Best books of the year (so far)

This has been a good book reading year for me; so far I am significantly ahead of my goal for the number of books I would read this year (and I’ve already read more than I did all last year), so I thought that at the mid-year point, it might be good to reflect on the best books I’ve read so far in a few categories:

Best theological books:

Westerholm, Justification ReconsideredStephen Westerholm, Justification Reconsidered.  This is a short but insightful and clear defense of the biblical view of justification by faith and a defense against the new perspective of Paul.  This may prove to be the best book I read all year.  A very important book.

Justin Holcomb, Know the Heretics.  Okay, few people like reading about heresy, but this is an excellent resource providing an overview of a variety of heresies that plagued the early church.  For each heresy discussed, Holcomb provides a brief historical background, an overview of the heretical teaching, the historical response to that heresy, and the contemporary manifestations of that heresy.  I am thankful for this book and will return to it often to refresh my memory on these aberrant teachings.

Best spiritual life books:

Dunlop, Compelling CommunityMark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community.  This is another terrific book from Nine Marks — this time on the theology and “how too” of creating community and fellowship in the church.  This is an excellent book.

J. Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament.  Billings was in his mid-30s when he received a diagnosis of terminal cancer (multiple myeloma).  So this seminary professor wrote this book about a biblical, theological, and practical way to think about God and joy in the midst of the laments about a shortened life.  Parts are a little more difficult to read because of the complexity of some of his arguments, but overall this is a needed book on suffering and joy.

John Flavel, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear.  This is our current book of the month and an excellent help.  I devoured this in two sittings.  It’s a puritan work, but very accessible for most readers.  I highly recommend this book.

Best historical/biographical books:

Brown, The Boys in the BoatDaniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat.  This is an account of the young men from the rowing team at the University of Washington and their quest to row in the 1936 Olympics.  This is an encouraging and entertaining and uplifting read.

Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman.  This is the bizarre and tragic tale of one of the most influential contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Not a book for everyone, but it did provide insight into the magnificent and strange workings of the human mind.

Iain Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink.  This is another tragic tale of an influential theologian from the last century.  I read this book because I heard John MacArthur say several years ago that every pastor should read this book as a warning about what not to do.  I’m glad I read it but did also find myself frequently frustrated with Murray’s dismissal and defense of Pink’s failures — particularly his complete dissociation from the church for the last 20 years of his life.

Best fiction:

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.  This was not my first read of this book, but it has been many years since I’ve read it and I found it to be as delightful as it was the first time.

Daniel Silva (several volumes in the Gabriel Allon series).  A friend recommended Silva to me several years ago, and I’ve been slowly making my way through the books.  If you like John Grisham and Tom Clancy, you’ll likely enjoy these books.

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