Writings by Cole Huffman


The Books List 2015

“I have never understood people who don’t have bookshelves.” George Plimpton said that. Twenty years into ministry mine are almost full, which makes me feel less like a voluminous reader and more like the bigger barns guy in Luke 12. Except that I read in order to be rich toward God, even when reading about mithridatism, a practice I don’t recommend (from a book I won’t recommend). The following books aren't all recommendations, but I gained something from each one:

How Dante Can Save Your Life (Rod Dreher):
Walking through chronic illness and disappointment, Dreher found a surprising companion in Dante. Creative, convictional, my book of the year.

Shop Class as Soulcraft (Matthew Crawford):
“The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on.” I wish I were better with the socket wrench.

Onward (Russell Moore):
“The Bible Belt is teetering toward collapse, and I say let it fall.” Provocative, culturally insightful, if I could put one book in the hands of every civil religionist I know it’s this one.

How (Not) to Be Secular (James K. A. Smith):
“How, in a relatively short period of time, did we go from a world where belief in God was the default assumption to our secular age where belief in God seems, to many, unbelievable?”

Demonology Past and Present (Kurt E. Koch):
“The Prince of Darkness grim,” Luther wrote, “we tremble not for him.” I needed to treble my understanding of satanic ways and means, and this book by a German pastor did that.

The Skeletons in God’s Closet (Joshua Ryan Butler):
Hell is real and God has a right to judge people, but how do we articulate these doctrines to people who reject God because of them? A superb study, biblically faithful and highly readable, on matters Christians and non-Christians both struggle with.

400 Things Cops Know (Adam Plantinga):
Son of theologian Cornelius Plantinga, and veteran of the Milwaukee and San Francisco police departments, the book is a vicarious ride-along. Officer Plantinga doesn’t spare readers the grittier details of life on patrol.

Imagine (Steve Turner):
About Christians and the arts. In its pages I finally found what I’ve been looking for, which is a resonant interpretation of my favorite pop song of all time, U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Yes, I’m still running.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (Mason Currey):
Some writers, composers, sculptors, et al. are very industrious. Some waste all kinds of time, experience torturous creative blocks, etc. Creative types really are in a league of their own sometimes: “I don’t approve of people who watch television,” said one virtuoso pianist, “but I am one of them.”

All The Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr):
It took Doerr ten years to write this interwoven WWII fiction. He could render Nutrition Facts on the side of cereal boxes into compelling prose. He could narrate paint drying captivatingly.

America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation (Grant Wacker):
It’s estimated Graham preached in person to more people than any other in history: nearly 215 million people in 99 countries, and perhaps as many as 2 billion more by telecasts. Of all the letters addressed to him, some actually wrote to tell him his hair was too long for a preacher.

The Road to Character (David Brooks):
He explores the difference between what he calls résumé virtues and eulogy virtues, and the shift to a “Big Me” society. Brooks says character is a set of dispositions, desires, and habits that are slowly engraved during struggles against our own weaknesses and sins.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (Jon Ronson):
The phenomenon of being shamed online for our weaknesses and sins, the modern version of medieval village stocks. Ronson introduces readers to people whose lives were effectively ruined by online shaming, and others who relish being shamed. That seventy thousand people applied to benefit from a European court’s “Right to Be Forgotten” ruling (to have one’s online life expunged from search engines) makes you ache for people.

The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll (Mark Edmundson):
As a young man he lived it up in seedy 1970s New York City. But he learned, “A sexual life full of shifts and twists only makes us dizzy. We step out of a hastily entered bed feeling like we’ve stepped off a twirling, whirling ride at the carnival. At the disco, I found that fast-moving Eros wasn’t my game. It wasn’t it for me. Through the pursuit of this so-called joy, my life became a more melancholy thing."

Building a Timeless House in an Instant Age (Brent Hull):
The author owns a construction company specializing in historical restoration and period architecture. “In my company, the 1940s have always been a demarcation point. We have always considered houses built before 1950 to have better bones and style than those built after that time. Since the late 1940s, homebuilding changed because the character and habits of the builders changed.”

Beautiful Boy (David Sheff):
A journalist father’s memoir of almost losing his son to drugs.

Stations of the Heart (Richard Lischer):
A pastor/professor father’s memoir of losing his son to cancer.

The Dadly Virtues (ed. Jonathan Last):
I needed a lighthearted book about fatherhood. Found it in this compilation of humorous essays by contributors to the Weekly Standard, National Review, and the Wall Street Journal.

A Literary Education and Other Essays (Joseph Epstein):
“I have myself in recent years grown tired of hearing people describe their life, their job, their marriage, and even cancer as ‘a journey.’ If it is, how come so few first-class tickets are dispensed?”

 

In Christ, we’re more the destination type, yes? I’m now reading David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions, Rebecca DeYoung’s Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice, and David Gregory’s How’s Your Faith?, a book born from that question President Bush posed to him when Gregory was covering the White House for NBC. In 2016, may your reading grow your faith and your appreciation of God’s matchless grace. The Bible remains the best book. Tolle lege.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 11:28 AM
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