I am going to reflect on a few of my favorite books from 2011. But note that these are books I read in 2011, not necessarily ones that were new in 2011 .
Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander
Both of these powerful female characters star in extremely popular trilogies: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the final book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Being the father of a newborn baby girl, I wonder if I subconsciously am looking for books with strong female leads. I doubt I should look too deeply into it, as both these book series have been on the bestseller list for months.
If you’re looking for exciting, engaging stories, check out either of these series. They both also provide thought-provoking themes. The Hunger Games confronts our entertainment driven society, in the process creating a story that combines two things we are obsessed with, war and reality television. What is a world like where war becomes the reality tv? The Millennium trilogy focuses on violence against women (the title of the first book in the original Swedish is Men Who Hate Women) in the forms of abuse, rape and human trafficking.
Dickens, Dostoyevskey, Austen and Tolkien
Thanks to the Kindle offering old books for free, I got into the classics this year. Before I did that though, I reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings along with The Silmarillion which is a sort of “Old Testament” to the other stories. Reading those stories got me fired up for The Hobbit, coming next year to the big screen.
As for other classics, some may say I should turn in my “man” card, but I have to say I enjoyed reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
When I was in 10th grade I was part of the cast for the fall play, A Tale of Two Cities. I have fond recollections of storming the Bastille. Since then I always wanted to read the book, so I finally did this year. The sacrifice of Sidney Carton is one of the most inspiring scenes in literature. I also stuck with Dickens to read A Christmas Carol, which every person should read at least once in their life, preferably during the holiday season.
Finally, I left the British isles and moved over to Russia, reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and then (rereading) The Brothers Karamazov. Simply amazing. The Brothers Karamazov may be my favorite novel of all time. If you don’t want to tackle it, at least read the chapters “Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor”. In the first chapter Dostoyevsky, a Christian by the way, puts forth one of the strongest arguments against God’s existence. This argument is from the lips of Ivan, the atheist in the story. He presents it to his brother, the devout monk Aloysha. Aloysha’s only answer is to bring up the suffering servant, Jesus Christ. This leads into the next chapter, a story written by Ivan set in Sevilla, Spain during the Inquisition. Jesus shows up and the Grand Inquisitor puts him on trial. Basically, Jesus and his message get in the way of the work the Church is doing. Ivan may have some respect for Jesus, but like many people he sees a Church that has strayed far from Jesus’ message. It drives me to ask the question, and should drive all of us who work in ministry to ask, if Jesus showed up today, would he be in the way as we go about our church activities?