With 2014 around the corner, here is my best of 2013…
Best Ministry Book – Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller. I’m a big fan of biblical theology and for years have heard people drop the name of Goldsworthy’s book whenever the topic arose. After reading it I can see why. Although I’ve read other books by Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom is the best combination of a book on biblical theology that is understandable, approachable, and comprehensive.
I can’t stand Tim Keller! It’s not because he is someone to shun but because every thing I’ve ever read from him is so incredibly good and insightful that he makes me sick (with jealousy). The beauty of Keller is that he knows the framework from which he wants to minister (e.g., the Gospel as center) and his books are consistent with that framework. His book on marriage is no exception. The Meaning of Marriage is by far the best book I have ever read on marriage (and I’ve read quite a few). By the way, for those who want to know what it is to live and minister with the gospel as center, I would recommend the first section of his book Center Church. It is a wonderful primer on gospel-centrality.
* Honorable Mention – Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper.
Best Fiction –
Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy. Like Radiohead for music, when it comes to literature, Cormac McCarty is my favorite modern author. I have read at least one of his works the past few years and, naturally, they tend to vault to my most favorite reads. With that said, I read three of his novels in 2013 and would put Cities of the Plain as one of my books of the year. Cities is the third and concluding novel of McCarthy’s The Border Trilogy – about life on and around the Mexico border in the mid-1900’s. It brings together the main characters of the first two books in the series and concludes their stories with an end that literally left me in tears. It’s funny, picturesque, tragic, and terribly beautiful. I don’t remember recently being as moved by a book as I was with Cities. My first book of 2013 was my favorite of 2013.
Best Fiction not by Cormac McCarthy – Issac’s Storm by Erik Larson. This choice was tough because before the year started, one of my goals was to read more fiction. I followed through and read more novels in one year than maybe any other time in my life. And though some were deemed modern classics (e.g. Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying), Lawson’s tale was my favorite. It’s based on the 1900 hurricane that literally changed Galveston forever. It was America’s largest natural disaster on record (over 6,000 killed and 1/3rd of the city destroyed). The book follows senior U.S. Weather Bureau official Isaac Cline as he and the city in which he lives endures the worst storm ever recorded to hit the United States. Larson writes in both an attractive and absorbing fashion. It was like reading a thriller – truly a page-turner of a novel – and the amount of destruction and havoc the Galveston hurricane brought felt almost biblical in scope. Adding to the story is the fact that I live about 30 minutes from Galveston. Much of what Larson described had a real-time place in my head. Indeed, the day I finished Isaac’s Storm I drove to Galveston and walked through the areas of the city described in the book. Larson’s offering is truly an absorbing read from start to finish.
*Honorable Mention – Buddy Levy’s Conquistador and Kim MacQuarrie’s The Last Days of the Incas. My friend Justin Buzzard remarked how he was enjoying Levy’s work about Hernan Cortes’ conquest of the Aztecs. So I grabbed it as well and could see early on why he liked it so much. To read about the Spanish invasion of Mexico is both sobering and fascinating. After finishing Conquistador I thought about continuing to learn about the Spanish conquest of the New World. MacQuarrie’s novel details the Spanish conquest of the Incas in Peru. It’s a tale of intrigue, betrayal, and the thirst for more.
**Honorable, Honorable Mention – The Son by Philipp Meyer. I’m sorry. I told you I read a lot of books. It’s hard not to rank all twenty-five I read this year. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Meyers’ epic tale of a Texas family that is a ruthless quest for power while trying to find its soul. Spanning three generations. Meyer confronts the reader with his own moral/spiritual commitment by gazing in the mirror of the McCullough family.
Best Album – Uncaged by Zac Brown Band. Two things should make this hard to believe. First, ZBB’s album actually came out July 2012. However, I didn’t hear it until the next year so I’m putting in with 2013. Secondly, this is a country album and I’m not a modern country music kind of guy. If it’s country give me Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and the like. However, Uncaged is an album that demands to be listened to. Part country, part rock, part reggae – it defies a simple musical category but is wonderful from start to finish.
*Honorable Mention – Reflektor by Arcade Fire. This isn’t an attempt to regain any musical credibility. I sincerely love Arcade Fire’s latest offering. I must confess, it took a couple of listens to figure out what I really thought about it. But soon the originality and sincerity of the album rubbed me in all the right ways. I felt after listening to it, Reflektor compared somewhat in spirit with Radiohead’s Kid A, an album that no one saw coming but musically redefined a group that everyone thought they had pegged. Regardless how you feel about Arcade Fire, they defy the “stay with the formula that works” strategy that often limits artists, putting cash over creativity.
Best Movie – Silver Linings Playbook Yancey, you know this is a rated-R movie don’t you? Yup. It’s got explicit language, sexual content, and other elements that make it a movie for adults. True, yet it was one of the most touching stories I have seen in years. One that humanized mental illness and instead of making viewers feel pity for the characters, Silver Linings Playbook exhorted us to respect them and count them as one of us. As a follower of Jesus, I thought the movie did a great job of showing the brokenness in all people – not only those who are clinically certified as such. Additionally, and importantly, sin isn’t glorified but seen as the trouble and pain it truly is in us and around us. While Jennifer Lawrence won an Academy Award for her acting, Bradley Cooper in my opinion makes the movie what it is. Once again, this may not be a movie for everyone. For me, it was so enthralling that I re-watched different scenes in order to make sure I felt the full impact of the film.
Best Trip That Wasn’t Fandango – Acts 29 Pastors’ Retreat at Newport Beach, CA. For the third year in a row, the time with wife along with my fellow Acts 29 pastors and their wives was a one of the highlights of my year.
Best Moment of 2013 – Baptizing my youngest son Beckett this month.
Second Best Moment of 2013 – My alma mater, Baylor University, winning the Big XII Championship in football. 😉