I read 49 books this year. At first I thought it was 48, but while reviewing the list I realized there was a missing book. (Gasp!) I also read through the entire Bible, which I usually don’t include as a book read. I think of the Bible as being in its own special category. By the way, I read through this Bible. I’d always wanted to read through a chronological Bible, and it proved worthwhile.
Looking over the list to choose a “top ten” was challenging. Books can be good for different reasons, and I didn’t read any “bad” books this year. I tend to choose the books I read quite carefully, so I think that is one reason very few dud books end up on my lists. There was one book that I gave a less-than-positive review of because I disagreed with some of the arguments and caricatures, but it did have some value.
In no particular order, and with much debate, here are my top 10 books:
1. The Grace of God by Andy Stanley. I’d like to re-read this book at some point. Grace is so counter-intuitive to our natural tendencies that we need to hear it emphasized and re-emphasized to our thick skulls. Andy Stanley is a skilled communicator (North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Ga) and in this book he goes through the entire Bible expounding upon instances of God’s grace.
2. A Violent Grace by Michael Card. See my brief review of this book here. Devotional yet deep and challenging thoughts on verses related to Christ’s passion.
3. The Cross of Christ by John Stott. My review is here and I also had several more posts with excerpts from the book. While close to 400 pages and an exhaustive work on the cross of Christ, I found it very readable. I was deeply moved by this exposition of the cross. While theological, the book emanates Stott’s pastoral warmth and care.
4. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This was a book I didn’t expect to like but read due to its popularity. My review is here. There are, perhaps, some minor theological issues with the book, but I think some critics have examined it with a theological magnifying glass determined to find problems! Her writing style (a bit poetical) is usually not my preference either. Yet, I found myself deeply moved by her scriptural thoughts on gratitude and seeing God at work in everyday life.
5. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. See my brief review and book excerpt here. I think this apologetic defense of Christianity will end up a classic. He truly has a fresh approach. While he offers some of the standard Christian arguments, he frequently had little insights or additional thoughts that I’d never heard before.
6. Rich Mullins, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven by James Bryan Smith. This is a devotional biography of Rich Mullins life. While you do learn facts about his life, it is not a biography in the traditional sense. Rather each chapter is through a particular spiritual lens – highlighting Rich’s thoughts and how his life reflected various scriptural themes: the church, God’s love, sanctification, nature/creation, etc. Rich was a down-to-earth, real, and honest Christian that often made people uncomfortable. We need more believers like him.
7. As a Tree Grows, Reflections on Growing in the Image of Christ by Phillip Keller. Hmm…another devotional book! My review is here. Perhaps after being a seminary student for 6 years, I needed some lighter reading. (Not that all seminary reading was heavy and academic – it wasn’t – there was “lighter” fare too.) But I also typically avoid anything labeled devotional because it can be so superficial and fluffy. I’m always pleased to find devotional books that are…yes, devotional…but have scriptural depth and focus too.
8. Miracles by Eric Metaxas. See my detailed review here. It is an apologetic book for Christian faith (newly released in the autumn on 2014), through the angle or approach of the miracle of life. Several chapters focus on the scientific and statistical chance for life on earth and the existence of the universe. Life and our universe is nothing short of a miracle or a giant statistical improbability. This should point us to God, and ultimately to the God of the Bible. Written diplomatically, not dogmatically.
9. Only 2 more slots! This is getting tough to choose. Reversed Thunder, The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination by Eugene Peterson. See my brief review here. While some might accuse Peterson of not approaching the book of Revelation literally enough, I really appreciated this book. He views Revelation in a grand thematic sweep…considering it pastorally, meditatively, and drawing out application for us today. He is not worried or focused on interpretive details, but the big picture instead.
10. The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers by Arthur Bennett (editor). The editor collected and arranged Puritan prayers by topic. Essentially he poured over Puritan writings, and then did some editing, re-arranging or combining to provide these prayers reflective of the Puritans. The Puritans have often been unfairly maligned and their flaws overemphasized, which is unfortunate because there is much positive that can be learned from them. I appreciated many of the prayers, and the style is deeply humbling and Christ focused.
There are several more books that I would recommend to others, but just didn’t make my top 10. Such as Misquoting Truth by Timothy Paul Jones. This book refutes Bart Ehrman arguments, and is written for your everyday Christian. It introduces the reader to more academic areas, such as textual criticism, but keeping it at an easier level. Since I’ve read more in-depth content, this book didn’t necessarily provide new info for me, but it was none-the-less worthwhile. Taking complex issues and explaining them in a down-to-earth way is a skill. The author did an exceptional job of making the issues accessible and understandable, which I appreciated too!
If you have read this far, I never did choose a winner for the book-giveaway in December. Here is your last chance to enter. I’ll choose a winner in the next couple days. Post here: God Behaving Badly. Is the God of the OT angry, sexist, and racist?
What are some of your Top Ten books for 2014? Feel free to share a title and your thoughts on it.