Inspired by John Wilson's article in Books and Culture on the Top Ten Books of 2006 (and chided by my wife who said I need to post more often or she would stop reading), I offer to you the "Top Ten Books that I Read in 2006" (who knows if they are any good or not, but I enjoyed them! ). I give you my first five books; the next post will give the next five.
1. Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan
A fascinating and sensitive, as well as historically rigorous, look at Bryan. I'm not sure that Kazin delievered on his premise that Bryan could provide a model for the modern-day Democratic party--i.e. how to forge an evangelical and progressive politic--but it still was a wonderfully written book. You can read what I wrote about it here.
2. D. G. Hart, A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State
A typical Darryl Hart book--brilliant at times, well-written always, wrong-headed in places. He always makes me think hard and well and has shaped me far more than I know. I wrote a review essay of this book that will be appearing in the spring 2007 Westminster Theological Journal, but you can read it here, here, and here.
3. Mark Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis
A typical Mark Noll book, but even better because he fleshes out the argument that he made at the end of America's God. I have a review of this forthcoming in Presbyterion, but you can read it here as well.
4. Harry Stout, Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War
This book should have been my favorite because I so highly respect Stout as a historian. And this book does have a number of strong points--thoroughly researched, consistent argument, and some excellent sections. However, I felt the thesis was a little convoluted--an application of just war theory to the problem of the Civil War--and that the moral fervor in criticizing both sides made the book more sermonic than necessary. Still, an important book for those who work on 19th and 20th century American religion and history.
5. James Giglio, Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man
While this book was published in 2001, I read it last month and thoroughly enjoyed this academic treatment of Musial's career and life. Particularly as the Cardinals advanced to the World Series, I got into a real baseball history mode again and found this book to be worthwhile.