2018 Pastoral Book Review: My Top 5


In the past year I read or listened to 51 books. Listening to audio books while running has added a new dimension to my “reading” and I have found that listening to books while running has given me a chance to take in books (mostly novels) that I couldn’t quite justify reading with the long list of non-fiction titles I was hoping to get to.

So at any given time I try to limit myself to four types of “reading”. I am usually reading a paper book about current subjects, theology, biography, or some topic of interest.  I am usually also reading something of value on digital media, usually with the kindle app.  Then I am listening to an audiobook while I am running or biking.  These books are usually novels or books that I don’t mind missing if my mind wanders while biking or running.  I’m not that worried if I miss a bit of the latest Star Wars trivia.  And lastly, I am doing some heavier lifting by reading commentaries associated with my sermon preparation each week.

This reading schedule keeps things moving along.  If anyone is interested in my entire list of books I read I would be willing to share it, but for the purpose of this blog, I will be sharing my tops five books from 2017.

1. Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Something about this book was so refreshing to me. I would even call it faith building in my heart. Despite the fact that Wilson can be a bit snarky and sarcastic, I was refreshed by his frank and head-on tackling of very serious conundrums of faith in a fallen world. I have found myself working to keep my eyes more open to the glorious artistic existence of life on this planet. God is indeed an artist and this book has helped me open my eyes with wonder as I take in this world he is crafting.

2. Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent

This is a very short read that is divided into 31 short readings. We went through this during staff meetings at ReCAST. I enjoyed the staff interaction, and even having read this before, I still found it refreshing to remember the many blessings and benefits that the gospel has given to us. The good news is not a good news merely for conversion, but it is good news for everyday life.

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I am sad that the movies exist for those who have not read the books. The exquisite character development in these books CANNOT be transferred to a big screen. The dignity and integrity of Faramir cannot translate. The loyalty of Samwise. The intense resolve of Frodo. The malevolence of Grima Wormtongue. This trilogy began my journey into a love of reading about thirty years ago. And listening to them while running this fall was a delight, like a long visit with old friends.

4. We Cannot Be Silent by Albert Mohler

Many of us find ourselves in a landscape we barely recognize. The fruit of the sexual revolution has grown so quickly that it seems like we went to sleep one night to wake up and find that everything has changed overnight. This book helps track the pathway that has brought us to the place where men are allowed to use the women’s restroom and the law of the land is a recognition of legalized gay “marriage”. I don’t want to spoil the book, but Mohler does well to express the role that the church has had in these social moral changes.

5. Scandal of the Evanglical Mind by Mark Noll

This is an older book that I have been wanting to read for several years, but this year it made its way to the front of the list. It is a somewhat scathing indictment on the entire evangelical movement regarding a latent anti-intellectualism that was a primary ingredient in the sauce from the beginning. The book offers hope. It is not all darkness and gloom. But I believe that it has accurately identified a significant issue that must be addressed in this next generation of gospel-preaching, kingdom-building, church-planting, Jesus-loving, Bible-studying, evangelical Christians.

It was hard to pare this list down to 5, but these are the books that have had the greatest impact on me in 2017, aside from the Word of God. I like reading, but let me recommend that before you ever pick up one of these, make sure that you are spending time in the Bible studying what HE has written. These books can only have the deeper benefit to a mind that is saturated in the knowledge of God as revealed through His Glorious and life-giving Word. Happy New Year, and Happy reading!!

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