One of the things that I love about my job is how the Church gives me time to study and prepare. It’s a real blessing, I get paid to go off every year to pray and study, and it’s not just to write sermons, it’s to equip the priesthood of all believers for ministry. So when people ask me if there are any books I recommend I’d like to be as helpful as possible.
For the past several years I’ve tried to avoid what C.S. Lewis calls “chronological snobbery” with his prescription for reading an old book for every three new ones I read. I’ve done this for a while now, but I’ve never recommended any of the older ones at the end of the year. It feels pretentious in a “Well, look who can read the King’s English” kind of way.
But this year I’ve read several that I just couldn’t shake. If they’ve made this list it’s because I’ve found myself recommending them to friends over lunches or coffee on multiple occasions.
So for those of us who are looking for new(ish) reads in 2014, here are some of my favorite resources from this year :
I can’t tell you how much I loved and appreciated this book. There’s something about doing full time local church ministry that can wear you thin over time, and it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. This was one of the highlights of my year. It’s inspiring and in places breathtaking vision for why a group of people getting together in Jesus’ name is how to save the world.
Earlier in this year I blogged a few times about this book. But I haven’t stopped talking about it. I’ve felt somewhat lighter ever since reading this. If you struggle with cynicism, or if you think that’s just a fancy word that preachers came up with to take away your money, please do yourself a favor and read this book.
This book is a hundred years old, and I wish every college freshman had to read this. Heck, I wish every professor and preacher would! So much of our modern notions of progress and common sense come tumbling down with a closer look through Chesterton’s eyes. This is the book that first made C.S. Lewis re-examine his abandonment of God and Christianity, and even if you aren’t a Christian it will change how you see the world, and probably how you see Christianity.
It’s a book about the Hope of Holy War, the Good News of Hell and the Surprise of God’s judgment. That’s seriously the subtitle that they snuck past the marketing team, and it’s one of the most surprising, mind-changing books I read this year.
This is another classic, and probably old-hat for many of you. But I had never read it, and now I feel like I should read it every year. Frankyl was a Jewish Holocaust camp survivor who really did learn the secret to life, and wrote about it well.
I like Skye Jethani, All three of his books have been packed with cultural insight, and prophetic critique of contemporary Christianity. FutureVille is about lack of Christian Hope in the world today (at least in the West) and why “The future isn’t what it used to be” and why that matters.
Earlier this year, I did a blog series on Civil Religion inspired by this book. I had no idea it would be as insightful and convicting as it was. Tired of angry people everywhere? Tired of the shrill nature of the public sphere? Read this book.
This is a bit of a left turn from my normal recommendations, but if I had to make a single recommendation to the parents out there…read this to your kids. It is not an overstatement to say that reading this to my 6 year old every night this year changed my life, and I hope hers. I saw different angles through her eyes, and loved it so much I went back and read lots about C.S. Lewis, including everything else he wrote during this time of his life.
This book isn’t here for it’s artistic merit, or because I agree with Justin on everything about what it means to be a man in a marriage. It’s here because I’m a better husband because I read it (I took Leslie to dancing classes because of this book) and because I know a lot of guys out there want to love their wives better in 2015 and just don’t know what that should look like. This book is a good place to start.
I’d like to take this guy to lunch. Lamb is an Old Testament Professor who wrote a book that quotes Montgomery Burns, Beyoncé and Leviticus. I’d love to recommend this to any casual reader who wants to dismiss the Old Testament based on the caricatures of God that they’ve heard.
This books been out a few years, but really, really good. McCracken simply asks the question, “Why are Christians so embarrassed of being different?” And then gives some really insightful answers, and a few hopeful alternatives.
I pray that Yancey lives to be 100. Everytime he comes out with a book I have dozens of new sermon illustrations and insights. If you go to Highland don’t read this book, it will come to you.
Ever since reading Unapologetic (a beautiful Christian book) last year, I’ve struggled to explain to my older brothers and sisters how talking about faith in Jesus to my generation (or at least people like me) has to be different than the analytical, Spock like approach we’ve used for hundreds of years. This book is written by a local church pastor and does it for me.
Weber grew up in Churches of Christ and is in fact speaking at the Pepperdine Bible Lectureships this year. What I love about Nadia is that she’s a local church person through and through, she’s a great story-teller and she’s got some great stories, but she gets the Gospel and all of it’s implications. By the way, this book is PG-13.
Speaking of PG-13
This book is written by someone who is religious but not spiritual. This is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time h/t to Jen Rogers for the recommendation. De Bottom (French for “Of the Bottom”) grew up with atheist parents and is an atheist himself. But I’ve never read an atheist like him. He’s not against institutional religion, he just doesn’t believe in the God they organize around. When so many Christians are asking why should we belong to a church, there’s a whole group of atheist who are starting ones. De Bottom leads the way, and this book explains why.
So those are my top reads from 2013, What did I miss? Any suggestions for 2014?