Top 10 Books of 2022

This year I read 62 books in total. I tend to go down rabbit holes, as you might notice. This year I read several books by authors of color and several books about our current cultural moment, as well as several books on transgenderism.

This year was my first full year off from Seminary, so I caught up on current issues. Next year my plan is to focus more on perennial issues. I want to read more old books. There is something about reading an old book that helps you understand the present mess we are in and give you hope because many times in history, our world was in a worse place than it is currently, and that is so helpful for us not losing heart.

So here are my top ten books, from the tenth best to the best book I read, followed by the rest of the books I read this year. Also excited to add a book I have been working on with some friends to your reading lists in the near future. More on that at a later date.

Top Ten Books of 2022

10. Suffering is Never for Nothing

This was the first book I have ever read from Elisabeth Elliot outside of Through Gates of Splendor. She is so powerful, her grasp of the gospel is deep, and her understanding of suffering is stunning. This was a much-needed read for me this year. Our tendency is always to elevate our gifts over God’s provision. Our comfort over his plan.

9. The 6 Types of Working Genius

There are a few authors I have read every book they have written. In the modern age, there are fewer still. Patrick Lencioni is one of those authors for me. His books are quick reads packed with truth and practical leadership advice, minus the self-helpiness that fills so many leadership books today. Of all the books Pat has written, I would say this one was his best. I greatly enjoyed the book, the concept, and how it has changed how I view myself and the team I am a part of.

8. A Man Called Ove

I stumbled onto Fredrick Backman after sever friends had added his works to their lists over the years. I read several of his books. He is not a Christian author, but his insights into the human condition are insightful. His style is so unique, and his ability to create colorful characters is unmatched. A man called Ove was a powerful tale of life, friendship, and forgiveness. Loved it.

7. How to Inhabit Time

I love Jamie’s style. Our theological paths have followed a similar trajectory so I understand the things he says and much of what he leaves unsaid. His grasp of Augustine is unmatched among modern authorship. Reading this book is something that should be done either before you read Augustine’s Confessions or right after. Augustine’s understanding of time is so vital to his story and ours that it is a truth that needs to be applied and replied to the contours of our hearts. We will only be faithful in time when we understand God’s relationship to it as well as ours. Smith does a fantastic job pushing us to be good stewards of this precious limited resource that matters so greatly.

6. The Moon Is Always Round

I read this book twice, actually. It is a very short kids’ picture book. I cried both times I read it. This book is so powerful because of its simplicity. The metaphor Johny uses is brilliant and totally helpful for parents trying to explain the crazy complexity of loss and death to a child. I bought ten copies and gave them all away. I need to buy ten more because the truth this book proclaims is a truth we so often forget, that God is always good even when our situation says otherwise. Parents, this is one of the best books I have read that explains the goodness of God in the middle of our sorrow. The moon is always round, reminds us that God is always good.

5. Three Philosophies of Life

This book was brilliant. Peter Kreeft, in this short book, borrows the format of Dante’s Divine Comedy to talk about three philosophies of the Christian life and three movements of the Christian life. Kreeft talks about the Inferno of Life as Vanity, the Purgatory of Life as Suffering, and the Paradise of Life as Love. So much to think about. It is a book you read and revisit.

4. Everything Sad is Untrue

I loved this book because it was so fun, so unexpected, so honest, and so beautiful. It is the story of a family that came to America because they came to faith in Christ while in Iran and were in danger. The story is the story of the difficulties of being an immigrant in a new land through the eyes of a young boy; with this came such a fun and honest perspective. It also told of this young boy’s difficulty finding his feet in a new home as well as finding his hope in Christ his ultimate home. The faith his mother had to leave everything she knew because Jesus is better was unexpected and so incredibly moving. For those of us who live in a city that has the privilege and responsibility of welcoming individuals and families to their new home in America, this book is a must-read.

3. A Non-Anxious Presence

This book was so timely for me. We live in a world that is filled with anxiety. Anxiety levels among adults and especially kids, are off the charts. This book was a call to calm and a call to action. Mark Sayers articulates the attitude to an anxiety-ridden society as a group of people who find their identity and purpose in truth that exists outside themselves, which allows them to be a calming force in the world because that is true. The call for us as Christians is not to join the anxiety-ridden fray but to be to others what they wished they could be, and that is a non-anxious presence in an age of anxiety. Such a profound book that also happens to be profoundly timely.

2. The Genesis of Gender

Few topics are more misunderstood and more pertinent in our current culture than the transgender debate. Parents, this is not a debate you can sit out. You must seek understanding. Pastor, this is not something you can ignore. It is something you must learn about and seek to bring clarity. What Abigail does is profound. She exposes the faulty logic in the current gender debate but doesn’t stop with a simple refutation of current ideologies. She creates a case for a Christian understanding of sex that is accessible, understood, and applied by parents. Her viewpoint is filled with truth and love. It is a book I will revisit often. Every parent and pastor needs to read this book.

1. Forgive

I don’t say this lightly because I have read nearly all of Keller’s books, but I think Forgive may have displaced Prodigal God for me as my favorite book by Tim Keller. Forgive was powerful, helpful, uncomfortable, convicting, and comforting. Given the weight and the gravity, Scripture gives to forgiveness, reading this book is a necessity for every believer. Forgive is comprehensive and yet so perfect for us as followers of Christ. I can’t recommend this book enough. If you consider yourself a Christian, understanding how you have been forgiven as well as how important it is for us to forgive others, is at the very heart of our faith. This book is a must-read.

The Rest

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God. – Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Do More Better – Tim Challies
  3. How (Not) to Be Secular – James K. A. Smith
  4. Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the Word – Tom Holland
  5. Reading While Black – Esau McCaulley
  6. Living the Resurrection – Eugene Peterson
  7. Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor – Collin Hansen
  8. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – John Mark Comer
  9. Gay Girl, Good God – Jackie Hill Perry
  10. Prince Caspian – C. S. Lewis
  11. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City – Matthew Desmond
  12. The Story of You – Ian Morgan Cron
  13. Let Me be a Woman – Elisabeth Elliot
  14. Of Mice and Men – Jon Steinbeck
  15. Return of the Strong God – R. R. Reno
  16. The Motive – Patrick Lencioni
  17. The Science of Storytelling – Will Storr
  18. Authentic Ministry – Michale Reeves
  19. The Christian Leader – Bill Hull
  20. The Enneagram Goes to Church – Todd Wilson
  21. Running for My Life – Lopez Lomong
  22. Jesus and John Wayne – Kristen Kobes Du Mez
  23. Rediscover Church – Collin Hansen
  24. Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Robers Matters Now More Than Ever – Gene Edwards
  25. Jaber Crow – Wendell Berry
  26. All Things for Good – Thomas Watson
  27. Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
  28. Calvin on Sovereignty, Providence and Predestination – Joel Beeke
  29. The Nose – Nikolai Gogol
  30. Anxious People – Fredrik Backman
  31. Beartown – Fredrik Backman
  32. The Priest with Dirty Clothes – R. C. Sproul
  33. Unraveling Gender – John Grabowski
  34. Strange New World – Carl Trueman
  35. Man’s Serch for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
  36. The Death of Ivan Ilych – Leo Tolstoy
  37. Speaking by the Numbers: Enneagram Wisdom for Teachers, Pastors, and Communicators – Sean Palmer
  38. You Are Not Your Own – Alan Noble
  39. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team –  Patrick Lencioni
  40. Don’t Lose Heart: Gospel Hope for the Discouraged Soul – Jason Meyer
  41. Seasons of Sorrow – Tim Challies
  42. The Remarkable Ordinary – Frederick Buechner
  43. The Art of War – Sun Tzu
  44. Something Beautiful for God – Malcolm Muggeridge
  45. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  46. 1776 – David McCullough
  47. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart – Harold Sekbeil
  48. The Price and Power of Revival – Duncan Campbell
  49. Inklings on Philosophy and Worldview – Matthew Dominguez
  50. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass
  51. Finding My Father – Blair Linne
  52. A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory – Frederick Buechner

Top 10 Books of 2020

In 2020 I read many books by people who have different views than I have, I read several books on CRT and Liberation Theology as well as some written by Progressive Theologians. I found it interesting to see the world as they see it. I also found it strengthen my resolve to fight for clarity in my thoughts and charity in my interactions with those with whom I disagree. As a result, my reading list was a bit more eclectic than most years. As I look forward to 2021 I do so with a mixture of excitement and sadness as I will be finishing my Seminary degrees. I don’t know if I disliked a book that was assigned to me and will miss the rigor of reading with a deadline. I am excited however to read what I want when I want. I plan on rereading some of my favorite books I read in obtaining my degree as well as much more fiction and hope to write a devotional for pre-teens before the year is out. That being said here are my top ten books for 2020.


The Trellis and the Vine
This book has been on my reading list for a while but had not had the time to get to it. It was required for school so I read it in November. Such a timely book for any pastor to read. If ever we needed the message and strategy of connection over programs it’s now. It ends with an eerie question of what we would do if we had to lead through a pandemic.

Imagine this… As we write, the first worrying signs of a swine-flu pandemic are making headlines around the world. Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned by the government for reasons of public health and safety. And let’s say that due to some catastrophic combination of local circumstances, this ban had to remain in place for 18 months. How would your congregation of 120 members continue to function—with no regular church gatherings of any kind, and no home groups (except for groups of three)? If you were the pastor, what would you do?

ColinMarshall & Tony Payne


If that quote doesn’t make you want to read this book nothing will.


Live not by lies
Such a timely book. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by what Rod calls “soft totalitarianism” Live Not By Lies teaches American Christians a method for resistance:
    SEE: Acknowledge the reality of the situation.
    JUDGE: Assess reality in the light of what we as Christians know to be true.
    ACT: Take action to protect truth.
The most powerful weapon we have against the secularism of our age is seeing the truth and speaking the truth. Every Christian should read this book.


Atomic Habits
I haven’t read a ton of leadership books over the past few years but this one was recommended by everyone. I read it and was suprised by the simplicity and practical application of what Clear argues for. Also he likes baseball.


Christ Centered Preaching
I have read several books on expository preaching this one is one of the best in terms of explaining the importance of expository sermons as well as the practical examples that walk you through the process of doing so. I read this for a class Dr. Chapell taught at my Seminary. He is an equally gifted communicator and writer.


On Reading Well
One of my Master’s Degrees is in Christian and Classical Thought. My professors reinforced to us over and over again the importance of reading the great conversation in light of the Gospel because every little story we write points to the great story written for us. Dr. Prior highlights a classical work and the corresponding virtue it exemplifies. The result of her work is a more thoughtful reading of books, many of which were written by Christians, that was written with the desire to empower and inform a more virtuous public. Dr. Prior’s explanation of Flannery O’Connor was particularly helpful to me personally as I have read most of O’Connor’s work and missed most of the beauty within them because I was so taken back by the violence and tragedy I missed the redemptive nature of her stories.


Valley of Vision
I have used Valley of Vision to aid my daily times of prayer devotional for a couple of years. Going through this book slowly to meditate and processes its content fully. I found so many of these prayers directing my thoughts and strengthening my faith like few books I have ever read.

‘When used slowly, for meditation and prayer, these pages have often been used by God’s Spirit to kindle my dry heart.’ ——MARK DEVER

I can’t agree with Mark more. I encourage you to add this to your personal time of devotion. There is something so helpful and challenging about reading the prayers of others.


Scripture as Communication
Such a fantastic book. Dr. Brown addresses both of the extremes of Biblical interpretation. In our modern culture, the Bible is looked at as a set of rules to live by or stories to inspire. A prominent pastor in a recent book said that the Old Testament is for inspiration. Brown’s argument that the Bible is communication changes how we read, interpret, and interact with scripture. It is a much-needed vantage point in the present hermetical landscape of the evangelical church.



Deep Work
This is the second book by Newport I’ve read. He is very clear and extremely practical. I have been putting his simple yet profound ideas to the test and have experienced excellent results. We as a society are more distracted than ever we must fight for focus. I used to brag about how many things we can do at once. No longer. I join Newport in striving to do one thing at a time really really well.


Persuasion
Persuasion is a story of love and loss and patient endurance. In her excellent summary of the book which was my inspiration to read it in full Karen Swallow Prior says “The essence of patience is the willingness to endure suffering.” Patience is a lost virtue in our instant secular culture. We put it off till later so we can have it now. The result of this type of living is moral and spiritual bankruptcy. The story was a story of love that lost because of obedience to authority and refined and rekindled because of divine providence. It was my first Jane Austen novel and definitely not my last.

Patience is a virtue, not in overlooking wrong, but in refusing to do wrong in overcoming wrong.

Karen Swallow Prior



Black Rednecks & White Liberals
This year I read several books on race I found Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers and if you avoid the liberation theology at the end Cone’s work on lynching. The least helpful was White Fragility. Over the course of the past several months, I saw this title encouraged by several pastors. Pastor, please don’t do that. Out of all those titles, the reason I chose Thomas Sowell is that he addresses the topic of race in a way that is straightforward and hopeful. To say that being white makes you a racist and there is nothing you can do about it is not the answer to the real problem of racism. Sowell is thoughtful, hopeful, and clear. He is also African American as opposed to DiAngelo who is white. No matter where you fall on the political landscape it is helpful to understand issues of race and how to work toward speaking against real racism in our world today. I believe that Sowell’s work is a great asset in understanding the history of race and helpful solutions for today.

Here are the other books I read this year.

  1. Growth Groups by Colin Marshall
  2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  3. Missions by Andy Johnson
  4. Canoeing The Mountains by Tod Bolsinger
  5. The Science of Missions by J.H. Bavanick
  6. White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
  7. Center Church by Tim Keller
  8. Letters to a Young Pastor by Eugene Peterson
  9. I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
  10. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey
  11. The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
  12. Suffering and Joy by Henri Nouwen
  13. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  14. Leadership for the Time of a Pandemic by Tod Bolsinger
  15. Confronting Old Testament Controversies by Tremper Longman
  16. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by William Webb
  17. The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett
  18. The Bible Tells Me So…. by Peter Enns
  19. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
  20. George MacDonald by C.S. Lewis
  21. Evolution and the Fall by James K.A. Smith
  22. In the Year of Our Lord 1943 by Alan Jacobs
  23. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell
  24. American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson
  25. Resilient by Valerie Bell and Matt Markins
  26. Christ-Centered Sermons by Bryan Chapell
  27. A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
  28. Uncommon Ground by Timothy Keller
  29. Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson
  30. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  31. Reading the Bible With Heart and Mind by Tremper Longman
  32. Lethal Agent by Vince Flynn
  33. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
  34. A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert Stein
  35. Hermeneutics by Henry Virkler
  36. Color of Compromise by Jamar Tisby
  37. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson
  38. The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges
  39. A Theory of Everything by Alister McGrath
  40. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
  41. Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson
  42. Red War by Vince Flynn

My Ten Favorite Books of 2017

This year I wasn’t sure how many books I would be able to read other than the books I had to read for Seminary. So to maximize my time I tried to remove time killers like I Netflix and the increasingly painful to watch cable news. I went with my strategy of having a physical book, an audiobook and a kindle book I am always reading at the same time. This year I read more old books than I have ever before. Some of that was for school part of that was because I believe that the crazier things get in the evangelical world the more we are going to need the voices of those who have been there and done that already. What orthodox believers need to comfort themselves with is not politics but the reality there is no new heresy, there is no new theologically liberal idea that someone hasn’t thought of already. You don’t know this unless you read old books. Like every year I encourage you to pick up an old book.

So here are my 10 favorite books for 2017

Parenting by Paul David Tripp

I haven’t read a parenting book in a while so when this one came out I jumped on it. Sandra and I actually have been using this for a small group we are doing with some friends. Tripp’s opening salvo states that parenting is primarily about confession. The whole book is framed around the idea that we need God’s help as much as our kids. Such a crucial read for every parent. We are going to be using it again this spring for our next small group.

A Practical Guide to Culture by Kunkle and Stonestreet 

Raising kids in today’s world doesn’t happen by parents hoping for the best, it happens because of relentless effort and relentless trust. We trust God but we also have to put in the effort to help our kids not just know the Bible but to allow the Bible to frame their thinking. Lewis says it brilliantly this way “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This is one of those books it helps you see everything through the lens of the gospel over the lens of your gut instinct which is always wrong. If you have children anywhere near middle school buy this book.

10 Best Books I Read in 2016

For those of you who are looking for presents for next Christmas or want to spend the Amazon gift cards, you got for Christmas here are the ten best books I read in 2016 and why you should read them too.

  1. Confessions – St. Augustine
    Confessions is a Christian Classic and rightfully so. What is so profound about the book is that it is an autobiography from a giant of the Christian faith written in the form of a prayer. It is the story of a restless soul because of disordered love. How a restless heart found it’s home in Christ. Beautiful, timeless and life-giving. A must read at some point in every Christian journey. 
  2. The Call to Joy and Pain. – Ajith Fernando
    This book was a book that came into our home at the perfect time. Every year we as a church family read four books together that tie into our pastor’s messages for the year. This was one of those books. It was not just a book that my wife and I read out of obligation to our church community it was profoundly helpful as we walked through the joy and pains of cancer. It is by far one of the best books I have read on the topic of suffering in the Christian life and the pastoral vocation. 
  3. The Rule of Love – JV Fesko
    The Rule of Love is a deceivingly small book. I read this in preparation for writing our VBS curriculum which was centered around the Ten Commandments. Fesko brings the Decalog to life in such a way that you are convicted afresh by each command. You see each command in ways you have never seen them before. JV doesn’t just leave you there wounded and bleeding he follows each command with the all-surpassing beauty of Christ that moved me to worship time and time again. 
  4. You Are What You Love – James K. A. Smith
    Many books have recently been written about worldview. These books are valuable, and I thank God that they have been written because their value in a post-Christian America should only increase. What Dr. Smith has done in his Book You Are What You Love is complete the picture that the worldview arguments begin. So many worldview books are written from a rationalistic point of view. Smith writes this book to say our worldview matters but what matters most is what do you love. He says we are first and foremost lovers. And he is right. For all you Family Pastor’s out there he has a couple of chapters on teaching kids and raising kids that are killer. Such a great book. 
  5. The Psalms of Jesus – Tim Keller
    I am not sure that I have read a better devotional in my life. Keller’s devotional on the Psalms came at the perfect time as my wife, and I walked through this devotional daily as we faced the task of walking through cancer treatment a day at a time. I found David and Keller the perfect companions for a journey that had good days and awful days but in both days a never changing sovereign God who never let go. 
  6. Christianity and Liberalism – J Gresham Machen
    This book was written in 1923 and read like it was written in 2015. The Liberalism that invaded the Mainlines in the early twentieth century has invaded much of evangelicalism as a whole in the twenty-first century. Machen’s diagnosis is powerful and more relevant that you could imagine. It serves as encouragement and warning to the church today. 
  7. The Pastor: A Memoir – Eugene Peterson
    This is a book I will read again. It is the Autobiography of Eugene Peterson the pastor and author of The Message translation of the Bible. It was not at all what I was expecting in all the best ways you could imagine. His approach to the scriptures, church, and to life, in general, was mystical yet theologically grounded in the scriptures. Out of all the books, I read this year this one challenged more presuppositions and spoke to me in a language I needed to hear from a pastor I have come to respect because he just wants to be just a pastor in a world that is telling pastors they need to be relevant, famous and efficient.
  8. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
    I read this book because of the considerable hype by everyone online. It did not disappoint. It was a beautifully written historical novel set in World War II. I was a story of sacrificial love and hope that was well worth every moment.
  9. Reclaiming Conversation – Sherry Turkle
    As a parent, this may be one of the more important books you can read. It is all about how do we reclaim conversation in a world that is increasingly nonverbal and overly electronic. Technology is not going away, and we need to be better at understanding and to leverage it in raising our digitally native kids so that technology enhances their world rather than destroying it. 
  10. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    C.S. Lewis has a way of making extremely complicated truth understandable. His down to earth orthodoxy makes him so unique that his books even though they are half a century old they are completely relevant and not difficult to read. If you can only read one book by Lewis, I would say it should be this one. Mere Christianity is the cornerstone of Lewis’ view of the Christian faith and life in general. For those who are new to the Christian faith, it is formative for those who have been a Christian for a while it provides much-needed language in which to communicate your faith to others.

12 Books Every Leader Should Read.

book Leader

One of the things that I found as a leader that if you want to continue to grow you need to read books, and not just any book you need to read good books. The problem I have found is there are so many books out there many are great some not so great. A good book should feel like a conversation. Books give you the ability to have a conversation with people you will likely never meet. Great books do that.   One of the best strategies I have found to find a good book then read the books by the people they recommend and quote often. Here is a list of 12 good books to get you started.

  1. Theology –

    True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
    Prodigal God – Tim Keller
    Mere Christianity – CS Lewis
    Pilgrims Progress – John Bunyon
    Confessions – St. Augustine

  2. Technology –

    Reclaiming Conversation – Sherry Turkle

  3. Leadership –

    Leadership and Self-Deception – Arbinger Institute
    The Call To Joy and Pain – Ajith Fernando
    How to Read a Book – Mortimer J Adler

  4. Biography –

    Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
    Amazing Grace – Eric Metaxas
    Bonhoeffer – Eric Metaxas