner
    -The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder (I tried to read it a couple of years ago, but didn’t get it. Wasn’t until I picked it up again that I got it)
    -A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren

    To read next year:

    -Your Secret Name by Kary Oberbrunner
    -A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren

  2. Adam says:

    Best Books I Have read this Year:
    Under the Overpass by Mike Yankowski
    Remember Why You Play by David Thomas

    Will read in 2011:
    The Principle of Path by Andy Stanley
    The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg

  3. Jason says:

    Best reads this year: Primal by Mark Batterson, Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakuar

    For 2011: Finishing off my Hemingway collection, Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris, and Radical by Platt

  4. esther says:

    The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (still reading)

    Want to Read in 2011:
    Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner
    How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee/Douglas Stuart
    Rees Howells Intercessor by Norman Grubb
    There is Always Enough by Heidi and Rolland Baker
    When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson

    …and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? but I might get to that one before the New Year 😛 Have you read the Harry Potter books Pastor Eugene?

  5. I take it we’ll see you at the 2011 Palmer Lecture @ SPU when Dr. Carter comes to town! Details below, just in case others want to go:

    The School of Theology is excited to announce the 2011 Palmer Lecture on Thursday, January 27, given by Dr. J. Kameron Carter.

    Dr. Carter teaches theology and black church studies at Duke University in the Department of Divinity. He has written Race: A Theological Account (New York: Oxford UP, 2008) and is finishing the upcoming book The Secular Jesus: Religion and the Project of Civilization (forthcoming, Yale University Press).

    Dr. Carter’s work focuses on articulating a new religious and Christian social imagination for the 21st century. We cordially invite you to the Palmer Lecture presented by J. Kameron Carter.

    Date: Thursday, January 27
    Time: 7 p.m.
    Place: Upper Gwinn Commons
    Speaker: Dr. J. Kameron Carter
    Cost: Free

  6. randall says:

    The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez – History was my worst subject in high school and college but this book on the history of the church was illuminating and written in a flowing, narrative style with surprisingly little bias.
    Systematic Theology: Perspectives from Liberation Theology edited by Jon Sobrino – this was my first introduction to liberation theology and while I have some issues, I found it a fascinating (and much needed) way to look at the Bible and doctrine.
    Sin: A History by Gary Anderson – amazing look at the metaphors we have used to describe sin (what it is and how it works) and how they have changed through time.

    Will read:
    A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis.
    The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin.
    …and whatever I get assigned for school.

    • iy says:

      i’m interested in this _general theory of love_ … bell hooks wrote one that is amazing and beautiful and kind of my guiding set of principles, called _all about love: new visions._

  7. Dave says:

    Books I enjoyed this past year:
    The Rule of St. Benedict (Joan Chittister’s edition)
    The Gospel According to Jesus by Chris Seay
    In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson (part of Phyllis Tickle’s series on Ancient Practices)
    The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

    Books to read:
    new works by Stephen Lawhead
    the rest of The Ancient Practices series
    Markings by Dag Hamarskjold
    Boundaries by Cloud & Townsent

  8. Best of 2009
    – The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen
    – The Cross of Christ by John Stott
    – Kitchen Confidential & Medium Rare by Anthony Bourdain

    To read in 2010
    – No Condemnation in Christ Jesus by Octavius Winslow
    – Just Kids by Patti Smith
    – The Pleasures of God by John Piper
    – Romans, John, Acts, 1 & 2 Peter Commentaries by RC Sproul

    (Also, unless I need for assignments, I am not going to purchase any books for 2011. I have plenty of books I need to read.)

  9. Kimberly Rixon says:

    My best books this year were actually for school:

    Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
    An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison

    oh, and the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

    To read next year:
    Souls in The Hands of a Tender God by Craig Rennebohm
    More school books! But I am studying contemporary social policy and advocacy, so they will be interesting books at least.

  10. Jeff Lam says:

    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

    It is some fine, fine literature.

  11. Chad Harvey says:

    Best books in 2010 for me:

    “Soul Revolution” by John Burke
    “The Core Issue” by Christine Caine

    On the ‘to read’ list (or currently reading) for 2011:

    “Church Unique” by Will Mancini
    “The Tangible Kingdom” by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

  12. Tony Lin says:

    Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt
    Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearn (I think I read it towards the end of last year though)

    And I wasn’t going to say it but Joseph named it first, but Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain was a really fun read, as was Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh.

    Top for 2011 is Theology for a Trouble Believer by Diogenes Allen. I might get to that before the end of the year though…

  13. iy says:

    The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson
    Better, Atul Gawande
    Young adult books: The Hunger Games! Re-reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader! Re-reading some Harry Potter!

    Reading/to Read:
    Freedom, Jonathan Franzen — hyped up, but good so far.
    White, Richard Dyer
    A bunch of great books by Vivian Paley, who wrote White Teacher!

    I loved _What’s So Amazing About Grace?_ I agree, worth a re-read, and worth seeing how our understandings of it change over time.

  14. Karen says:

    Abba’s Child (Brennan Manning)- this actually has made it to my lifetime best reads list
    A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (Donald Miller)

    Prayer (Philip Yancey)
    Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman)

  15. Adrienne says:

    Best I read in 2010:
    When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead, Newbery winner)
    The Reason for God (Tim Keller)
    What the Dog Saw (Malcom Gladwell)

    For 2011:
    The Next Christians (Gabe Lyons)
    After You Believe (N.T. Wright)

  16. steve h. says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (celebrating its 50th year)

  17. By far my favorite book this year is a collection of essays, mostly about race, by Eula Biss, Notes From No Man’s Land: American Essays. The author is a phenomenal writer. Thanks to your reminder I brought home my copy of Race by Carter to begin reading over the holidays.

  18. Barry says:

    Best so far this year:

    C.S. Lewis. Till We Have Faces
    Robert Jordan. The Wheel of Time: Towers of Midnight
    Brandon Sanderson. The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings
    Italo Calvino. Invisible Cities
    Elizabeth Strout. Olive Kitteridge
    Cormac McCarthy. No Country for Old Men
    Philip Schultz. Failure
    Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front
    Lisa Genova. Still Alice

  19. Jung Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing your books and this opportunity to put me into re-think about books!

    Best books for 2010

    1. a New kind of Christianity by Brian McClaren
    2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-I reread it after I read it when I was in Elementary school. Amazed by heartbreaking details and difference in views how white and black see Christianity.
    3. Korean Book-욕쟁이 예수 by 박총(I highly recommend it for you!)
    4. Another Korean book- 불편해도 괜찮아 by 김두식 (about human rights and movies.)

    books for 2011

    1. The God delusion by Richard Dokins
    2. Reason, Faith and Evolution by Terry Eagleton.
    3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    4. to kill a mocking bird by Harper Lee
    (3,4, will be the re-read. I can’t wait!)

  20. Ty says:

    Best reads of 2010:
    The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel
    Clairvaux Manifesto by Kirk Bartha

    To read for 2011:
    Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology by Greg Boyd
    The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey (re-read)

  21. taylor says:

    Is that your real Catcher in the Rye book?

  22. Jana says:

    What a great way to do a new years list! Makes you think about what you’ve been thinking about this year!

    So… the best of 2010:
    Obama – Dreams from My Father (which saved me from the incredibly dry “The Missional Leader” by Roxburgh and Romanuk but surprisingly covered a lot of the same sort of ground).
    Ramsey – War and the Christian Conscience.
    Marx & Engles – The Communist Manifesto (for the highs and lows!)

    and looking forward to in 2011:
    Twain – Huckleberry Finn
    Alinsky – Rules for Radicals
    Sachs – Common Wealth


  23. I read Evolving in Monkey Town, O Me of Little Faith, What the Dog Saw, and Why We Make Mistakes. All fascinating. Sorry to say, I actually disliked Song of Solomon (dislike is not a strong enough word.) This coming year, I’m most looking forward to reading Mark Twain’s autobiography. It’s been 100 years since his death, and vol. 1 has finally been published!

  24. Bryan Todd says:

    1. To change the world by James Davidson Hunter
    2. The shaping of things to come by Micheal Frost and Alan Hirsch
    3. When helping hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
    4. Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paulo Freire
    5. Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
    6. How to get Cliff Lee to travel coast to coast to coast with you by Bryan Todd

  25. ER says:

    It’s been a year of lots of great reads for me. Some of the best:

    Conquest: Sexual Violence and Native American Genocide – Andrea Smith
    The Blue Parakeet – Scot McKnight
    Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen
    Evolving in Monkey Town – Rachel Held Evans

    On the 2011 list:
    Abusing Scripture – Manfred T. Brauch
    Race: A Theological Account – J. Kameron Carter
    Reality Bites Back – Jennifer Pozner
    Jesus and Politics – Peter Heltzel

  26. catesongbird says:

    I also re-read “Catcher” this year, and it remains one of my favorite books of all time. =)

    I also read a book called “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers this year that was extremely compelling and interesting. It’s a nonfiction narrative about a family that lived through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; tells the story of survival, racism, faith and religion in a modern context, and it’s incredibly page-turning. I bought a copy just to lend out to friends.

    On my To-Read list for 2011: “Mere Christianity” (C.S. Lewis), “Welcoming But Not Affirming” (Stanley Grenz), “Emma” (Jane Austen) and “Finally Feminist” (John Stackhouse)

  27. Best books:
    The Year of Living Biblically -A.J. Jacobs
    The Unlikely Disciple -Kevin Roose

    Books to read:
    Babywise III
    The Grapes of Wrath

  28. Brian Orme says:

    Best Books Read:
    White Tiger
    True Grit
    Forgotten God

    Books Still to Read:
    Audacious Faith
    Super Sad True Love Story

  29. Ben says:

    Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
    The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley

    The Yancey one is older, but I just read it this year.

    The one by Farley is an interesting read.

  30. ben adam says:

    The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
    The Coming Insurrection by the Invisible Committee
    Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos
    The New Testament and the People of G-d by N.T. Wright
    “Come Out My People!” G-d’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond by Wes Howard-Brook
    No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

    Forthcoming books to be read:
    Consensus by Peter Gelderloos
    Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks
    Binding the Strong Man by Ched Myers
    and I am sure many more!

  31. Micah says:

    I’m late to this party but I’m posting anyway! =)

    Best of 2010:

    Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
    American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

    Honorable mentions:
    The Living, by Annie Dillard
    Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

    On tap for 2011:

    Colonel Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris (the long-awaited third installment in his superb biography of TR, begun with The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex)

    Some non-fiction; it’s been a while…

  32. John says:

    The Warmth of Other Sons is my vote for book of the year and probably the decade.

    Other good books read this year:

    -Chalmers Johnson’s trilogy- Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

    -The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies. One of the best Korea books I’ve read.

    Books to read in ’11:

    -More of Chalmers Johnson’s books esp. MITI and the Japanese miracle

    -Andrew Bacevich’s The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War

    -Chang-Rae Lee’s The Surrendered

    -American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists by John H. Wigger

  33. Jeff says:

    top 2 read in 2010
    Missional Small Groups by M. Scott Boren

    AND: the gathered and scattered church by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

    to read in 2011
    The Integrated Life by Ken Eldred

    The Silver Chair by CS Lewis

  34. […] to pray. I read some scripture. And I read several pages from a Martin Luther King, Jr. book that I’m currently reading again and read this quote (again): When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, […]

  35. Bill B says:

    Having read Catcher in the Rye once; I can’t imagine anyone reading it again. This has to be one of the most highly overrated books ever. No wonder Mr Salinger became a recluse? I would, also, be embarrassed to to be seen in public if I had written such tripe.

    • Hi Bill, Salinger didn’t become a recluse because he wrote the book. I think, for a large part, the book was an extension of himself. It exactly the type of ideals that Holden Caulfield values that would eventually lead to someone wanting to become a recluse. It has nothing to do with being embarrassed about writing that type of book. I am curious, however, why you didn’t like the book.

      • Bill B says:

        Hi Cate,

        Actually, I know little-to-nothing about Mr Salinger. Safe to say that it wasn’t embarrassment over writing this book that caused him to become a recluse. I was being facetious. :):)

        One word would describe why I disliked the book……….boring. I didn’t find it a well-written novel, but for some reason I continued reading till the end. Is it possible that the enamorment with Catcher In The Rye is that many relate to Holden Caulfield?? His story, apparently, resonates with many for some reason?

  36. The Original Grand Torino says:

    Bones of the Master by George Crane is an interesting book that talks about the experiences of a Mongolian Monk Tsung Tsai, Buddhist who during the repression by the Chinese Regime during the “Great Leap Forward” which occurs around 1959+/- migrates on foot from Mongolia to Hong Kong! That is a long long route, it spans the whole nation of China in fact, North South. Government Troops raided the Monastery and kill the 110 year old venerable Master of the Monastery so Tsung Tsai flees to freedom. After that, Tsung Tsai eventually went to live in the State of New York, I think in fact, Woodstock. Also in the book, Crane who is Tsung Tsai’s neighbor and author of the book both go back to Mongolia some decades later. Even in Tsung Tsai’s early life, the Japanese invaded China when he was a kid and that was a real hard time too.

    What’s interesting is Venerable Master Hsua Hua set up the City of 10,000 Buddhas in Northern California. He was at the same Monastery as Tsung Tsai in their youths.

    Secondly, a bit of a landmark book on Running is called Born to run. A different kind of running book, all I can say and reviews galore over at amazon so many people know of it already. Recently published in the past few years.

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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.

All in hopes that their children would have the opportunities that were never afforded to them.

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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I've had the privilege of being in Haiti twice and numerous countries in Africa including Kenya where I took this picture during an afternoon drive near Kijabe. In many of these visits, I witnessed such creativity, courage, leadership, hospitality and kindness. To follow Jesus without obedience, repentance, self-denial, and dying to self is an oxymoron. In other words, are we more in love with the idea of following Jesus than actually following Jesus?

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