2010 Englewood Honor Books

Best Books of 2010

At the close of another year, we thank God for allowing us another year of reading and reviewing books, and for all of you who have continued on this journey with us — reading our reviews or even writing reviews for us.  2010, of course, saw the launch of our print edition, about which we are really excited, and we are grateful for all who have been among our earliest subscribers.  We have read (or excerpted) several hundred books this year, most of which have been very good – we try not to waste our time or anyone else’s with bad or even mediocre books – but we offer to you here the best of the best, our honor books for 2010.

As in past years, our primary criterion both for selecting books to review and for honoring the year’s best books is to choose books that are “for the life of the Church” – i.e., books that energize us to be the community of God’s people that God has called us to be and that nurture our mission of following in the way of God’s reconciliation of all things (in all its broadness!).


2010 Englewood Book of the Year

The Wisdom of Stability - Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

The Wisdom of Stability.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
Paperback: Paraclete, April 2010.
Buy now: [
ChristianBook.com ]

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has offered us, in The Wisdom of Stability, a challenging and yet very readable argument for stability in our local church communities.  Although Wilson-Hartgrove has written a number of other excellent works to date (His book God’s Economy was on our Best Books of 2009 list and his Free To Be Bound was one of the Best Books of 2008.), TWOS is undoubtedly his finest work to date.

“Stability is essential to our faithfulness as we share life together in our church communities, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s The Wisdom of Stability is the finest reflection on stability in the contemporary world.  Through stability, we learn to mature together in a place toward the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4), becoming, by the grace of God, a vibrant contrast to the madness of our hypermobile culture.  In The Wisdom of Stability, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove orchestrates the voices of those before us who have set out to cultivate the practice of stability and poignantly calls us to the threshold of this journey of growing into stability.  May we have the courage to heed his call and set out together on this journey and the even greater courage needed to weather the many demons that will assail us as we continue to be faithful in our place, day by day and year by year.” (from our review)

The Wisdom of Stability poignantly reminds us that community and place are essential elements in our following in the way of Jesus.  It should be read and discussed in all churches!


2010 Englewood Honor Books

A LANDSCAPE MANIFESTO - D. Balmori

A Landscape Manifesto.
By Diana Balmori.
Hardcover: Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

As others have suggested (e.g., David Owen’s Green Metropolis), the city is uniquely situated to develop ecological practices and a thriving human culture. A Landscape Manifesto sketches some directions forward, beginning with a renewing of our minds (and our lawns), and then to practices that must be adopted by communities working together. Balmori’s own landscape practice provides a host of examples to draw inspiration from, and her manifesto opens up possibilities for many more to come alongside.

[ Read our full review… ]

What Matters? - Wendell Berry

What Matters? :
Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth
.
Wendell Berry.

Paperback: Counterpoint, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

For too long, economics have been the private domain and rarified air of analysts and experts. Refreshingly, Berry helps to re-imagine and ground economics as the daily practices of households and local communities striving to adapt to nature to land and to one another. For those that are about this work, a common wealth is uncovered as we become more fully rooted in what matters. May others of you discover the joys of reading Wendell Berry through this excellent book.

[ Read our full review… ]

JOURNEY TO THE COMMON GOOD - Brueggemann

Journey to the Common Good.
Walter Brueggemann
Paperback: WJK Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ CBD.com ]

Journey to the Common Good is essential for churches who dare to resist the ubiquitous temptations of wealth, might and worldly wisdom, and who seek God’s transformation of their specific neighborhoods. Brueggemann offers a scriptural call for all churches to move in this direction, and his words come as sweet encouragement to churches who already caught a glimpse of this redemptive vision and are starting to take baby steps in this direction.

[ Read our full review… ]

COME OUT, MY PEOPLE! Wes Howard-Brook

Come Out, My People!
God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond
.
Wes Howard-Brook.
Paperback:
Orbis, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In recent memory, there have been other works that examine parts of scripture in light of the concept of empire, but none with which I am familiar has tackled the whole of the scriptural narrative with the depth and the clarity with which Howard-Brook has exhibited here.

[ Read our full review… ]

Consulting the Genius of the Place - Wes Jackson

Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to the New Agriculture.
Wes Jackson.

Hardback:
Counterpoint, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Consulting the Genius of the Place is a book that we cannot afford to ignore, though its solutions are not magic, but rather are rooted in the sort of wisdom that calls us to deny ourselves and the consumptive patterns of the world into which we have been formed and to allow our minds to be made new and our hearts transformed.

[ Read our full review… ]

THE CHRISTIAN IMAGINATION - Willie James Jennings

The Christian Imagination:
Theology and the Origins of Race.

Willie James Jennings.

Hardback: Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Few books, however, offer as broad and holistic a picture of our brokenness as Willie Jennings’ new theological masterpiece, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, and even fewer books (perhaps none) can come close to the depth of Jennings’ historical account of how we wound up in the mess we are in today.

[ Read our full review… ]

Forgiving as Weve Been Forgiven - Jones / Musekura

Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven: Community Practices for Making Peace.
Greg Jones / Celestin Musekura.

Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ CBD.com ]

The God who forgives always makes a way for us to be channels and recipients of forgiveness – whatever the circumstances, whatever the cost. Jones and Musekura have illuminated this truth with stories and insights that reveal the flesh-and-blood, sweat-and-tears, struggle-and-victory reality of learning to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. This is a beautiful book of hard-won wisdom that will soften hearts and stir imaginations to new possibilities of peacemaking in our world.

[ Read our full review
from our print edition… ]

BUILDING CULTURES OF TRUST - Martin Marty

Building Cultures of Trust.
Martin Marty.

Hardback: Eerdmans, 2010.
Buy now: [ CBD.com ]

This is, in every way, a timely book. When there is an increasing lack of trust in any form of authority, when increasing numbers of religious people are questioning the findings of science – not just on evolution but climate change and more – it is important to have this call to action, and the action required of us is to join in building a culture of trust. The message here is clear; although the challenges are great, there is a pathway that can lead to a culture of trust, if only we’re willing to take the necessary risks and be willing to listen to the other.

[ Read our full review… ]

EAARTH - Bill McKibben

EAARTH:
Making life on a Tough New Planet
.

Bill McKibben.
Hardback: Times Books , 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

“EAARTH is an important book, and one whose message we should take very seriously. Churches, it seems are ideally suited as hubs nurturing local culture in the direction that McKibben points us. The first half of EAARTH reminds us that the time is coming, if it is not already here, when local community can no longer be simply an optional nicety. Churches have the potential to be leaders in making this shift to deeper forms of local culture.

[ Read our full review… ]

THE MEDIUM AND THE LIGHT - Marshall McLuhan

The Medium and the Light:
Reflections on Religion
.

Marshall McLuhan.
Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

This cross-section of correspondence and conversations readily and aptly illuminates how McLuhan was able to balance his theology with his educational training and scholarly work. In fact, we learn early on in that he converted to Roman Catholicism as a result of reading and dissecting key medieval tomes while studying for and writing his doctoral thesis on the history of the trivium (rhetoric, dialectic, and grammar).

[ Read our full review… ]

*** Best Poetry Book ***

HARVESTING FOG: POEMS - Luci Shaw

Harvesting Fog: Poems.
Luci Shaw.

Paperback: Pinyon, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In Harvesting Fog, Shaw offers a collection of such moments, rendered in beautifully resonant language, articulating the sacredness and significance of life in a world at once beautiful and broken.

[ Read our full review… ]

SABBATH WORD - Shulevitz

The Sabbath World:
Glimpes of a Different Order of Time
.

Judith Shulevitz.
Hardback: Random House, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Ultimately, what the Sabbath is about, says Shulevitz, is the “morality of time.” Shulevitz explores this reality by looking at everything from her own childhood divided between a Sabbath keeping mother and Sabbath despising father to the regularity psychoanalytic session (birthed by the secular Jew, Freud). Throughout she delves into the theology, ethics, practicalities, and history of the Sabbath ranging from the Babylonian exile to modern Israeli politics. And she does this with beautiful writing that rivals any of our contemporary writers of nonfiction.

[ Read our full review… ]


Runners Up

Although the following books did not quite make the cut to be included among the best of the year’s books, they are excellent books and deserve to be read. Hence, we recognize them here as our runners-up.

SEVEN PILLARS OF CREATION - William BrownThe Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science and the Ecology of Wonder.

William Brown.

[ Our Review ]

THE SHALLOWS - Nicholas CarrThe Shallows:
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

Nicholas Carr.

[ Our Review ]

MANIFOLD WITNESS - John FrankeManifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth.

John Franke.

[ Our Review ]

AFTER YOU BELIEVE - NT Wright

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.

N.T. Wright.

[ Our Review ]


Most Significant Theological Work

Although all the books we review are theological books (or at least are reviewed from a theological perspective), the following books are the most significant ones that we have encountered this year for theology in the more traditional sense. We imagine that they will have a significant impact on theological discourse over the coming years.

THE CHRISTIAN IMAGINATION - Willie James Jennings

The Christian Imagination:
Theology and the Origins of Race
.
Willie James Jennings
.
Hardback: Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

The way in which Jennings connects the problem of race with the problem of place seems to open up a new world of possibilities for future theological inquiry.  This is a meaty book, and to best understand what Jennings is undertaking here, one may perhaps tackle the book best by reading the conclusion first, and then starting at the beginning of the book.

It is our hope, as well as Jennings’, that this book would:

open up a new dialogue between disciplines that rarely interact – geography, theology, postcolonial theory, race theory, ecology, Native American studies and so forth.  In this regard, I hope for a conversation between those deeply involved in the formation of space and those concerned with identity formation – urban planners, ecologists, scientists, real estate brokers, developers joined in conversation with theologians, ethicists, literary and postcolonial theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, and historians. … [My] hope is more than academic, by attending to the spatial dynamics at play in the formation of social existence, we would be able to imagine reconfigurations of living spaces that might promote more just societies.  Such living spaces may open up the possibilities of different ways of life that announce invitations for joining (292-293).

[ Read our full review from issue #28 ]


Runner up:

Come Out, My People!
God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond
.
Wes Howard-Brook.
Paperback: Orbis, 2010.

[ Read our full review from issue #46]


Best Poetry Book

HARVESTING FOG- Luci Shaw

Harvesting Fog: Poems.
Luci Shaw.

Paperback: Pinyon Publishing, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

This delightful book offers us poetry at its finest, deeply incarnational, challenging us to embrace this world in all of its broken glory, and yet at the same time, reminding us that our current state of affairs is not the end of the story.

I have always welcomed the perennials
but today I celebrate weeds. The arrival of
horse-tails, their primitive vigor thrusting up
under the fence as if the Third Day of Creation
were just yesterday.  In penance, as redemption,
I will begin to touch the earth more lightly,
remembering to walk barefoot in the soft
forest so that I make no bruit or break…

(from “Gardener’s Remorse”)

[ Read Our Review ]

Runners-up:

  • Human Chain.  Seamus Heaney.  (Reviewed in our print edition)  [ Amazon ]
  • Barbies at Communion. Marcus Goodyear. [ Our Review ]

Best Novel

IMPERFECT BIRDS - Ann Lamott

Imperfect Birds:
A Novel

Anne Lamott.
Hardback: Riverhead, 2010.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]

Unfortunately, we once again reviewed less fiction than we would have liked to, but Ann Lamott’s newest novel Imperfect Birds was, far and away the best novel we read.

“There is so much truth in Lamott’s tale –hard truths, and scary truths for those of us who have teenagers in our futures. Lamott’s writing, as usual, is humorous and blunt, spiritual and crass.  She captures Rosie’s blunted blossoming as well as the comfortable, well fitted marriage of her parents.  Sometimes the crassness is a bit cringe-worthy, but the truthfulness with which Lamott shares the lives of her characters is never compromised.  This is why her books are worth reading.  Lamott’s world revolves around the healing power of truth, love, and belief.”

[ Read Our  Full Review ]



Best Audio “Book”.

MLK: THE ESSENTIAL BOX SET

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
The Essential Box Set.

15 Cd’s: Hachette Audio,  2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Although not technically an audiobook, in the sense of a book that was written as a book and then read aloud and recorded, this gem was clearly the finest audio recording that we reviewed this year.  It is delightful not only to hear MLK’s bold voice, but also to hear his speeches and sermons offered in their original format — as sermons and speeches.

[ Read Our  Full Review ]


Conversation Starter Award

DEFENDING CONSTANTINE - Peter Leithart

Defending Constantine.
Peter Leithart.

Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

John Nugent’s thorough critique of Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine, was not only the longest review we ran this year, but also the most discussed.  This review essay, not only elicited a response from the author, but also attracted a good deal of attention in the blogosphere and the world of social media, including plugs from Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch.

The conversation started here, about how we read the history of God’s people and how we are to live faithful in the world as the Church, will undoubtedly continue in the months and years to come.

[ Read Our Review ]