Top Books of 2006

Some lists have an air of pretension about them—I hope this one does not. I’m no more qualified to pick the “best” books of the year than anyone else. I didn’t major in English Literature, and I haven’t written a book, I just love books and stories and reading passionately. So I hope you’ll comment in this section and tell everyone what your favorite picks of the year are. You might give me and other readers some great ideas for books to set on our nightstands.

Lastly, everyone is interested in the best books that were published this year, so I shouldn’t mention Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry, Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott, Brides of the Desert by Saskia Murk-Jansen or The River Why by David James Duncan. But if this list could contain all wonderful books I’ve read, both old and new, those titles would be on it. Remember, readers, you have no such limitations!

With no further ado, I give you, in my humble opinion, the best books of 2006:

How (Not) To Speak of God by Peter Rollins

A divisive book that is incredibly fun to discuss with friends. I admire Rollins’ ability to put nebulous ideas into words. He captures and articulates much of what has been messy about the postmodern church movement. You may disagree with what he has to say, but doesn’t that make the discussion more interesting?

Forgetfulness by Ward Just

No matter what your theology, I think it’s good to read about forgiveness from a secular viewpoint. Atheists talk about forgiveness too, and at times seem to practice it more faithfully than Christians do. It teaches empathy to imagine things from another perspective, and it takes empathy to forgive. I loved the way the author was able to sympathize with the culture of retaliation even while criticizing it.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville

I know a little about my country’s atrocities to its native people. Sadly, until reading this book, I didn’t know as much about Australia’s. You can read this book for a heartbreaking history lesson. You can read it to watch diverging desires tear an egalitarian marriage apart. You can read it for the lovely evocation of the wild Australian outback. But for any and all these reasons, read it.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

A spooky bed-time tale for those of us adults who still like stories about magic, and for those of us still haunted by childhood.

Given: Poems by Wendell Berry

Perhaps you don’t like poetry. It’s confusing and dense. It doesn’t make sense. It’s long and boring. And if it talks about God it sounds like a Hallmark card. You are not alone—but you might join those of us who like poetry if you read a little Wendell Berry. His verse is anchored in the commonplace of life and nature; his rage at those in power is as unsettling as his written worship of God is beautiful.

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Winkie by Clifford Chase

Be prepared—it’s a story about a teddy bear on trial for terrorism. Okay, it’s a crazy premise to begin a novel on, but the novel works, perfectly satirizing our paranoid times. Calling up the Salem Witch trials, Scopes, Galileo and Oscar Wilde, the novel is clever, and the bear makes it fascinating.

Dwelling Places by Vinita Hampton Wright

I have a prejudice against books described as “Christian Fiction” because they usually aren’t very good. There’s a moral to be handed to the readers, the characters are two-dimensional and must learn “lessons” in the course of the story. None of this applies to Dwelling Places, and that may be why it has a special place in my heart this year. The characters are messy and make big mistakes, which they don’t always repent of. I enjoyed this book despite my prejudices.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A story about a father and son making their way through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, struggling not only to survive, but to find a reason to do so. Through starvation and freezing weather and gangs of madmen on the loose, the father protects and guides his son, hoping that somewhere they might find an enclave of “good guys”—those who have survived and who might provide a way to live in community. McCarthy’s genius shows in how much he expresses and allows the reader to feel with so few words. Absolutely stunning. The best book of the year, in my humble opinion.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to let me know what you’ve enjoyed this year!

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