I like to wrap up the year by sharing some highlights from my reading in the past year. I will not comment on every book, but will skip across the titles worthy of mention. I read or listened to 35 books this year.
1. Providence (by John Piper)
John Piper has a way of writing that feels like chapter after chapter coming at me like waves battering a sand castle from every angle until finally all my defenses are gone. I have been familiar with Piper and the gist of his preaching and teaching and writing ministry for years. I found very little that was new to me in the book, and yet I found very little that wasn’t abundantly helpful. This book is a like a capstone project of a life and ministry. It is a thick book, but don’t let that throw you off. It is very readable, very needed, and very powerful.
2. Where the Light Fell (by Philip Yancey)
Philip Yancey has been a favorite author for years, and so I expected to enjoy his autobiography much more than I did. Having lost his father at a young age like myself, I expected a lot more commiseration. Instead, I personally struggled to connect with him. We differ so much in the way that we came into ministry, and our outlook on the church, that I couldn’t quite get into it. I will continue to go back to his previous books, but I honestly didn’t enjoy this book as much I as expected to.
3. Working the Angles (by Eugene Peterson)
This book was a game changer for me in ministry. I would love for every pastor to read it and will recommend it to every young pastor I meet. The book has helped me to focus my attention in ministry in this next leg on the more needful and less obvious callings. Peterson calls pastors back to a contemplative exegesis (a study of the text of Scripture as a weekly meditation leading to preaching that text), prayer (as a lifestyle of communicating with God as a model for the church), and spiritual direction (a leading of others into the life of the Spirit through personal connection). I left this book energized.
4. What’s a Girl Worth (Rachael DenHollander)
This book was a terrifying roller-coaster that never seemed to stop going down. It was exhausting and emotionally traumatic. And I am so glad for it. It brought a healthy awareness and perspective that I need as a leader of a church. I cannot say that I enjoyed this book. I CAN say that I am glad I read this book.
5. Thoughts for Young Men (J.C. Ryle)
Sometimes the best books are old books. This book was written in 1886 and I would love every young man in my church to read it in 2023. It is so apropos as it is written from the general perspective of the things that young men face. The temptations are not new, the formats just have shifted. Ryle isn’t writing about the temptations of squandering time on the internet, but he does identify the propensity of young men to squander time. Well written, short, and perfect for the attention of a young man. Get it. Read it.
6. Secular Creed (Rebecca McLaughlin) and Strange New World (Carl Trueman)
I take these two books together because they overlap significantly in their intentions. Both set out to assess the crazy cultural moment we find ourselves in. I find both of them to have a helpful part to play. While the McLaughlin books focuses more on the practical aspects of how to speak and live in this crazy secularizing world, Trueman gives a very helpful assessment of how we got here. I would recommend both, but if a person was only going to read one, I would recommmend McLaughlin’s, simply because it is more helpful for Christians who are concerned for how to interact in practical ways in a world that seems so suddenly foreign to our Christian values.
So these are seven of the 35 books I read this year. I did geek out on some fantasy fiction that included the Silmarillion. I also read three other books by Eugene Peterson (Hallelujah Banquet, Eat This Book, and The Pastor). I read four commentaries on the book of 2 Samuel for my preaching this year. And I powered through one book that I considered a complete flop, called The Shape of Faith to Come. It was a book of statistics attempting to tell pastors how to disciple their churches based on survey data. Sometimes it is good to read a book that makes you want to rip it up. I have no love for systematized discipleship that is driven by “marketing data”. I am not concerned for what 2,000 people said in a national survey. I am concerned for loving THIS local church well.
What did you read that is worth sharing this year?