The Antidote to Shallow and Narrow Lives: or My Favorite Books of 2012

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If only one had time to read a little more: we either get shallow and broad or narrow and deep.”[1] In this age of video, it is easy to become either “an inch deep and a mile wide”—experts of nothing, commentators on everything—or one-dimensional sycophants, people who think only of self, imagine the history of the world to be the scope of their lives, and constantly seek the stream of experience to feed their selfishness.Lewis puts before us another ideal: broad and deep. A person is broad if he/she is conversant with a wide-range of topics of human interest, and not just any old trivia, but conversant with the perennial questions of life. A person is deep if he/she has taken the time to think, wrestle, explore, and wonder about such questions. Such a person has a rich inner life—emotionally, spiritually, and rationally—and a rich relational life—with self, others, and God. I can think of no better way to become broad and deep as a person than to cultivate a love of reading. Reading books of literature, fantasy, science fiction, philosophy, history, theology and more awakens our hearts and minds—pulling us into other worlds, providing conversation partners, exposing insight into the mysteries of creation or the human heart, and calling us to a life of drama.

I am a lover of books. And I keep a book log (yes, one of my quirky traits) each year to record all the books I have read. This year I read 42 books, and I share my favorites with you in this blog. For each book I read, I list the title, author, and a one-sentence description.

Best in Philosophy:

1. The Republic, by Plato. “Socrates explores the nature of justice arguing it is better than injustice.”

2. Creation and the Sovereignty of God, by Hugh McCann. “An excellent work in philosophical theology upholding the absolute sovereignty of God and human freedom.”

3. God and Necessity, by Brian Leftow. “A tour de force through the labyrinth of modal metaphysics.

Honorable mention: Naturalism and our Knowledge of Reality by Scott Smith; Ontology and Providence by MIT Robson.

Best  in Apologetics/Theology:

1. On Guard, by William Lane Craig, “An excellent, easy to follow, step by step introduction to apologetics.”

2. Is God a Moral Monster, by Paul Copan. “A defense against the claim that the God of the Old Testament is morally blameworthy.”

3. God Behaving Badly, by David Lamb. “An excellent and witty book arguing that the God of the Old Testament is complex, fascinating, and good.

Honorable mention: The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger; The Reason for God, by Tim Keller.

Best in Non-Fiction:

1. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. “The gripping story of Louis Zamperinni’s life: Olympic miler, bomber, crash survivor, POW, Christian. A story of redemption and the resilience of the human spirit.”

2. A Heart for Freedom, by Chai Ling. “ A story of courage, oppression, the human longing for freedom and hope in Jesus to save; a story of the leader of the Tiananmen Square revolt of 1989.

3. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls. “A sad, frustrating, inspiring memoir of selfish parents and a girls’ climb out of poverty and neglect.”

Best in Fiction:

1. The Hobbit, by J. R.R. Tolkien. “A story of adventure, friendship and discovering oneself and one’s place in the story of life.”

2. Cry The Beloved County, by Alan Paton. “A moving story of oppression, suffering, and hope in racially torn South Africa.”

3. The Trees, by Conrad Richter. “A gripping story of rugged frontier life in America.”

Honorable mention: The Illiad, by Homer; The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins; Walking to Gatlinburg, by Howard Frank Mosher; Desert Heritage, by Zane Grey; Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Lewis Stevenson; The WW2 Trilogy by Jeff Shaara (The Rising Tide, The Steal Wave, No Less Than Victory); Remembering, by Wendell Berry.

Best in Devotional:

1. A Shelter in the Time of Storm, by Paul Tripp. “Meditations on Psalm 27—inspiring, encouraging, helpful.”

2. Jesus + Nothing = Everything, by Tullian Tchividjian. “A nice book unpacking the riches of the gospel—because of Jesus, I can be ordinary.”

3. Letters to Malcom Chiefly on Prayer, by C.S. Lewis. “Classic Lewis reflecting on prayer in his letters to a friend.”

Well there you have it—some of my favorite reads from the past year. As you can see, many of the books I read find their way into this blog. In 2013, pull up a chair, pour a cup of coffee, and join me, as we read together of wonder and drama, intrigue and brokenness, hope and love, God, self, and the world and the longings of the human heart through literature, philosophy, theology, and story.



[1] The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, March 2, 1919.

8 Responses to The Antidote to Shallow and Narrow Lives: or My Favorite Books of 2012

  1. Phil B says:

    Thanks Paul. Seeing your apologetics list reminds me of a CS Lewis classic, “G^d in the Dock”. We certainly are clever inquisitors aren’t we?

  2. Rich Davis says:

    This is a marvelous, challenging list, Paul! I am reading too narrowly!!

  3. Pingback: Books of 2013 | Appeared-to-Blogly

  4. Pingback: 3 reasons why you should read (and my favorite books of 2013) | Paul Gould

  5. Steve Sternberg says:

    FYI, Louis Zamperini is with one “n” — had read Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” earlier and was unaware of “Unbroken” until seeing it on display at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredricksburg, TX. While not familiar with his life and fame from Olympics to WWII and following, I did vaguely recall his name because of his Billy Graham experience. I have to think that Bill Bright also had mentioned him or him speak to the staff years ago. “Unbroken” is a truly amazing testimony to the strength of human will and God’s sovereign purpose and great love. I was just checking to see if it was on your list–kudos!

    • paul.gould@facultycommons.org says:

      Hey Steve–I hope you are well. I really look forward to the upcoming Unbroken movie–his life is an amazing story! warmly, Paul

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>