The Year in Books 2008

A little belatedly, I thought I would wrap up my 2008 reading with a list of the books I thought were the best of those I read. When I went back through my 2008 book reviews, I counted 131 books that I read (other than the Bible, which I read about one and a half times through), but only found five that really stood out as particularly important or noteworthy. I was a little surprised that they were all non-fiction selections, but there it is. The other books I read were good too, but these were the best. Last year I had 15 top picks, but maybe I’m just in a mood to pare things down right now!

Without further ado, here are the top five, in no particular order:

The Forgotten Man, by Amity Schlaes
Given the state of our economy, I would highly recommend you read “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Schlaes. It’s important that we understand the past so we can make better decisions in the future, and this book does a particularly excellent job of examining the economic ramifications of the New Deal and how the related policies of government affected the US economy during the Great Depression. Although this is not a light read, Schlaes’ writing style will hold your interest.

Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, by Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen
“Embryo” is a comprehensive academic work addressing the ethics of embryology (including when an individual life is established, IVF, stem cell research, and the like). The book is carefully written, and answers common objections and counterarguments thoroughly. I think it’s important that we think about and understand the implications of our beliefs, and I think most readers would find “Embryo” challenging and informative, no matter what your conclusions on the issues might be. It disturbs me that in so many ethical debates of our time people are quick to dismiss arguments out of hand without taking time to hear them or examine the logic (or lack thereof) behind them – it is to the authors’ credit that they carefully weigh their critics’ objections and answer them.

Endangered Minds, by Jane Healy
As an educational psychologist who has worked in public schools and universities as well as in neuroscience research, Healy uses breaking research and studies of educational progress to examine how children’s brains develop and how that development has changed in our media saturated society. This book is fascinating and illuminating, and would be helpful and instructive for parents or prospective parents as long as you can read it without completely freaking out. Healy’s intent, I think, was to encourage parents and teachers to understand their children and make informed choices about how to best nurture and educate them. Aside from parents and educators, readers with an interest in sociology would also find much of interest in “Endangered Minds,” particularly in the staggering statistics about how Western societies have changed in recent history.

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges
“Respectable Sins” was one of the most convicting books I have read in a long time. Bridges contends that Christians get too comfortable with sins that “aren’t so bad” while congratulating ourselves that we aren’t sinning in really public or egregious ways. In the book, he gently but firmly describes some of the more common respectable sins, and invites the reader to consider the how those sins actually affect our relationships with God and others. I realize that often books like this can really impact one person but not particularly convict another, but I’d be surprised if anyone could read the whole volume without finding something to challenge him or her.

The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy, by Shonda Parker
“The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy” is probably the most helpful and encouraging book I’ve ever read about pregnancy. A lot of “natural” pregnancy books are written from a kind of weird perspective, but Parker is unapologetically Christian, which means the book is refreshingly free from New Age mumbo-jumbo and “birth as the goddess within” nonsense. Also refreshing is Parker’s careful refusal to condemn people who do things differently than she does; rather, she lays out the pros and cons of different methods and options and invites the reader to draw her own conclusions based on her own circumstances. The best part of the book is the discussion of various pregnancy symptoms and side effects, how they interact, and how changes in diet and lifestyle or taking herbs or medications can improve the mother’s situation or comfort during pregnancy.

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To see all of the book reviews I did in 2008, click here.

To see my top 15 books of 2007, click here.

To see all of the book reviews from 2007, click here.

And, as always, if you want to buy any of the books I’ve reviewed, I have them linked with the reviews in my Amazon widget in my right sidebar. Thanks!

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