Library Walk, which leads Manhattanites from Madison Avenue to the New York Public Library, features sidewalk-embedded quotations including this famous one from Francis Bacon: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."
That's how it is with books readers and publishers send me. Examples: Two just-published HarperCollins novels, William Dietrich's Blood of the Reich and Matthew Dunn's Spycatcher, have improbable action/adventure plots and crazy twists toward the end. Sprinkled with bad words and characters dying violently, they served one purpose: Got me to walk five fast miles on the treadmill, because they did make me want to find out what happened next. Note: I do not recommend these except as an aid to exercise.
If you want a Christian book that can make you walk fast, Fire Breathing Christians by Scott Buss (R3volution Press, 2010) will do nicely. In chapters like "The Rise of Mr. Potato Jesus" and "Tickle Me Baal Reformation" Buss takes apart smiley faces like Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn but also Emergents like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. Buss is often over-the-top, but he writes vigorously and rightly notes that America is not far from a new Inquisition in which "Biblically submissive Christians can be excluded in the name of inclusiveness."
If you want a book that can make atheists walk fast, try Ben Hobrink's Modern Science in the Bible (Simon & Schuster, 2011), which shows in many ways the difference between Scripture and ancient mythology. For example, the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh has a cube-shaped vessel that would roll over in waves, but the God-given dimensions of Noah's ark give maximum stability. Many ancient peoples like the Canaanites killed themselves by practicing sacred prostitution, child sacrifice, and snake worship, but God's holiness statutes were also good for health: The Israelites buried excrement outside the camp and washed their hands.
If you're depressed about the current state of the church and think everything was fine in the good old days, read The Shooting Salvationist by David Stokes (Steerforth, 2011), which centers on the trial for murder of 1920s megachurch pastor J. Frank Norris. John Jefferson Davis' Worship and the Reality of God (IVP, 2010) casts a grand vision of what should occur on our Sunday mornings. Hell Is Real (But I Hate to Admit It), by Pennsylvania pastor Brian Jones (David C. Cook, 2011), shows that we're bound to present what the Bible teaches, not what tickles our ears.
How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek W.H. Thomas (Reformation Trust, 2011) is a good, short book that acutely explores what he calls "the best chapter in the Bible," Romans 8. I read it in one treadmill session, but that leads me to a confession in regard to very long books that land on my pile: I sometimes skim them. For example, with Bruce L. Gordon and William Dembski, editors, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science, 963 pages (ISI Books, 2011), I can attest to the good reputation of the authors and the good critiques of naturalism and multiverse cosmology that Gordon provides.
Similarly, I'm impressed by the good reputation and careful scholarship of Michael Horton, author of The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, 1,052 pages (Zondervan, 2011); Douglas Laycock, author of Religious Liberty, Volume 2: The Free Exercise Clause, 858 pages (Eerdman's, 2011); and Gregg R. Allison, author of Historical Theology, 778 pages (Zondervan, 2011)-but I can't testify about every page. Two other books that seem useful for reference collections are Anthony Kenny's A New History of Western Philosophy, 1,058 pages (Oxford, 2010), and The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Oxford, 2010), which clocks in at a mere 524 pages.