Notable Books of 2014

Why be boring and publish a year-end list of books at the actual year’s end? Here’s a list of a few books that I read in 2014 and stuck with me into the new year.

LEGO Neighborhood Book by Brian and Jason Lyles (No Starch Press, 2014)

The good folks over at Brick City Depot have put out a lovely book full of ideas for your LEGO city. It includes great pictures and tips for making modular-style buildings to fit in with the official LEGO sets as well as all the little details, like lamposts, park benches, furniture, etc. that bring your LEGO city to life. The book also includes instructions for several townhouses, and for the old-fashioned soda fountain/pharmacy building pictured on the cover.

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf, 2014)

I love a good post-apocalyptic novel and plenty of not-so-good ones too. If you’re scared off by the phrase ‘post-apocalyptic’, this book just might win you over. The apocalytpic stuff is really just a device for delivering a moving story about great characters. What more could you want from a book? Follow the Traveling Symphony (motto: Because survival is insufficient), a troupe of actors and musicians who journey around the Great Lakes, performing Shakespeare and classical music for the small pockets of humanity still around after a world-wide pandemic re-shapes civilization years earlier.

 

Pastrix: the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber (Jericho Books, 2013)

I read this book on the recommendation of two people whom I greatly admire – one a theologically conservative Christian, the other quite firmly in the liberal camp. Any book that gets a good word from both sides grabs my attention. Once I started reading Pastrix, it became clear why it was recommended.  Nadia is herself quite liberal; she pastors a Lutheran community in Denver called The House for All Sinners and Saints.  (To my great delight, she’s also an ex-Church-of-Christer!)  But unlike some theological liberals who have a tendency to downplay or dismiss our sinful nature, our brokenness, and our clear need for a Savior, Nadia lays it all out for us to see (and God to use). She shies away from nothing, and while she levels plenty of criticism at the conservative theology found in much of the Church, the truly interesting parts of this book are her blistering critique of her own liberal tradition. I found this to be a great guide for molding a humble yet progressive faith in Christ.

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (Viking, 2014)

A thrilling and largely satisfying ending to a brilliant modern fantasy series (are you paying attention, George? This is how it’s done.) My favorite book in the series in still the second – the Magician King – which stands out because of the engrossing story of Julia, who is a secondary character in the first novel. Still, Magician’s Land ties together the first two and concludes Grossman’s razor sharp yet loving critique of fantasy fiction, especially C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I realized while reading these books that I can’t wait to share the Narnia books with my daughter in a few years. I hope she always lets her dad recommend books to her.

 

The World of Ice and Fire by George Reading Rainbow Martin, et al. (Bantam, 2014)

Part of me is very pissed that George R.R. Martin is writing 10,000 words of back story for his magnum opus instead of working feverishly to FINISH THE [your choice of expletive] BOOK ALREADY. Write for me, monkey! Write! You started this epic during Bill Clinton’s first term! Finish it! *deep breath*

Another part of me is profoundly grateful for whatever scraps Westerosi-based literature that Master George deigns to throw at me, worm that I am. Naturally, I ate it up immediately and loved it. Back story aside, the artwork is fantastic and nearly worth the price of the book alone. Nearly.

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