Books I've read (or listened to) this year and a short review if you're interested...
Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
This is a fascinating read about environmental (and therefore, human) sustainability. Diamond surveys several different societal collapses that all were predicated by environmental damage. It is a timely read...particularly as an American when you consider that the US is a small part of the world's population uses an incredible (and disproportionate amount) of the world's resources.
Deglobalization: Ideas for a New World Economy by Walden Bello
Thank you, thank you, thank you Emma for mailing me this book from Thailand. Wow. It is a book that every person interested in economy and global justice should read. He not only offers critique of the American trade policies and the organizations set up to keep America 'at the top' (IMF, World Bank, WTO), he also offers some constructive possibilities of other, more humane possibilities.
Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism by Douglas Rushkoff
Holly and I got to hear Rushkoff at a lecture in Knoxville last fall. Total fluke thing, but several of his thoughts really resonated with and challenged us. Considering himself a lapsed Jew, he offers constructive critique of the new-found fundamentalist Jewish systems, calling them to reformation...or even more, to revolution. He offers the ideas that the Jewish way/religion was set up as iconoclastic, intended to keep humanity from deifying any icon/person/idol/whatnot. And that the early Israelites always understood that they had a large place in the story of humanity...they were not simply waiting on God to do everything.The analogues to Christianity are overwhelming and compelling to consider. Certainly I didn't vibe with all of his suggestions, but a great many of them are so powerful to consider.
Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus by Ched Myers
I've talked about this before, but it's a great commentary on the story of Mark. Thick and well-researched, Myers is thorough in his explanation of peasant revolution, redistributive systems, and the Kingdom of God as earthly reality.
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (translated by John C.H. Wu)
Picked this up in Washington when we were up there several weeks back. Holly and I have been reading it out loud to each other. So much wisdom found in it's pages. Understanding the historical context has helped me see what Lao Tzu is offering in his pages. This is a great book for leadership, understanding the Kingdom of God in another tradition, or simply pondering.
When Brian McLaren told us his hunch that First Century Palestinian Judaism was primarily a Danielic cult, I figured I ought to go back and re-read Daniel. It is where the phrase "Son of Man" finds it's origin...and in certain places in the text is plural. It's a wild ride of revelation and interpretation, foretelling of the future and understanding that the Kingdom of God is being "built" amidst these other kingdoms of the world...offering a different locus of power and purpose...and I'd suggest even different from many religious manifestations/institutions as well.
Upon re-reading Mark's Gospel of Jesus, I realized that much of the prophecy that the author attributes Jesus fulfilling comes from Isaiah. For many who understand Jesus simply as a figure who died so humanity might go to heaven, this book might give some context around what it was that Jesus was supposed to be doing...namely bringing about justice and peace in this world, here and now. It's also an interesting reminder (up against Daniel) about how the Biblical understanding of God was constantly changing, all throughout Scripture. This book refers to God sometimes in an almost Hindu Brahman sort of way... The Holy. But be warned, this is a interesting paradox of violence and compassion...and I found myself at some points writing in the margins, "What the hell?!?".
The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
Still not entirely done with this one, so I'll hold off. The book club has stirred up some interesting conversation.
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Thank God for Howard Zinn. His diligence in researching and gathering of stories in order to tell the history of the United States from the perspective of the marginalized, the pacifists during war-time, the economically/racially-oppressed. While he does not entirely dismiss textbook history, he feels that histories written solely from the upper-class, powerful perspective can only do more harm than good if taken too seriously. His chronicle is both inspiring and indicting. Best to read in small portions and explore similarities to our world today.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Thanks to Lora for allowing us to listen to this book on CD. It's autobiographical about her husband's death and the year to follow that. It is a moving story that Holly and I just couldn't pull ourselves away from.
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Towes
Brilliant story of a young girl growing up in a Mennonite community. Written from an adolescent, first-person perspective, it's fun, funny, and sad... sometimes on the same page. Her confusion about her family's strange religious tradition and her place in all of it makes for great story-telling.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
What if we understood social patterns and movements less in linear equations and more in exponential equations, like say, an epidemic? Gladwell explains his simple, but very interesting insight on how social phenomenon begin and either take-off or putter-out.
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas Friedman
Very informative book. While I don't necessarily share his faith in a global free-market, his exhortation to think more imaginatively and creatively and cooperatively found home in my psyche. The book gives (for the most part) a fair assessment on globalization if you read it all the way through. There were times where I wish he were more clear on some of the unethical practices of these pro-globalist forces.