Here is my traditional offering (well I did it last year!)An opportunity to celebrate the best reading from all that was on offer during 2010.
There are no prizes, no awards ceremonies, no authors will be dining out on the prestige of gaining my approval. It is an exercise entirely dependent on personal taste & preference - these are the books which I have liked & preferred the most! You may disagree strongly, or you may not even care to read any further.
I shall open the golden envelope & read in reverse order -
5/ Abba's Child - Brennan Manning
This is not a new book, nor is it a new message, but no other book has moved me in this way during the year. Manning always writes with a freedom, best seen in his classic 'Ragamuffin Gospel. The legacy of Abba's Child is an ongoing, deepening intimacy with God & an aching hunger for more of his amazing grace in our lives.
4/ The Confession - John Grisham
Everyone needs to read a Grisham story from time to time. He is a fantastic story teller, & trawls his usual territory here in a race against time legal thriller. As the clock ticks on an innocent man heading for execution, the themes of repentance, forgiveness & redemption are strong. This was my first proper book on the Kindle, & I couldn't put it down.
3/ Reformation - Harry Reid
This was my 'big book' for the summer hols & it didn't disappoint. Much has been written on this pivotal era in history in recent years, yet Reid manages to write with a verve & freshness which is so engaging. This is much more than a text book. It will inform, & is particularly strong on the reformation in England & Scotland, but more than this, it will provoke, stirring a desire for truly biblical churches to arise again in the west.
2/ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
There was a point in March when I was so immersed in this story that I took it everywhere with me. I had avoided it for a while, refusing to read it, not wanting to jump on the best seller bandwagon - but finally it got me.
The back story is intriguing, the author dying young having just completed this trilogy - this is a genuine 'fresh voice' in fiction which publishers must long for, one which will sadly no longer speak. It is also a fresh setting - secular, modern Sweden. Dark, cold, fractured relationships, broken lives, Godless, empty landscapes - all sharp contrasts to the usual glossy big budget novels. This is surely part of the allure.
The writing is bold, the language & content very strong at times, but the book takes a worthy 2nd place in my awards league!
1/ The Book of Common Prayer - Thomas Cranmer
What! Some kind of mistake here surely? No, I bought the 450th Anniversary issue back in January last year & spent a happy 5 months working through it each day, a little at a time.
Based on the 1662 version, but boasting a brilliant introduction by scholar Diarmaid MacCulloch, this book is quite simply a masterpiece. Whether you read it to gain a snapshot on the turbulent years of the reformation, or with an eye on developing English language, or if you still find the flow of the daily prayers & scriptures to have a resonance - either way, nothing quite like it has been written before or since.
MacCulloch & others are convinced that Cranmer's flowing prose has done more for the rise of English nationalism & the spread of spoken English around the world than even Shakespeare. A conclusion that is open to question perhaps, but the fact that it remains so readable today, yet was written to engage 16th century English culture is amazing.
Many of my Anglican friends have expressed surprise at my being drawn into this work, especially as significant numbers of Anglicans have themselves spent years trying to get it out of their systems! Maybe it is because I didn't have it forced into me during my formative years that gives it such an impact now? Or maybe I've simply discovered a love for an old book which rises like a tide, gently lapping at every part, every moment of our lives. The seasons, the holy days, births, deaths, marriages, harvest & springtime, the nation - all soaked in scripture, all held up before the God whom we can know through His grace. That was Cranmer's great message to the Reformation church, & his words continue to teach us today.
Honourable mentions go to the following - Meltdown - Ben Elton. Juliet Naked - Nick Hornby. Mortal Engines - Philip Reeve. Forgotten God - Francis Chan.