This is the fifth New Years row I have listed the books I read in the previous year. It is a useful way to organize my thoughts and then to look back on longer patterns and connections. Briefly, the years I have previously written this, along with the “Best” and “Runner-up” books from each year, are
- 2020: Best: Principles of Catholic Theology, by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
Odd Take-Away: The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency, by Anne Jacobsen has information, in one chapter written well before the pandemic, about vaccines that are fascinating, seemingly relevant to the Covid response, and completely ignored by nearly everyone.
- 2019: Best: A History of the Future, by Blake Harris
Runner Up: Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, by Annie Jacobsen (same author as the “DAPRA” book above)
- 2018: Best: Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, by Jordan B. Peterson
Runner Up: The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton.
- 2017: Best: The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu
Too many runners up!: Unseen Realm, Medieval Christianity, Confessions, and St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas, and the poorly named Eight Homilies Against the Jews were all reality-shifting reads, and the effect was compounded by reading them so closely together
The best book I read this year was Joseph Ratzinger’s Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. Ratzinger explores classic Catholic conceptions of life and the afterlife (the basis for the imagery in Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain), and does so in a way that surveys modern theology, the Bible, the Church Fathers, and the beliefs of Second Temple Judaism and even the Eastern Orthodox. Ratzinger describes Purgatory as both “Hades” and “Paradise” in the Bible, as the expected destination for nearly all, and possibly endless but not eternal. It is an amazing book.
Unfortunately, my reading of the Qur’an slowed way down this year. The utter mystery and confusion I remember feeling in early chapters is gone. The Qur’anic author seems to be writing homilies for an Arian Catholic audience, living after the last Arian bishops, teaching the progressive revelation of Sacraments, and referencing readings from an extended canon with particular attention to Syrian writings. My existing style of close reading feels like tedious overkill given this, and I may need to reconsider how I take notes on the Qur’an going forward.
The Holy Bible
Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
Faith Alone: The Heart of Everything, by Bo Giertz
Jesus of Nazareth From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate, by Trempor Longman III and John H. Walton
Testing the Boundaries: Windows to Lutheran Identity, by Charles P. Arand
The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies, by Ben Fritz
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, by Robert Iger with Joel Lovell
Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC, by Reed Tucker