My favorite books of 2022

I just visited our seminary in Costa Rica and gave an address on “Christian Leaders and LifelongLearning.” I suggested that “reading” was one of the best tools for building up brain power. And that reading broadly, including books we disagree with, will help rescue us from our social media echo chambers. Just on the level of religion: in 2022, I read books by Arminians, a Methodist, Anglicans, the founder of Marxism, a Swedenborgian (Helen Keller), a nihilist, a Russian Orthodox, a Dutch Reformed, a disallusioned Roman Catholic.

I use the Goodreads.com app to keep track of books I Want to Read, books I am Currently Reading, and books I have Read. During 2022 I passed a milestone: I have now read 2500+ books. So far as I can remember, anyway! Because once in a while I will see a Dr. Seuss or a Tom Swift and say, “Ah, that has to go on the list!”

Here are some of the highlights from 2022, in no particular order:

History. Jason Emerson’s Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln; Helena Merriman, Tunnel 29: the True Story of an Extraordinary Escape beneath the Berlin Wall. Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War tracks how the Pilgrims were rescued from extinction by Massasoit; and in the next generation, enslaved much of his tribe and virtually exterminated the rest.

Historical fiction. Includes: Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna and also her A Long Petal by the Sea.

Modern fiction. Seriously violent but a good read, Caleb Carr, The Alienist (“alienist” being the older term for a psychologist), a murder mystery from the closing years of the 19th century. NYC Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt makes an appearance, in the months before he was nominated for vice president.

Fiction that made it to Hollywood. Some books by James M. Cain that we probably know from the movies: Double Indemnity; Mildred Pierce; The Postman Always Rings Twice. Patrick Hamilton’s play “Rope”, which was made into an excellent movie by Hitchcock, done in (almost) a single take. Richard Hooker’s, M. A. S. H.: A Novel about Three Army Doctors. Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

But wait! An important volume!

Classic Books I should have read before now. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. Bram Stoker, Dracula. Emma by Jane Austen, who famously said, “She is a character who no-one but myself will much like.” I agree with Miss Austen. Plath’s The Bell Jar. Stendhal, The Red and the Black.

Books I reread and was glad to! Conrad, Heart of Darkness. Collodi, The Story of a Puppet: Or The Adventures of Pinochio (which, as it turns out, was not a fairy tale, but his call to 19th century Italian boys to stay in school and study hard!). Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment.

Book from Another Religion. I try to read something from Islam etc every year. This year it was Marx’s Communist Manifesto, which I take as promoting a religion in the broader sense. Worth reading!

Theology and Spirituality. The ribbon for the Best Theology Book for 2022 was a tough call, but it goes to the outstanding volume by Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. He addresses those who deny that Arminianism is evangelical or even Christian at all. Olson takes a irenic posture and carefully shows how Calvinists either misunderstand or misrepresent Arminianism and vice versa; he also shows that many Arminians and many Calvinists fall short of understanding their own systems! One point is: No, the two systems are not compatible; but yes, we should all be kind and truthful with one another.

Along with Olson, I read the original Five Articles of Remonstrance. And also J. I. Packer’s introduction to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. The only thing of Packer that I have read that left me disappointed: he makes several mistakes about Arminianism, including his assertion that it is essentially Pelagianism.

Second place goes to N. T. Wright’s, The Case for the Psalms: Whey They are Essential. A treatment of the psalms from the perspectives of history, theology, liturgy, personal piety. Seriously a blessing.

Third place, but this is a must-read: “On the Character of a True Theologian” by Herman Witsius.

I also liked Brueggemann’s The Theology of the Book of Jeremiah.

Karen and I both liked – and approved of! – Carolyn Moore’s, When Women Lead: Embrace Your Authority, Move Beyond Barriers, and Find Joy in Leading Others. Moore is a Methodist church planter who addresses the theological and social pushback that women leaders experience.

Book I should have read when it came out! When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor by Steve Corbett. This second edition seems to contain additional material. The few opinions of it that I had heard over the years were misleading. Corbett is a socialist! Or Corbett promotes laissez-faire: leave poor people alone and they will automatically prosper! These people probably have not read the book, or perhaps they did and their cognitive bias led them astray.

Bible in other languages: Following up with our online Latin group, I read Philippians, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, Psalms 1-50, 2 Timothy, Romans, 1 Corinthians from the Vulgate. Also: John’s Gospel in the Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest complete book of the Bible ever discovered. I have also now read about half the Old Testament in Symbolic Universal Notation (SUN), the constructed language for the deaf non-reader of which I am an editor for Wycliffe Associates.

The Cuthbert Gospel – 8th century copy of the Latin text of the Gospel of John, pocket-sized. It belonged to St. Cuthbert and was buried with him. Now part of the British Library in London.

Back to my address in Costa Rica: “But as we read, let’s be curious. Be adversarial! Ask, Why? Ask, How do we know that? Ask, Who says? Because as Einstein said: “’Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.’”

Goodreads.com, remember that app!

“My Favorite Books of 2022”, by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

7 thoughts on “My favorite books of 2022

Add yours

  1. Hi Sir! — Where might I get a(n English) copy of “Dissertation on the Efficacy of Baptism in the case of Infants” by Herman Witsius, as referenced in the “advertisement” on your link to “On the Character of a True Theologian”? Thanks!

  2. Gary, I have always been impressed with how much you read. I am thinking that you live in a universe where there are thirty to forty hours in a day! I appreciate the idea of reading those we disagree with. But is there a danger here as well. I am thinking of Christians who are new to the faith or those (far too many) who are not well taught in the gospel. What do you think?

    1. Dennis, sorry for the delay! No, I work on my job hard, play hard, sleep hard, and read a lot! I have read 2 books per week for some years, but have trimmed it to 1.5 a week for 2023.

      I agree that new believers need to be pointed to solid things: not the book-of-the-month stuff that are bestsellers, nor to things too deep for them. There is plenty to enjoy within those two extremes.

      My main thought has to do with people who are beyond the basics; for example, I just gave an address at ESEPA on that very thing, about “The Christian Leader and Lifelong Learning”. Enjoy! https://openoureyeslord.com/2021/11/01/lifelong-learning-for-christian-leaders/

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