Books of 2013 image

Books of 2013

In an email exchange with a friend from California about something else entirely I was asked what my top five books of 2013 were. It is already getting a bit late into 2014 for these kind of lists, but here is my response – only in the spirit of New Year generosity I’ve picked ten rather than five, in categories reflecting my bias and interests. These are not necessarily books published in 2013, just ones I happen to have picked up and read.

Best biography
Emma Scrivener, A New Name: Grace and Healing for Anorexia

This is beautifully written, powerful, touching and profound. It had particular impact for me as one of my daughters has been struggling with an eating disorder. Emma helped me understand the disease more, and the hope of the gospel.

Best contrarian book
Susan Yoshikara & Douglas Sylva (Eds.), Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics

Packed full of amazing facts, figures and projections, this series of essays argues that rather than too many people being a global problem, it is population decline in the key world powers that should be worrying us more. To my mind these were refreshing and compelling arguments.

Best social commentary
Pascal Bruckner, Has Marriage for Love Failed?

I have already reviewed this on THINK. Short, erudite, brilliant.

Best history book
Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul

An extended melancholic love song to an extraordinary and melancholic city.

Best theology book
Brian Rosner, Paul and the Law

Rosner offers a convincing hermeneutic for understanding Paul’s approach to the Law in the excellent New Studies in Biblical Theology series. (If nothing else, reading someone with a different take on Paul from NT Wright is to be recommended!)

Best commentary
Peter O’Brien, Pillar Commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews

Preaching my way through Hebrews last year I found this an invaluable companion and guide. Comprehensive, accessible and thorough, this is a commentary as commentaries should be.

Best novel
Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

Probably the most beautifully written book I read last year. A genuine work of art. Berry’s normal concerns of agriculture, community and economy run strongly through the page-turning narrative.

Best journalistic book
Dennis Covington, Salvation on Sand Mountain

Simply extraordinary, this is the account of Covington’s adventures among the snake handlers of Appalachia, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the sociology of religion.

Best sports book
David Walsh, Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong

At times Walsh’s righteous indignation spills over a little too much, but that is understandable and forgivable. Almost a lone voice in questioning Lance Armstrong right from his first Tour de France victory in 1999, Walsh maintained an extraordinary investigation into doping in cycling. Of course, he was right.

Best natural history book
George Monbiot, Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding

This is one for romantics and nature lovers and is possibly my favourite book of 2013. Funny, angry and impassioned this is a stunning investigation into our depleted flora and fauna and imagination of what could be. Monbiot provides a list of species that could be considered for reintroduction to Britain ranging from the very obvious (beaver) to the ‘Likely to face certain political difficulties’ (spotted hyena). He also has it in for sheep – ‘sheepwrecked’ being his term of choice for much of the British uplands.

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