This “One Book Meme” (which showed up on Brad Penner’s blog Pensive) was fun to think through. I reproduce it here with some editing of categories, and my own answers, of course! Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what a Meme is–I had to look it up, too). I found a simple and helpful definition of Meme here:
In the context of web logs / ‘blogs / blogging and other kinds of personal web sites it’s some kind of list of questions that you saw somewhere else and you decided to answer the questions. Then someone else sees them and does them and so on and so on.
I answered one category a day for the last 10 or so days. Here’s my responses.
1) One book that changed your life
The Holy Bible. [If you think I’m trying to sound super-spiritual here, I’m not. It’s just true that the Bible has had a more profound and qualitatively different kind of impact on my life than any other book.]
2) One book you have read more than once
Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace. [I read it about once every year or two since it came out in 1996. It is one of the more profound books I’ve read in the last decade, and I still use it regularly for a class I teach on Forgiveness and Reconciliation. I feel I am better able to engage it critically now than when it first came out, but I still benefit from reading it over again.]
3) One book you want on a desert island
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/2. [I concur with Brad Penner on this one. I, too, would like to pick a “set”, in which case it would be, Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. But if I could only have one volume, I’d pick CD IV/2 (or maybe IV/3, but they split that one up into two part-part volumes!). It is in my opinion the closest thing to the “centre” of Barth’s work–and pretty long, too! That would help especially if I was stuck on the island for a long time!]
4) One book that made you laugh
Franz Kafka’s The Trial. [I realize the book isn’t necessarily supposed to make you laugh, because it is really a tragic tale. But I laughed at the absurdity of modern bureaucracy portrayed in the book.]
5) One book that made you cry
Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil. [Canadian General Dallaire’s autobiographical recounting of the frustrations and nightmares he had in trying to stop the genocide in Rwanda–and all the darkness and human failure that went with it–all while trying to convince the international community to listen and to support him in the mission. The book is long and brutal, but compelling in every way.]
6) One book you wish had been written
With Apologies to Russia: Retractions of a Rogue Dispensationalist
7) One book you wish had never been written
Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-Yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished Christian [Please!! I think G. K. Chesterton may be on to something when he said, “A man who stops believing in God doesn’t believe nothing; he believes anything.” The fact that I’m not even sure that I managed to copy the title correctly tells me that this book does more to confuse than clarify. It may sound clever, but it is far from satisfying for anyone looking for any sense of theological coherence. As one critic put it, it is only selectively generous, and not always obviously orthodox!]
8 ) One book you were forced to read and glad that you did
Oliver O’Donovan, Desire of the Nations. [This was one of several required texts in my very first doctoral seminars at McGill in 2000. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue about what O’Donovan was saying, but I knew it was profound as I stumbled through it. I’m glad I read it because it opened to me the whole field of the intersection of political theology and ecclesiology. A runner up here would be T. F. Torrance’s Space, Time and Resuurection. Again, I wasn’t entirely sure I even understood what Torrance was talking about, but I distinctly remember thinking, “This changes everything!”]
9) One book you have been meaning to read but its size has prevented you from reading it
Charles Taylor, A Secular Age. [I admire Professor Taylor’s work very much, though I have to admit I haven’t yet had the courage to tackle this nearly 900 page book in which he traces the development of the idea of secularity in the modern world relative to the presence of religion in society.]
10) One book everyone ought to read
I’ll admit I can’t think of any book (other than the Bible) that I could unqualifiedly say that EVERYONE should read. So I’ll narrow my selection to saying that all students of theology should read Karl Barth’s Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. [The title can be slightly misleading because the book isn’t really an overview of Barth’s theology, but his theological reflections about the very task of engaging in evangelical theology, including the challenges that theologians eventually face, including doubt, temptation, isolation, etc. If I were to retitle the book, it would be Spiritual Formation for Theologians. ]
How about you?