As I have done for the past few years, just after the New Year I take stock of the books I have had the privilege of reading in the past year. My reading generally falls in three board categories: history and biography, fiction and Christian books for my life and ministry. What follows is a brief description of the best Christian books I read this year, as well as a listing of the other books that did not quite make the “best” list.
Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness by David Powlinson. I have had struggles with anger and irritation as long I can remember. Powlinson’s book, written from the perspective of a biblical counselor, does a great job analyzing the problem of anger. Filled with Scripture, he breaks down what anger is, why we struggle with it, what is good about it and most importantly, how our anger can be redeemed and transformed.
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. Prayer is something many, perhaps all, Christians find difficult at times. In this book, Keller explores what prayer is and why it is so important. The book is filled with great insights and ideas that can be put into practice to deepen anyone’s life of prayer.
A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Health Lambert. I am somewhat surprised to say this, but Lambert’s book is probably the best book I read this past year. When I cracked it open, I was anticipating slogging through it in preparation for a conference where he would be the keynote speaker. What I discovered was a treasure of wisdom and theological insight, providing a firm foundation for anyone who seeks to counsel biblically.
Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt. Vanderstelt’s books were recommended to me by a friend. I read his first book, Saturate, and found it good but somewhat smug in tone. Gospel Fluency is a much more humble read, a book that seeks to help us to be fluent in our gospel understanding so that its truths inhabit everything we do and say.
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson. Although it was a bit hard to get into a first due to the writer’s style, this biography is an incredible portrait of Judson and his radical commitment to the Lord and the people of Burma/Myanmar.
God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture by Matthew Barrett. Probably the second best Christian book I read this year, God’s Word Alone is part of a series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation. Barrett does a masterful job surveying his topic and his chapters on the authority, clarity, inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture were especially good.
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre. Another biblical counseling book, The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life analyzes how our human hearts respond to the various challenges and circumstances of life. The end of the book is filled with much practical wisdom on how to address the heart of a person in the midst of their circumstances.
2000 Years of Christ’s Power, vol. 1, The Age of the Early Church Fathers by Nick Needham. Needham’s book is the first volume of a 5 volume set on the history of the church. It is well-written, easy to read and does a great job explaining some of the technical, theological arguments of the day. Probably my favorite part was his insertion of excerpts from the writings of various church fathers following each chapter.
2nd Tier Reads (very good books I would recommend, but just did not make the “best” list:
A Christian Leader’s Guide to Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch
The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin by Kris Lundgaard
The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson
The Book that made your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi
When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch
4 Chair Discipling: Growing a Movement of Disciple-Makers by Dann Spader
Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer
Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson
George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd
Intended for Evil: A Survivor's Story of Love, Faith and Courage in the Cambodian Killing Fields by Les Sillars
1 and 2 Thessalonians by Leon Morris (Word Biblical Themes)
Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt
Transforming Your Prayer Life by Bob Beltz
When You Pray: Making the Lord’s Prayer Your Own by Philip Graham Ryken
Praying the Lord’s Prayer by J. I. Packer
Spirit-Empowered Mission by Arturo Azurdia III
The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People who Can’t Get their Act Together by Jared Wilson
You are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith
3rd Tier Reads – good but somewhat disappointing
On Earth as it is in Heaven by Warren Wiersbe