Top Ten “General” Posts of 2016


I was trying to think of what to call this post. A number of my posts are reviews (143 of them this year). And then there are my Saturday “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts, which once again were very popular. This list covers the posts that fall into neither category.

A couple are book lists. Several dealt with current issues in American cultural and political life (who can forget 2016 in that regard, much as perhaps we would like to). One that I enjoyed writing and was glad to see well received had to do with sleep and the resources found in Christian faith that help us sleep. For this one, a countdown may be fun, so here is the list. The titles of the post link back to the full post.

10. The Challenge of the Third WayI’ve often contended that in our polarized cultural environment that the call of Christians is to be “third way” people. In this post, I consider the life of Erasmus as illustrative of some of the challenges of living as “third way” people.

9. Sleep Resources for ChristiansI had just reviewed Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution and observed the lack of resources in her book from a Christian perspective for sleep. I explored why that might be and some of the resources I’ve found to be of help.

8. Endorsers Repent! A follow-up to the next post on the list that had mentioned Wayne Grudem’s endorsement during the campaign of our president elect. This post was about his withdrawal of that endorsement and my contention that Christian leaders need to get out of the endorsement game altogether.

7. The Endorsement GameThis preceded the post above and explored the attraction of and problems resulting from evangelical leaders endorsing political candidates and my ideas of what is appropriate.

6. The Humanities, STEM, and Post-Secondary EducationI reflected on a conversation with a hospital orderly going back to school for a radiology degree, and how advocates for the humanities fail to speak to the situation of people like my 40 year old orderly and how we often create false hierarchies of more or less noble work.

5. Dialogue Within The University: A Reading ListThis post was a follow-up to an online symposium that I helped host on how people of faith might better enter into university conversations. The list includes recommendations on dialogue skills, the university, and thinking Christianly.

4. Is It Time for the ‘Benedict Option’? This post responds to a discussion I was in where someone else proposed affirmatively that it was indeed time for the ‘Benedict Option,’ a phrase coined by Rod Dreher that draws on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, that the church, to preserve both its identity and the good, the true, and the beautiful, needs to withdraw into the equivalent of Benedictine monastic communities.

3. Best Books of 2016I was pleased that there was sufficient interest in my “best books” choices to make this the third most viewed post of the year.

2. Some Thoughts on the Attack at Ohio StateOn November 28, I received the text alert I hoped I would never receive, as a Somali student drove a car into a crowd of students and faculty, injuring several, and then followed up by attacking others, some trying to help him, with a knife, until killed by a campus police officer. Written that evening, you read some of my first reactions, and my plea that we not give way to fear but keep campuses open places where people can meet across their differences.

1. Really? In 2016? My response to threats against two black women with whom I am acquainted, one involving a police stop while a colleague was watering a neighbor’s lawn where she turned to find herself staring down the barrel of an officer’s drawn gun, the other a hate-filled threat against a black Christian professor.

I’m heartened that these posts made the “Top Ten” list. I leave to others to judge the quality of the writing found here, but I was struck that these were serious posts on important questions, that did represent careful thought on my part. While I do like to write something light-hearted from time to time, I do like the opportunity to think and write seriously, and to try to articulate as best as I can, what it means to live as People of the (Third) Way. Thank you for reading, commenting, and following!

My other “Top Ten” Posts:

Most Viewed Reviews of 2016

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Top Ten of 2016

Best Books of 2016


This is the time of year when a number of literary and review publications are coming out with “best of the year” lists. Mine is reflective of my own particular reading habits, which include reading lots of works published before the current year as well as some that have been, and a heavy dose of works from a more theological perspective, mixed with some fiction, history, and biography. So, here is my list without further ado.

new-perspectiveBest of the Year:

Paul’s New Perspective, Garwood P. Anderson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. I choose this work as “best of the year” for a couple reasons. One is that I think it is a great work of scholarship that is a game-changer in the discussions about perspectives on Paul. Also, the review for this book garnered more views than any review post this year, so you might say it is a “blog reader’s choice.” (Review)

The noise of timeBest work of fiction: 

The Noise of TimeJulian Barnes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. I found this fictional exploration of the inner live of composer Dmitri Shostakovich fascinating because of its exploration of the tension between surviving under a totalitarian regime and living with artistic integrity. (Review)

Change of HeartBest biography or memoir:

A Change of Heart, Thomas C. Oden. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. Recently deceased theologian Tom Oden narrates his own personal and theological journey through a series of contemporary theologies to a place of stability rooted in the creeds and fathers of the church. (Review)


Reading for the Common GoodBest book on books:

Reading for the Common Good, C. Christopher Smith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. Reading is often a solitary activity. Smith shows us how reading together can enrich communities, particularly religious communities. (Review)


Grapes of WrathBest classic read this year:

The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck. New York: Penguin Books, 1939 (original edition), 2002 (this edition). I could also have put Anna Karenina here, but decided to give the nod to Steinbeck’s fictional account of the dust bowl migrations to California and the conditions of grinding poverty the people endured captured in the Joad family. (Review)

the-good-shepherdBest devotional work:

The Good ShepherdKenneth E. Bailey. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. The late Kenneth Bailey’s last work, a scholarly but devoti0nally rich exploration of Psalm 23 and the “shepherd” theme running through scripture. (Review)


the-faithful-artistBest books on art and faith:

I’m going to list two here, each profound works in their own way.

The Faithful Artist, Cameron J. Anderson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. Anderson explores the tensions familiar to readers of My Name is Asher Lev as well as many persons of faith who have sought to work with excellence and integrity in the world of modern art without compromising Silence and Beautytheir faith. (Review)

Silence and Beauty, Makoto Fujimura (foreward by Philip Yancey). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. Fujimura gives us a “layered reflection” on Shusaku Endo’s Silence and the intertwining of suffering, silence, and beauty that Fujimura finds both in the novel and thinks necessary to the advance of Christian belief in Japan. (Review)

The Warmth of Other SonsBest history:

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson. New York: Vintage, 2011. Reading this helped me discover one of the great migrations, that of African Americans, occurring between 1915 and 1970, and its profound impact on the South, and the cities of the North. (Review)

The NightingaleThe book that kept me up at night:

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015. Some books have kept me up at night because of their riveting plots. This one kept me awake thinking about “the choices faced by the characters, the brutality they suffered, and the profound grief that comes of love and loss. I’ve read other books with “heavy” content, but rarely have I been touched as I was in reading this book” (from the review)

I realized in compiling this list that six of the ten books here came from one publisher, InterVarsity Press. In the interest of full disclosure, I work with the parent organization of this publisher and do review many of their books. But I will also say that I review quite a number of books (135 so far this year), and many by other publishers and as I surveyed the books that I had rated most highly and whose quality of writing and ideas I most appreciated, I honestly felt these came to the top. I realize that is a personal, and probably very subjective judgment. I’ll let you decide, and you can skim all my reviews by going to “The Month in Reviews” category on my blog.

In closing, I’d love to hear your own choices of “best books” that you read this year. I always love hearing what other book lovers have enjoyed!