This is the second part of my reading round-up from 2012 – you can read the first part here. Just to be clear, these aren’t the only books I’ve read. But they’re books I enjoyed, and you might enjoy them too. Or you might not. Don’t blame me.
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Apparently this has been voted the second greatest novel of the 20th century (losing out to Ulysses by James Joyce – maybe that’s one for 2013). Set in 1920s America, it’s a story of unrequited love. But it’s also a reflection on the flip-side of the American dream, and on what happens when people have too much money and time on their hands. I read this in anticipation of Baz Luhrmann’s movie, Gatsby, which is due out later this year…
8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I remember watching this on the BBC and then reading the book about 20 years ago, but this year I decided it was time for a reread. The story follows one man lost in London – but this is Neil Gaiman’s take on London, where familiar landmarks become unfamiliar and scary. The Black Friars are a group of monks protecting a powerful relic by Knight’s Bridge; Earls Court is the home of an actual Earl who holds court on an abandoned Underground Train; and the Angel Islington is, of course, an actual angel. It’s a brilliant tale. Read it and you’ll never look at London the same again.
9. Gunn’s Golden Rules by Tim Gunn
“Make it work!” Those of us familiar with Project Runway (and who isn’t) will know Tim as the no-nonsense mentor and style-guru, who regularly stops (or tries to stop) the designers from making terrible mistakes. Always impeccably turned out and with perfect manners, he’s one of my heroes, and in Gunn’s Golden Rules he shares his effortless sense of style and etiquette with the world. Part guide, part memoir, think of this not so much as a “how to” guide, but more of a “how should.”
10. Seven Days That Divide The World by John Lennox
As a Christian with a science degree, I find myself talking about the first chapters of Genesis with some regularity. In Seven Days, John Lennox explores some of the issues involved in reconciling what the Bible tells us about the world with our observation of it. For me, the most helpful section looks at how our understanding of Scripture has developed alongside our understanding of the natural world. Frustratingly, this book won’t answer every question you have, but it’s an excellent introduction, particularly if you want to get to grips with some of the philosophical questions behind the discussion (and, if you’re going to talk about this, you’re going to want to).
11. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
This is the story of how an encounter with Jesus can turn a person’s life upside down. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield is the eponymous unlikely convert. As a lesbian english professor, she was taught (and taught others) to read everything through the lens of feminist and Queer theory. But then her research brought her into contact with Christians who engaged with her questions and ideas, and welcomed and loved her. This book is the story of what happened, and of the results. And her background puts her in a unique position to raise important questions about how Christians should be interacting with the culture around them. Easily one of my favourite books of 2012.
12. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill
I love this book. Wesley Hill is a Christian who is also gay, and celibate. In this honest and personal account, Wesley explains that we all need Jesus to bring us back into relationship with our Father, and he explains what this means for him, and for many Christians who are seeking to live the same way, often in secret. He shares the struggles and the joys he’s faced along the way, and why knowing Jesus is worth such a sacrifice. And interleaved with Wesley’s story he shares lessons from the lives of three other well-known Christians who’ve made the same choice he has. Whatever your views about how Christians should think about homosexuality, you’ll benefit from reading this. In a discussion which can quickly become heated, and where the real people involved are easily forgotten by all sides, Wesley’s careful and personal explanation of the choices he’s made is an important addition.