Best Books of 2011

Looking back on 2011, I reviewed over 30 books! It was a good year overall for good books – lots to learn and discuss. Here are some of my favorites.

Best Textbook

I have to give FIRST PRIZE to David Lamb’s truly outstanding God Behaving Badly. I plan on using it repeatedly and indefinitely for my Christian Scriptures class. On my student evals, about half of the students commented on how much they learned from that book. Way to go David!

RUNNER-UP is Eddie Adams’ Parallel Lives of Jesus –  simple, which is good for students, and the best approach to having the students learn from the fourfold Gospel.

Best Missional Book

It is a little embarrassing for me to admit, but I learned more about the Bible from reading Michael Goheen’s A Light to the Nations  than I have from reading many of the books of renowned Bible scholars! This book is a breath of fresh air and the best approach to allowing the Scriptures to drive mission and life in general.

Best Commentary

It was very hard for me to choose, but the FIRST PRIZE for best commentary goes to Scot McKnight for his NICNT contribution on James. His introduction, especially, is so lucid and cogent. It will be one of the first resources I grab whenever I am preaching or teaching on James.

SECOND PRIZE goes to M. de Boer’s Galatians. I can’t say he convinced me of his readings on all or even most occasions, but it is such a fresh reading of Galatians that makes you really struggle to argue against him at every turn.

Best Hermeneutics Book

By leaps and bounds, this award goes to Clayton Croy for his Prima Scriptura – seminarians – READ THIS BOOK! Of course, I would also highly recommend the runner-up, Inductive Bible Study by David Bauer and the late and great Dr. Traina.

Fun Read Award

I will mention the runner-up first – N.T. Wright’s Simply Jesus. It was not the best NT book of 2011, but I am always reminded why we all love Wright when I read his work and get fired up about how God is “putting the world to rights” through Jesus. Vintage Wright in this book – not suitable for “light reading” and not necessarily his best book on Jesus, but, well, “fun.”

It should be no surprise that the most fun was had reading and participating in the blog tour for Bruce Fisk’s A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus. Students will learn from the “teaching narrative” and members of the guild will laugh at the sillyness and scholarly cameos. Visuals are also stunning. Thanks Bruce!

Best Reference Work

While I did not review this book (it has only recently come out), I have to award this to Baker’s Dictionary of Scripture & Ethics (eds. Green et al.). OK, this may be a little cheap because I contributed to it, but even if I hadn’t it would earn my favor because it takes the right approach (i.e., Scripture is as much about ethics as it is theology) and boasts truly outstanding contributors from both the realm of “theology” and “Bible” (not least Joel Green). I am very excited to learn from this resource!

Will Crush Your Cat Award (i.e., Heaviest Book)

This one is a hard call. First we have Richard Longenecker’s comprehensive prolegomenon Introducing Romans, but it is  softcover. So, it is between Craig Keener’s Historical Jesus of the Gospels (800+ pages, hardcover) and Greg Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology (1000+ pages, hardcover). Then again, I just got in the mail yesterday Keener’s new Miracles – two volumes with a total page count of 1172. Well, in any case, keep your cats away from your bookshelf if you want to read Beale or Keener’s works. But thanks to these scholars for investing so much in teaching others!


5 thoughts on “Best Books of 2011

  1. If you wouldn’t mind, could you briefly state why de Boer’s reading of Galatians is so different? I’m reading one of his older books right now and doing so with great benefit, so I’m curious how he handles a commentary.

    And I also smiled as I read the Wrightian “putting the world to rights”! I use that phrase or a derivative thereof in my sermons–it’s obviously firmly planted in my subconscious!

  2. Hi Jason – de Boer takes a rather radically apocalyptic view of new creation according to Paul. In practicality, the Torah gets a heavy hit by Boer. He views the Torah almost as a monstrous mistake and something that is evil and/or anti-God, so it seems on my reading. He follows Lou Martyn in much of this and it comes across very differently from, say, Jimmy Dunn’s more generous approach to Paul’s view of Torah.

    As for Wright, I use the language too!

  3. His apocalyptic bent doesn’t surprise me (the book I’m reading now is his The Defeat of Death, which looks at Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 through the lens of apocalyptic eschatology), but I am surprised that his view of Torah is so poor. I’ll have to check his commentary out.

  4. A really practical question, how do you find time to read that many books in one year? Do you skim some or are you reading every word? Just trying to figure out how much I need to increase my words per minute reading speed 🙂

  5. For heaviest book, Douglas Campell’s Deliverance of God should be in the running. I accidentally grabbed BDAG off my shelf when reaching for it TWICE. True story. The two are almost identical without their dust jackets.

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