My goal each year is to read 52 books—one per week.
If you count Thomas the Train and Llama Llama Nighty Night, I totally made the goal…but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that to you.
So here’s what I read last year along with a quick note. I’d love to hear your thoughts about these books and what you read!
All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir by Brennan Manning
The story of a broken man who loved God’s grace. A love for God’s grace is contagious—and you might just catch it from Manning.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Our teens read this at Burns last year. Lewis is a timeless apologist whose words continue to apply. He lays out the argument from morality really well. Did you know he was (sort of) a secret agent man, too?
Six Million Paper Clips: The Making of a Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter Schroeder & Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand
School children in Whitwell, TN (just outside of Chattanooga) wanted a way to visualize the enormity of the Holocaust. They set out to collect a tangible symbol of each life taken by the Nazi regime. There’s a neat documentary about it, too.
Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Robby Novak and Brad Montague
If, somehow, you haven’t seen the Kid President videos, stop what you’re doing and watch them. This is Kid President in book form. It’s cute and encouraging.
The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (A Theology of Lordship) by John M Frame
Can you tell this was a grad school textbook from the title? Dr. Frame is an advocate of presuppositional apologetics—a reformed slant on apologetics. Very comprehensive.
Five View on Apologetics edited by Steven Cowan
Did you know there are five different views within Christendom of how apologetics should be approached? Me either. I always enjoy the books in this “counterpoints” series that lay out the different views on a subject and help you think through them.
Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? by Philip Yancey
You’d think we’d like grace more than we do, but Yancey correctly identifies the fact that we say we like it more than we actually practice it.
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey
Yancey does a great job of balancing his writing. He is honest about the scriptures that make great promise about prayer while admitting that experience teaches that we don’t always get what we want. Yancey always finds the heart of the situation, too.
Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melina Denton
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “Moral Therapeutic Deism” – this is the book that it came from. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? This comic explains.) The authors were part of an in-depth national survey of the religious values of American teenagers. There’s some really good news, and really bad news.
Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church by Kenda Creasy Dean
The follow up to Soul Searching. The good news? Kids learn their faith from their parents. The bad news? Kids learn their faith from their parents.
Not Off Limits: Questions You Wish You Could Ask at Church by Ross Cochran
You may or may not agree with everything that Ross has to say, but it’s important that we can have these discussions in a reasonable sort of way. He does a good job reminding us that we can disagree without being disagreeable.
The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean
Evidently our genetic code doesn’t know how to make short sub-titles…but the book is really interesting. It tells the story of how and what we’ve learned about our DNA and the many ways it affects our lives that we never would have thought of. It is the biology version of The Disappearing Spoon by the same author.
Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: an exhibition catalogue with Bill Watterson
Finally! Some high culture! Must-read for any Calvin and Hobbes fan. Beautiful art and some great background on the reclusive cartoonist.
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung
We are addicted to busy, and it is killing us. DeYoung analyzes why we get so busy and what we can do about it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (audio book by Stephen Fry)
I thought Leslie might divorce me if I never got around to the trilogy. I really enjoyed part 1!
The Twist of the Wrist II: The Basics of High-Performance Motorcycle Riding by Keith Code
This was recommended to me on my annual motorcycle trip to East Tennessee. Great read to sharpen your riding skills. Most of your instincts (survival reactions) while riding a motorcycle exacerbate problems. (Coming off the throttle, standing up, stiffening up, etc.) Code talks about how to identify and train yourself to do smarter things that might keep you in one piece.
An Introduction to Early Judaism by James C. Vanderkam
Textbook for a study of the Intertestamental Period. Very helpful1
Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson
What are the biggest mistakes people make when studying the biblical languages? Carson identifies them. It’s the “what not to wear” of Bible study.
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller
A thorough treatment of prayer. Keller studies the scriptures about prayer and offers practical suggestions.
I Died Last Night by John Orr
I don’t know how else to describe this except as a “scare the hell out of you” book for lapsed Christians. Not my cup of tea, but lots of people seemed to like it.
So You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials to Get You There by Charles Swindoll
We used this as a class guidebook at Burns. It’s a slightly different take on the spiritual disciplines. Well illustrated and thoughtful, but not terribly deep.
Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation by Virkler and Ayayo
Very interesting book on the problems and history of hermeneutics. It’s a technical read, but a helpful one, and the exercises make great discussion questions.
The Purpose Driven Church: Every Church is Big in God’s Eyes by Rick Warren
Read this with White Bluff’s interns this summer. Warren demands that we ask why we are doing the things we are doing. Is our ministry intentional or accidental?
Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight
McKnight helps us uncover and question our assumptions in Bible study. He calls our bluff when we claim to do exactly what the Bible asks of us. We all pick and choose—so maybe we should be intentional about how we pick and choose.
A Graceful Uprising: How Grace Changes Everything by Jonathan Jones II
Jonathan preaches for the Maryville, TN congregation. This is an excellent walk through the book of Romans. Start2Finish recently released a study guide for small groups. I wrote a more thorough review earlier.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, rev. ed by James Vanderkam
You’re starting to be able to recognize the school textbooks, aren’t you? Interesting book about the contents and implications of the DSS.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
This was a re-read. Jimmy Fallon, of all people, reminded me of this classic, in discussing his finger surgery on the Tonight Show. Great book. Man can endure almost any “what” if he has a “why.” First half is his view of the Holocaust. Frankl was a psychologist who survived it. The second half develops a counseling theory based on his experience.
I’m not going to say much about the next four – but Leslie and I occasionally think about building a house. So what does a nerd do? He goes to the library to look at home-building books.
Building Your Own Home for Dummies by Kevin Daum (To clarify, it’s not building a place to house dummies, it’s for dumb people who want to build a house!)
The Big Book of Home Plans (This title made me think it was the AA book of home building.)
Encyclopedia Home Designs: 500 House Plans
Building Your Home for Less
I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian by Thom Rainer
Rainer proposes nine commitments that will strengthen our churches:
- I will move from “I am” to “I will.”
- I will worship with others
- I will grow together with others
- I will serve
- I will go
- I will give generously
- I will not be a church dropout
- I will avoid the traps of “churchianity”
- I will make a difference
Quick, easy read that can make a difference.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hildebrand
Maybe you saw the movie? I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but the book is good. A troubled kid’s transformation back and forth. A runner, a pilot, lost at sea, left for dead, tortured in a POW camp, addiction…it has it all.
How to Start a Riot: Support Your Local Jesus Revolution by Jonathan Storment
A walk through the book of Acts by the preacher at the Highland congregation. Favorite quote? Wherever the ancient church went, a riot broke out. Wherever the modern church goes, a potluck breaks out. What’s the difference?
Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders by Anna Salter
Sounds like a fun beach read, doesn’t it? Salter is the foremost researcher on sex offenders in the world. I wanted to understand their type better since I work with many in the jail ministry. I’d recommend that church leaders and school leaders read this, because you have been afraid of the wrong things.
The Selfish Gene: Living with God and Darwin by Charles Foster
Billed as “real conversation between the scientific community and the Christian world” – I’m not sure it delivered on that promise.
Can Man Live without God? by Ravi Zacharias
Zacharias talks about the power of antitheism and what ultimately gives life meaning. In a tragic irony, many of the questions that lead people out of the church have even poorer answers in a godless worldview.
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Corbett and Fikkert
If you are involved in mission trips, benevolence work, charity, or humanitarian aid, this is a must read. The authors charge that we often focus on the easy fix—handing over of some money—in a way that causes harm to both the giver and the recipient.
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
I always heard these were fun books—they didn’t disappoint. The story of a preacher in a small town. Get why I might like it?
AHA: The God Moment that Changes Everything by Kyle Idleman
A look at the prodigal son’s return: a moment that was birthed by an awakening, honesty, and action—AHA! Good sermon material. Well, I enjoyed preaching it, at least! Great take on Luke 15. My only gripe—he waits until the last couple of chapters to get the actual purpose of the parable and step on our Pharisaical toes.
Praying for Your Prodigal by Kyle Idelman
A follow-up prayer guide to AHA.
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung
No great surprises here. A well-written argument for the traditional and biblical view of marriage and sexuality.
Letters to Heaven: Reaching Beyond the Great Divide by Calvin Miller
A collection of Calvin Miller’s letters to those who have died—to finish some unfinished business. This is just a fun book. Read all the Calvin Miller you can.
How Much Land Does One Man Need? by Tolstoy
I spent some time with this story to prepare for a sermon on gratitude and generosity. Great short story, told better than I did.
Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present by Gerald Bray
If you aren’t interested in church history and hermeneutics, don’t read this. If those are concerns of yours, jump right in. Learned a lot!
All I Ever Wanted to Do Was Preach by Dale Jenkins
A quick read from my friend Dale Jenkins. A compilation of his writing, particularly for ministers. He loves ministers, and it comes through in this book.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Great stories about the psychology of change. Since we’re generally pretty bad at change, you might find this interesting and helpful. He connects head, heart, and environment in a neat picture: a rider, an elephant, and his path.
Centered: Marking Your Map in a Muddled World by Dale Jenkins
Excellent short book to use as a Bible camp curriculum.
The Lunch Ladies: Cultivating an Actmosphere by Philip Jenkins
Great read that confronts the culture of indifference, cliques, and apathy that sometimes creeps into our churches. Philip identifies a problem—and offers a practical and worthwhile solution.
I think that’s it. What did you read and enjoy this year?