2013 in books

Well, the year has now ended, and I’ve finished my reviews. So below is the full list of all the books I finished last year, with links to each review.

As ever, some books were hard to classify in terms of my normal 4 categories. For example, one might wonder why Theology of Money is in “Other” and not “Christianity”. The reason for putting it there is that there was very little theology in the book, which was more of a treatise on economics.

After last year’s list, it was commented that I was lacking some Jules Verne, which is why there are two novels of his in my fiction reading. I also accepted a challenge from an atheist friend of mine to read something to challenge my beliefs, which resulted in me picking up Ben Whitney’s book, though as the friend mentioned Hume in passing I also read some of the latter’s work.

The start of the year saw me finishing some preliminary reading on the New Perspective on Paul in preparation for the publication of N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God. At the time of posting this, I am a little over a quarter of the way through that monumental work.

My science reading has been a little low in terms of the number of books read, though The Emperor’s New Mind and The Age of Wonder were both very long works, and both excellent in their own way.

The fiction reading has been rather mixed. There were some notable disappointments, with one superb work thrown into the mix too.

Other reading has seen a nice mix of history, economics and philosophy. Here lies the work of Thucydides, which was by far the longest and toughest book to get through.

Christianity (14)

The Prodigal God – Tim Keller
Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision – Tom Wright
The Knowledge of the Holy – A.W.Tozer
Justification: Five views – Various
Erasing Hell – Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle
Hannah’s Child – Stanley Hauerwas
Walking Without God – Ben Whitney
Jesus – Marcus Borg
Faith in the Public Square – Rowan Williams
Dogmatics in Outline – Karl Barth
A Broad Place – Jurgen Moltmann
Confessions – Augustine
Post Charismatic – Rob McAlpine
Love Wins – Rob Bell

Science (9)

The Emperor’s New Mind – Roger Penrose
The Age of Wonder –Richard Holmes
Thinking in Numbers – Daniel Tammet
Longitude – Dava Sobel
Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction – Timothy Gowers
Robotics: A Very Short Introduction – Alan Winfield
The Extended Phenotype – Richard Dawkins
The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction – Lawrence Principe
Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction – Peter Coles

Fiction (9)

A Pair of Blue Eyes – Thomas Hardy
The Book of Dave – Will Self
Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier
The Outsider – Albert Camus
From the Earth to the Moon – Jules Verne
Around the Moon – Jules Verne
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – H.P. Lovecraft
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Moon Tiger – Penelope Lively

Other non-fiction (15)

Night – Elie Wiesel
The Spirit Level – Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett
The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley
Heaven & Hell – Aldous Huxley
The Spirit Level Delusion – Christopher Snowdon
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park – Sinclair McKay
Theology of Money – Philip Goodchild
The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction – Terry Eagleton
Borders: A Very Short Introduction – Alexander Diener & Joshua Hagen
Dialogues and Natural History of Religion – David Hume
History of the Peloponnesian War – Thucydides
The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction – David Gwynn
Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction – David Miller
Enough is Enough – Rob Dietz & Dan O’Neill
The Age of Revolution – Eric Hobsbawm

Total (47)

Worst book of the year?

I always aim to read books that I will enjoy. That includes books that challenge me and make me re-evaluate where I stand on certain issues. But it’s fair to say that I’ve not enjoyed them all. So what were my worst reads of the year?

In christianity, Marcus Borg’s take on Jesus leaves a lot to be desired. ‘Resurrection? Take it or leave it, it doesn’t matter’ – is his approach. His approach was just as eisegetical as Francis Chan’s in Erasing Hell.

In science, Daniel Tammet’s Thinking in Numbers didn’t live up to my hopes, but that was a blip on an otherwise fine set of books for the year.

Fiction was the worse overall. I can’t say I enjoyed either of the works of Jules Verne and Moon Tiger was just a bit of nothing. The lesson here seems to be: avoid anything with the word ‘moon’ in the title.

In other, the stand-out turkey was Christopher Snowden’s economically illiterate response to The Spirit Level. He did, however, take up the opportunity to comment (where possible, I try to inform authors that I have reviewed their work in order to allow them the right of reply). His lamentable response, which failed the blog comment policy for honesty, has been left up for all to see. I have considered annotating it to demonstrate clearly just how wrong he gets it, but have thus far refrained.

So of these, what was the worst? My award this year, for being utterly forgettable, goes to Moon Tiger.

Best book of the year?

It’s not all been doom and gloom. There have been some cracking reads which I would wholeheartedly recommend to you.

The opening title of the year, Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God, is short, thought-provoking and makes an excellent summary of the gospel, told in a fresh manner. Of the 3 spiritual autobiographies of the year, Stanley Hauerwas’ Hannah’s Child was incredibly moving and has given me a great insight into the man; I plan to read more of his work in the future, starting with The Peaceable Kingdom.

The science books feature quite a lot of the Very Short Introductions. Of these, the one on Mathematics was probably the best, as it took me back to my university days. Though the standout in this category has to be Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder; it’s perfectly paced, brilliantly written and very insightful.

In a year where fiction was the let-down category, the year was brightened (if that’s the right word) by Albert Camus’ The Outsider. It may not be the cheeriest of novels, but I did identify a lot with the main character. It’s a book that stays with you once you’ve read it.

In non-fiction, the stand out book was Enough is Enough – a really well thought out  radical vision for transforming global economics. It’s certainly ambitious and it’s not a panacea, but well worth considering.

So then, of those, which gets my book of the year thumbs up? As it’s my blog, I choose to use my prerogative and declare it a tie between The Age of Wonder and Hannah’s Child.

Coming up in 2014

I’ve mentioned a few already, but what else is in store for the year ahead? As per usual, my family have been very generous in giving me books for Christmas. I also have quite a few that I’ve picked up from various bookshops that I’ve wandered into. Though not a complete list, amongst those I’m looking forward to getting into are:

The Trumpet Major – Thomas Hardy
The Peaceable Kingdom – Stanley Hauerwas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets – Simon Singh
Letters to London – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science – Jim Al-Khalili

Your turn now:

  • What books did you get through in 2013?
  • What were your favourites?
  • What were your least favourites?
  • What will you be reading this year?
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4 responses to “2013 in books

  1. I’m always impressed with the amount of things you read and the thoughts that come out of it. I need to de-rustify my own reading skills, I think.

    (De-rustify: just invented, but I like it.)

    • Thanks Lucy. Most kind of you. With my commute now shortened and a few long books received for birthday/Christmas, I doubt I’ll get through anywhere near as many.

      I love ‘de-rustify’ as a word. Though I wonder who first came up with the word ‘neologism’…

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Peaceable Kingdom by Stanley Hauerwas | The Alethiophile