My Top 8 (or so) Books of 2008

# 8: On culture—“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
Gladwell’s use of real-life examples made me a believer in the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. And made me subconsciously categorize people I know as Connectors, Mavens, or Salesmen.

# 7: On writing (or anything you enjoy, really)—“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott (1994)
When Anne was a child, her father explained to her 10-yr-old brother how to write a seemingly overwhelming report on 50 birds: one bird at a time. Good advice. Her book inspired me to write for the sheer joy of writing; that’s reason enough. She quotes the coach in Cool Runnings to his team desperate to win an Olympic medal: “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.”

# 6: On sports—“Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life” by Tony Dungy (2007)
What a nice guy. Full of faith and character. Dungy: “I’m not doing anything extraordinary. I’m just trying to do the ordinary things—as directed by God—well.” Go, Tony.

Runner-up: “Inside the Helmet: Life as a Sunday Afternoon Warrior” by Michael Strahan (2007)
Um, not because Strahan is such a nice guy. But because what I learned from the inside-view of pro football was radically different than what I expected. And before it was over, I liked Strahan anyway. I’m glad he finally got a Super Bowl ring before retiring. Go, Giants.

# 5: About the Bible—“Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation” by Leland Ryken (2002)
It was good enough for a repeat read. And again strengthened my belief that, even if you think I can’t understand it, still give me the closest words the Biblical authors used rather than a dumbed-down interpretation. Word choice mattered then; it matters now. Contains a nice listing of Fallacies about Translations (such as, “Readability is the ultimate goal of translation”) as well as Fallacies about Bible Readers (i.e., “Readers, not authors, determine meaning.”)

Runner-up: “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon D. Fee, Douglas Stuart (1981)
The intentionally clever use of the word “Its” in the title is reason enough for a top pick, but this classic reframed the different Biblical book genres for me in a fresh way. (And gave me a great new pattern for praying the Psalms.)
“Although not its primary intent, the Law shows us how impossible it is to please God on our own. ...When we read the Old Testament law, we ought to be humbled to appreciate how unworthy we are to belong to God. We ought to be moved to praise and thanksgiving that he provided for us a way to be accepted in his sight apart from humanly fulfilling the Old Testament law!”

# 4: On Technology—“Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML” by Elisabeth Freeman (2006)
The pictorial format of this book made learning HTML easy and addicting. Enough to convince me to use it as curriculum for a high school credit in our school.

Runner-up: “The Non-Designer’s Web Book: An Easy Guide to Creating, Designing, and Posting Your Own Web Site” by Robin Williams & John Tollett (2006)
Full of little details that make big differences on-line. Does it live up to Williams’ “The Non-Designer’s Design Book”, which I love? It’s close.

# 3: On Attitudes—“Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success by John Maxwell (2000)
It’s John Maxwell.
Also, “The Difference Maker: Making Your Attitude Your Greatest Asset” by John Maxwell.
5 Attitude Obstacles: 1. Discouragement. 2. Change. 3. Problems. 4. Fear. 5. Failure.

# 2: Fiction—“The Shack” by William P. Young (2007)
It challenged my thinking on the Trinity, and it attempted to answer head-on why bad things happen to good people. A brave undertaking.
“These are the results of your choices and every choice matters, even the hidden ones.”
“It is tr
ue that relationships are a whole lot messier than rules, but rules will never give you answers to the deep questions of the heart and they will never love you.”

Runner-up: “The Chronicles of Narnia series” by C. S. Lewis.
An enchanting way to be enlightened.
"The Horse and His Boy"
Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.
"The Silver Chair"
“And the lesson of it all is, your Highness,” said the oldest Dwarf, “that those Northern witches always mean the same thing, but in every age they have a different plan for getting it.”

# 1: On faith—“Future Grace” by John Piper (1995)
Because I still don’t quite get it. It will require a second, third reading. It’s the simple gospel in a nutshell, but parsed into a daily struggle, faith-in-action, real-life context to help narrow down the root of our sin...a practical, often disguised, unbelief in God. Say it ain't so.
Belief is not merely an agreement with facts in the head; it is also an appetite for God in the heart, which fastens on Jesus for satisfaction. “He who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst!” Therefore eternal life is not given to people who merely think that Jesus is the Son of God. It is given to people who drink from Jesus as the Son of God. “The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

He is also the bread of life, and those who feed on him for nourishment and satisfaction live by him. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever” (John 6:51). The point of these images of drinking and eating is to make clear the essence of faith. It is more than believing that there is such a thing as water and food; and it is more than believing that Jesus is life-giving water and food. Faith is coming to Jesus and drinking the water and eating the food so that we find our hearts satisfied in him.

Runners-Up: “The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others” by Scot McKnight (2004)
Christians sometimes read the Bible too often to figure things out, for information. ... We can miss the mission: for Abba to love us and for us to love Abba. When we let Abba speak to us through the Bible, we come to know him (and not just about him), and our reading moves from communication from God to communion with God, from “information to formation”, from learning about love to learning to love.

“Spectacular Sins: and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ” by John Piper (2008)
What we need is to know the great things about God. Knowing great things about God will help make us ready not to collapse under cataclysmic conflict and personal catastrophe.

8 Things to Do with Evil:
1. Expect evil. 2. Endure evil. 3. Give thanks for the refining effect of evil that comes against you. 4. Hate evil. 5. Pray for escape from evil. 6. Expose evil. 7. Overcome evil with good. 8. Resist evil.

4 Things Never to Do with Evil:
1. Never despair that this evil world is out of God’s control. 2. Never give in to the sense that because of seemingly random evil, life is absurd and meaningless. 3. Never yield to the thought that God sins or is ever unjust or unrighteous in the way he governs the universe. 4. Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ.


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