The year 2015 was a good year of reading for me. A couple of years ago I found that I was having more difficulty paying attention when reading. I was breezing through many blogs and short works like magazine articles, but didn’t have as much patience for reading longer works.
When revising my goals for 2016 this morning, I was surprised to see the low number of books that I set as my goal for 2013. By the grace of God, I read more than three times as many books in 2015 as I desired to read in 2013. It was a good reading year.
How I read also changed somewhat last year. I read more books completely on my Kindle than ever before (15; I also use my Kindle regularly for theological and sermon commentary reading) and read more audio books than ever before (18). I see both those trends continuing this year.
In addition to a substantial list of spiritual life and ministry related books this year, I also read many more novels than previously, and more secular non-fiction than previously (mostly history and biography).
So of all the books I read, what were the best and most helpful? Here’s my list of favorites, given in a few categories:
Best Secular Non-Fiction Books
Erik Larson, Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania. This account of the sinking of the Lusitania was a compelling story told very well. Al Mohler had this book on his summer reading list recommendations and I heartily agree. It was an excellent read.
David McCullough, The Wright Brothers. Entertaining, fascinating, well-written (and well read by McCullough on the audio version as well). Though raised in a pastor’s home, these inventors who accomplished so much, do not seem to have been believers in Christ or interested in spiritual things.
I also liked Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat and Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman.
Best Ministry Books
John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching. I read this several years ago and read it again this year in preparation for my trip to Uganda in January. It is one of my favorite books on preaching.
Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice. This is a more technical consideration of all the biblical passages relating to homosexuality. It is long, but very helpful. There is a reason why it is still considered the standard book on the topic even almost 15 years after it was written.
Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? Much shorter and less technical than Gagnon’s work, this is still a very useful book that answers the main questions about homosexuality. In a similar way, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert addressed the topic of same-sex attraction in Transforming Homosexuality (now only $4.99 on Kindle).
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ. I’ve now read both her books and while helped and encouraged by both, found this one to be much superior to her first work. I highly recommend this book.
Stephen Westerholm, Justification Reconsidered (maybe the best book of the year, for me?) and Justin Holcomb, Know the Heretics were also very good.
Best Spiritual Life Books
Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity. This took me most of the year to read as I read it bit-by-bit with my devotional reading. It’s something like a systematic theology, but it is at the same time devotional and spiritually stimulating. Terrific book.
Brian Borgman, Feelings and Faith. This has been on my “to read” list for 2-3 years and I finally read it and found it to be a very helpful discussion on the topic of emotions and feelings.
I also found Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community, J. Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament, John Flavel, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear, and Iain Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink to be very beneficial.
Best Fiction Books
I enjoyed several Gabriel Allon novels by Daniel Silva, but particularly enjoyed a couple of old classics: Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (my wife has been telling me for several years what a great book this is; she was right) and Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (Go Set a Watchman is currently on my nightstand; I hope to read it in the next month or two). And of course there is always The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien.