Ryan’s Best Reads of 2016

  1. You are what you Love: The spiritual power of habit – James K.A. Smith

Hands down the best book I read all year. And I’ve read/listened to it 4 times now. In my opinion, Smith is re-thinking what it means to follow Jesus within a more truthful anthropology/cultural understanding and more helpfully than anyone else out there


2. Conversation & Communion: Leviticus – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

I can hear you doubting me already, but honestly nothing has forced me to re-think more about the nature of the Torah, scripture, hermeneutics and God’s relationship to Israel/us than this lovely collection of essays on the primary ideas of Leviticus from a Jewish viewpoint. Leviticus is the hermeneutical lens for the Torah – and it might very well be the hermeneutical lens for the Old Testament as a whole.


3. The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire – Alan Kreider

Leave it to a Mennonite scholar to think through the patient non-violent and non-anxious presence of the early church and how that posture was potentially their greatest asset and force of change within a violent, harsh and pessimistic time. Of course, meditating on how the early church embodied a non-anxious presence within a hasty, violent and anxious society won’t relate to us today at all…;)


4. Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism – Paul Vitz

Rarely does one come up with a new insight that explains a host of phenomena, but Vitz has somehow managed to do that here. How does the experience of our earthly fathers effect our spirituality and view of God? Has the wish for the non-existence of God deepened from bad experiences of real fathers? Does the lack of a father figure dominantly lead young men to move towards spirituality without a “godhead”? I have no idea, but you can read the book.


5. Killing Christians: Living the faith where its not safe to believe – Tom Doyle

Suffice to say that most of us have no clue what it means to stand in the name of Jesus with knives to our throats…but this is not about feeling guilty that we aren’t “real” Christians. These are stories of Muslims (who are followers of Jesus) who are embodying light and peace within very dark areas of the world solely for the sake of their enemies coming to know and love Jesus. If only the whole catholic church could see the Body of Christ from these people’s perspectives…perhaps we’d stop debating about petty ecclesial issues…


6. Parenting from the Inside Out: How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive – Daniel Siegel

Basic premise: your mental/spiritual/emotional health deeply effects your child’s health in every interaction and on a daily basis. Common sense indeed, but these authors give the neuroscience and practical ideas on how parents can learn to care for our children by making sure we do our own work first…


7. Disarming Scripture: why we all need to learn to read the Bible like Jesus did – Derek Flood

One of the most exciting hermeneutical studies read all year – where Flood attempts (and succeeds) to guide us how to read scripture through the hermeneutical lens of how Jesus seems to have understood and interpreted the nature of God in the OT.


8. Courage to Be – Paul Tillich

A theological and psychological classic that I just got around to reading – which as it turned out – I read at literally the most perfect time in my mental development. And by that I mean that I didn’t understand much of what he says here at all, but the little I did understand has deeply affected how I see the gospel as intricately connected to identity-formation and death-denial.


9. Trinity in Stone-Campbell Movement: Restoring the heart of Christian faith – Kelly Carter

A very comprehensive and brilliant analysis of the Stone-Campbell’s key leaders’ attempts to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity, which as Carter aptly shows, the failure of which has had a devastating impact on how we (COC) understand the nature of God and the gospel message as a whole. Please, all COC members read this!


10. Eat Move Sleep – Tom Rath

Not a poetical masterpiece, but its content will literally change your life, or at least, reveal to you all the ways in which you have (and will continue to) fail to take care of your body…;)


11. How to be an (a)theist: why many skeptics aren’t skeptical enough – Mitch Stokes

Stokes really puts it to all of us (but atheist folk especially) how we don’t think through our own pre-conceived assumptions and worldviews seriously enough. Still, he manages to be extremely kind and generous while critiquing the hound out of worldview assumptions…


12. The Chosen – Chaim Potok

I’ve shamefully just gotten around to reading this. Potok has mastered the art of depicting conflicting feelings of ‘coming of age’ within a conservative and liberal Jewish culture. Worth reading if even for the sake of contrasting how deeply the role of the Father effects the boyhood experience and a boy’s growing spirituality.


13. Kierkegaard: A Single Life – Stephen Backhouse

The new, delightful and straightforward account of a very interesting and ironic life. I was struck with how odd it was that Soren was so anxious and bitter while trying to embody an alternative way of Christian life. His life is wrought with irony. With overviews of all of Soren’s works at the end!


14. Widening the Light: Poems on the Incarnation – Luci Shaw (editor)

Scott Cairns aside, this is the most theologically-charged collections of poetry I’ve ever read. Reading it for advent was a special treat as well.


15. Jonah: The Scandalous love of God (Bible Commentary)

I know it’s hard for many to think that reading a commentary could be so exhilarating – but all should refrain from comment until reading this one. Who knew the book of Jonah was such an etymological work of comedic genius?!


Published by Ryan Hayes

Ryan Hayes is a development practitioner, teacher and co-author of his first book of poems, Paralipomenon. Being born in Nairobi, Kenya and living most of his life in Africa, he has a wealth of experience and understanding into the cultural and linguistic factors of South-East Africa. Ryan is happily married to Justine with whom they have begotten three beautiful girls – Amelie, Lily and Rylee. He is a lifelong learner and devoted student of Jesus, mysticism, quantum physics and the human psyche.

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