As someone who tries to read a reasonable amount, and also reviews books quite regularly, I occasionally get emails like this:
“I’m looking for a Christmas present for my theologically literate son in law Just wondering what’s the best book you have read this year?
As I intended to read over 100 books this year, and am hoping to at least achieve that 100, I’ve read more widely and strangely than years before.
But, the question above terrifies me. What is the best book I’ve read this year? What would I want to say to someone theologically literate?
I think that a book is an invitation to a conversation.
So, because emails are inherently conversational whilst also fundamentally irritating, I wrote back for the sake of clarification. Dave responded:
“Tim* runs a 5* hotel and is a foodie. He has never done theological training but reads theologically and has read a lot of N.T Wright’s work. He is persuaded that to reach postmoderns you need to engage them with the Big Story of the Bible. He is interested in community transformation, social enterprise, and though being quite charismatic has an interest in developing a liturgy for generation z and millennials. He is a busy man who probably mostly reads when he is on holiday.
Well that helps, actually. The idea that someone is involved in food and hospitality and ‘get’s’ theological ideas means that I’d probably want to recommend Chris Lane’s Ordinary Miracles. But then (And I read this last year) I’d also want to recommend Gordon Smith’s Evangelical, Sacramental, Pentecostal (At least until Andrew Wilson’s new book comes out). But bluntly, in order to throw a spanner in the works, I’d want to recommend ‘Creator Spirit’ by Stephen Guthrie – a profound book that challenged me about what it meant to be human or/and creative.
To recommend a book is to try to understand someone. No one book will work for everyone. There are some great books which will work for multiple people. But ultimately, recommending a book is a personal thing.
And that is exactly what it should be.