Here are my favorite books that I’ve read in 2013 (not necessarily published in 2013) in absolutely no particular order. I’d also love to hear from you on which books were your favorites. Best wishes and happy reading for 2014!
Jon Levenson, Inheriting Abraham
Levenson is one of my favorite scholars of biblical studies and he’s on my “read everything s/he writes” list. Inheriting Abraham is a completely fascinating look at the traditions of Abraham as they appear in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Levenson argues (persuasively, IMO) that the traditions are different enough that we should no longer talk about “Abrahamic” religions as if they all share the same understandings about this figure. And, as a bonus, I interviewed Levenson about this book for Marginalia.
Stephane Michaka, Scissors
A completely engrossing and wonderfully written novel inspired by the short story writer, Raymond Carver, along with his wife and editor. If you are a writer yourself, you will love this book. And if you’re not, you’ll still love it.
Russell Norman, Polpo
My favorite cookbook. A true work of art and the recipes are deliciously, traditionally Venetian while still easy to prepare.
Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek
What is the Bible? Why do different Christian traditions use different forms of it? This is a fascinating and helpful book for anyone interested in studying the Bible and learning of its origins and reception within Christendom.
Stephen Harrigan, The Eye of the Mammoth
A collection of essays so well written that you’ll be fascinated with as obscure things as the scientific study of road kill.
R. W. L. Moberly, Old Testament Theology
Along with Ben Sommer and John Rogerson, Moberly is one of my favorite scholars to read on the topic of theology of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. This book reads representative passages from the Hebrew Bible in light of the insights of contemporary criticism as well as received traditions of the Christian faith to form a very substantial and thoughtful picture of the messages of the Old Testament.
Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences about Writing
If you read one book about the craft of writing make it this one. It is both inspirational and practical. Also, check out my interview with Klinkenborg for Marginalia.
Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton
Rushdie’s memoir that focuses on his life under the fatwa. Like all of Rushdie’s work, the writing is fabulous and the story moves at a good clip.
Miguel A. De La Torre, Latina/o Social Ethics
This book challenges the traditional foundation of Christian Ethics by exposing the fact that these approaches support the structures of those in power instead of the marginalized of society. It will change the way you view the entire field of ethical studies.
Matthew Specktor, American Dream Machine
This novel sets the standard for stories about Hollywood. It has a main character that you will simultaneous love and hate, and it’s ending is one that you’ll never forget.
Paul Theroux, Last Train to Zona Verde
A travel memoir from an absolute master. If you’ve ever wanted to wrap your head around the glories and challenges of Africa, this is the book for you.
Tim Parks, Italian Ways
It’s a book about exploring Italy via the railroad. It’s one of the most incredible books I’ve read. Do yourself a favor and read it.
Julian Barnes, Levels of Life
It’s Julian Barnes. He explores his grief and experience of loss at the death of his wife. One of the most tender, insightful, and profound books I’ve read.
Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss
Wiman explores his return to the Christian faith after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer. His reflections are anything but neat and tidy but rather the complex thoughts of one of the most interesting poets of our time.
Christopher M. Hays and Christopher Ansberry, Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism
Evangelicals have tended to have a reactionary stance toward mainstream biblical scholarship in which they retreat into traditionalism and fail to be honest with the reality of the biblical text. Hays and Ansberry show that this is not only unhelpful but completely unnecessary.
Michael Frayn, Skios
A novel which produces hilarity through unfolding chaos.
Leopardi was a linguist, poet, and polymath. Canti is a collection of some of his stark poems mainly about Italy and Zibaldone is his collection of notes. Both are tremendously fascinating and pleasures to read.