January 24, 2012
More Subjective Treatments for the Best of 2011
"Everybody thinks their opinion is the right one," says Anne Lamott. "If they didn't, they would get a new one."
It's one of my favorite quotes, and the one that keeps running through my head as I try to put an objective spin on my favorite IVP books of 2011. Honestly, it's a ridiculous idea. We label things like books and movies and music and art as "favorites" not solely for what they are (for their transporting melodies or poetic prose) but for how they make us feel, and for what they reveal about our own souls. Remaining objective requires that we leave behind that which is uniquely us--our biases and idiosyncrasies, our experiences and baggage--that which has shaped us and formed us and leaves us longing for more. Objective is boring. And, I'd argue, impossible.
And so favorites, like opinions, are as subjective as they come. If not, we'd all run off and get new ones. With that epiphany, here's my Subjective Best of 2011.
Publishers Weekly called Invitations from God by Adele Calhoun "a persistent critique of modern culture and of status quo Christianity." Hearts and Minds Books called it "a treasure" that requires us to take inventory of that which we accept and reject, and to examine how it shapes who we are.
It also happens to be written by a friend of mine. I met Adele six years ago when my husband accepted a job at the church where Adele worked. I knew her first as pastor, then as mentor and now as friend. During pseudo-therapy sessions on her sofa or muddy hikes through the woods, our conversations dripped with both the anticipation and the anxiety (mostly mine) of hearing and responding to God's invitations.
I wasn't alone. I watched hundreds of women flock to sit at her feet, to soak in her teaching, to sop up her wisdom. To pretend I don't bring the knowledge of who she is and the difference her words have made in the lives of others, including my own, to the pages of this book is, well, ridiculous. "Invitations shape who we know, where we go, what we do and who we become," says Adele. Both her words and her actions have done the same for me. Subjective Favorite #1 goes to her.
I fell in love with God Behaving Badly the moment I read the subtitle: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? What a seriously fantastic question! It represents countless conversations with my own father, a man of deep faith who has struggled, like so many of us, to understand how a loving God could seemingly be (and these are my words now) so dang mean. More often than not, those conversations found me bumbling along until I'd finally shrug my shoulders and concede, "Honestly Dad, I don't really get it either."
And so when I cracked open this book and found the conversational style with which David Lamb answers some of our hardest questions, I was overflowing with thanks. (Later, when I realized Lamb is an Old Testament professor who actually has the gift of teaching, I was smitten. My parents, both retired school teachers, remain the best teachers I've ever known.) When Christmas rolled around, I eagerly wrapped up this book and gave it to my dad, a reflection of the bond we've shared as we've earnestly pursued our Creator. God Behaving Badly wins Subjective Favorite #2.
Choosing only two favorites doesn't seem like nearly enough, especially when I scan the plethora of passionate, insightful, transformational books here at IVP. But favorites, unlike opinions, do have a limit.