Call for Books (Mind-blowers only, please!)

Last year, right after Christmas, I had an amazing reading experience.  My husband had gotten me When Helping Hurts, which is kind of a “game changer” of a book, in that it makes you rethink everything you do to help the poor.  I absolutely consumed it at my parents’ house in a matter of hours, and it simply blew my mind.  It was such an amazing experience to have my whole way of looking at a subject be completely transformed.  Then, when we were at Greg’s parents’ house, his mom loaned me the book, Same Kind of Different as Me, which kind of served as a powerful illustration of several of the principles in When Helping Hurts.  Plus, it was a deeply moving book all on its own.  I loved that experience of reading two powerful books in such a short span of time, and I will forever remember that week or two fondly, as a time of great spiritual growth.

Because of those memories, I am eager to repeat that experience.  I am looking for some good, world-rocking books to read in the lull between Christmas and the craziness that will be my 2012.  Here are some books that I think might fit the bill, and I’m interested in any other suggestions:

1.  The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard

A trusted friend said that this one was a “MUST. READ.” and then actually sounded smart when he used the material from it in a discussion (Just messing with you, Sean, if you are reading:)).  So naturally, I’m dying to read it.  Plus, I learned from the Amazon reviews that Richard Foster (RICHARD FOSTER!) called this book “the book I’ve been searching for all my life.”  Wow!  Richard Foster.  I was sold at “MUST. READ.” but that just elevated my level of need for this book to DEFCON 1.

2.  The Blue Parakeet, by Scot McKnight

Having read through the entire Bible a grand total of two times, I now consider myself an expert in being confused by it.  As a result of my forays into the entirety of Scripture, I have become increasingly concerned with the problem of hermeneutics.  I even have an ongoing blog post in my head called, “In Search of a Consistent Hermeneutic,” which, if I ever actually type it, promises to be incredible scandalous incredibly scandalous?  Anyway, before I try to hammer that all out into my keyboard, I’d like to hear some different takes on hermeneutical approaches to Scripture.  Apparently, McKnight does a good job of highlighting the inconsistencies of our traditional interpretive models, and I would actually like to hear someone admit that who is a believing Christian and not the atheist who kept commenting on my Bible blog last year.  Unlike my atheist pal, I’m hoping he has some constructive solutions.  So…yeah.  Really want to read this.  (Also, I can’t turn around these days without hearing something about Scot McKnight, and I had never heard of him before, like, two weeks ago.  So now I’m wanting to know what the big deal is.)

3.  Half the Church, by Carolyn Custis James

Speaking of incredibly scandalous, I’ve been recommended this book several times through the blogging world, and I have decided that I’m interested enough to read it.  It seems to be all about women’s roles in the church, which is a pretty contentious subject these days (and probably all days, really).  Like most of these books, I don’t anticipate agreeing with everything in it, but I’m eager to hear her argument. (The lone exception to my skepticism is Willard’s book.  I fully expect to be blown away by it).

4.  The Bible Made Impossible, by Christian Smith

Did I mention that I’m interested in hermeneutics?  Because I am!  This book has gotten rave reviews from several bloggers I read.  Also, “the most helpful favorable review” on Amazon mentioned that this book addresses the  “interpretive quagmire that exists in the Protestant world,” and that totally sold me.  Anyhow, I just wanted to check this one out.  Full disclosure:  I’m not sure that I know what “biblicism” is, which might be a problem.  And like I said before, I seriously doubt that I will agree with everything (or even most) of what is in this book.  Like I alluded to with The Blue Parakeet, though, I’m kind of in the market for a new hermeneutical model b/c the makeshift one I’ve been using keeps confusing the heck out of me.

5.  Unclean, by Richard Beck

This book intrigued me, both because it is by a fellow coC’er, and because the amazon reviews used phrases like, “paradigm-shifting.”  Ooooh…I do love a good paradigm shift!  (Also, in hindsight, I might be a little too swayed by the verbal stylings of the Amazon reviewers.)  Anyway, from what I remember from reading about the book, it’s all very psychological and talks about the concept of “disgust” in the church.  I don’t know, it’s definitely not something I sought out, but I have found myself bizarrely intrigued by it.

So now that I’ve gathered the books that I’m wanting to read in one place, feel free to go buy them for me add to the list.  Over the years, I have created my own maxim:  “To love is to give something to read.”  (Doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it?)  I will now alter that phrase to say, “To like is to give reading suggestions.”  (Hmmm…still not really flowing.)  Anyway, I’d love to hear any recommendations for any great books.  Not just any books, now!  I’m looking for some big, fat, juicy, thought-provoking, “paradigm-shifting” mind blowers!  No pressure…but yeah, I want some good ones:).

So…do you have anything for me?

(Also, have you read any of these?  What do you think about them?)

21 responses to this post.

  1. Let me suggest a couple of oldies but goodies, by F. LaGard Smith. As far back as the 80s he was talking about a “new hermaneutic” in “The Cultural Church.” I’m also a big fan of “Who Is My Brother,” and I think you would be very interested in “Radical Restoration.”


    • In which one did he talk about the idea that the early church didn’t have church buildings, youth ministers, etc? And what did he suggest we do? Those kinds of thoughts are what helped start me down my road to wanting a new hermeneutic. They only continued as I read through the Bible…


      • That one is “Radical Restoration.” I don’t recall what the solution was–perhaps he pulled a Rob Bell-like cop-out and said, “I was just asking the question…”


  2. I am reading a Dallas Willard book called “The Great Omission” – my dad sent it to me from his library when I was looking for the same thing. He also suggests “The Spirit of the Disciplines ” ..a couplet to Richard Fosters “The Spiritual Disciplines” that I loved so much last year. I have not read those yet, but they are on my wishlist this year.

    Its pretty deep, very scripture based and pretty challenging ..I am not to the “mindblowing” part but its thoughtful and relevant so I am enjoying moving forward with it.

    I am intrigued by a few of the ones your wish list – perhaps I will be shopping on your bookshelf in a few months 😉


  3. the first two are also on my “to read” list. {i’m not sure if i will EVER get to read all the books on that list, but i’m gonna try!}

    *unclean* also sounds interesting…

    so here are some that i bookmarked on amazon…i know nothing more about them except that they caught my eye…
    *sacrilege- finding life in the unorthodox ways of jesus*, hugh halter
    *AND- the gathered and scattered church*, hugh halter
    *barefoot church- serving the least in a consumer culture*, brandon hatmaker
    *an invisible thread*, alex tresniowski (this one is a true story, kind of like same kind of different as me)
    *the reason for God*, timothy keller
    *simple church*, thom rainer
    *missional church- a vision for the sending of the church in north america*, daniel guner
    *reJesus- a wild messiah for a missional church*, michael frost
    *finding faith- a search for what makes sense*, brian maclaren
    *the spirit of the disciplines*, dallas willard
    *follow me to freedom- leading as an ordinary radical*, john perkins

    whew! enjoy!


    • Oh, wow. So many of those look intriguing. Didn’t Halter cowrite The Tangible Kingdom? And is Brandon Hatmaker related to Jen Hatmaker, I wonder? I think you just expanded my reading list:).


  4. Posted by Sean on December 19, 2011 at 9:47 am

    This might not blow your mind, but this has challenged me on how I’ve allowed the culture to penetrate my thinking and how I allow “business practices” or “social practices” to influence how I view things in relation to how God calls me to view them.

    The Christian mind : how should a Christian think? / by Harry Blamires.


    • I looked at the Amazon link, and the book looks interesting! I especially like that it was written in the 1960’s. I know that wasn’t so long ago, but I try to not only listen to voices of my immediate generation.


  5. Brian has the Blue Parakeet, and he enjoyed reading it. He read it somewhat together with another book, ‘How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth,’ by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, He said that the last book was a bit drier of a read but piggybacked ‘Blue Parakeet’ well and that he picked up alot from them both.


    • I actually have How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and was planning on reading it as a companion to The Blue Parakeet! I’m glad he liked them in conjunction, b/c I’m hoping they will help me before I start my third journey through the whole Bible next year!


  6. Thanks for the insightful book recommendations, Kim. Blue Parakeet is fast rising to the top of my wish list. Here’s one I would suggest – Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God by Mark Galli. I really liked this one, and bought it after reading an exceprt from the book in Christianity Today back in 2006 when it was published (here’s a link to the excerpt Galli takes several passages in Mark where Jesus does not act like the meek and mild pop culture version of the Messiah that we often see, and explains how we actually get to see God as he truly is in these verses. Galli writes well, even compellingly, in this study.

    As for reading the Bible through and becoming an expert in getting confused, I know what you mean. The more I read the Bible the more I learn that there is a ton I don’t know about God. My usual (though not exclusive) way to study the Bible is to read it through, Genesis to Revelation, and then start over again. One thing that I’ve found that helps is to use a different study Bible each time and read the study notes as I go along; that way I get the benefit of a running conmmentary as I go and receive a lot of insights about the passages and how they relate to one another and the overall arc of the Bible. Works for me.



    • Tim, I was reading the excerpt, but then got stopped dead in my tracks on page 3 by this quote from Kierkegaard: “Oh the time wasted in this enormous work of making Christianity so reasonable, and in trying to make it so relevant!” That quote WILL feature in a post I’ve been working on in my head for forever about the “unreasonableness” of Christianity (I have a great title, too, btw. Can’t wait to use it:)). And later on that page, there was a great quote from Bonhoeffer that made me realize that I have–HAVE–to read Life Together.

      The book itself sounded great, too! Those quotes just completely derailed me…but in a good way:).


  7. Posted by michael on December 19, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Kim, here is my list of books I want to read in 2012:

    Jesus, My father, the CIA and Me.- Ian Morgan Cron

    Simply Jesus by NT Wright (really anything by NT Wright)

    You Lost Me- David Kinnaman

    Toxic Charity- Robert Lupton

    Start Something That Matters by the toms shoe guy

    Kisses for Katie by Katie Davis

    The Prison Angel- this is about Mother Antonia

    This one I just finished: Tattoos On The Heart by Gregory Boyle it is on my desk at church if you want to read it. (good book)

    But 1 and 2 on your list is on my top 5 of all time. Also, The Jesus Creed by Scott Mcknight is great.


    • Greg enjoyed Simply Jesus (I haven’t read it), and I thought Kisses from Katie was fantastic! From the story you told about Mother Antonia on Sunday, I’m interested in learning more about her. And I am completely intrigued by Scot McKnight. I’m really hoping Greg gets me 1 and 2 for Christmas:), and afterward, I will probably be wanting to read more from both of those authors!


  8. Kim, I’m so glad I found your blog. I resonate with your writing, while also seeing some nuances in our theological focuses–which I believe will be good iron sharpening iron for me. While I certainly love the deep thinking of some of the more contemplative authors on your list, the books that have really blown my mind have focused more on the power of the gospel message that must come to us from the outside: Michael Horton’s Covenant series and Gospel series, and David Vandrunen’s short book on Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. Although, my list for the next couple months includes G.K. Chesterton (finally!), Dorothy Sayers, Nancy Guthrie–and, Tim, I have Mark Galli’s new book, Chaos and Grace, which I’m eager to read.

    And, this isn’t a book, but Tim Keller’s Smashing Idols MP3 series (available free on was mind blowing for me. His book, Counterfeit Idols, is the same topic, but I found his talks to be much more powerful.

    Happy reading every one!


    • Thanks, Aimee! I agree about the “iron sharpening iron”! I am intrigued by the book, Living in Two Kingdoms. From the book reviews, I learned that I am a “tranformationist,” which means I have a viewpoint that Vandrunen refutes in the book. That alone makes the book valuable for me to read, but even more, the topic itself concerns the exact nature of my primary interest these days: the intersection of God’s kingdom(s?) and general culture. Thanks for the suggestions!


    • Are you going to read Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”, Aimee? It’s on my all time best list!



  9. I just saw another one for my (our) list: Jesus, A 21st Century Biography, by Paul Johnson. Johnson is one of my absolute favorite historians (best known for “Modern Times,” but I’m going to buy his new book on Socrates soon, too). He writes from a believer’s perspective (he’s Catholic).


    • I also got a book recommendation for his “History of the Jews.” I then looked at in on Amazon, and it looked stellar. Even the Jews who reviewed it were like, “Shockingly, this guy gets it!” AND I can get in on for under $5, including shipping. I have to update my credit card info, but when I do, I think I’m going to order it. I think it would be nice to have lying around while I read through the OT next year.


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