Book Reviews

2014 Reading Report

Here is the 2014 reading report!stackofbooks200

The goal for the year was 50 books. I didn’t quite get there—there’s only 47 on this list, but I had an opportunity to review a couple of unpublished books…and if you count Llama, Llama, Nighty Night and the rest of the series, I got about 7,000 in…

Living and Longing for the Lord: A Guide to 1-2 Thessalonians  – Whitworth
Solid piece on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Short, lots of application. Doesn’t answer every tough question as much as you might like, but gives you some good resources.

Practice Resurrection – Peterson
Eugene Peterson takes on Ephesians. Good material about maturing in Christ as a church. Peterson is always poetic and just puts things well.

Fit for the Pulpit: The Preacher and His Challenges – various
Would make a good textbook for “Preacher and His Work”-style classes. Generally good. Sometimes states the obvious a little too much. (We should be moral examples? Really!? Never thought of that!)

Soul Detox – Groeschel
Basically an updated version of Winkler’s “Heart Diseases and their cures.” Would make a great sermon series or class book.  Deals with deception, “septic thoughts”, bitterness, envy, and more.

Who Is Jesus…Really – McDowell
Basic, light apologetic for the person and nature of Jesus.

Muscle and a Shovel – Shank
I wrote a more thorough review of this one earlier. While there is good in it, I think it is overly simplistic and not what I would recommend in most cases.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Skloot
Fascinating story about the history of the most significant cell-line in research science, HeLa. I promise, the book is more interesting than that sentence made it sound. The book deals with the cultural and ethical issues that we still face in science research. This was good.

Republic of Plato – Bloom’s Translation
This was fun! Read for a classics course at Knox on Plato and Augustine. Almost made me wish I had been a philosophy major. Didn’t fill me with hope for politics, but made me appreciate the City of God more!

Worst Ideas Ever: a Celebration of Embarrassment – Kline and Tomaszewski
Goofy gift-book. Reading about other people’s failures kind of makes you appreciate your own. Who really thought New Coke was a good idea? This book tells you.

City of God – Augustine (selections)
For the Plato and Augustine course. Glad I was exposed to this. When you read it, it’s clear why it’s lasted so long!

How to Knock Over a 7-Eleven and Other Ministry Training – Cheshire
Way better than I expected. Creativity, passion, and teamwork in ministry. It’s neat to peak in on other teams and see what they’re doing. Gets outreach out of a box.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Gladwell
Really thought-provoking read. Sometimes little changes create the “perfect storm” that influence an organization or society for the good. Great stories and thoughts.

Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount – Harris
Harris treats the Sermon on the Mount as, let’s say, a sermon from Jesus that we ought to pay attention to and take seriously. It was refreshingly simple and challenging. Kind of like the Sermon on the Mount…

The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II – Freeman
While the title uses more adjectives than should be legal, the book lived up to it. Incredible story I missed in history class about an Allied airlift operation to rescue downed airmen in Yugoslavia. I didn’t know anything about the troubles in that part of Europe during the war. These men were way braver than I’ll ever dream of being.

The Hawk’s Nest – Hawk
Daily devotional book. Great stories, weak applications.

On the Decay of the Art of Lying – Twain
Funny look at honesty and the lack thereof. Very Mark Twain-ey. Read this at the beach.

How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck – Stockman
Simple tips for doing a better job with vide. Useful if you ever dabble in video—even if it’s just your camera phone and Windows Movie Maker. Doesn’t assume tons of knowledge or equipment or budget.

The Giver – Lowry
I think we read this in eighth grade. Wanted to re-read before the movie came out. Still a book that makes you think!

When God Winks at You – Rushnell
A look at coincidence. Feel-good stories, but not much substance. Mainly a collection of coincidence stories that are attributed to God. Some of them felt a little stretched to me. Light on scripture ideas.

Galatians For You: For Reading, Feeding, and Leading – Keller
Good companion to the book of Galatians. It is as reformed and Calvinistic as they come, but even for a cranky Arminian, there was plenty to appreciate. He does a good job keeping an eye on the overall argument of the book.

Paul for Everyone: Galatians (and 1 Thessalonians) – NT Wright
Good counter-point to Keller’s work on Galatians. New Perspective on Paul really shows here.

Moses: Freeing Yourself to Know God – Getz
Biography and lessons on Moses. Lots of application, but very quick to moralize a text and leave the ancient context. Still helps you see relevancy of Moses today.

Freakonomics – Levitt and Dubner
Economists “explore the hidden side of everything.” Interesting deconstruction of some common myths. Helpful in thinking about how to analyze problems and select solutions.

Love Does—Goff
Book of the year. Brimming with great stories.  Read this book. Now.

The Sticky Faith Guide for your Family — Powell
Suggestions and principles for putting your faith into practice at home.  Good material. Also reread the original Sticky Faith with our interns.

How to Speak to Youth and Keep Them Awake at the Same Time – Davis
Ideas for being relevant and interesting for youth.  Not bad, not great. (I got kind of sleepy reading it. Ironic?)

Autopsy of a Deceased Church – Rainer
Very short, quick read. I recommend all preachers, elders, and people heavily invested in a stagnant or declining church read this. Identifies a lot of what has gone wrong, hopefully, before it is too late.

Vanishing Evangelical – Miller
Calvin Miller is a favorite author of mine. He argues that the mainstream “success” of American evangelicalism is actually what has undermined its future. I think he’s right.

Unlikely Disciple – Roose
Roose follows his mentor (A.J. Jacobs) by making himself a human guinea pig. He’s an agnostic who enrolls at Liberty, one of the most conservative religious universities in the country. I didn’t expect much from this book, but he had more reasonable insights than I would have expected. There is benefit in seeing the “Christian sub-culture” from outside eyes. As a FHU graduate, Liberty had more in common with Freed than I might have thought.

How Do You Kill 11 Million People – Andy Andrews
Let me get this out of the way: this isn’t a how-to manual. (Hope you’re not disappointed!) How the decay of truth in politics leads the way to even greater problems. Did a good job describing the problem, but didn’t help much in terms of offering a solution.

Simply Christian – N.T. Wright
Wow. Wright identifies what everyone hungers for (justice, beauty, relationships, etc.) and shows how God works in these things. He talks about the simple story-arc of creation, fall, and re-creation. Excellent.

You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan
Christian couple’s marriage book, similar to Piper’s “This Momentary Marriage.” Trying to remind couples that their marriage is not their most significant relationship. Has a neat his/hers style of writing. If you like Chan’s style, you’ll like this.

When Mountains Won’t Move by Hawk
Jacob Hawk’s look at our response to suffering and pain. What do we do when things don’t go our way? Simplistic, but some helpful material and steps to deal with suffering.

Preaching with a Plan by Scott Gibson
How to construct a plan to move people in the direction of spiritual maturity. Good emphasis on the purpose of the plan.

Five Secrets and a Decision by Dale Jenkins
Simple book based on the author’s dad’s instructions to newly baptized converts. Short, simple, helpful.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Peterson
Peterson uses the Psalms of Ascent to help us think about a life of discipleship. A tough read, but worth it.

Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
We need grace. Grace is for those who need it, not the perfect. Encouraging read from an interesting life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons – edited by Robertson
Advent sermons from the life of Bonhoeffer. Interesting to see how he preached and wrote during some of the most challenging times in modern history.

Developing a Series by Jonathan Malm
Predominantly about the marketing and communication aspects of a sermon series. Some good ideas for getting your message out further.

Purple Ducks by Humek
A spiritual memoir that kind of reminded me of Blue Like Jazz. Main idea is that we all want to be included. Okay.

Bethlehem road: A Guide to Ruth – Whitworth
Great guidebook to the book of Ruth. Major focus on God’s providence during suffering. Best offering of Start2Finish books so far.

Simply Jesus by N.T.  Wright
Excellent, excellent, excellent. Helps set Jesus against the backdrop of the collision of Judaism, Rome, and the mighty acts of God. Must-read if you’re studying Jesus seriously.

10 Questions about Prayer Every Christian Must Answer by Alex McFarland and Elmer Towns
Covers lots of interesting questions: do we change God’s mind in prayer? What happens when prayers ‘collide’? Great questions, but the answers were a little weaker than I had hoped.

Now I Know by Dan Lewis
Now I Know More by Dan Lewis
Interesting trivia book(s) based on Dan’s daily email. Lots of fun “behind the scenes” stories. Short, simple chapters.

Simple Church by Rainer and Geiger
Guide to cutting “church clutter” and being intentional about making disciples.

 What are YOU reading in 2015?