Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 5's of 2012

Because I'm usually half a step behind the times, and generally wish I lived five hundred years ago, many of these things didn't come out in 2012, but that's when I discovered them.


Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy – by the wonderful Eric Metaxas. This book not only tells the amazing story of German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but it also paints in vivid detail Hitler’s sneaky political alliance with “the church” and what the real Church was doing behind the scenes. Disturbing parallels with modern America.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery - also by Metaxas. I didn’t know very much about Wilberforce until I read this book, but now I think he’s one of the greatest influences on Western civilization in the last four hundred years. And a Christian.

The Fellowship of the Ring – by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yeah, yeah, I’ve read it before, but this is the first time I’ve really read it with the spiritual eyes open. Tremendous book. I'm halfway through The Two Towers, and I'm savoring every moment. Interestingly enough, I just found out that the copy we own (see pic) is the Ballantine second edition - and it has a weird misprint. If you happen to have several thousand dollars laying around, I'd be willing to negotiate.

Orthodoxy - by G.K. Chesterton. Simply foundational stuff. I loved this book. So many moments where one thinks "Gosh! It's so obvious, so obviously true, but I never thought of it. Amazing."

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl - by N.D. Wilson. To come clean, I've only watched the bookumentary so far, but that was amazing. I won't quite look at anything the same way. Since, according to Shelfari, I've read about eighty books this year, it's quite an achievement. Along with Orthodoxy, it's had a major impact on my thinking.


And I seriously can't think of two more. We watch too many British mystery series. Speaking of which...

Television Series:

Foyle's War - we started this in the spring, and over a few months, watched all seven seasons in one mystery binge. Terrific acting from Michael Kitchen and the supporting cast, and for a British (well, any modern) TV show, very clean. It has a fascinating historical setting in WWII, and the sets are immaculate. The writing is a definite plus, and the confrontation was invariably the best part of the episode. In nearly all situations, D.C.I. Foyle aligns himself with Christian morality, and adheres rigidly to the law and justice. A must for British mystery lovers.

"She's a human being, and she was murdered. Murder is murder. You stop believing that, and we might as well not be fighting the war... because you end up like the Nazis."

Inspector Morse - this is another series we started and finished in 2012. Unlike Foyle's War, it isn't particularly clean, and Morse, the title character, is a study in flaws. That's probably part of the charm. Most of the interest lies in the central character, his semi-tragic life, grumpiness, and sarcastic jibes at his sergeant, longsuffering Robbie Lewis (who heads up his own show now - something I'm watching in 2013). It takes a while, but one can't help but fall in love with the characters. (Watch it here).

Sherlock - so far, there are only six episodes, but we dashed through them in a few nights. This is another show that has some very unnecessary bits, but most of it is good British fun. Okay, so maybe the one-liners aren't to be beaten. And the acting is great. And the music. The whole production.

Doc Martin - this is one of the most popular soap-sitcoms in Britain, and it deserves it. It's really hilarious, and apart from the occasional four-letter-word, is very clean. It chronicles the adventures of an anti-social, haemophobic (afraid of blood), fish-faced, city boy doctor forced to live in backwoods Portwenn. It has the flavor of The Andy Griffith Show, if not the same innocence. It's available for free on Hulu.

Going Postal - Since I read Terry Pratchett's book Snuff, I've been a devoted fan. Of the three adaptations of Pratchett's books, Going Postal is by far the best. As British miniseries come, this is the crème de la crème. The cast is stellar, and even features the wonderful David Suchet. The humor is all there, and delivered to perfection. Absolutely hilarious. The flavor is distinctly Dickensian.


Light for the Lost Boy - Andrew Peterson's latest CD is really terrific. I review it here.

Land of the Living - Matthew Perryman Jones. I got this free from Noisetrade, and it was my first contact with Matthew's work. The lyrics are dark, deep, hopeful, despairing, and beautiful. Phenomenal CD.

Birds of Relocation - Eric Peters is also new to me, but about twenty seconds into the first track, I knew I was going to love this CD. And I did. Months later, I still do. A step above your average light-hearted pop album. Several steps. A whole staircase.

The Weight of Glory - Heath Mcnease is another guy I found through Noisetrade. When I saw that it was based on the works of C.S. Lewis I knew I had to have it. It's mainly on here because of the track A Grief Observed, which gives me chills every time I listen to it. There are several other very good songs as well - notably The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters. (Get it free here on Noisetrade, or go here to read my review.)

Lights of Distant Cities - Bebo Norman I've known for several years, and his 2008 CD made me a fast fan (which is like a fast friend, but not quite). I wasn't a huge fan of Ocean, in 2010, but this latest album has assuaged any doubts - it's got several very catchy songs, and deep, honest lyrics. Notably, it's produced by Ben Shive (co-producer of Andrew Peterson's latest - see above).

And quickly...


G.K. Chesterton - What a remarkable man...I think I fell in love. He has so many great books. Orthodoxy, Manalive, The Man Who Was Thursday, The Innocence of Father Brown...

Dorothy L. Sayers - I started her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries this year, and have been devouring them.

P.D. James - She really puts a new spin on the Golden age, she's just a good writer, a master of her craft.

Terry Pratchett - Sarcastic humor, thoughts on morality, very creative fantasy, more humor...

N.D. Wilson - Definitely reading more of his books this year.

(Fun fact - I know that the other four are, or were, in Sayers's case, Chesterton fans, Wilson is a Pratchett fan, and James a Sayers fan. Yeah, I'm a nerd.)

So that's it, folks - until 2014,


  1. Just finished up Bonhoeffer, per your recommendation on my facebook status. Fantastic!!! Though I too keep comparing the past with the present, which can be alarming! I am about to start on John Adams, which your dad recommended. I'll let you know whose pick I liked better. :)(By the way, it really bothered me that I can't put those book titles in italics. I would if I could!)

    1. You really ought to check out Eric Metaxas's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last year. He was charming, classy, and hilarious. Also, he practically whopped a Bible over Obama's head.

  2. I agree with you that Avengers was the best movie to come out last year. Not only did it have Robert Downey Jr. in it, but also had the right amount of action, conflict, and character growth.
    By the way, I like you're new picture and Treebeard's quote.


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