I set out with a goal of reading 30 books this year (I have a similar goal for next year), and I accomplished it! I’m actually finishing up a couple books today and tomorrow that will put me at 31 books for this year.
This marks the first time I’ve ever made a list of the best books I’ve read, and I wondered at how to go about it. Do I list the best books I’ve read from an objective standpoint of a book critic? Do I make separate lists for fiction and non-fiction? Or do I make a “best of” list based subjectively on how they impacted me?
I decided to go with the third option, and so here they are, the 10 best books I’ve read this year from my own subjective viewpoint (though the first few are pretty close to an objectively best list as well).
(disclaimer – I don’t endorse everything in any of these books, and I don’t automatically endorse anything else these authors have written. I evaluate books on a book-by-book basis)
- The Pastor’s Justification – By Jared Wilson
- This book is amazing! Whether you are a pastor or not, you should read this book, both for the amazing insight it gives you into the role and peculiar struggles of pastors, and also for the wonderful gospel saturation that can benefit anyone facing any type of struggle in their efforts to minister to others with the gospel. Hands down the most wonderful and most helpful book I read all year. And it would probably be the first or second on the “objective list” as well.
- Pilgrim’s Progress – By John Bunyan
- Not much needs to be said about this book. It is one of the best books ever written, and to my shame, this was the first time I’d ever read it. It rocked my world though. It was so good. To think that John Bunyan would’ve been able to so perfectly articulate the Christian life in such a way that it would be meaningful and practical and relevant to people hundreds of years later! Through a work of fiction, he almost perfectly explains the christian life in all of its ups and downs and ins and outs.
- Praying the Bible – By Don Whitney
- This little book (you could probably read it in an hour or so) changed my life. I’ve always strived to be faithful to have a quiet time with the Lord, but like so many, I’ve struggled to feel as if my prayer life was really a conversation with God as opposed to a monologue. Well, it’s so simple you almost say “no duh” when it hits you, but God’s word to you is always accessible if you have a bible in front of you. Praying the Bible is simply responding to God’s word in prayer. It’s simple, it’s profound, it’s imminently practical, and it changed my prayer life!
- Church History in Plain Language (4th Edition) – By Bruce Shelley
- So many christians are ignorant of our past, and so they are easily deceived into believing that the canon was put together by a sneaky group of pastors, and that we are all basically Roman Catholic, and that our bible translations are basically the result of a bad game of telephone. Well, Bruce Shelley dispels those myths (and others) and sets the story straight in very plain language! He does a wonderful job of walking through the entire 2,000+ years of church history in under 600 pages.
- From the Corner of His Eye – By Dean Koontz
- This might seem to be a strange one – a fiction novel by a thriller writer. I enjoy reading Dean Koontz though (of course you have to be careful what you pick up, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes!). This particular book was really well done. By the end, I didn’t want to depart from the story, from the characters he’d made me love. The plot is well done, and the bad guy is definitely bad (I wouldn’t let my kiddos read this one). It had a big impact on me personally because Koontz did a great job of showing basic human problems (and attempts, whether successful or not, to deal with them) from many different perspectives. It showed very clearly why we all, no matter where we are, need the gospel.
- The Reign of Grace – By Abraham Booth
- I try to read books from many different eras, and especially the Puritans (see Pilgrim’s Progress above), and this book came highly recommended by a friend. It was difficult to get through because I read it as an e-book and the version I had was poorly put together (so if you find it, check those things out first!), but, in spite of that, it was wonderful. It is simply a book written to saturate you in the grace of a sovereign God who saves us all on his own, all by his grace, all for his glory. And he writes it all in a way that few people today ever do.
- Brothers, We are not Professionals – By John Piper
- I’ve read many books by Piper, and every one has been great, but this one, this year, was especially good. It is basically Piper’s biggest theological emphases from his life. It is 36 chapters, and each one hits on a different topic (though some are closely related). It is written especially to pastors, and as such was especially helpful to me. But if I was going to give one book to someone who was wanting an introduction to Piper and his theology, this would be it.
- King’s Cross – By Tim Keller
- I’ve been studying the book of Mark for my personal study time this year, and this book by Keller is just a walk through that gospel. He doesn’t hit on every passage in Mark, but he touches on most of them. Keller simply takes a gospel-centered approach to Mark, and he pulls out profound and wonderful and practical truths for our lives today. When studying any book of the bible, I highly recommend finding an accessible, understandable commentary to use, and for Mark, Keller’s book is definitely helpful!
- Empire – By Orson Scott Card
- Another fiction book makes the list, this time by perhaps my favorite fiction author. Card wrote my favorite fiction book (Ender’s Game), and Empire is up there as well. A goodly soldier, an assassination plot, government espionage and fantastic battles, and an ending that leaves you wanting more (the sequel “Hidden Empire” is also great!). I don’t want to spoil the book, but it actually impacted me quite a bit, and just as with the book mentioned above, I found this one incredibly insightful
- “The Righteous Judgment of God” (Romans 2:1-3:20) Commentary By Martyn Lloyd Jones
- I’m preaching through the book of Romans, and although I have many good commentaries, this one is one that deserves to make this list. Lloyd-Jones is one of my all-time favorite preachers, and to have his insight and wisdom available to read is a huge blessing. This volume in particular was great, because Lloyd-Jones’ understanding of the word combined with his understanding of humanity and our basic condition and greatest need all culminated in powerful, timely, practical, convicting, truth that showed how bright the gospel shines through the depths of our dark and sinful hearts. This would be good reading material for anyone, pastor or not, studying the book of Romans or not.
Well, there’s my list, maybe some of these can make your 2016 reading list, and I’d love to know what you’ve read and recommend, so that I can round out my list for this coming year as well!