A plethora of “Christian celebrity” pastor types put up their list of top 10 books that they’ve read for the year. I’m not a Christian “celebrity,” but for those open to hear from “D-Lister” (and I know that’s even pushing it!), here are my top 10 books from this past year of which I commend to you.
1.) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This book was a page turner and I loved every page. Well written and truly redemptive in all senses of the word. The story of a world class runner turned WWII downed aviator. He barely survives 50 days at sea only to be captured and put in a POW camp. How about that for a bad day? Floating at sea for 50 days only to be discovered by Japanese. Wow. You’ll be astounded at the journey, the camaraderie, the perseverance, and then the forgiveness of the story. My review here.
2.) Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian faithfulness and homosexuality by Wesley Hill. I did a quick review of it here. This book chronicles the struggle of a Christian dealing with same-sex attraction, but understanding that is not God’s will for him. It really gives us a glimpse into the life of a believer who wants to remain faithful to Christ. In so doing, he takes heat from all sides: the pro-gay side; with those in the church who feel uncomfortable even discussing the issue; as well as those in the church who seem to have all the answers on why gay people are gay and how they can be fixed. Challenging and a good one for all of us to read. A great picture of sanctification: washed and waiting.
3.) When People are Big, God is Small. This one from Ed Welch is a brilliant but simple and practical guide to all of those who struggle with fear of man. It will draw your attention and your sense of need away from yourself and onto Christ. It is challenging, and at times offensive, but in a good way.
4.) The Trellis and the Vine. This book from Colin Marshall and Tony Payne challenges the reader to re-orient his view for how the church should work. Instead of having programs to fit perceived needs, programs should be centered around people. If people you have don’t fit into the program (either those who would benefit or those who would lead them), then nix that program. Start with people, not with a program that may have outlived its usefulness. These lads really focus on the ministry of the Word from believer to believer, and not just ministry of the Word as it is preached on Sunday. Each member is a minister. A pastor’s role is to equip members for ministry, which may or may not include ministry in a particular program. So much ministry is done one-to-one (these dudes are Australian so they say things a bit differently), which is good news. That kind of ministry is feasible given any budget or building limitations.
5.) No Bag for the Journey by Joseph Martin. A lad rides across the country on a bicycle before cell phones and emails and the like. More often than not Joseph Martin doesn’t even know where he will be spending the night or what he’ll be eating. God provided miraculously for him throughout this journey. Truly amazing story of faith and God’s faithfulness. But my favorite part was the epilogue where he comes to know and embrace the reformation re-discovery of the gospel of grace. So neat to see a man who grew up in Tampa, went to the same Catholic school I went to, come to truly rest in the gospel. When I finished the book I immediately found him on facebook and let him know I was the step-grandchild of the mother of his best friend growing up. You’ll want to meet this guy as well and pray for his journey as he continues to battle the liberal Episcopal church trying to cease their property.
6.) Generous Justice. I’m a Keller nut, so pretty much everything this lad writes I like. However, as someone who does not have a heart of mercy, but wants to be more practically and systematically merciful, this is quite helpful to non Keller-nuts too. It’s also a helpful read because it places the mercy displayed by the church and individuals in a practically scriptural framework with a number of examples.
7.) The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Legend has it it there was at some point in time an astounding, fairly complex civilization in the heart of the amazon. And so that, with the allure of glory, fame, gold, and the sense of discovering something that many thought may not have existed has drawn in many glory-hounds. So many have died. This book focuses its attention primarily one man’s fateful journey while the author risks his life to discover what happened and whether or not this city did really exist. Fascinating to say the least how such a city has brought so many men to their graves, and continued for centuries to do so.
8.) The King’s Cross by Tim Keller. A commentary on Mark, but more than that. It’s more like a series of sermons going through the gospel of Mark. I read much of it while down with the stomach flu so that’s possibly why it didn’t get as high a rating! Still, very helpful “walk-through” and application of the gospel of Mark.
9.) Gospel centered family by Tim Chester and Ed Moll. This is a short book designed to be studied and read in small groups or Sunday School. I loved it. Amy did too. So did/does our adult Sunday School class. It is practical enough to apply, but gospel centric enough to call for grace in grey areas. These authors attack idols graciously and truthfully. I appreciated the section on a family being missional and outward focused. That seems the last frontier yet to be tackled by most parenting books. Without this aspect, the family can easily become yet another idol.
10.) The Forgotten 500. The story of 500 or so airmen stranded in Yugoslavia and the miraculous evacuation that saw none of them be lost to Nazi resistance. It was a sad tale in some ways because this story was intended never to be told due to politics and communistic infiltrating moles. The rescue was in fact only a plus. What I was most challenged by was the picture of hospitality shown by such peasants. They gave out of their meagerness to help homeless airmen. A fun, challenging, insightful and informative read. Two of my reflections are here and here
Honorable Mentions: These are books that were still good reads, but didn’t quite make the final cut.
The Idiot by Dosteyevski. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did Crime and Punishment or the Brothers Karamazov, and it really didn’t quite have the same redemption as the former, but it gave me a picture of Russia and its struggle at the common level with religious, gospel, and atheistic thinking. Some decent illustrations of the gospel here and there. I would still recommend it to someone interested in exploring the mind and writings of this prophetic man.
Radical by David Platt. A good challenge to us all who tend to see Jesus as our means to accomplish the American Dream. We need to be challenged to give and live more sacrificially. I liked the personal and practical touch. I’ve already reviewed it here. Would have liked some more emphasis on grace as motivator and the “radicalness” of being a good worker, husband, churchmen, neighbor, etc…Still, David Platt plays the role of prophet to a complacent church and we should listen.
The Glass Castle. Powerful memoir. Still wonder if it is all true. Ultimately as redemptive as it could be without the hope of the gospel, so it left me a bit saddened. It did help give me a picture of WV outside to the suburban Teays Valley.