It’s that time of the year again. Yes, yes I know it’s Christmas and New Year’s but it’s also the season in which many reflect on the events that have shaped and molded them over the previous 365 days. It has been argued that what you read can shape, mold, and influence your thinking tremendously. Now allow me to factor in time. Say you only read 10 books a year and live to be 100. That would mean that during your lifetime you would read 1000 books. Do you know what’s amazing? Your local library most likely has twice that amount. If you venture to a college campus then your pool of selection has just quadrupled if not more. You could read ten books a year for the rest of your life and not even dent the surface of what has been written over the course of human history. Here’s my point: You can only read so many books in a lifetime, so make sure to read well.
So, here are 9 books I would recommend to help you read well. The following list contains the 9 best books I have read this past year that have either stirred my imagination to great heights, challenged the way I think and live, or impacted my theological understanding. I have organized the list into 3 sections: fiction, discipleship, and theological.
The 3 best fiction books I’ve read this past year.
1. The adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.
I attempt to read this book every year. I am often amazed at how a simple story of a young boy and a friend traveling down the the mighty Mississippi stirs my imagination. With each stop they make, Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim will cause your heart to shake with laughter and jerk with tears as Twain narrates a stunning adventure.
2. The Reckoning, John Grisham.
If you have ever read a John Grisham book then you understand why this latest release makes the list. Drawing from previous experiences in the courtroom, Grisham prods our imagination with an apparent defiant defendant, a sense of mystery, and a shocking ending that you’ll never see coming. It will keep you up past your bedtime simply because you want to know how the mystery ends.
3. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Dr. Howard Taylor.
Okay, so this isn’t a fictitious work. It’s a biography. The only other fiction book I read this year was the best selling Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens) and I just couldn’t bring myself to place it over the remarkable story of Hudson Taylor’s life. For his life is intertwined with stories of sharing the joy of Christ with the Chinese and moments of sweet fellowship with Jesus that would sustain him through many trials that will make you hurt as you read the pages. Take note, this biography will challenge you, convict you, and inspire you to give your heart to the nations. I also recommend CT Studd’s biography to see how Hudson Taylor and DL Moody impacted England’s arguable all time greatest cricket player.
The 3 best discipleship books I’ve read this past year.
1. Grasping God’s Word, J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays.
One of the sweetest and most enriching disciplines to grow in is the ability to understand and interpret the Bible. This was actually the textbook that was used in my biblical interpretation seminary class (also called Hermeneutics) but I wouldn’t consider it so much academic, as I would applicable. In this book Duvall and Hays walk through a throughly detailed process of how to responsibly interpret the Bible that is simple to follow. They also provide exercises and assignments that are amazingly engaging and enlightening. So if you want to grow in your ability to interpret the Bible correctly then I dare you to read this book. You will be thoroughly equipped with the tools needed to accomplish such a goal.
2. Preacher and Prayer, E. M. Bounds.
Buy this book. For real for the $6.00 it will cost you financially you will receive millions in spiritual return. I do not believe that I have ever read a book in prayer that has convicted and challenged me to a greater prayer life than this little short book. It’s only like 90 pages. But every page is just explosive. I recently learned that the author was a chaplain during the American civil war. I imagine this is where he learned to be perseverant in prayer and I am eager to read his biography in the coming year. If his biography is half as moving as his book on prayer then expect to see it make the list in 2020.
3. Expository Exultation, John Piper.
I imagine this will eventually become a required book in preaching classes across American seminaries. But don’t avoid this book because preaching isn’t your spiritual gift. A large section is on worship--which is part of Piper’s definition for preaching as seen in the word exultation. If you are a preacher then I strongly encourage you to buy this and read it. It’s not just a dry mechanics book. It is a challenge to preach The Word faithfully and responsibly. It also was surprisingly jam packed with practicality such as speaking to the tension between the work of The Spirit in preaching and the human attempt to persuade and speak well.
The 3 best theological I have read this year.
1. God’s Glory in salvation through judgement, James H. Hamilton.
I am still thumbing through the final sections of this book but included it because it has absolutely revolutionized the manner in which I read the collective narrative of Scripture. Hamilton begins this work by arguing for a proposed, and very specific, center of biblical theology, which is no small feat. He provides ample reasons for the need of a center and for the center he proposes. He then proceeds to demonstrate how this theme “God’s glory in salvation through judgement” is seen in every book of the Bible. Whether you agree with him in the end is your disposition, but you will be blessed just by interacting with this text.
2. The Unity of the Bible, Daniel P. Fuller.
I read this while my wife and I were away for vacation this summer. I literally read this same book for about 6 hours every day for a week. It’s that good. Fuller’s ability to connect the biblical pieces is quite amazing. In particular his section on the theology of creation and The Trinity blew my mind. I read that chapter twice and have referred to it countless times in research papers, sermons, and general conversations. It’s a great read, just heed my warning: you won’t be able to put it down once you begin it.
3. The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel, James M. Boice.
This was an interesting work. I placed it in the academic section of this list purely because of the extensive amount of research the Boice put into this work. His main thesis is the dangerous theological drift occurring in the contemporary church (this book was actually written a couple of decades ago so it was interesting to see how his thesis has even been strengthened over the last twenty years since this books publication). He employs church history by tracing the path of Reformation theology and how the veering away from or the adherence to has greatly impacted generations. In doing so he defines the doctrines of grace in an understandable manner and thus allows the reader to interact with these doctrines through the lens of church and cultural history.
So there you have it. There is 9 really good books that I would recommend. I have one final thought to share that may encourage you even more. In my experience if I do not have a plan to at least get started with then I typically do not follow through well with goals. That is certainly true of reading goals for the upcoming year. I understand that your reading direction will probably shift over the next year. That’s why I don’t make a plan for the entire year. I just like a direction to help me get started. I pray this list is that for you, a kick start that spurs you on to great growth by picking up some great reads.
Happy reading & Blessings!