Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 10 books of 2006 - intro

2006 has probably been the most fruitful reading year I've had in a long time. The search for new ways to procrastinate during revision, the extra time after Finals, a summer in which no compulsory reading lists intruded all contributed to this, I think. And although I no longer quite possess the simple, unalloyed joy I had as a child, when I read under the covers long after I was meant to be catching some shut-eye (I'm now tainted by both cynicism and a shorter attention span), it is still pleasurable to encounter new things as familiar, and familiar things as new, to paraphrase the novelist William Thackeray.

There were some interesting trends this year, at least in the UK. In the fiction market, the chick-lit, "yummy mummy" books flooded the market; obviously people believed they would sell. Don't know if they did. I noticed that non-Anglo-American authors writing in English/having their works translated into English received a higher profile than ever - the Indians have been around for a while now, but there are more Japanese and Chinese appearing on the scene, as well as Africans. And of course, second or third generation migrants - there was Amy Tan, Rushdie, and Ishiguro first, now there's plenty more.

Will be interesting to see where that leads. In the non-fiction market, just about every footballer feels the need to publish a biography - Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, John Terry...why, oh why? I can understand if it's say, Alan Shearer, but none of these footballers are even close to retirement yet! And also lots of shock memoirs, i.e people with horrific childhoods, be it abuse, or a severe disability such as Tourette's.

On the Christian side of things, I've noticed that IVP(UK) have recently been doing a lot of introductory-level books on a certain topic which often seem to have originated in a sermon series. Take, for eg. Graham Beynon's newest book, Experiencing the Spirit. There is usually a Bible exposition with an orientation towards application for each chapter. This is no bad thing, since it means that these books are explicitly grounded in Scripture and it is easier to see where the writer is coming from.

More broadly speaking, I'm not sure I know enough to discern anything - although judging from the bestsellers, I think it seems people are seeking for more clarity on gender roles, which is a really messy picture here in the West (so John Eldredge's books), or thirsting for something at an experiential, base level more generally (so Don Miller's books, or Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis). I can't think of a single, earth-shattering work. Some people are pushing for Tom Wright's Simply Christian, which I haven't read. I'm sure it's a very fine work, but it does strike me as a little hyperbolic to be proclaiming it this generation's Mere Christianity at this juncture.

Christianity Today also published their top 50 books that have shaped evangelicalism this year - a list that might have a little more relevance to Western evangelicalism but which has surely influenced non-Western evangelicalism as well.

A little note about my top 10 and how I picked it, it was all very arbitrary really. I don't have any criteria, I just picked works which obviously had some quality, which appealed to me, or just happened to seem important or which I really empathised with. I think my top 4 are fairly fixed, but 5-10 could easily have swapped places with each other, and on a different day, some other books might have made it into the top 10 instead.

So, next post - no.10 and no.9...


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