With 2015 around the corner, here is my best of 2014…
Best Ministry Book – The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton. Walton’s book views the creation account of Genesis in light of the Ancient Near Eastern literature from which it came. However, while many theologically liberal schools would do the same in order to belie its inspiration, Walton steadfastly holds to the full inspiration and authority of Genesis 1 (he’s professor of Old Testament at Wheaton). The big question for Walton isn’t the truthfulness of Genesis 1 but the intention of it. Using the language, ideas, and understandings of that specific time and context, Walton asks, “What is Genesis 1 trying to communicate? How would the ancient Israelites read it? Are we making Genesis 1 answer questions it never meant to address?” He sees the arrangement of Genesis 1 as a “cosmic temple” construction. I found his conclusion both plausible and informative for Bible students who wrestle with the purpose behind the creation account. While Walton isn’t without controversy (he gives a nod to theistic evolution), his short book is definitely worth the read and my favorite book of 2014.
* Honorable Mention – Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sidney Greidanus. I ran across Dr. Greidanus during my doctoral work. His insights on biblical theology were astounding to me. They still are. His title says it all. Greidanus seeks to give the preacher a sound, repeatable way he can preach through the Old Testament with an eye to Jesus as its end. I really enjoyed his description of how preachers can incorrectly preach the Old Testament stories. There was a lot of repentance from me after reading PCFTOT. Greidanus’ work would be a cherished resource for any preacher for years to come.
Best Fiction not by Cormac McCarthy[ref]I’m a Cormac McCarthy fan. I’ve read all his works; three books this year including re-reading one of my favorite all-time novels Blood Meridian. So, I cannot be impartial when it comes to books and McCarthy.[/ref]–
The Passage by Justin Cronin. This book was recommended to me by a friend who would preface with the phrase, “Now, I this book has vampires and stuff, but it really is a good book. Like really good.” Well, I pushed it off for a year until I decided I wanted to read something fun and spontaneous. I couldn’t have been more pleased. Cronin’s novel is about a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by beings bent on seeking the demise of humanity. Sound silly? Try it! The Passage truly was a page-turner with little cliffhangers at the end of most chapters. What’s sad is that because it deals with vampire-like beings, the book might get marginalized. But I believe Cronin not only has a good story but writes one as well. It’s thoughtful, powerful, and exciting to boot! I was so taken with it that I immediately read his sequel The Twelve. My greatest problem is having to wait for the last book of the trilogy and Cronin, a Houstonian, is taking more time than his fans (and apparently his publisher) want. However, if City of Mirrors lives up to the first two books, it will be well worth the wait.
*Honorable Mention – The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene. I’m kinda on a Mexico kick. It started when I began to teach myself Spanish a couple years ago. Latin American countries fascinate me, so I wanted to read novels which included them in some form or fashion. Greene’s book is about a “whiskey priest” in Mexico who, although given to the bottle, is compelled to minister to the humble and broken people all the while his life is in jeopardy. The Power and The Glory is considered a classic by critics. I can see why. This book touched me not only for its human element but also its transcendence. This could easily swap with The Passage as a 2014 favorite since the two are such different genres.
Best Album – I listen to a lot of music but don’t buy many albums. However, I do have This is All Yours by Alt-J. This sophomore release continues to walk the path tread by the English band’s first album. It’s an eclectic mix of techo, rock, pop, acoustic, and whatever else they can find in the musical junk drawer. Somehow, they pull it off. This is one of the most originally sounding bands I’ve heard in a long time. Their critically acclaimed first album An Awesome Wave is amazing as well. Truly what indie rock should be about.
*Honorable Mention – Missio by Missio. This got in at the wire, I literally picked up this album less than a week ago. And even though it’s had little rotation in my earphones, I can say without reserve it’s absolutely fantastic. The sad truth is much Christian music is often syrupy, trite, or just bad art. Missio’s Matthew Brue is the welcome exception. This Austinite has created an album that stands on its own. It’s sounds big, ethereal, soundscape-ish with lyrics that actually mean something. I don’t know if I’ve heard an album like it. What I dig even more, is that Brue is integrated into a local church and doesn’t do high flying detached from the real world of God’s people. What a joy! Oh, if more Christian musicians would leave the ghetto of unoriginality and copycatism and push toward originality and excellence, the church might truly find herself in another renaissance. Kudos Matthew!
Best Movie – I don’t watch many movies. This year was no exception. The movies I did see I wouldn’t consider noteworthy. For example, I’m a Tolkien fan but thought Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy was extremely disappointing (in contrast to his excellent LOTR trilogy). Also, I really dig Wes Anderson flicks but felt The Grand Budapest Hotel was cute but a little too formulaic. I must say, however, Ralph Fiennes was amazing. The only movie I want to see but haven’t as of yet is Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. I love Nolan’s work and hope it’s exceptional.
Best Trip That Wasn’t Fandango – Grand Opening of McLane Stadium as it hosted Baylor first football game against SMU. Baylor is my alma mater. Some of my closest friends were my schoolmates. The fact that I not only attended the first game ever at the beautiful McLane Stadium but did so with some of my buds, made the trip a highlight of my year.
Best Moment of 2014 – Said alma mater winning back-to-back Big XII Championships in football.