I've been extraordinarily busy at work lately so I'm barely getting this out before Christmas.. Oh well. I still want to keep up the tradition and briefly mention the best five books that I read for the first time in 2012. This year was the year of the long books so my volume, again, was a little lower, but I believe I made up for it with quality. Anyways, here's the list!
5. History of Sexuality Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure by Michel Foucault
All three volumes are worth reading, but this one stuck out to me the most by showing that the way(s) we have thought about sex and sexuality over the past few hundred years is far from the only way. The heavy citation of primary source material also makes this book invaluable. Anyone studying sexual ethics needs to wrestle with this book.
4. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
I read this on my flight to China and back. Even though I knew the whole story it was a very rich and enjoyable read. I love the way Tolkien creates a world full of meaning and wonder. I enjoyed that as much if not more than the story.
3. Song of Songs by J. Cheryl Exum
There are several good commentaries on the Song of Songs, but I found Exum's to both be the best and the most fun to read. You can tell that she's spent a lifetime in the Song and has many creative solutions to difficult passages. Not only is there a lot of good information and sound reasoning, but also a lot of great prose. It may be the best written commentary I've ever read.
2. Church Dogmatics Vol I.2 by Karl Barth
What can one say except, it's Barth, so of course it's brilliant. I learned a lot pouring through these pages. Yes, Barth is dense and hard to grasp at times but the payoff is big. If nothing else, it's worth reading for this very very lengthy discussion on authority. It's a very rich section with profound practical implications. He articulates, for me, a strong reason why I could never become Catholic (or, for different reasons, Episcopalian under their current leadership).
1. Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul by Douglas Campbell
I believe Campbell's work is the most significant on Paul since Sanders. He provides a fresh rereading of Romans from the foundations up. One that I find, at many points, persuasive. It's an extremely long and difficult read - I think I spent about four months in it - but it is rewarding. I would rate it as one of the five best books I've ever read.
And as usual, here's my list of books that came out in 2012 that I didn't get to read and am most excited about.
5. Bible Made Impossible, The: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith
Perhaps the most controversial book of the year in Evangelical circles. I'd like, at some point to see what the hubbub was about for myself and I expect to find myself at least somewhat in agreement with him. My only question will be if he is too polemical to be constructive as these types of works sometimes are.
4. The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude: What Earliest Christianity Learned from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha by David deSilva
I've been trying to read a lot more of the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha over the past couple of years. The insights it has opened up for me into the New Testament have been significant. This book has gotten a lot of positive press and should be a sure guide.
3. Acts: Introduction and 1:1-2:47 by Craig Keener
Keener is one of my two or three favorite Evangelical commentators. I love his little commentary on Romans. This should be his magnum opus. No other text of Scripture is as well suited for his skill set.
2. Four Views on the Apostle Paul ed. Michael Bird
I love Pauline studies and the contributors to this volume are very good. I'm particularly interested to see the reaction to Campbell's presentation. I love Luke Timothy Johnson as well and Mark Nanos' Jewish treatment of Paul intrigues me too,
1. Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory: The New Testament Apostle in the Early Church by Markus Bockmuehl
Bockmuehl is becoming my favorite New Testament scholar. His emphasis on the importance of reception history for understanding meaning is a breath of fresh air. I'm looking forward, very much, to his treatment of the undervalued apostle.