I’ve always liked to read, and I supposed that’s a benefit for me since so much of what I do as a pastor is bound up in study and reading. I read a lot. I read a significant amount in preparation for my sermons each week — typically somewhere between 15-20 commentaries on the passage I’m preaching that week, plus additional journal articles and/or theological works related to the passage. I read to prepare for my counseling and discipling cases. I read numerous blogs each day along with articles pointed to by those blogs. And I read for relaxation — theological works, spiritual life books, history and biography, and fiction.
In 2016 I read more books than I had read in one year in a long time; this year I fell about a dozen books short of that number, but I still read a substantial number of books.
Here is a short list of some of the best things I read this year; some works profoundly impacted me, while others were just fun reads. But these were the books that were on my “best” list for 2017:
- Faith Alone: the Doctrine of Justification (Thomas Schreiner); this was the first of the series of books on the Reformation doctrines published that I read and I read three more: Grace Alone (Carl Trueman), God’s Word Alone (Matthew Barrett) and Christ Alone (Stephen Wellum). All were outstanding. I plan to read God’s Glory Alone this year.
- Why the Reformation Still Matters (Reeves and Chester) — I read quite a few books and articles on the Reformation this year; this was one of the best
- Long Before Luther (Nathan Busenitz) — church history made interesting!
- Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths (Michael Vlach) — I’m thankful for Vlach’s clear writing and teaching on this doctrine of biblical interpretation
Spiritual life books:
- Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Tony Reinke) — not just a good book, but a very important book. This was among the most helpful and transformative books I read this year.
- Good and Angry (David Powlison) — this may become one of the most well-known and regarded books by Powlison
- Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks About Jesus (Mack Stiles) — I read at least one book about evangelism each year because it’s good for my soul. This was particularly good and helpful for me.
- Pain: the Plight of Fallen Man (James Halla) — this book is now out of print, but it is an excellent treatment of the spiritual principles in dealing with physical pain
- When People Are Big and God is Small (Ed Welch)
- Finally Free (Heath Lambert) and The Exemplary Husband (Stuart Scott) — I’ve read both of these previously, but I always find myself helped and encouraged by these books
- Where Nobody Knows Your Name (John Feinstein) — baseball and the minor leagues; I delightful read
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Alfred Lansing) — beware of books or sentences with the word “incredible” in them; the item identified as incredible rarely is. In this case, it was incredible.
- Beyond and of Brothers (Dick Winters) — I loved this book
- Lucky 666: the Impossible Mission (Drury and Clavin) — a really remarkable story (as were In Harm’s Way [Douglas Stanton] and The Finest Hours [Casey Sherman]). Evidently I gravitate to war stories with improbable victories.
- The Time it Never Rained (Elmer Kelton) — my wife had encouraged me to read Kelton for years; this was a great introduction to him. I enjoyed it enough to purchase several more of his books (like The Good Old Boys and Six Bits a Day, which I also read).
- A Man Called Ove (Frederick Backman) — I surely didn’t agree with all the theology of the book, but Backman tells a good and entertaining story
- Sycamore Row (John Grisham) — I like the way Grisham tells a story
- Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) — I’ve probably read this 6-10 times in my life, but really enjoyed this audio version, read by Elijah Wood
- The Heist and The English Spy (Daniel Silva) — intrigue and espionage. I always do a marathon reading of the last 100-150 pages of Silva’s books because the suspense is too much to put the books down.