The Common Good

A Year of Reading

Although I didn't read as much or as widely as I would have liked this past year (having a baby and moving cross-country had something to do with that), I did encounter quite a few good books. Here's my short list of those that most captured my attention -- some published this past year, others not. Happy reading to all!

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Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

What Would Jesus Deconstruct? by John Caputo. Caputo's exploration of the philosophical roots of deconstruction and why it offers good news to the church is an accessible introduction to postmodern concepts. I appreciated the practical application of deconstruction in regard to how it leads to justice.

Surprised by Hope, by N.T. Wright. A must-read for anyone interested in defining and developing a biblical view of salvation and Christian hope. This book impacted me most as a mother as I struggle to impart to my children biblical (as opposed to simply cultural) conceptions of faith and eschatology.

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, by Scot McKnight. This is the book I've recommended most this year. It's a succinct and humble exploration of biblical interpretation and how we all pick and choose which parts of the Bible to follow. I appreciate the use of the women in ministry example as the main focus of the book.

Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries throughout History, by Lucien X. Polastron. Reading about the repeated occurrence of and reasons behind the destruction of books (and therefore knowledge) in recorded history, it is hard not to feel a longing for all that has been lost. I found the information on the most recent destruction of libraries -- by U.S. troops in Iraq and in the impending obsolescence of certain media forms -- to be the most disturbing in that it is hard to believe people still willingly choose to destroy knowledge these days.

The Great Emergence, by Phyllis Tickle. From the woman who has her finger on the pulse of religious trends in the U.S., this overview of the changes emerging within the Christian world is encouraging. In her view change is inevitable, but instead of lamenting the dismantling of certain cultural traditions in Christianity, she helps provide hope in the developing forms for the future.

And on a totally different note --The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer. I gave in to the hype and read the bestselling teenage vampire romance series this year -- four times in a row. Asking the question "When you can live forever, what do you live for?" the series is actually a good companion to Wright's Surprised by Hope and resonates with eschatological hope. Exploring what it means to be good with eternity in mind, Twilight attracts readers with a love story and then pushes us toward spiritual contemplation.

Julie Clawson is the author of the forthcoming book Everyday Justice (IVP 2009). She blogs at and

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