That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading well over 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I’m not sure how they were even published… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year:
10. Quiet by Susan Cain
A word of warning for those who tend to only read Christian books: this is not a book written by a Christian; therefore, you’re going to have to do some worldview identification and translation while reading this book (which is a healthy thing to get into the habit of). However, Cain’s insights into the “extrovert ideal” that dominates America and how introverts can thrive in it are much needed.
Buy it at: Amazon
9. Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger / The Life of God in the Soul of the Church by Thabiti Anyabwile (tie)
Christian publishing had a number of hot topics this year. Among them is “church.” Of the contemporary books I’ve read on the subject this year, these two are the standouts. Both offer strong, balanced theological insights, while avoiding unnecessary prescriptiveness on secondary matters. This is a difficult balance to strike and I’m grateful for the combined wisdom of these authors.
8. Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian
Suffering is an important subject for us all, as recent events in Newtown CT, have reminded us. There are a number of good (and some great) books on the subject, many doing the work of preventative medicine or giving a theological foundation. Tullian’s book is different. It’s one meant to encourage the reader who’s in the midst of suffering and trial (particularly of the sort they’ve got no control over), posing the question: What is God doing in the midst of suffering?
The answer he provides is simple, practical, and helpful for every reader: “For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be himself for you” (26).
My review: The Gospel Coalition
7. Excellence by Andreas Köstenberger
Most of you have likely not read this. You really should. Köstenberger’s examination of the scholarly virtue of excellence (which, by the way, is incredibly applicable to everyday life) will challenge the way you look at what it means to be excellent to the glory of God. Here’s a standout excerpt:
Far from being optional, excellence is in fact a divine mandate that applies to every aspect of our lives, for God himself is characterized by excellence. Mediocrity, sloppy workmanship, and a half-hearted effort do not bring glory to God or advance his kingdom.
6. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller / Friends and Lovers by Joel R. Beeke (tie)
Of all the many marriage and relationship books by folks affiliated with the Reformed Resurgence in America, these are by far the best. A key reason: Experience. Both were written by authors who’s marriages have seen long-term health and sustainability. While you likely won’t agree with everything written in either of them, both offer readers a great deal of practical, pastoral wisdom.
5. Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher
If there’s ever a case study for a book going “viral,” it’s Killing Calvinism. And with good reason: It’s a sorely needed corrective for Calvinists in the West. Balanced and helpful, Dutcher’s critique of the “new” Calvinism will challenge readers as much as it encourages them.
4. Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson
While this book relies pretty heavily on other sources, Wordsmithy condenses all the best of what’s floating around to offer some of the most helpful advice a writer is every going to receive, dripping with Wilson’s ever-present sense of irony.
Buy it at: Amazon
3. The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson
No one can argue that the world’s changed drastically over the last 15 years—and most significantly has been what we mean by the word “tolerance.” Dr. Carson’s book (based on his series of essays) is a sharp, critical examination of the new tolerance and the Christian response.
My review: The Intolerance of Tolerance
2. Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson
I’m not sure I can say it better than I did in my review:
Those who prefer books offering ten steps, four keys, or three principles of being more gospel-centered will be infuriated by Gospel Deeps. Wilson just doesn’t go there. Not once. Instead, he examines the many facets of Christ’s work in a way that (ought to) stir your heart. He wants you to be excited about the unceasing depths of Jesus; to see every aspect with renewed wonder and joy. Which, if you want to get technical, is the ultimate in application.
My review: Gospel Deeps
Buy it at: Amazon | WTS Books
1. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp
Dangerous Calling is easily among the most important books I’ve read this year, if not the most important on the issue of pastoral ministry. With sometimes shocking transparency, Tripp covers many of the dangers of ministry and the effects it can have on the heart of a pastor. Here’s a quick excerpt from my review:
Ministry is a war—it’s a war not just for the gospel, but for the pastor’s heart. It’s so easy to see faith become academic when a huge portion of your time is spent in study (something Tripp notes the modern seminary system doesn’t help with). Faith can become theoretical, people can become projects, and the wonder of God can lose a bit of lustre if we’re not careful.
Equally dangerous is what happens when we forget that our successes are not the result of our own efforts, but all flow from the sovereign will of God. We buy into our own press far too easily and are far too much like the child in C.S. Lewis’ oft-quoted analogy, “who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
My review: Dangerous Calling