Our 2011 favorites


I was sitting backstage with Jill Phillips on the Behold The Lamb of God tour when she said, “Well, it’s about that time–time for the end of the year ‘best of’ lists to start popping up.”

And since Jill brought it up, I thought it might be fun to ask my Rabbit Roommates to submit their favorite movies, music, and books lists. To ring in the new year we look back for a moment (so I can make a list of movies, books, and music to buy with all my Christmas loot). After reading ours, share your own list with us:

Jason Gray



So Beautiful or So What – Paul Simon
This is my favorite record of 2011. (I wrote a review here.) I’ve turned to this record and its life-giving reflections on love and tenderness over and over throughout the year. Favorite tracks: “Rewrite” and “Love And Hard Times.”

Invisible Empires – Sara Groves
Sara’s one of the best lyricists out there. This collection of songs is at once deeply personal and globally philosophical. Topics range from the miracle of forgiveness in our most intimate relationships to questions of modernity. This is one of her best records, I think, and that’s saying a lot. It’s healing music. It also offers one of the most naked glimpses into the heart of a woman with the song “Finite” written by Sara and Jill Phillips. Favorite Tracks: “Miracle” and “Open My Hands.”

The Cymbal Crashing Clouds – Ben Shive
When I listen to this record, I have the pleasure of experiencing a person doing exactly what God has made them to do. At turns smart and poignant, Ben’s love of the Beach Boys, alternative indie pop, and Vince Guaraldi combine in a way that he makes sound effortless. Ben also collaborated with the boy who did the artwork to make a delightfully illustrated companion book filled with lyrics, Shel Silverstein-esque drawings, and beautiful essays written about each song. The combination of the book and the CD make for the kind of project that I consider a small miracle that it even exists, and it’s extravagant feast of creativity and grace to be celebrated. Ever since I heard the first song on this record, the sound of a train whistle parts the sullen, muted veil of this world and heralds a Kingdom beyond and breaking through this one. Favorite tracks: “Listen” and one of my all time favorite songs, “A Last Time For Everything.”

In This Hour – Jill Phillips
I think I experience this as Jill’s most personal record yet. It’s beautiful and so intimate with details that invite us into her heart. The album opens with a gem of a pop song, “Show Up,” and from there “Find A Way” plunges into the deep end of marital commitment in the face of all that can make that so difficult. “This bed is an ocean / we’re on opposite shores / I used to know my way across but I’m not sure anymore… I don’t know how to fix but I know there’s a way…” These songs are so full of the kind of grace that touches the deepest wounds that it takes a certain kind of courage to listen to because of how it can bring you present to either the grace you need or the grace you could give to someone else. “…everyone thought that suddenly you changed / but you’ve been walking down this road for many years / when you hate the person you’ve become you think the world does too / I’m not trying to make up some excuse / but I can see how it happened…” Favorite Tracks: “Find A Way” and “If You Were Here.”

Mylo Xyloto – Coldplay
My kids have discovered a love for music in a deeper way this year, and Coldplay rose through the ranks to become one of their favorites and a rock band that we all enjoy. Mylo Xyloto may not be my favorite Coldplay record, but the anticipation of its release with my sons and our shared enjoyment of it make it one of my favorite music experiences of the year. Favorite Tracks: “Charlie Brown” and “Paradise.”

Bad As Me – Tom Waits
Though my favorite Waits record may always be Mule Variations, I think this one is his best in many years and a worthy entry in his always strange and often beautiful catalog. More than writing just songs, Waits conjures characters and then sings songs from inside of them. Favorite Tracks: “Bad As Me” and “Pay Me.”

There were so many more movies that I wanted to see this year, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Here’s a list of a few I did see and enjoyed:

Punch Drunk Love
I’ve had this on my must see list for years and finally got around to it in November. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) and a poignant and unlikely leading role for Adam Sandler (don’t let that scare you away, it’s not an Adam Sandler movie), I loved this film. The use of the song “He Needs Me” from the old Popeye movie was brilliant and the kind of thing that I love about Anderson’s genius.

The Descendants
In my mind, George Clooney’s best role and one of the most moving stories of forgiveness and coming alive that I’ve seen a long time.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II
I feel sheepish including this one because of it’s ubiquity, but I and my family thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

The Best Worst Movie
A Documentary about Troll 2 that Andrew Peterson introduced me to and that we watched on the bus during the Christmas tour. It’s delightfully weird and even offers a revealing glimpse into human nature by the end.

The Muppets
Having grown up on the Muppets, I found this a delightful and often poignant return to a world of characters that I’ve always loved. How the Muppets manage to be both so unapologetically sincere and slyly subversive at the same time is a mystery that I enjoy thoroughly.

I’ve always been a fan and have read many of his books, but this was the year of Walt Wangerin Jr. catch up for me, and these are his books I read that deeply nourished me:

Miz Lil And The Chronicles of Grace – This is my new favorite Wangerin book. This book is made up of stories of the deconstruction of his faith from childhood to adolescence and the later rediscovery of it in his pastoral ministry. I either laughed or cried on nearly every page. Wangerin’s bravery is inspiring here as he shares stories where more often than not he is the fool or the villain. Beautiful.

As For Me And My House – Wangerin’s book about marriage is distinctive in that his pastoral and storytelling vocations combine to offer storied, humble wisdom about our most sacred relationship. More than a “how to” marriage book, it reads like a great story that you can’t put down. In Walt and Thanne’s story you may find your own.

The Manger Is Empty – Wangerin’s book of reflections around the idea of Advent. The chapter about his adopted son Matthew’s stealing problem and the moment that changed his heart is one of the clearest and most beautiful gospel moments I’ve ever read.

And speaking of Advent, our own Russ Ramsey’s Behold The Lamb Of God was the perfect travel guide to my advent season this year, full of insights that put me in the middle of the greatest story ever told.

I also reread C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy this year and LOVED it. Lewis’s understanding of sin as rejecting the good that is because it isn’t the good you hoped for began to shift continents of understanding in my heart.

Eric Peters



The Muppet Movie – One of two movies I’ve seen in an actual theatre this year (Cars 2 being the other). So moving and funny that my four-year-old son vomited on my wife at the high point of the film. What I did get to see of Muppets was superb. I hope the gang got their $10 million. Maniacal laugh.

The Simpsons (on DVD) – Mock me if you must, but I still really like this show. After getting the boys to bed at night, I often watch an episode or two in those moments when I desperately need a good laugh. Which is, to say, often.


My Name is Asher Lev – Andrew Peterson recommended this book to me years ago, but only recently did I purchase a copy and read it. Originally published the year of my birth, I read and saw in this moving and poignant story a portion of myself and my own personal artist leanings. It did me much good.

In The Heart of the Sea – Nathaniel Philbrick is among my favorite living historians. He has a tremendous gift for writing narrative history (i.e., non-school-book style), especially on the topic of seafaring and whaling. An absolutely incredible story of whalers lost at sea for ninety days, and how/if they survive.


David Mead – Dudes – His music continues to slay me. I’m a geek of a fan. Though lyrically crude at times, “Dudes” seems to be a light at the end of a dark tunnel for David. This album is a return to David’s pop-rock leanings to which I was first introduced and fell in love with ten years ago. Mead has a gift that few possess: an uncanny ability to write maddeningly catchy melodies and hooks, along with an unmistakable voice to deliver said goods. “I Can’t Wait” is a prime example.

Ben Shive – The Cymbal Crashing Clouds – You may argue that I’m including this as a hidden form of suck-uppery to my producer (and friend), Ben Shive. I assure you I am, and am not. Here’s why: Ben has a musical mind that I simply cannot fathom, cannot often comprehend, cannot relate to at times, but stand (and listen) in awe of. He clearly knows what he’s doing, whether on piano or behind the production wheel. But, Ben is also very much a poet, an elder mind, and a clear thinker of great depth. I truly admire Ben; his pen, his wit, his mind, and his poet soul. Frankly, I wish he would contribute more to the Rabbit Room.

Thomas McKenzie


Movies (so far, but I haven’t seen all the Oscar contenders yet)

Drive: I loved this film and wish I could recommend it to everyone, but I can’t due to the violence. I loved its stillness, its existential movement, its beautiful picture of self-giving love, its humor, and its perfect twisting of convention.

Super 8: Yes, the monster was lame.  But the acting was tremendous, the story was superb, and I left the theater wanting to make my own zombie movie.

The Descendants: A small film about the biggest questions. Some of the minor characters were lacking, and there is a storyline that never really develops, but I consistently believed the main characters. I felt like I was in the room with a real family, and I empathized with their anger, resentment, and heartbreak.

And yes, I saw Tree of Life, Melancholia, and The Help.  And no, they are not on this list.

Books (that I read this year, not that came out this year)

The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene – The broken, incomplete, and triumphant glory of the Church lived out in the life of one drunken priest. Brought me to tears more than once.

Empire of the Summer Moon – S.C. Gwynne – The terrifying and heartbreaking story of the Comanche Nations. It had a particular poignancy for me because their reign ended almost exactly where I grew up, and their greatest American enemy was a distant relation of mine.

Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer – I read this in an attempt to figure out what is going on with Mormonism. I walked away with a deeper sensitivity to the danger of blasphemy, especially in my own religion.

Music – This is where I always get into trouble because I have to play favorites among my friends. But I’m just going to suck it up and say what I think. The best new music in 2011 came from these three sources:

The Civil Wars – You take two musicians who were often overlooked, you stick them together, and you get the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of music. Totally, utterly beautiful.

Jill Philips and Andy Gullahorn – Andy has really come into his own as a splendid songwriter with his finger on the pulse of my favorite counter-culture. And Jill’s new CD is truly the stand out album of the year. These two are more than excellent musicians, they are honesty and compassion set to music.

Florence + The Machine – I flipped out when I first heard their rendition of “Addicted to Love,” and I still cannot get enough of them. Florence is like a druid/dervish Amy Winehouse with, I hope, less drugs.

Pete Peterson



Drive – This was one of those movies that arrived completely unannounced, no fanfare, no trailer, and no hype, and it pretty well blew my mind. It manages to deserve both the classic and modern definition of the word “awful.” It’s filled with as many beautiful moments as it is horrifying ones, and one enhances the power of the other. It’s never less than mesmerizing. It’s also got one of the best and weirdest soundtracks ever.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – One of the best sensations I know of is that of watching a story unfold while not only being captivated by it and desperate to know what happens next but feeling the elation of genuine surprise when that next thing happens in a way I didn’t at all expect. If you don’t know what I mean, go watch this movie. The word “No” has never carried so much dramatic weight.

Tree of Life – This isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s such a singular vision of a film that it wipes away some of my cynicism about the Hollywood machine and reminds me that it’s still possible for one man to communicate in vision and poetry without the anchor-weight of blockbuster commercialism dragging behind him. Or if, as is more likely the case, that anchor does drag, he drags it mightily along.

Midnight in Paris – A love letter to art and literature. Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Dali, Fitzgerald–how can I not love it. Thank you, Woody Allen.

Honorable Mention – Troll 2 – Wow. Just wow. Popcorn will never be the same.


Mind of the Maker – This book rocked my world this year. Sayers’ trinitarian analogy of the creative process struck a deep and resonate note in me. I’ve since gone back and read it multiple times and find myself applying her ideas whenever I’m thinking critically about any work, especially my own.

A Tale of Two Cities – I think I read this (or maybe part of it) when I was in high school. It didn’t make much of an impression, and I didn’t remember anything but those famous first and last lines. I read it again this year (for the first time, you might say) and it’s become my favorite book, maybe my favorite book ever. It’s so good on so many different levels that there’s no way I’m going to attempt to do it justice here. I’ll be re-reading it for the rest of my life. Amazing.

Everything That Rises Must Converge – I rarely appreciate audiobooks, but Jonathan Rogers loaned me a disc from this audiobook of Flannery O’Conner’s final work and it blew me away (I promptly begged the other discs off of him). It’s a collection of some of the best short stories I’ve ever read (listened to), and for someone raised in the south much of it felt so close to home as to be both intensely uncomfortable and incredibly authentic. Can’t recommend it highly enough. I was sad when it was over because there will never be another Flannery O’Conner story to baffle, amaze, and humble me.


Mylo Xyloto – I really don’t know what to say about this except that I love how bright the music is. I’m not sure yet if I like it as much as Viva la Vida, but at the very least it’s my favorite “pop” album of the year.

Love & War & the Sea in Between – I just discovered Josh Garrels this year, and thank goodness. This record is in permanent rotation at our house. I’ve never heard anything quite like it, and I can’t get enough of it. Maybe the highest compliment I can give Josh Garrels is that he has done what no other artist on earth has ever done: He has made me love a rap song.

The Cymbal Crashing Clouds – I love every inch of this album. It’s almost like Ben Shive reached into my brain and pulled out exactly the kind of songs I’ve always wanted to hear but had forgotten existed. And on top of the great record, there’s an amazing book to go along with it.

S.D. Smith, maker of lists. Listmaster Monthly‘s top 5 Listmasters Listmakers five years running.

Books (in no intentional order).

The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling – I finally got around to reading these over the last six months. Actually, Jim Dale read them to me. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and Jim Dale is in the top three (reading) performers I’ve ever heard. Brilliant. On Rowling’s series: A few quibbles aside, this was really amazing. I thought book 3 was exceptional and the ending to book 7 transporting. The ending is thoroughly beautiful and brilliant on so many levels. It truly was a delight. Also, she is an amazing writer. Some of the features of the series were so convoluted (which is a huge problem anytime limits are vague –as with magic), it amazes me she was able to keep us engaged and bought in so thoroughly. But she did. What an incredible performance she accomplished in these books. She excelled at both of the main jobs of a novelist. The story was fantastic and the performance was equally so. I’m sure she’s delighted to hear of my approval a thousand years after everyone else. It was excellent. I loved the triumphal ending. So true to the way God is telling the story of mankind.

Beyond Smells & Bells – Mark Galli – A very helpful little book on the beauty of the Christian liturgy, a subject I’ve been on a slow train towards understanding for twenty years. The train has sped up in the last few years and this was a help.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic – Jennifer Trafton – A delightful read, full of humor and whimsy. Jennifer is one of those writers who give me hope. That she is just beginning her career as a public novelist tells me there are, by God’s grace, many years and many tales to come which I will love. Jennifer seems incapable of writing anything dull, or destructive. I look forward to years of enjoying and sharing with others the fruit of her construction. Also, my eight-year-old daughter, who reads a huge number of books, counts it among her very favorites. I love books and music and movies that delight (and are fit to be received) by both eight and 34-year-olds.

That Hideous Strength – C.S. Lewis – This was a reread, but I mention it because it is so fantastic. It is the novelization of the ideas in The Abolition of Man. Here is a thorough demolition of much modern (and post-modern) absurdity in a terrific tale. Did you know this is novelist N.D. Wilson’s favorite novel?

The Prodigal God – Tim Keller – This was a fantastic little book. Like a lot of Keller’s work, it reveals the Gospel as a third way between the approach of the younger and elder brothers. He rightly points out the target of the parable is the elder brother and constitutes a challenge to him to stop his own manipulation of the father (Father) and to enter into the shocking welcome he has for those who don’t deserve it.

Picking just a few is impossible, but I shall stop there. I’m saying nothing about Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle? What is wrong with me?


I don’t know. I can’t remember anything too amazing except that Cars 2 was disappointing. Pixar!? I don’t go to the movies very much and I honestly can’t remember one movie that amazed me. Oh, I loved Jane Eyre. And the last three Harry Potter movies were really excellent. If I remember any more, I’ll call a press conference and people can start camping out in a line, sleepless and breathless and brainless with anticipatory anticipation.


I’m an incurable homer. As Nacho Libre (hey, that’s a movie) sort-of-almost said: “All the Rabbit Room music-types and The Square Pegs are my favorites too!” Everything I attempt to write about them seems weird for some reason, so I’ll leave it at that. Or… I love them like I love the sound of rivers dancing like tulips on the streets of my cobble-stone heart in a hat with wet tulips in it on drugs. <—not weird at all.

Otherwise, I loved Josh Garrels. And I’ve really enjoyed Hutchmate Zach Smith’s The Walla Recovery. Fernando Ortega keeps getting played in my car regularly. I love Dan Zanes and he got plenty of plays in our home in 2011, especially his Sea Songs. I really like Jacob Dylan’s Women and Country, which is new to me in 2011. I keep listening to Rich Mullins all the time. I’ll never get past that.

Live: We had Randall Goodgame up in here in West Virginia for a Slugs & Bugs show and it was amazing for our community. We saw Behold the Lamb of God again in Charlotte and that is so special for my whole family (almost literally). The Square Peg show and the Jason Gray release show at Hutchmoot were sweet. But the coolest: I got to be acting road manager for my man, Eric Peters, for a short leg of his tour through West Virginia and Pennsylvania. That was simply smashing. Eric is the berries.

Jonathan Rogers



It was an unusual year of reading for me; in the first half of the year my reading revolved around the Flannery O’Connor biography I was writing, and in the second half of the year all my reading revolved around teaching literature and the history of the English language. But I’m happy to offer up my favorites:

The Habit of Being. Flannery O wrote fiction in the morning and letters in the afternoon. The Habit of Being is a collection of those letters. She lived in isolation from other writers and intellectuals (she didn’t even have a telephone for most of her adult life), and yet she craved intelligent conversation. Her letters served that purpose. As editor Sally Fitzgerald wrote, we are blessed that Flannery O’Connor’s best conversation didn’t “go up in talk” as it would have if she had been able to sit down and talk with the people she wrote so many letters to. These letters are hilarious and smart and theologically rich. And every time I get to that last letter she wrote, I get weepy. She’s so alive in her letters, it comes as a surprise when she dies (at 39!).

Dr. FaustusMuch Ado About Nothing. In the fifteen or so years since I finished getting educated, I’ve been on an overwhelmingly American diet of reading. Teaching literature this past semester, I remembered why I specialized in the British Renaissance. The richness and texture of the plays and poems–it really is astonishing. Much Ado is on the list simply because it is the most recent Shakespeare play I read. It could have been any of Shakespeare’s plays.


I didn’t see too many movies in 2011. The favorites on my list have all been listed above, and their merits better articulated. Nevertheless, here goes:

Tree of Life – I’m crazy about this movie. It breaks several of my hidebound rules of storytelling, and it breaks rules I didn’t even know I had (no CGI dinosaurs in a family drama, for one). It’s an infuriating movie (twenty minutes of planetarium movie footage? Really?) And yet I love it anyway. It may be some kind of Stockholm Syndrome, where the movie maker beats me into submission, and yet I end up on his side. In any case, the fact that somebody even was able to make and distribute such a movie makes me happy.

Super 8 – Just saw this last week and got very nostalgic for the Spielberg movies of my youth.

The Muppets – Again, it makes me happy to know that sometime in 1970s, Jim Henson said, “I’ve got an idea: let’s do a prime-time variety show with puppets!” And that the idea still lives.

Midnight in Paris – This one was just a ton of fun and not as annoyingly pseudo-intellectual as I expected it to be.


Love and War and the Sea in Between – Josh Garrels –  We wore this one out this year. Josh Garrels’ songs are shot through with the gospel and thick with the language and imagery of scripture.

The Cymbal Crashing Clouds – Ben Shive – Jason already hit the nail on the head. This is a guy doing exactly what he was made to do. Pete hit the other nail on the head. I love every inch of this album. Ben Shive is such a clever young man.

In the Kids’ Music category, I have already written about how much I love Slugs and Bugs: Under Where? and Coal Train Railroad Swings.

2011 was the Year of Noisetrade for me. I have loved having the opportunity to sample music that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard. Here are two of my favorites that nobody has mentioned yet:

What the Crow Brings – The Low Anthem – This isn’t The Low Anthem’s most recent album, just the one they offered on Noisetrade. What the Crow Brings is broody and dark and reflects the band members’ interest in the history of American music. The songs sound like they could have been written and sung in mining camps.

Youth Is in our Blood – The Dirty Guv’nahs – This is just straight ahead Southern Rock, more of the runka-runka variety than the noodly-doodly variety. (To put that in Skynyrd terms, they’re more “Give Me Three Steps” than “Freebird”). Sometimes they start sounding like a Black Crowes tribute band. Which is kind of awesome.

Matt Conner



Hugo – Martin Scorsese’s ode to cinematic history is an intimate, vulnerable story that showcases a beautiful side the celebrated director’s never before unveiled.


Love & War & The Sea In Between – Josh Garrels – Garrel’s magnum opus is an expansive, dynamic 18-song collection that features some of the most soul-stirring lyrics I’ve ever heard.


The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes – This 2011 Man Booker prize-winning novel is one of the finest releases in English literature in years. With beautiful prose, Barnes disarms the fears of not only his character but all of us as he ages.

Russ Ramsey



Super 8 – I saw this film twice–once by myself (which is how I usually roll) and then with my son and AP and his boys. The second time I spent a good part of the movie watching my 11 year old son watch it– trying to see if he’s aware of girls yet. My findings are confidential.

Drive – Brutal in places. But there’s this scene at the end where the hero lays everything down for the sake of love that struck a note of truth in me.


So Runs the World Away – Josh Ritter – Call me late to the party, but man! Josh Ritter is an amazing songwriter. This isn’t a perfect record. But there are a couple of songs that are as close to perfect as you can get.

Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars – I defer to other synopses in this post. A sonic rarity.


Isaac’s Storm – Erik Larson – I love historical events told as story. This isn’t Larson’s best work, I’m told, but still its a pretty mesmerizing account of one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the US (Galveston, TX) and the weather man who didn’t see it coming… or did he?

The Charlatan’s Boy – Jonathan Rogers – Loved this book. JR is such a terrific story teller. The culture he unfolds in this book, and the poetic wisdom of the narrator made this book a joy to read. Also, it has one of the best opening lines of any book I’ve ever read: “I don’t remember one thing about the day I was born.”

Jason Gray is a recording artist with Centricity Records. His latest single, out now, is "When I Say Yes".


  1. Kaitlyn

    Grateful that I have listened to many of these albums over the year, but mostly the last week. Christmas loot did me some good in the iTunes store! 😉

    Wonderful lists! I’m convinced more now than ever that Walt Wangerin Jr. needs to take priority on my reading list.

  2. Debbie Sneddon

    Music: It is gonna be mostly Christian because I don’t listen to much else.

    Royal Tailor(Black & White)–played this CD to death almost.
    Building 429 (Listen to the Sound)–best by them thus far.
    Adele (“21” )Great voice ’nuff said.


    Seven Days in Utopia–Robert Duvall is a great actor and I loved the book the movie was based on.
    Snowmen– The kids in this movie will steal your heart.
    The Way– Emilio Estevez has a winner here.

    I am a slow bloomer as far as Donald Miller’s books go, I read Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, Through Painted Deserts, and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years this past year, these books changed my opinion of myself and mostly of God, loved them.

    The Prodigal God- Tim Keller This book touched me so to see the teaching of the prodigals in a different way, loved it. Will read it again.

    Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian We need no one’s approval but God’s and we have it through Jesus Christ.

    Finally gave into reading Ted Dekker, his Heaven trilogy was awesome.

  3. Deb

    Now I know what to buy with the remainder of my iTunes gift card! Thanks!

    And I *really* want to see The Muppets, but no one will go with me! 🙁

  4. Jen

    I kept looking for this post on New Year’s Eve until I realized it was Saturday. Sad but true. Glad the year end list is here! I always end up discovering something new.

    A few of my own…

    Music: I could list about twenty albums I enjoyed this year, but four really dominated my listening.

    – Ben Shive: Everyone else said it better. It’s so magical. And the book is the perfect finishing touch.
    – Paul Simon: I’ve always kind of liked him, but this year (thanks to Jason’s review!) I finally gave him a serious listen. I bought So Beautiful or So What not knowing what to expect, and I love it! I also got to see one of his concerts last month and it was amazing.
    – Jason Gray: At the risk of sounding like a suck-up (since he started off this post and all ;))… I spent a lot of time with this record, first because I was supposed to write about it, and then because I needed to hear it. It’s hard to describe other than I just understand these songs, and I’m so thankful for them. (And thankful I could be at the release show!)
    – Bon Iver: It’s layered and beautiful, hard to define. Every time I listen, I hear something new. The lyrics are nonsensical most the time, until some line stands out and holds on (“At once I knew / I was not magnificent” for one.) Bonus points for using a cheesy 80s synth in a totally non-ironic way and still sounding beautiful.

    Also must say I’m so glad to see people mention Coldplay in a positive way. Mylo Xyloto isn’t perfect, but it makes me happy. That’s necessary sometimes.

    Movies: Um… I don’t think I saw a lot this year. I did go to a midnight show of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 though. Preceded by Part 1. On my birthday. THAT was epic. And The Muppets was the most fun I’ve had at the theater in forever. OH and Super 8. Guess I was into movies that brought out the kid in me…

    Books: Godric by Buechner, Paradise Lost for the first time, The Mind of the Maker for Hutchmoot Homework, and a memoir called Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. It’s a spiritual memoir about a woman who finds God while living and studying Romantic literature at Oxford University… so it basically speaks most of my nerd languages. (I wrote about it here)

  5. John Barber

    Here are my Top Five Movies of the year (they’re waaaay better than Thomas’).

    1. 50/50
    2. Super 8
    3. Midnight in Paris
    4. Harry Potter 8
    5. Take Shelter

    The Muppets, Drive, and Paul get Honorable Mention status…

  6. Laura Peterson

    (Becca – you must put that in a poem.)

    Oh, I love end-of-year lists. It’s such fun to discover new things and to find out that some of you love the same things I do in the same ways. (There’s a C.S. Lewis paraphrase somewhere in there.) Here’s mine:

    – U2. 2011 is the year I first listened to The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby in their entirety….and that’s a musical occasion to be remembered, I say.
    – Over the Rhine. “The Long Surrender” is beautiful and poetic. So good.
    – The Milk Carton Kids. They opened when I saw OtR, and blew my expectations out of the water.
    – I fully agree with everything already said about Josh Garrels and The Civil Wars. Brilliance for my ears, and yours.
    – Under the Radar. I talk about this podcast all the time – if you don’t know about it, you should! They play “some of the best undiscovered and under-appreciated songs from Christian artists.” And it’s great. You’ll hear some familiar Square Peg/RR artists, but also a lot of great new stuff.

    Jane Eyre, The King’s Speech….and, Larry Crowne. Go ahead and laugh at that – but it made me happy, so it’s staying on the list. I am an unabashed fan of Tom Hanks.

    The Wingfeather Saga – AP. I read all three this year, and laughed and cried. Then I made my sister read them, and she laughed and cried too. Eager to see how the story ends.
    Fiddler’s Green – Pete Peterson. Awesome, awesome tale.
    A handful of the Mary Russell mysteries by Laurie R. King. I don’t usually go in for mysteries, but my cousin and best friend are big fans of this series and they’ve finally converted me. Female protagonist + Sherlock Holmes + academia + Britain = rather delightful.

    Excited to see what 2012 will hold.

  7. Leigh McLeroy

    The movies that made me happiest…..hmmm. Okay. Not a great year for movies. Next.

    The books that made me happiest….Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson; Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas; The Art of Fielding by Chard Harbach; One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; Somewhere More Holy by Tony Woodlief; The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders.

    The music that made me happiest….new tunes from Jason Gray, Jill Phillips and Sara Groves made it a good year indeed.

  8. Jenna

    Yes and amen to HP7.2, Muppets, Josh Garrels, the space trilogy (which I read for the first time this year along with the full Narnia series, the Hobbit and LoTR… I know, a little late to the party, but hey, I’m here.)

    I would add to music: Jenny&Tyler, “Consumed” (by Jesus Culture), Jillian Edwards and Laura Hackett.

  9. Brian

    I just posted some thoughts on my favorite music of 2011. Here’s the list.
    6. Sara Groves, Invisible Empries
    5. Randall Goodgame, Slugs & Bugs Under Where?
    4. Paul Simon: Surprise
    3. Josh Garrels: Love and War and the Sea In-Between
    2. Mumford and Sons: Sigh no More
    1. Ben Shive: The Cymbal Crashing Clouds

    For books

    Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
    East of Eden, John Steinbeck
    On the Edge of the Dark…I am reading this aloud to my 7th grade class, who long for the book to be made into a movie.

    And for movies,

    The Help
    The Zookeeper

  10. Breann

    I’m with Laura and Jen…This is something I look forward to at the end of each year. And Becca, the image of candy at a Christmas parade = genius!


    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – one of my favorite children’s books, full of fun and wit

    Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner – I read this book during Lent as I attempted to pry the fingers of fear off my life. The image of the Little Ease within the Chapel of Saint John is a poignant one that has given me a way to talk about the crippling place of fear I find myself retreating into.

    Monster in the Hollows by AP – Lines like “Gnag bends things for breaking and the Maker makes a flourish! Evil digs a pit, and the Maker makes a well!” took on weight as I read them in the days following the Joplin tornado. It’s true. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

    The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis – felt true to the nature of temptation

    Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald – I want to be like Gibbie when I grow up. His unfettered trust that makes word and deed one and the same is to be admired.

    I only watched one movie in the theaters this year, Deathly Hallows, part 2. I really enjoyed it (except for the final duel between HP and Voldemort, It needed more speaking of spells, less seclusion, and less Voldy-flakes) so, yeah, I’ll go with that.

    A Way to See in the Dark, JG
    Love and War and the Sea in Between – Josh Garrels
    Under Where? – Slugs & Bugs
    In this Hour – Jill Phillips

  11. Rebekah Morgan

    I love lists of this kind.
    Super 8–“Bad things happen but you can still live”. That line added weight and meaning to a fun, well acted movie. And since I didn’t watch those sorts of films when I was a kid, I thought Super 8 was quite original.

    “The Attributes of God” by Shai Linne–To my surprise, I like hip-hop especially when the lyrics are based on the attributes of God.
    “A Way to See in the Dark” by Jason Gray. In the midst of rather a long rough patch, these songs pierced my heart with hope in Jesus and brought light into my darkness. Thank you.

    “Monsters in the Hollow” by Andrew Petersen. So many beautiful, deep truths to ponder in the midst of the adventure.
    “The 100 Cupboards” series by N.D. Wilson. Well written and thoughtful and quite adventurous. Themes include: the importance of taking a stand for what’s right even if it is a losing battle and self sacrifice.
    “The Deep things of God” Fred Sanders . . . okay I’m not completely finished, but wanted to commend it to others

  12. Becca

    Thanks, Laura and Breann.

    AP — Maybe you could throw us a few here in the comment section as you get some time? Well, unless you’ve been reading books about monster trucks. If so, I don’t want to hear about it.

  13. Jen

    Laura: Discovering two of U2’s best is totally an occasion to remember! I first heard Achtung Baby last year too. Greatness.

    And add my vote…. AP, we need your list in the comments. It’s never too late. Please? =)

  14. JJ

    This might be long. My apologies.


    The Violet Burning – The Story of Our Lives: This was hands down my favorite of the year. TVB have been around since the late 80s and are one of the most under-appreciated bands in Christian music (in my opinion). It’s been awhile since they put out a new studio album and this 3 disc epic was worth the wait.

    The Devil Wears Prada – Dead Throne: I discovered these guys in 2010 and was hooked. Amazing album.

    We Came As Romans – Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be: I discovered this album late in the year but have hardly been able to stop listening to it. Perfect blend of metal and melody.


    Stephen King – The Dark Tower: I read through this series this year as I started my journey through one of my new favorite authors existing works (I’m currently reading 11/22/63 which is going to be on my best of 2012 list). The Dark Tower series is everything I love in a series. It’s the perfect blend of fantasy and science fiction with a bunch of western thrown in. Who’d have thought that would work? Well it does and I love this series. It’s up there for me with Narnia and Lord of the Rings for me with rereads a sure thing in years to come.

    Stephen King – ‘Salem’s Lot: This is not your tween’s vampire novel. Up there with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which I also read this year).

    Bram Stoker – Dracula: See ‘Salem’s Lot.

    Stephen King – The Stand: You probably see a pattern here. Epic story and will be on my reread list for sure.

    Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book: I think it was Travis Prinzi’s comment on GoodReads that I should stop whatever I was reading and pick up this book. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. I know it came out in 2010 but it makes my list for best of 2011.

    Andrew Peterson – Monster in the Hollows: Makes waiting for the last book even harder. Amazing.


    I didn’t see much this year. I don’t even know what I saw in the theater (if anything). But what I did have one standout.

    Super 8: I wanted to see this in the theater but missed out. It’s just as great on Blu-ray. It really made me, like someone else said, long for the days of my childhood when movies like this were more common.


    I’m only throwing TV in here because this was the year I got hooked and fell in love with Doctor Who. I started in late 2010 with the revived show (season 1 from 2005), but the first few episodes really didn’t do much for me. Then this year I picked it up again, flying through season 1 (with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor), then dove right into seasons 2-4 with David Tennant. While he was brilliant I must say my favorite is Matt Smith (season 5 to present). He brings such a darker tone to the series, not to mention Steven Moffat taking over most of the writing duties. His earlier episodes in seasons 2-4 were some of the best (he also does the new BBC Sherlock series). But Matt is amazing. Season 7 isn’t supposed to start until this Fall, but I have plenty to rewatch to tide me over. Plus Sherlock.

  15. KRF

    I’ll avoid sounding like a broken record, and just say that most of the above books have been through my hands this year and have all been amazing. I followed along with the Hutchmoot reading list and was not only blessed, but found authors new to me and am now seeking out their other works. And, of couse, can’t thank our RR authors enough for the gifts they’ve given us with their writing talents. Reading Russ Ramsey’s BTLOG book made me cry.

    One series that I haven’t seen mentioned is by new author Patrick Rothfuss ~ it’s one of those reads that might not appeal to everyone, and can be a bit intimidating if you don’t usually read really THICK books, but I became quickly hooked and am only disappointed in having to wait so long for the third book in the trilogy. Sort of the same situation we find ourselves in with the Wingfeather series. The Rothfuss books are very hard to catagorize ~ I’m not really sure to call them history/fantasy, or middle-ages sci-fi, but they contain magic, wizards, music, love, loss, humor, action, and characters you can’t help but begin to think of as family.

  16. Jon Slone

    Movies & T.V.

    Limitless = One of the best I’ve seen in a long time. People Mag said it was the most underrated movie of the year. Premise alone gets 5 gold stars.

    The last Harry Potter, Midnight in Paris, The Next Three Days, Justified is amazing, plus it takes place in Lexington KY where I’m from. I’m sure I could go on…

    Oh, and, We Bought A Zoo was pretty good.

    Books: I’m too busy writing a novel and a blog and raising a daughter to read…I got 400 pages into The Count of Monte Cristo and I stopped. I will go back.

    Music: Discovered Jason Gray this year…his new album, AH-mazing! Andrew Peterson’s New CD…AH-mazing….nothing new there……..discovered Jill Phillips this year…………so that’s what an angel sounds like……I had always wondered about that. Paul Simon’s new CD is great, Ben Rector and Gabe Dixon are CRAZY good!! Grayson Capps is lovely, Coldplay’s new on, just discovered The Greyboy Allstars, Foster the People, Jillian Edwards, Blind Pilot, Brett Dennen, Josh Ritter and Josh Garrels!

    I also may have been recently bitten by a new show called, The Walking Dead.

  17. Brent

    Favorite music (concerts) of 2011:

    (3) Ladysmith Black Blackmambazo:

    Highlight: The concert was great, but my favorite part was watching concert goers filing out of the venue and trying to replicate the high kicks of Joseph Shabalala et al. Most were not able to kick as high as the 70 year old Shabalala.

    (2) Andy Osenga:

    Highlight#1: Listening to Osenga explain his vision for a concept album about an astronaut and how he wanted build his own spaceship in which to record it. This was before the Rabbit Room announcement or the Kickstarter campaign, and he kept stopping to tell the crowd, “No, no, I’m serious!”

    Highlight#2: Our one hour drive took almost 2.5 because of a series of events and we were worried we would miss the concert entirely. We walked in as the openers were finishing up, and found ourself standing at the back next to the headliner. In exchange for a can of Quebec maple syrup, my wife convinced Osenga to play ‘O Canada.’

    (1) Over the Rhine:

    Highlight: Everything!

  18. Amber Leffel

    I went to the movies I think 4 times since January 2011, and 3 of those 4 times were in the last week (but all 2011 movies). I don’t know why. I saw Breaking Dawn (mostly for kicks but also a few sentimental shout-outs), We Bought a Zoo (touching, really cute), The Adventures of Tin Tin (so, so good. In so many ways.), and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (which was a Tom Cruise movie. Okay for a girl who doesn’t watch adventure movies much and saw it in IMAX… And someone else paid for her $12.50 ticket. That was good).

    As for music, I LOVED Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues like CRAZY at the beginning of the year. Mumford & Sons, of course, had their time (they always have their time), as did Josh Garrels (beautiful); but the music that stands out for me the most as of late is mewithoutYou’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon album (on repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat) and Joe Pug. So, so good.

    Books: This year I read more than I ever had before, and was so proud of myself for it. The Solitary Summer (“by the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden,” the cover reads) was a GORGEOUS way to start my summer. I can’t believe how much beauty is in that book. Please, please, please, everyone read it. (I could be to blame for too much sentimentality – but I can’t quite submit to that. It was beautiful and peaceful.) Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies was a comfort and a restoration to me in a hot, wearying summer. And then I read Alice in Wonderland, which was less wonderful than I had expected but was cute. Sorry – this is supposed to be a favorites list. I’m in the middle of J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey – I like it.

  19. Amber Leffel

    Ohh, yes. Laura Hackett and Kristene Mueller. Music from the side of God to bless and help my heart.

  20. JJ

    @KRF #22: I started reading The Name of the Wind a few months ago but got tied up with a bunch of other books. But it’s on my nightstand waiting to be finished (and I got book 2 for Christmas). I was really enjoying it but I think focusing on getting through The Dark Tower took priority at the time.

    I’m certainly a fan of thick books. Of the Stephen King books I’ve read, quite a few have been 800+ (two of the Dark Tower books) up to a massive 1100 pages (The Stand). That accounts for my 32 books/12000+ pages read this year, and will account for high page counts this year too with 11/22/63 and Under the Dome (about 900 each) and It (1100) on tap.

  21. Tony Heringer

    This is a perennial Rabbit Room treat. Here are my favorites from the year.

    Film: Thanks to Father T-Mac’s OMR, I saved a bundled on movie tickets and had a ball with his reviews. I didn’t have many that stood out for me this year, so here are my three, two of which I viewed late in the year:

    1. The Muppet Movie – This was a surprise birthday treat from my family, after a tasty meal at Ted’s Montana Grill. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this film – a musical no less. Not often can you find a film that pleases all ages as this one – in our crowd we had my mother of 70, two middle agers (Cherie and I) and two teenagers. A good time was had by all!

    2. Water For Elephants – Cherie had read the book and wanted to see this one. I thought it looked interesting but didn’t have any strong desire either way. Another film that was a pleasant surprise. The way it was shot, the wardrobe, and the acting all blended well together.

    3. The Next Three Days – I could have sworn there was an OMR for this movie and wanted to get T-Mac’s take on it before we invested any time with it. But, we threw caution to the wind an watched it anyway and were glad we did. It is a taught action film with another amazing Russell Crowe performance. The direction and editing in this film – use of sound and non-verbal expression – especially in one of the early scenes was phenomenal. Would you do what he did? I doubt it, and I doubt you’d get away with it, but it was certainly a fun ride.

    Honorable mention: Unknown – I only saw the first hour of this Liam Nesson film, but if the rest of the movie is like it, then it’s worth seeing. Nobody plays the tough guy like Liam! See Taken for more evidence of the same and also for an idea of what is happening in the world today in terms of human trafficking. This month (January 2012) in the United States is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Take some time and find out how you can get involved to stop this heinous crime wherever you live.

    Books: I read a slew of John Grisham books started by my wife recommending I read Playing For Pizza, from there I read the majority of his legal thrillers (except for those I’d seen on film). I made it through most and found he some recurring characters – such as Harry Rex Vonner – and some recurring themes (class action suites, big firm vs. the little guys, flying, death penalty, etc.). My reading outside of Grisham was mainly nonfiction, so here are my top three:

    1. Playing For Pizza/The Appeal – a tie. The former is a whimsical look at a washed up NFL quarterback who ends up playing in the Italian professional football league. It is a book based on a real football league in Italy and it is very good look at this sporting oddity. The latter is probably a very good book to read this year as it deals with all the machination that goes into a political race. He has a similar slant in The Brethren, but this one was more consistent and was probably his most realistic ending – something he has trouble with, I threw The Firm down when I read its ending. That film does a much better job with Mitch McDeere than the book.

    2. To Transform A City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City – a compelling appeal for the church of Jesus Christ to become influencing organism in the city and not just a silo alongside all the other silos in our culture – the others being business, government, arts and media, social sector, education, and healthcare. The church has the ability, by the power of the Spirit to cut across all those dividing lines and bring them together to transform the city of man into the city of God — see Saint Augustine for more on that concept. The Rabbit Room is one of the vehicles I’ve used to facilitate a dialogue along these lines as it brings the whole church to bear on an area like arts and media. I’ll refer back to this book a lot in the coming year as we seek to be salt and light here in metro Atlanta and in our work in cities like Sao Paulo Brazil, Dublin Ireland, Johannesburg South Africa and Bangkok Thailand among others.

    3. The Jesus Way/Tell It Slant – Eugene Peterson. Like a tasty lozenge, I have slowly savored the volumes of his spiritual theology series. Volumes 3 and 4 of this series deal with the way that Jesus is the way, Jesus use of story (a great read for Rabbit Roomers) and how He prayed thereby instructing us in prayer. Peterson really challenges me to better harness my imagination in seeking to bring the Kingdom to a world that so desperately needs it. I love his writing style. If you want a challenging journey in 2012. I invite you to start with Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology and work through volumes 2-5 (volume 2 is Eat This Book and volume 5 is Practice Resurrection – sure to be on my 2012 top 3).

    Music: We pulled into Nashville just in time to sit on the front row of the Jason Gray CD release show. Wow! It was so much fun to hear Jason live with a full band. And what a band! That show had some swagger and Mr. Gray was in control.

    1. A Way To See In The Dark – Jason Gray. His music just keeps getting better. I believe it’s the community here that has spurred him own to even greater heights artistically. Thanks Jason for pouring out your heart to us.

    2. So Beautiful, So What – Paul Simon. This was a Jason Gray influenced purchase based on his review as noted in the initial post above. Guys like Simon are my heros. They don’t know the meaning of the word retire unless it means “I’m going to retire for the evening in order to gather up energy for another great day of life.” That’s what I’m shooting for – a life fully lived until “He calls me or He returns.”

    3. Paper Airplane – Alison Krauss and Union Station. Blue Grass is not my usual flavor of music, but I must say this is one solid work. Featuring our very own Ron Block in a mix of wonderful tunes. I’ll definitely invest in more AKUS music in the coming years.

    Honorable mention: as others have noted Josh Garrels, wow! This guy is phenomenal. I first heard him as I was out running errands. This song came on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6csM0TLZIs

    Thanks JGray! Happy New Year everyone!

  22. Thomas McKenzie

    Hey all,

    I can’t believe I left this out of my list. What was I thinking?

    Eugene Peterson’s “The Pastor” came out this year. It is one of the best books about ministry I have ever read. I can’t recommend it more highly to both pastors and people who have pastors. It is absolutely superb, while being completely accessible. The first few dozen pages might throw you, but stick with it for sure.

    I am kicking myself that I left it off my list.

    P.S. About Comment #30. Tony, you are welcome. I’m glad you saw and liked the first hour of Unknown. A great hour of film. Unfortunately, it completely goes off the rails at about minute 70 something, so don’t go back to see the end. http://www.oneminutereview.com/2011/11/liam-neeson-in-taken-bourne-north-by.html

  23. cyndap

    Music: A Way to See in the Dark – Jason Gray
    Cymbal Crashing Clouds – Ben Shive
    Come Down, O Love Divine Frenando Ortega
    Love and War and the Sea in Between – Josh Garrels

    Books: The Pastor – Eugene Peters
    The Monster in the Hollows – Andrew Peterson
    Books 1 & 2 of the Wilderking Triology – Jonathan Rogers (I read them in 2011) In 2012 I’m planning on reading The Charlatan’s Boy to a class of third graders (I read it in 2010).

    Movies: Sherlock Holmes #2
    Mission Impossible

  24. Heather

    What a treat to read through these lists. Great place to find new authors, movies and musicians to check out! Perhaps there will be a round II from the rest of the Rabbit Room Contributors?

    A Christmas Carol-Right smack in the middle of summer I picked up this book on a whim. I think I found it for a dollar while browsing a flea market and decided to plow through it right then and there. It was another beautiful reminder of why I love Dicken’s! A little imagination, sprinkled with good cheer left me smiling and pining away for Christmas.

    The Vile Village- I’ve been sucked into the world of Lemony Snicket for about three years now. I’ve slowly made my way through the Series of Unfortunate Events. I love the creativity that flows through the books. A perfect delight!

    Messenger- I’m not sure what to say other than this book left me pining away for more. I love Louis Lowry books.

    The Innocence Mission- I love the romantic, whimsical tunes.

    She & Him- The more I listen, the more I love.

    The Three Musketeers- I followed my husband into the theater a bit uncertain..I’m not a fan of the older movies. But from the opening scenes to the end, I was thoroughly entertained.

    Captain America- What can I say? I love a good super hero movie.

    Mission Impossible 4-The best performance by Tom Cruise in my humble opinion.

  25. Renee

    Greetings Christian Brothers and Sisters!

    I am new to the Rabbit Room. I stumbled upon your community while doing some research. Excited at first glance, my impression was, “It has given me motivation to live my faith thoughtfully.” …and it has.

    I have a few morsels for you to chew on this coming year.

    The Best of 2011 from thought provoking Christians! Yoo Hoo!! I’ve come upon a treasure! Or so I thought when I first saw Jason’s post. As I scrolled through the 30 comments last night I was saddened to see where some of God’s people are putting their hearts. We are God’s people! God’s Kids, if you will. We are His ambassadors, we represent Him! We are called to walk in His footsteps. To live through Him as He lives in us. Let us walk with God. Every book we choose, every movie we watch, every song we purchase, lets ask ourselves, Does this bring God glory?

    I was surprised to see, or not to see the Bible on top of everyones list. If we are seeking a faith that “lives, moves and breathes” as Jason puts it, then let us allow God’s Spirit to live, move and breathe into our life through His Living Word. Every day.

    Remember, In Him, we live, move and have our being. His Word is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword and piercing as far as the division of the soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Acts 17:28, Hebrews 4:12 This should be at the top of all of our lists, every year. This book is ‘God breathed’, able to give us life, new life, everyday.

    So for 2012 let us follow Jesus and turn the world right side up, with and for Him.
    Let us be encouraged to go to Him and be strengthened in our inner man. The times we are living in are dark and getting darker. Don’t let Satan rob you of your joy. Be filled with Living Water, and quench the thirst of those you see all around you.

    Speaking the truth in love, your sister in Christ,


  26. Jason Gray


    Thank you for your comment, Renee – it provides the perfect opportunity to express something worthwhile about the nature and motivation behind a post like this one.

    I would hope that since the Rabbit Room is a faith informed community devoted to gospel colored conversation about truth, beauty, and goodness (and the books, movies, and music where we discover it – sometimes from delightfully surprising sources) that it would be assumed that our appreciation of the titles in a list like this are experienced through the lens of our faith and nourished and shaped by the word of God.

    If I mention an R-rated film like “Punch Drunk Love” it’s because I encountered something of truth in it in a way that moved or surprised me. By no means is it a “Christian” film or even one I feel entirely comfortable recommending to everyone. But it, like “The Muppets” and even “The Best Worst Movie” revealed something to me that spoke to my own story and my own storytelling. Anything can provide an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to whisper to us…

    I don’t want to over-spiritualize this kind of thing because that sucks the life and mystery out of it, but I hope that it would be assumed in a post like this that: #1 we aren’t infallible authorities; #2 that naming a book, movie, or piece of music as something that caught our attention isn’t necessarily an endorsement of everything about it; and lastly #3 that it’s assumed that we’re all engaging scripture on a regular basis (or rather it’s engaging us) and it’s doing its work in our lives. It would be tiresome to readers to have to mention that disclaimer in every post. I hope it’s safe to assume that we are doing the best we know how to tell the truth, trusting that few things bring glory to God like that simple act of faith.

    However, any thing we say is always up for discussion. Please assume that our high regard for scripture is such a given that it seems unnecessary – even heavy handed – to mention it.

  27. Gary

    Song of the year: I Will Find a Way – Jason Gray (and Gullahorn)
    based on the Story of the year: An Advent Monologue – Walt Wangerin

    They both broke me, but I keep returning to them. They haunt me with their truth & beauty…

  28. KRF

    @JJ #27 ~ the Rothfuss novels were one of my literary highlights of 2011 ~ coming after the Peterson duo and some (new to me) Buechner. I have a tall list of Stephen King waiting but they keep getting pushed aside for some other recommended novel, or vintage favorite that needs revisited.

    While I followed along with all the Hutchmoot readings from my own corner of the island, one unexpected surprise after the event was being introduced to the many blogs authored by some of the attendees who also frequently post here. My morning devotional has developed into an entree of God’s written gifts followed by a dessert of a RR sundae with blog hot fudge and whipped cream. It’s no wonder I am habitually late to work.

    Perhaps for 2012 this post could read “Books ~ Music ~ Movies ~ Blogs”

  29. Lanier

    Okay, here are my picks, in order of album, movie and book:

    Ghosts on the Earth—Gungor

    This album captured my heart from the first track. It is such a cohesive work of art, an intentional narrative lovingly and skillfully told. From the first moments of creation to the soul’s joyous response to a faithful Creator, each song builds upon the previous in an arc that blends Story and Worship with the dexterity of true craftsmanship. There is a great sense of honesty about this record—even a little uncomfortably so, at times. The sorrow of the Fall and of our desperate darkness apart from Christ are acknowledged, compassionately and truthfully. But they are a foil against which the sheer light and goodness of His redemptive work shine out the more brilliantly. It’s just a beautiful whole, and it’s resonated with me in a deep way.

    Midnight in Paris—

    This was one of the best new movies we have seen in ages. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went to see it again with my sister when I was visiting her in New York. I loved all the literary hat tips and inside jokes, and I thought it was really beautifully filmed. A classic commentary on perspective, in my opinion, and surprisingly un-cynical. Kind of like a magic blend of It’s A Wonderful Life and Funny Face—sans the singing and dancing.

    The Flying Inn by G.K. Chesterton

    While not a new title (obviously), this one was new to me this year, and I enjoyed it immensely. (As much as you can enjoy the way that Chesterton makes you squirm at times.) This book was a characteristically wild and wacky rollercoaster ride of a story, as only the inimitable Gilbert Keith can pull it off. It was an interesting (and sometimes painful) account of political correctness gone mad and religion gone mushy. At times I was laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all, and at others I was cut to the quick by Chesterton’s scorching insights into the perfectly logical inanity of human thinking cut off from the knowledge of God. Could the inns and pubs ever really be abolished in England, and could the symbol of the Cross ever vanish from the public sight? Chesterton makes an unnerving case for the possible results of madness masquerading as wisdom.

  30. George W

    Alright, I’m in – although for time’s sake – I’ll make it short.

    Fiddler’s Green – I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.
    A Year Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs – Mostly just laughed.

    Hugo – Loved this story. Went to appease my wife and son and ended up having “contact issues” (read “crying”) through the end of the movie.

    Civil Wars – Josh Garrels – Mumford and Sons – My Morning Jacket

    Thanks for dong this, RR guys. Fun to read what everyone is reading-watching-listening to.

  31. Dan R.

    I know this is a small contribution, and a little late, but I felt like I had to throw my support behind Vice Verses, the new album by Switchfoot, as one of my favorites of 2011. As I was listening to this album at first it reminded me of when I first got to start listening to Counting Stars. That is all.

  32. Andy Tate

    I normally graze through lists like this looking for pearls in a sea of muddy water. It always seems as though the music/movies that are normally shouted from the street corner are not always the greatest. Lists like this from artists and those who love them typically have a taste for art and greatness, for which I appreciate. Thanks Jason Gray for creating this list as I have taken some of the artists I hadn’t heard and now have gained an appreciation for some new artists! Here is my list of art that I have discovered this year that I have enjoyed!

    My Epic – Broken Voice
    My Epic – Yet

    My Epic has been one of my favorite finds as of late. I first discovered them rummaging through mardel and thought the art work on their first CD was unique … as I told a friend the other day, if their artwork on their CD is well done then they obviously appreciate artistic music as well. Their music is very poetic and filled with imagery and theological truth but has more of a hardcore feel … though Broken Voice is mainly acoustic

    Needtobreathe – The Reckoning
    Aaron Keyes – Dwell
    Audrey Assad – The House Your Building
    Sons of Korah (they take Psalms and put them to music, I believe they are a band out of Australia. Very well done musically)

    It takes me FOREVER to read a book but these are the ones I appreciated and enjoyed the most.

    Can Man Live Without God – Ravi Zacharias (read this one while I was going through chemo cancer and it was a great reminder of the God who reigns in and through suffering and how joy is found through enjoying Him who made us)

    Rumors of Another World – Phillip Yancey (Great book for those who like to enjoy life, even in the smallest things, and how everything that has potential for joy and awe is sourced in it’s maker and is a rumor of something greater)

    Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton (hard read but good)
    Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
    The Feasts of Israel – Kevin J Conner (I am teaching a class on the Feasts and this one has been a great addition as it shows the history of the feast, the fulfillment in Christ and possible future fulfillments in His return)

    I havn’t actually gone to the movies much this past year but these are the ones that I have been impacted by or just flat out enjoyed.

    The King’s Speech
    Sherlock Holmes 2
    The Adjustmen Beareau (will produce lots of conversation on free will/predestination!)
    Get Low (great movie on humility and dealing with your past)
    There Be Dragons (probably my number 1 pick for 2011! Beautiful! Alot of great one liners for those who like to use movies for sermons or Sunday School/Small Group)

  33. Kirsten

    Forgive me; I’m SO late in reading this…

    However! I could NOT let my favorite film of 2011 go unmentioned. Though I believe it technically came out in 2010, I saw it for the first time towards the end of 2011. Again, I could just be completely out-of-the loop and oblivious to the fact that you all have seen it and/or know of it. But from conversations I’ve had with friends, a lot of folks didn’t even know about it until last year, as it is a french film.

    Anyway, my absolute most favorite film of 2011 was: Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men.”

    If you haven’t seen it, you MUST. I really can’t justly describe how beautiful it (and its true story) is… Some of us from HM2011 are also currently reading the book about the true events, “The Monks of Tibhirine.” Intense, heavy… but also worthwhile.

    About the film, from Wikipedia: The film “centers on the monastery of Tibhirine, where nine Trappist monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Algeria, until seven of them were kidnapped and assassinated in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War.”

  34. Renee

    I would like to apologize to all of you. There is something about the comment I made, (#34) that God will not let rest. You see, I have recently turned out of a ditch in my journey with the Lord. I took a wrong turn down ‘Legalism Lane’ and walked it for several years. In the past few months I have finally begun to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to lead me back to the straight and narrow, the path of life.
    It is not my place to judge you and I apologize. I am asking your forgiveness if I offended any of you.
    I appreciate this place on the internet. It callenges me. I want to follow Jesus in Grace and Truth. I am new to these sort of communities, actually that was the first thing I ever posted anywhere! I am excited about God and passionate about being His and being used by Him to bring Him glory. I am certain this won’t be the last mistake I make!
    Oh, and I really like the book ‘The Secret of Guidence’ by F.B. Meyer
    and God has used Jason Gray’s music/lyrics in amazing and I believe miraculous ways in mine and my family’s lives, for which I will be eternally grateful. -Thank you

  35. Becca

    Renee, how brave and how beautiful! Your humility is an inspiration in so many ways. Thank you for leading in repentance, for there are so many ways I need to follow that nudge as well. I spent many years polemic, and I still have a bite to my words at times. You have lived out what I want to do when old habits rise. Blessings to you. Becca

  36. Tony Heringer


    No worries lass. Andrew Peterson noted in a post a few years back that “this is a place where we work stuff out.” So don’t fret over any missteps here. This is a grace filled community.

  37. yankeegospelgirl

    My impression is that the entire purpose of the Rabbit Room is to provide a place for people who might not necessarily agree with each other to have civil conversations, without squelching one side or the other.

    Would that be accurate?

  38. Lanier

    Renee, that took so much courage. I can think of a lot of times in my life when I wish I had been that brave. Tony and Becca are right. Grace and Peace, sister.

  39. Jason Gray


    Renee! I agree with Becca, Tony, and Lanier and I thank you for modeling such humility and graciousness!

    I wrote a harmless note to a friend recently and for a week was troubled by it. I’m learning to recognize these promptings as often the voice of the holy spirit. So I wrote to her apologizing for the thing that was bothering me. She was surprised and said that it never bothered her, that there was nothing to apologize for, but I knew it was the right thing to do – and that through the experience the Lord revealed a hidden judgment in my heart.

    I was grateful for the whole experience: that the holy spirit revealed sin in me, that I got to be obedient and repent of it, demonstrating my repentance by writing my friend back, and the cherry on top was that she was never offended by it in the first place! I am grateful for the Lord’s work in my life and the growing sensitivity of ugly things in my heart that won’t leave me alone until I deal with them, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

    Thanks for being a picture of that to us today – it’s a gift 🙂

  40. Julie Silander

    “Information doesn’t transform people… relationship does.” Spoken by a dear friend of mine while he was teaching a marriage seminar a few weeks ago. It’s true… it’s through experiencing relationship that we become aware of our own sin, and through that discovery, are given the opportunity to be refined. You’ve given a beautiful illustration of how that plays out in real life. What a great reminder. Thank you for being willing to share.

  41. Jen

    Renee, I’ll add my thanks to everyone else before. We all go through those ditches, but it takes a lot of humility and wisdom to recognize it and ask forgiveness. Thank you for coming back. That was very kind of you!

    And welcome to the Rabbit Room! Hope you keep coming back and joining the conversation! 🙂

  42. yankeegospelgirl

    On the topic of favorite movies, I just watched _Source Code_, and granted I didn’t watch many movies from 2011, but that was really well-made. It was fresh, smartly acted, and tightly directed. And as a philosophy major, well needless to say I was up late at night reading forums on the meaning of the ending. 😉 It was sort of like _The Prestige_ in that respect (though even more confusing than _The Prestige_). I understood why Thomas didn’t like the ending, but personally I would have been sad if it had ended with the moment when time freezes (I presume that’s the moment he thinks it should have ended). The way it actually ends, we know that the main character is actually going to go on living, happily. Now granted the philosophy gets really messy and silly by the end, but for me personally it was more satisfying than it would have been if it had ended earlier.

  43. Renee

    Yesterday after I wrote that comment I felt like a butterfly fluttering around my house. My heart so light yet so full, the fruit of repentance is so sweet. Then the comments started coming and my already full heart was overwhelmed. Thank you all. I am even more humbled by your love and forgiveness and acceptance.

  44. Lydia

    I liked the new “Smurfs” and also the new Narnia movie “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. Narnia was released in December of 2010, but I didn’t watch it until March of 2011.

    My favorite books from 2011 I actually got for Christmas and read all three of them in two days, they were Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. I say anyone who likes Narnia would love Andrew’s books.

    I was never really into music but in the last half of 2011 I started listening to quite a bit of music and my favorites are as follows…
    #1 — Steven Curtis Chapman – Love his new CD “ReCreation”
    #2 — Andrew Peterson – Saw him in concert with SCC and Josh Wilson, LOVE his album “Counting Stars”, but my favorite of his songs is from the album “Love and Thunder” the song is “Just as I am” I love the lyrics that say “Just as I am, Just as I was, Just as I will be he loves me he does”
    #3 — Jason Gray – I love his music, but I especially love “More Like Falling in Love” and “Remind Me Who I Am”
    #4 — Josh Wilson – I love a lot of the songs off of his album “See You”

    A little note to go with this is that I can not stand not knowing what the lyrics to a song mean. So with that I tend to hear a certain song or singer on the radio (or on my youtube playlists) and I MUST research and find out the story behind the song. Listening to Jason Gray’s songs I would never have guessed that he stutters, but a little note I have to Jason is that God may have a reason for you to stutter. A lot of times he will use people with certain disabilities to help others come to know Christ because they can relate to that disability.
    The only thing that I can guess I wouldn’t like about Jason is he is probably a Vikings fan if he watches football….grrrr…..GO PACKERS!!! 😛

  45. yankeegospelgirl

    I am in the process of writing reviews of _Take Shelter_, _War Horse_, and _Of Gods and Men_. They don’t have much in common except that they all had a place in my top five this year. I’m surprised Thomas didn’t review any of them. _Of Gods And Men_ deserves the top spot, although there was some unfortunate material regarding Islam as a religion. Still, that’s to be expected from Catholic film-makers.

  46. Lydia

    I would like to see war horse, but the reviews said if you are an animal lover, ESPECIALLY a horse lover don’t go and I LOVE horses. I live in Wisconsin but my favorite state is Montana, on a ranch in the Bob Marshalls.

  47. yankeegospelgirl

    I understand why the reviews say that because it is a VERY sad film, and it shows the harsh conditions endured by the poor horses in the war. They are worked, literally, to death. There’s one particularly upsetting scene where a horse we’ve gotten to know and love just lies down and dies. But it is a gorgeous film, and the main character horse eventually comes out of it at the end. I’m a horse lover and I loved it. So I guess it depends. 🙂

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