As I do every year, here is a list of the favorite books that I read during the course of the past twelve months. They weren’t necessarily released by a publisher in 2013 but at some point during the year I read them and now recommend them for your reading pleasure.
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. What I loved about the book was that it took an issue many people struggle with (including me) and rather than telling us to “stop being busy” DeYoung moved me to the deeper places in my heart that foster an overly busy life. His style of writing is funny at times yet profound when he gets to the heart motivations for busyness and the one thing that is necessary. Great book that we plan to use next year for our small groups!
Formed for the Glory of God by Kyle Strobel. Probably my favorite read of the year. The book frames spiritual practices (e.g. devotional Bible reading, prayer, worship) less as disciplines I do to obey or to make me a good Christian and more as gifts of grace given by God to reveal Himself and our corrupt hearts. This is a very different way to see spiritual disciplines but it’s a good rendering of Edwards’ theology and practice.
Missional Communities by Reggie McNeal. If there’s one ball that I’m aware the modern church has dropped big time is actually making disciples. Missional Communities provides a snapshot of what God is doing across the country through smaller communities bent on being Jesus to their immediate communities. While there are still some questions I have (e.g. I have some reservations about the assumption that post-congregationalist modality is somehow ready to be replaced by something much more organic and less structured), it’s a particularly fascinating book about a different way of thinking and structuring the growth in community aspect. Whether I agree or not with McNeal, it’s a great book to dialogue about particularly if we want to make disciples who will reach out for the good of their neighborhoods.
Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. If there’s one author that I take the time to read, it’s Keller. The reason is I think he’s a very critical voice who knows how to take complex issues, point to the problem and our typical ways to solve the problem using either irreligious or overly-religious means. Of course, the answer is the third way – the gospel but he doesn’t just slap the gospel on as a quick fix. He brings the reader to the place where the heart is drawn into the gospel as the solution. Just surveying the breadth of his source material is worth the price of the book alone (it’s rare to see a pastor use a spectrum that includes Reformed theologians, philosophers, theologians, secularists, and mystics like Simone Weil).
Les Miserables (Translation by Julie Rose). I started reading the because of the movie last year. It’s not a new book but the translation is a more recent one. Rose has translated Hugo’s masterpiece into modern English that keeps the reader engaged (cause it’s a looooong book) while apparently staying true to the text.
C.S. Lewis: His Simple Life and Extraordinary Legacy by Christianity Today. This is not a exhaustive book on the life of C.S. Lewis. Rather, it’s a collection of writings from a number of well-respected Lewis “experts” (Jerry Root contributes three chapters) who write on the influence he has had on modern Christianity and the reason he is still widely read. This book is helpful because it serves as a gateway to actually reading Lewis or those who have wrote about him more in-depth.
Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics edited by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel. I do know these guys so it probably makes me a bit biased in terms of my endorsement. However, I think what these two guys have done is gather a collection of articles that all point to the importance of reading the really old spiritual classics with some qualifications. Christianity didn’t begin with the Reformation. It has a long history that includes some godly Catholic writers who trying to communicate how the Spirit promotes growth in the individual. I’m almost finished with the book but it’s enough to wholeheartedly offer two thumbs up.
The Evangelicals You Don’t Know by Tom Krattenmaker. Without spoiling the whole book, Tom’s book delves into his own misconceptions about evangelicals and his journey to confront his own misbeliefs. Much of the book is spent de-tangling some of the quick prejudicial beliefs that people quickly accept about evangelicals. But along the way Krattenmaker takes us on the same journey to mirror our own fears and misbeliefs about the “other” side. The mastery of the book is that it serves to confront my own misbeliefs and how poorly I have acted toward others in the past. At many points it felt like the book was the secular companion to Kinnaman’s and Lyon’s book, UnChristian.