Coyle’s Best of 2012

By COYLE NEAL

I can’t claim that these are the best books of 2012, but they are the ones that I read that stand out the most from my Goodreads list.

Fiction

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak: This young adult novel explores the power of words through a compelling plot narrated by Death himself. And, well, you should read this book. Period. (Full review here)

 The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: This was my first trek into 19th century Russian literature, and it did not disappoint. This book is considered perhaps the definitive Russian novel, and for good reason. Though nominally a murder mystery, it ends up being more of a rambling exploration of the vagaries of human existence. Much like Dallas. (Full review here)

We the Underpeople by Cordwainer Smith: What will the world look like in 15,000 AD? Will humanity finally have gotten its act together?  Who will do man’s dirty work? In addition to answering these questions, Smith’s compelling plot and deeply imaginative universe is well worth your time. (Full review here)

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather: I had to read this because one of my students chose to do a report on it, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Cather’s  portrait of the American (south)west is surprisingly rich. Recommended for those who enjoy stopping to soak in the scenery.

The Cowboy and the Vampire by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall: Never, never, never kill a cowboy’s horse, even if you’re a vampire. He’ll mess you up.

Nonfiction

The Laws by Plato: Okay, so maybe this is technically “fiction,” since it’s a made-up dialogue between Platonic characters. This book is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, for those who want to see what Plato thought about education, politics, and law as he looked back from the perspective of old age. (Full review here)

The Art of War in the Middle Ages by C.W.C. Oman:  This is a history book for those of you who don’t like history books. Oman wrote what has become the standard in the field while an undergrad(!) at Oxford in 1885. In a short, fast-paced narrative, he explains how the Western world transitioned from the Roman army (one of the most incredible fighting machines in human history) to a few people with metal on their chests trying to run each other over with horses. Even better, Oman writes in a style that is easy and enjoyable to read. If more history books were written like this, more people would like history. (Full review here)

Religion/Theology

Lit! by Tony Reinke: What should Christians think about reading fiction? A lot, that’s what. Also including a guide for reading well, Reinke’s book is a wonderful (and short!) meditation on how we as Christians should interact with books. (Full review here)

Good News for Anxious Christians by Philip Cary: Do you struggle with making decisions? Are you waiting for the still, small voice within to speak up? If so, you need to read this book and be encouraged to get off your duff and live the life you are called to in the Gospel. Warning: this book will irritate you. (Full review here)

Colossians by John Davenant: I might be cheating a bit with this one, since this behemoth of a commentary (~950 pages) really took me two years to read. That said, I highly recommend taking at least a year of your own to sit down and slowly walk through Colossians with Davenant (at about 4 pages a day, you should finish it handily—I was slowed down by other reading projects). Not only will you get the benefit of his interpretation of the text, you’ll get a treasury of the church fathers’ thoughts as well, since Davenant incorporates them into his exposition and application. (Full review here)

Dr. Coyle Neal reads books in Washington, D.C.


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