It goes without saying that Thanksgiving is a time to pause, reflect, and express gratitude for all of the good things God has given us. I’m thankful for so many things—a wonderful family, a warm home, a rewarding job, and more than my fair share of good opportunities, to name but a few.
Among the many things I’m thankful for are the books that have played a part in shaping my mind and, therefore, my life. I thought it would be fun to share the top 25 books I’m thankful for, roughly in the order in which I first read them.
- Stevie’s Tricycle. A family favorite, enjoyed by my all us grandkids on my mom’s side of the family.
- Fox in Socks, by Dr. Seuss. One of my favorites as a kid, which my son also enjoys, making it doubly special.
- The United Methodist Hymnal. The hymns, liturgies, and confessions in this book have shaped me profoundly from my earliest days until now.
- Star Wars books. All of them. I can’t possibly pick just one.
- Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension, by Michio Kaku. My first introduction to the world of theoretical physics.
- A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking. A classic that strengthened my love of physics and science.
- Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, by Albert Einstein. Reading and understanding this book as a teenager not only taught me a great deal, it gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities and a deep desire to learn more.
- The Confessions, by Augustine. I’ve read this at least three times. There’s a lot of theology and insight into the human condition wrapped up in a single person’s account of his journey to faith.
- The Art of Biblical Narrative, by Robert Alter. After a college degree focused on historical criticism of the Bible, this book was my introduction to reading the Bible as literature. It gave me a whole new perspective and ignited the next phase of my studies.
- The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Structure and the Drama of Reading, by Meir Sternberg. Similar to the Alter’s book, this one continued that next step of studies and also contributed to my doctoral dissertation.
- Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. Just a beautiful story about growing up. I didn’t resonate with Robinson’s other novels, but this one struck a chord within my soul.
- Prolegomena to the History of Israel, by Julius Wellhausen. Cemented the Documentary Hypothesis and set the stage for source criticism of the Pentateuch for the next century and a half (and counting).
- East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. A moving story with an incredibly large scope, this book captures the themes of Genesis in a way only a gifted writer and storyteller could do.
- From Father to Son: Kinship, Conflict, and Continuity in Genesis, by Devorah Steinmetz. I’m deeply grateful for Steinmetz’ work and insights, which were invaluable for my doctoral dissertation.
- The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity, by Jon Levenson. The same goes for Levenson’s book, which is remarkably insightful and clearly written.
- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker. The only book on this list I haven’t actually read. My wife Amy read it and implemented its 7 challenges during our first 7 months of marriage. As crazy as it sounds, it was a great way to begin our life together and I will always be thankful for it.
- On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. When we were new parents, this book gave us confidence and taught us a lot about the importance of sleep. It turned out to be a really good fit with our parenting style.
- Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. I’m sure I read this as a kid, but I truthfully don’t remember it. It was, however, the first book I read to my son, on the night we brought him home from the hospital. My daughter loves it too, and it symbolizes the joy that reading to them brings me.
- Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon. I really should have read this book in graduate school, but I didn’t. But I really should have.
- The Workbench Design Book, by Chris Schwartz. Most of my woodworking reading comes from magazines and blogs, but this book was an important exception. It taught me the value of a good workbench and how to build one. I took my woodworking to the next level by building a workbench based upon the principles I learned from it.
- The Dark Forest Trilogy, by Cixin Liu. This whole trilogy was ambitious, and it delivered in a big way. I credit it in large part for reigniting my love for science and space after 10+ years of studying the Bible in depth.
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell. After reading Joseph Campbell’s book, I will never look at dreams or stories the same way again. Or Disney movies. This book is why I cried during Moana. I mean, why you cried during Moana. Shut up.
- The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler. Along with Campbell’s book, this one showed me the role that stories play in our lives and how powerful they are when they connect with us in the right way.
- Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. No matter what happens to us, we can control our attitude and our response to it. Such a powerful message resonates all the more because it comes from a Holocaust survivor. Everybody should read this book.
- The Feynman Lectures on Physics, by Richard Feynman. As I got back into physics, this book was especially valuable due to Feynman’s gifts as a teacher and writer. I’m deeply thankful for Cal Tech for making all 3 volumes of these lectures available for free online.
Now, your turn. What books are you thankful for?