Top 10 Books of 2021

This year I finished my master’s degree work at Knox Seminary. It was a five-year process, and I loved every bit of it. The one downside was that I was so busy reading books for my classes. All the required reading for those classes was phenomenal. I enjoyed them all. The downside was not the content of the books I was required to read but the fact that my personal want to read stack only grew and grew over five years. This year I set a new personal best in terms of books read but would add in terms of content the books I read this year were probably the best I have read. To narrow down my top 10 is no easy task. Here is my attempt 

10 – Caring for the Souls of Children – Amy Baker This is book is a must-own for anyone who works with kids or has kids of their own. I have never read a book that has, at its core, the practical tools to help kids in difficult circumstances matched with strong gospel application. 

 

9 – Reappearing Church – Mark Sayers – Mark Sayers is one of the few people out there who has a real grasp of the emergence of the intersection of secular culture and the gospel and how we can live faithful lives in exile. 

 

 

8 – The Princess Bride – William Goldman – As someone who would watch The Princess Bride rewind and watch again during the age of VCR’s. I have seen TPB more times than I can count. I have the entire movie memorized. Massive Princess Bride fan was expecting to love the film more than the book, and I liked them both. As a fan of the film, the book filled in some things that were left out of the movie, but the performances by the actors in The Princess Bride make it one of my favorite movies of all time. 

7 – Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – I have become a huge Jane Austen fan. With some persuasion from Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, I have begun to read her corpus of work. Her understanding of Christian virtue placed in the context of story is as powerful as it is enjoyable. 

 

6 – Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton – My classics professor once said that reading a classical work for the first time only prepares you to read it for the first time the second time you read it. This was true with several classic pieces I have read and reread. Orthodoxy was no different. I found the second reading more enjoyable and thought-provoking than the first reading. I love this quote from Chesterton

“God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”

5 – Run with the Horses – Eugene Peterson – I am a huge Peterson fan. His style of writing is powerful, profound, and poetic. Run with the Horses is no different. I read this book devotionally as I read through the book of Jeremiah. This book came at a very timely season of life and ministry where I needed to hear the message of Jeremiah and apply it to my heart.

“The most important thing in Jeremiah’s life was God – not comfort, not applause, not security, but the living God. What he did fear was worship without astonishment, religion without commitment. He feared getting what he wanted and missing what God wanted.” 

4 – Under the Unpredictable Plant – Eugene Peterson – This is a book from Peterson’s 3 part book series for the vocation of pastoral ministry. In Under the Unpredictable Plant, Peterson tackles the vocational Holiness of the pastor and his congregation. Although this book was written thirty years ago, it has more relevance today than the day it was written. In this book, Peterson calls pastors to live lives set apart and holy and, in turn to call their people to do the same.

“It is interesting to listen to the comments that outsiders, particularly those from Third World countries, make on the religion they observe in North America. What they notice mostly is the greed, the silliness, the narcissism. They appreciate the size and prosperity of our churches, the energy, and the technology, but they wonder at the conspicuous absence of the cross, the phobic avoidance of suffering, the puzzling indifference to community and relationships of intimacy.” 

3 – Secular Creed – Rebecca Mclaughlin – In this short but powerful book Rebecca lovingly and biblically dissects the creedal mantras of our current secular moment. This book must get in the hands of our students in Middle School, High School, and College. Our kids are being inundated with the narrative that to be loving, we must proclaim Black Lives Matter, Love is Love, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, We are all Immigrants, and Diversity Makes Us Stronger. McLaughlin takes care to loving address these truths with care and truth. She tells her children that

“we, as Christians, we believe that black lives matter because they matter to Jesus. We don’t believe that love is love but that God is love and that he gives us glimpses of his love through different kinds of relationships. We believe women’s rights are human rights, because God made us – male and female – in his image; and for the same reason, we believe that babies in the womb have rights as well. We believe God has a special concern for single mothers, orphans, and immigrants, because Scripture tells us so again and again. And we believe that diversity does indeed make us stronger, because Jesus calls people from every tribe and tongue and nation to worship him as one body together.”

All I can say to that is amen and amen. 

2 – The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self – Carl Trueman – Trueman does a masterful job weaving history, philosophy, and theology together to paint a brilliant picture for us of how we have come to the secular age. Dr. Trueman explains how we have arrived at this moment by way of the sexual revolution. He explains that we have come to be a society that is captivated, motivated, and completely devoted to the idea of expressive individualism. His cultural analysis is dead on. He believes that his book introduces the discussions we need to have in our culture today. I would argue he lays out a template for dissecting and engaging our modern mess. He states in the conclusion of his introduction,

“My aim is to explain how and why a certain notion of the self has come to dominate the culture of the West, why this self finds its most obvious manifestation in the transformation of sexual mores, and what the wider implications of this transformation are and may well be in the future. Understanding the times is a precondition of responding appropriately to the times. And understanding the times requires a knowledge of the history that has led up to the present.”

1 – The Pastor as Minor Poet – Craig Barnes – This was the best book I have ever read on pastoral ministry. It was by far the best book I read this year. Barnes’ work is a brilliant reminder that pastors, we must define our lives and work by what the gospel calls us to do. If we don’t clearly define what it means to be a pastor, we will invariably allow others to do this for us. Unfortunately, the present job description of the pastor is formed more by the cultural elements of pragmatism and leadership ideas than by the biblical framework of faithfulness set out for us in Scripture. Barnes says, “contemporary pastors are tempted to measure their success, not to mention fulfillment, precisely by how well-liked they are. That is because even the clergy function in a society that defines individuals and certainly leaders by their ability to fulfill expectations.” Every pastor and their spouse should read Pastor as Minor Poet. For the church to be the church pastors, must understand what it means to be a pastor.

“It isn’t necessary for poets to have experienced in their own lives every tragedy that their parishioners will encounter. Of course. But it is very necessary for poets to know exactly what it feels like to have the world cave in, and then to be startled by the discovery of a resurrected life based solely on the work of Christ.
This means that parish poets have to pay attention to their own lives. They must go after their own life experiences and plunge into them in search of sacred meaning rather than run from the pain or numb themselves with busy distractions. How else can they awaken parishioners to the mystery at work within their own lives?” 

The Rest 

  1. Family Shepherds – Voddie Baucham
  2. Ten Words to Live By – Jen Wilkin
  3. True Community – Jerry Bridges 
  4. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald 
  5. Is Christmas Unbelievable – Rebecca Maclaughlin
  6. Confronting Christianity – Rebecca Maclaughlin
  7. Lead – Paul David Tripp
  8. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
  9. The Answer – Randy Pope
  10. The Prodigal God – Timothy Keller
  11. The EOS Life – Gino Wickam
  12. Faith for Exiles – David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock
  13. The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket
  14. The Reptile Room – Lemony Snicket
  15. The Wide Window – Lemony Snicket
  16. The Miserable Mill – Lemony Snicket
  17. The Austere Academy – Lemony Snicket
  18. The Ersatz Elevator – Lemony Snicket
  19. The Vile Village – Lemony Snicket
  20. The Hostile Hospital – Lemony Snicket
  21. The Carnivorous Carnival – Lemony Snicket
  22. The Slippery Slope – Lemony Snicket
  23. The Grim Grotto – Lemony Snicket
  24. The Penultimate Peril – Lemony Snicket
  25. The End – Lemony Snicket
  26. How to be a Great Boss – Gino Wickman
  27. Pastor – William Willimon
  28. Rocket Fuel – Gino Wickman
  29. Traction – Gino Wickman
  30. Men and Women in the Church – Kevin DeYoung
  31. Resilient Ministry – Bob Burns
  32. The Making of Biblical Womanhood – Beth Allison Barr
  33. Holiness by Grace – Brian Chapell
  34. Christianity and Liberalism – J Gresham Machen
  35. The Princess and the Goblin – George McDonald
  36. Term Limits – Vince Flynn 
  37. Garden City – John Mark Comer 
  38. Fault Lines – Voddie Bauchman
  39. Embodied – Preston Sprinkle 
  40. Freedom – Sebastian Junger
  41. Revival God’s way – Leonard Ravenhill 
  42. The Bomber Mafia – Malcolm Gladwell
  43. The Roots of Endurance – John Piper
  44. Out of the Depths – John Newton
  45. The Horse and His Boy – C.S. Lewis
  46. Gospel Eldership – Robert Thune
  47. Like Father Like Son – Pete Alwinson
  48. A Readers Guide Through the Wardrobe – Leland Ryken
  49. No Man Left Behind – Patrick Morley
  50. A Burning in my Bones – Winn Collier
  51. InSourcing – Randy Pope
  52. Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  53. Conversion and Discipleship – Bill Hull
  54. Gospel-Centered Discipleship – Jonathan Dodson
  55. The Abolition of Man – C.S. Lewis
  56. Volunteers that Stick – Jim Wideman
  57. The Masterplan of Discipleship – Robert Coleman
  58. Family Discipleship – Matt Chandler
  59. 10 Books Every Conservative – Benjamin Wilker
  60. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
  61. Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeares
  62. The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis
  63. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kirt Vonnegut
  64. The Hallelujah Banquet – Eugene Peterson
  65. The Inferno – Dante Alighieri
  66. A Children’s Bible – Lydia Millet
  67. Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen
  68. The Brothers K – David James Dunkin
  69. The Clouds – Aristophanes
  70. Engaging Critical Theory and Social Justice Theory – Dr. Neil Shenvi 

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

Top 10 Books of 2019

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places – Eugene Peterson
Eugene does what few modern theologians can do he weaves theology and poetry and finishes each thought with pastoral application. I found Ten Thousand Places challenges to live what you believe. The challenge in the evangelical church is there is much theological understanding without application and on the other side pragmatic seeker strategies striped of theological distinction. Peterson pushes us towards a more gracious orthodoxy as well as a more theological deep approach to reaching those far from God. “Spiritual theology is the attention we give to lived theology — prayed and lived, for if it is not prayed sooner or later it will not be lived from the inside out and in continuity with the Lord of life. Spiritual theology is the attention that we give to living what we know and believe about God. It is the thoughtful and obedient cultivation of life as worship on our knees before God the Father, of life as sacrifice on our feet following God the Son, and of life as love embracing and being embraced by the community of God the Spirit.”
– Eugene Peterson

Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport
Digital Minimalism was a reminder of how much of a chokehold our cell phones in general and social media, in particular, has on us. “Digital minimalism definitively does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people currently engage with these tools.” Many of Newport’s suggestions I will be implementing in the new year. His approach was powerful as he built the case against digital extremism and then offered solutions that were not based on fear but in proper proportion. Does this technology help my higher values of family, faith, and friends? If so then how specifically if no then let it go.

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers K is the story of three brothers who each represent a part of the tripartite Plutonic soul. Dostoevsky uses the story of their suffering to show the nature of happiness and the road of redemption no matter how God has uniquely wired you. Very few authors have the combination of poetic imagination, philosophic tradition, and theological persuasion. I found the story compelling and his understanding of grace convicting. It is a book I want to read again and now having read it once I am ready to read it again for the first time.

The Road Back to You – Ian Morgan Cron
The enneagram is controversial in the fact that so many of it’s founders are mystics. I don’t feel that it is witchcraft or a culturally acceptable way to blame shift my sinful tendencies on a system. I found the Road Back to You at a crucial time in my life this year. This year has been one of the more personally challenging years I have faced in over a decade. The Road Back to You helped me see something that I have always known to be true, we think everyone is like us so we talk to them that way. The Road Back to You helped to remind me God made each of us uniquely and if I am to honor that design and work better with those around me I need to learn how to talk to them in a way they understand rather than only communication in a style I prefer

On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts – James K. A. Smith
This book was not what I expected but was exactly what I needed. I am a huge fan of both Augustine and James Smith. When this project was announced I couldn’t wait to read it. I was not disappointed. Smith distills the essence of Augustine’s work in the Confessions and applies it to Post-everything America with such skill that the 1600 year gap is nearly seamless. Smith cuts to the heart of the perennial issues Augustine address that allows us in our modern setting to reorient our faith and to see our need for rightly ordered love. Such a powerful book. His chapter on fatherlessness was profound, personal and prophetic I have been reflecting on it often since reading it earlier this month.

The Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges
This book was easy to read and yet theologically profound. Bridges has a gift of making theologically deep truths accessible and challenging to any level reader. This is not to say that his content is simplistic but rather that he is a thoughtful and talented writer. The topic of holiness is so misunderstood in the evangelical church and because it is too often a topic that is neglected. This is the first book I read by Bridges but it won’t be my last.

The Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis
This is my second time reading Screwtape. I read it this year for a Seminary class I took on Lewis. This book is genius. It is a book that could have only been written by Lewis. His command of the English language, his understanding of both mid-evil literature and theology make this book the classic it deserves to be.


A Gospel Primer – Milton Vincent
There are few things more important to do for a Christian than to “Preach the Gospel” to yourself daily. Vincent’s short work helps you do just that in such profound ways. The first part of this book is a 30 devotional that walks you through a daily application of the gospel. The next section is “prose” a telling of the gospel is story form. The final section is a poetic proclamation of the gospel. This book is simple, short, beautiful and convicting. We leak and need to be reminded of the truth the gospel proclaims this small book is a beautiful way to do just that.

A Year with George Herbert: A Guide to Fifty-Two of His Best Loved Poems – Jim Scott Orrick
I don’t read enough fiction or poetry. This is something I used to view as a waste I now see as a weakness in me. I need to develop my poetic imagination, I am not just a thinking thing I am the refection of the loves of my life. In my renewed pursuit of poetry, a few standouts have immerged because they have a poetic imagination and a passion for the gospel. Out of the group, Herbert is my favorite. He was a pastor whose poems were published posthumously. His pastoral heart and passion for the gospel seep from every line he writes. This book is a great introduction to his larger body of work.

  • A Year with George Herbert: A Guide to Fifty-Two of His Best Loved Poems – Jim Scott Orrick
  • On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts – James K. A. Smith
  • The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport
  • Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell
  • Enemy of the State – Vince Flynn
  • The Survivor – Vince Flynn
  • The Wisdom of Eachother – Eugene Peterson
  • An Introduction to the Old Testament – Tremper Longman 
  • Irresitible – Andy Stanley
  • Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
  • The Common Rule – Justin Earley
  • Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes – E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien
  • Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor
  • The Path Between Us – Suzanne Stabile
  • The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb – Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel
  • Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity – Eugene Peterson
  • Chasing Francis – Ian Morgan Cron
  • The Road Back to You – Ian Morgan Cron
  • Tell it Slant – Eugene Peterson
  • The Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges
  • Letters to the Church – Francis Chan
  • Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places – Eugene Peterson
  • The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture – Brevard Childs
  • The Prophecy of Isaiah – Alec Motyer
  • Openness Unhindered – Rosaria Butterfield
  • ReSet – David Murray
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • Andy Catlett – Wendell Berry
  • Be a Writing Machine – M.L. Ronn
  • Letters to Children – C. S. Lewis
  • Sex, Dating, And Relationships – Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas
  • Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
  • The Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis
  • One to One Bible Reading – David Helm
  • The Problem of Pain – C. S. Lewis
  • Romans 8-16 For You – Timothy Keller
  • A Gospel Primer – Milton Vincent
  • On the Incarnation – St. Athanasius
  • Befriend – Scott Sauls
  • On the Apostolic Preaching – Irenaeus of Lyons
  • The Great Divorce – C. S. Lewis
  • The Duties of Parents: Parenting Your Children God’s Way – J. C. Ryle
  • Women of the Word – Jen Wilken

Top 10 Books of 2018

A quick note about this year’s book list. I tried to be better about reading more fiction and I intentionally read more books written by women, I tried to get on the Flannery O’Connor bandwagon but still do not see what all the hype is about. I am nearly halfway through reading all of the major works of C.S. Lewis. I also tried to read a couple of books by people I don’t agree with, Brian Zahnd’s book is on my list if you read his book definitely spit out the bones for they are plentiful. Lastly, I started what I hope to be a tradition with all my kids reading classics over the summer. My oldest son and I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I was so moved by the portrayal of the horrors of the slave trade and the beauty of the Gospel was breathtaking. My challenge is always to read old books and that continues but I would also add the challenge to read books by people who are different than you. One of the beautiful things that are true is that we see life through different eyes and we see Christ through the application of the gospel in our daily life yet our perspective is limited. Reading people who are different than us allows us to borrow their eyes to see the world and to share their pain and to come alongside them and bear their burdens. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and happy reading next year. 

My Top 10 Books of 2018

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi – I listened to the Audiobook with my family on vacation. The Audiobook was read by the author Nabeel Qureshi it was powerful, moving and convicting. Hearing Nabeel in his own voice recounts the pain and difficulty that led to him walking away from everything to follow Christ was so convicting and so powerfully encouraging at the same time. It was important for me to have my boys listen in because they will wrestle with the truth claims of Scripture one day and Nabeel journey to Christ is one they will not soon forget. 

 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – Growing up moving so much meant I changed schools often and as a result, I missed a lot of classics I should have been forced to read in High School. With many schools now seemingly abandoning the classics I decided that during the summers I want to start a tradition where I read a classic work with my kids each summer of Jr. High and High School. This summer I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin with my oldest son. This was such a moving story. To read the horrors of the slave trade and at the same time, the beauty of the gospel so deeply embedded in this book knowing that this was the book that Lincoln credited with the start of the civil war easily made this book my favorite of the year. What dumbfounded me the most in reading this book is I kept waiting for Tom to betray his people as the most well know euphemism taken from this book is calling someone who betrays their own race an “Uncle Tom.” To see the Christlike sacrificial love of Tom on display page after page made me stop and pray that God would give me the love and courage that Tom had in this book. So powerful. Thankful for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s courage to write such a book in a time when doing so did not get you invitations to come to talk about your book on The View. 

 

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots by J.C. Ryle – J.C. Ryle is one of the most profoundly deep yet at the same time deeply accessible writers of his day. Ryle had such an accessible and practically applicable style. Any work or sermon of Ryle’s I have read I am always, always challenged to live my light different in light of the Grace provided to me in Christ because of Ryle’s ability to distill truth and apply those truths in universally applicable ways. This is a book I will re-read again. 

 

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves – One of the things I am convinced of is that Christians (this means me too) don’t understand the Trinity as we should. We hear the word, Trinity and we avoid thinking about it or talking about it and retreat with claims of mystery. To the Christians faith, there are few things that are more foundational and differentiating than the doctrine of the Trinity. The unity and diversity of God is unique to Christianity. Knowing that we can and should know more about the Trinity the question is often where do I start? I would say right here, Delighting in the Trinity is easily the most comprehensive and accessible books I have ever read on the Trinity. It is a quick read that is well worth your time. 

 

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren – Loved this book Warren has a way of seeing the beauty of Christ in things I never do. Everyone wants to live a life worth living. Our culture is fame-obsessed people do the craziest things for 15 minutes of fame. Yet most of us go from mundane to mundane. Warren explains that the extraordinary life isn’t the one that is lived outside the lines it is lived best by those who see God in the ordinary things of life in the good simple gifts he graciously gives us. 

 

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin – Jen is a fantastic writer. She does naturally what so many speakers and writers struggle to do she takes complex ideas and she distills them to their essence. If you are not going to read Systematic Theology and most people won’t, None Like Him is a must read. Wilkin discusses each of the incommunicable attributes (the attributes of God that can only be true of God) of God with such winsomeness it was a joy to read. 

 

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller – The best compliment I can give this book is that most books on prayer deal in the currency of condemnation this one dealt in the currency of conviction. This book and Ryle’s pamphlet on prayer are by far the best books I have read on prayer. I left this book challenged on why I pray and how I pray at the same time empowered to pray and inspired to pray. By far the best book I have read on prayer. 

 

Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God by Rankin Wilbourne – I really enjoyed Rankin’s writing style. His treatment of the work of Sanctification was one of the best and most accessible books I have read on such an important topic. When we get sanctification wrong it leads to legalism or cheap grace. Our church will be going through this book in our small groups this fall. I highly recommend this book. 

 

 

That Hideous Strength (The Space Trilogy, #3) by C.S. Lewis – In this book, Lewis does what Lewis always does. Lewis’ friend and fellow Inkling said it well “Somehow what Lewis thought about everything was secretly present in what he said about anything.” This book was no exception. If Narnia was the novel form of Mere Christianity than That Hideous Strength finds it’s counterpart largely in the Abolition of Man. Lewis dystopian fiction discusses the nature of salvation and how we in a Spiritual battle in which we have picked a side because in picking no side we have actually picked a side. George Orwell’s early review, for instance, expressed what would become a common criticism: “One could recommend this book unreservedly if Mr. Lewis had succeeded in keeping it all on a single level. Unfortunately, the supernatural keeps breaking in, and it does so in rather confusing, undisciplined ways.” Unlike Orwell, Lewis understood that the supernatural is not subject to our sensibilities. 

 

The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Alan Jacobs – I have read several biographies of Lewis this one was unique in that Dr. Jacobs attempts to view the life of Lewis in light of his faith and imagination. How his imagination informed everything else he said and did. Jacobs says it this way in his introduction. What made Lewis write this way, and why it is such a good thing that he was able to write this way—these are hard things to talk about without being (or at least seeming) sentimental, yet they are necessary to talk about. In most children but in relatively few adults, at least in our time, we may see this willingness to be delighted to the point of self-abandonment. This free and full gift of oneself to a story is what produces the state of enchantment….Those who will never be fooled can never be delighted, because without self-forgetfulness there can be no delight, and this is a great and a grievous loss. Those who will never be fooled can never be delighted.

Here are the other books I read this year.

  1. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
  2. No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It’s Harmful by Andrew Naselli
  3. Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2) by C.S. Lewis
  4. Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus by Jonathan Leeman
  5. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
  6. In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin
  7. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News by Brian Zahnd
  8. The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther
  9. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare 
  10. Perelandra (The Space Trilogy, #2) by C.S. Lewis
  11. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence For Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders
  12. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  13. Path of the Assassin (Scot Harvath, #2) by Brad Thor
  14. Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship by John Piper
  15. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
  16. The Flash: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1 (Rebirth) by Joshua Williamson
  17. The Lions of Lucerne (Scot Harvath, #1) by Brad Thor
  18. The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard by Kara Tippetts
  19. Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More–Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior
  20. The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders
  21. Art & the Bible by Francis A. Schaeffer
  22. He Is There and He Is Not Silent by Francis A. Schaeffer
  23. Walking with Jesus through the Old Testament: Devotions for Lent by Paul E. Stroble
  24. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
  25. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson
  26. Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture by David VanDrunen
  27. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor
  28. When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt
  29. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) by C.S. Lewis
  30. Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters by Helen Smith
  31. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared Wilson
  32. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach by Bruce K. Waltke
  33. Great Courses: St. Augustine’s Confessions by William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman
  34. The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor by Amy Hollingsworth
  35. Thucydides: The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians – Translation by Jeremy Mynott
  36. The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy
  37. Cottonmouth and the River (Freddie Cottonmouth #1) by C.S. Fritz
  38. The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places by Nik Ripkin
  39. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
  40. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

Summer Reads

Summer is a great time to grab a book and sit in a hammock and unwind or lie on a beach and get some free vitamin D while getting lost in a great book. This summer was busy at work, so I took the summer off from seminary to focus on some of our most impactful events of the year in kids and youth ministry as well as spend time with family enjoying each other. So a break from seminary means I can catch up on some books that I have gotten behind on. So if you are looking for a new book here are a few I am reading this summer.

 

The Deep Things of God – Fred Sanders
I started this book about three years ago I got about half way in then started Seminary. Such a challenging book as I realized that much of my understanding of God is so often how I perceive him rather than how he reveals himself to me. The background of the gospel is rooted in the Trinity.

 

All that Rises Must Converge – Flannery O’Connor
I have been on a O’Connor kick as of late to see what the fuss is all about. My thoughts so far. 1. She is a massively gifted writer.  2. She is a bit eccentric. 3. She connects her thoughts about God in her writing in unique and very interesting ways.

 

 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
I am reading this over the summer with my oldest son. Why we are reading this together? 1. Schools don’t assign classics anymore 2. Stowe was a devout christian with a clearly Christian worldview. 3. I find the fact that Lincoln credited this work as the impetus for the Civil war fascinating.

 

The Hardest Peace – Kara Trippet
I just finished this book. It was both beautiful and challenging. To read of Kara’s peace and God’s grace in the midst of life’s most challenging moments was humbling and difficult. Humbling because of her great faith and difficult because it brough up lots of fears I thought I had dealt with in the midst of my wifes battle with Cancer. Kara’s faith was rooted in a person not a feeling. This book was beautiful.

 

Confessions – St. Augustine translated by Sarah Ruden
This is my second time through Confessions and like most classics once you finished reading it for the first time you are prepared read it again for the first time. Sarah’s translation is extremely accurate and super accessible. I am grateful for the parts she has illumined that I missed the first time through and am also grateful that many more will read Augustine’s masterpiece because of the accessibility of this translation.

 

Love Thy Body – Nancy Pearcey
This fall we will be doing a sermon series in our youth ministry talking about what the bible has to say about many of the topics Pearcey covers in this book. So I will be reading this book to have the proper framework needed for that series.

 

 

Prince Caspian – C.S. Lewis
Just started this book with my oldest daughter. When my kids turn 8 I start reading them the Narnia series. I think I enjoy more than they do. Every time through I see new aspects of Lewis’ genius.

 

 

What books are you reading this summer?