Every December, news feeds and timelines are filled with articles detailing the best of the year that has passed us by. In order to pen such a list, the author(s) involved must be devoted to the subject matter, carefully detailing the latest releases, whether that be books, movies, music, or anything else which they desire to write about.
I have never been one to keep up with the changing media our culture throws at us. Thus, I have never been able to pen a list of the best of the year that was. Additionally, I am certainly no expert in any cultural media, another inhibitor to my ability to pen such a list.
This year, however, I have decided to modify such lists, not declaring the best books which were released in 2017 -- I do not have time to keep up with such a category. I spend most of my time reading dead guys, after all. Because of this, I have decided to share a list of the top books that I read this past year. Being a graduate student, some of these books were my choice to read, while others were assigned to me. Also, as I am currently writing my thesis on Karl Barth and disability theology, it is natural that the bulk of my list is made up either of Karl Barth, or disability theologians. Finally, I have made a list of honourable mentions below - split into books I finished reading and many I did not - because I read many great books this year that did not make the top 10.
10 - Witness to the Word: A Commentary on John 1 - Karl Barth: We all know about Barth's commentary on Romans, but many do not know of his many smaller commentaries on various books of the Bible. This short, accessible commentary on John 1 is comprised of lectures Barth gave. The content of these lectures heavily influenced Barth's work in one of his greatest works, Church Dogmatics II/2.
9 - Dementia: Living in the Memories of God - John Swinton: I am a big fan of Swinton's work. He is a quality disability theologian who cares deeply for the church. Swinton's book on Dementia will not only benefit those who know persons inhibited by the disease, but all people who live life in community.
8 - Anabaptism: Neither Catholic Nor Protestant - Walter Klaasen: A short book that is now a little bit dated, Klaasen's Anabaptism provides a great introduction to what sets Anabaptism apart from both Catholicism and Mainline Protestantism. A welcome read for anyone wanting to depart from Bender's thesis.
7 - Confessions - St. Augustine of Hippo: Arguably the most well-known and widely read book in the history of Christian theology, some people may argue that this book is too low on my list, and I did contemplate placing it higher. Confessions intertwines biography with contemplation, desiring to show the reader how one can become more attentive to God.
6 - Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be - John Roth: Another short, accessible introduction to Mennonite history. Roth does a great job surveying the Mennonite story, providing a great starting point for anyone wanting to dig deeper into the Mennonite tradition.
5 - Church Dogmatics III/2 - Karl Barth: We're not into the top five, and to be honest, the order of these books probably changed ten times before posting. Any of them could be placed at any spot within the top five. However, in fifth spot, we find Barth's CD III/2, a book that changed how I understand the human person. For most of Christian history, we have understood humanity primarily through the fall. Barth, however, moves to understand the human person. It's a game changer.
4 - Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality - Thomas Reynolds: Hospitality is at the heart of the gospel, and persons with disability deserve a place within the community of hospitality. Reynolds makes a case for the church to extend hospitality to persons with disability in a read that would benefit any church goer.
3 - Evangelical Theology - Karl Barth: In what became one of my favourite Barth reads, Evangelical Theology is a collection of lectures from Barth's last trip to America. It represents an accessible introduction to Barth's true theology. You won't want to miss the chapter on Wonder.
2 - Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics - Hans Reinders: I almost didn't write my thesis because of this book, and that is a good thing. Reinders lays out such an adequate account of disability theology that I wondered if there was anything left for me to write. In a sense, I am doing with Barth what he did with Aquinas. To summarize this book, go make friends with a person with disability.
1 - Church Dogmatics II/2 - Karl Barth: I don't know of any book that has shaped my thought more than CD II/2. Moving beyond the predestination/free will debate, Barth's doctrine of election is profound, theologically robust, and challenging all in one. I would recommend this to any serious theology student. You won't be disappointed.
Honorable Mentions (completed): Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor - David Augsburger; I and Thou - Martin Buber; Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities - Deborah Beth Creamer; Being Human, Being Church: The Significance of Theological Anthropology for Ecclesiology - Patrick Franklin; With the Grain of the Universe: The Church's Witness and Natural Theology - Stanley Hauerwas; Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues - Alasdair Macintyre; Karl Barth on the Christian Life: Practical Knowledge of God - Joseph Mangina; The Word Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought - Margaret Miles; Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch - John Webster; Karl Barth and the Problem of War and Other Essays on Barth - John Howard Yoder
Honorable Mentions (incomplete): The Work of Theology - Stanley Hauerwas; Working with Words: On Learning to Speak Christian - Hauerwas; A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge, and Identity - Chris Huebner; Karl Barth and Radical Politics - George Hunsinger, ed.; The Anabaptists - Hans Jürgen-Goertz; Power, Authority, and the Anabaptist Tradition - Benjamin and Calvin Redekop, eds.; Mennonites and Classical Theology: Dogmatic Foundations for Christian Ethics - A. James Reimer; The Lord's Supper in Anabaptism: A Study in the Christology of Balthasar Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck, and Dirk Philips - John Rempel; The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World - Miroslav Volf; Martyrs Mirror: A Social History - Dennis Weaver Zercher; Barth's Moral Theology: Human Action in Barth's Thought - John Webster