I’ve decided to judge 2013 based on books. Maybe by doing so I can avoid those sappy reminiscences that people not named Eric Van Meter would find so boring, while at the same time holding back the gory details of this past year that others may find interesting, but I have no desire to relive. So away with personal reflections! And on with the best books I’ve read in 2013.
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. I reviewed Gladwell’s latest one for MinistryMatters, and I have to say it’s become one of my most cherished non-fiction books. Gladwell debunks the cherished biblical story, and then builds a brilliant argument for why underdogs have not only a reason to hope, but the power to win.
Carry Me Home by Diane McWhorter. This Pulitzer-Prize winner from 2002 is one of the most compelling histories I have ever read. The subject (the civil rights movement of the 1950s-60s in Birmingham) is dramatic enough, but McWhorter strikes just the right tone with it, combining careful research with narrative mastery.
The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr. The plot summary kept me away from this spiritual classic for years. A talking rooster presiding over a barnyard under siege? It turns out to be a near perfect way to depict how God uses the meek and powerless to hold back overwhelming evil.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Best novel I read this year. A story of beauty amid destruction in Chechnya, the former Soviet Republic ravaged by civil wars in the last decade. And a reminder of how deeply and desperately we need to love one another.
The End of Night by Paul Bogard. Gives me a new appreciation for the beauty of darkness.
Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow. The blundering, philosophical protagonist
seems to be the anti-Midas, able to ruin whatever he touches. But his frantic search for meaning continues to ring in my head. Those of us who constantly feel in the world but not of the world will understand.
Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy. Tragic, depressing, dark. But I can’t pull myself away from the way McCarthy writes.
So there is my literary year in review. I hope next year’s list is just as good if not better. Maybe someday, I’ll have something that appears on someone else’s list. I’ll be working on that too.
Happy New Year, everyone!