I’m still rushing to finish a couple more books before the end of the year, while also eying my growing pile of books to see what will be first off the pile in 2023. But most of what I will read this year has been finished. Maybe you are curious about what others read, or would be helped by some suggestions for the coming year. So, here is a synthesis of the best things I read this year. As I generally do, I organize the books in four broad categories:
- John Piper, Providence — Piper has frequently said that he has only written one book — that all his books are merely and extension of his first book, Desiring God. If that’s true, then this is a second book, the one that provides the foundation of Desiring God — this is the basis of the God who is to be pursued and enjoyed.
- Mark Jones, Knowing Sin — Combining biblical explanation with Puritan theology and writings, Jones has written a book on hamartiology that is accurate, compelling, and hopeful.
- Dave Harvey, The Plurality Principle — Harvey argues for the necessity of a plurality of elders to lead the church body from a biblical perspective that is filled with many practical implications and examples.
Spiritual life books:
- Tim Challies, Seasons of Sorrow — Written over the course of the year following the sudden death of his 20-year-old son, Challies writes as a grieving father who is constrained by biblical fidelity and hopefulness. This is the best book I read this year.
- Michael Reeves, Authentic Ministry — I read everything by Reeves and I have never been disappointed. He says, “The simple aim of this little book is to help you pay attention to yourself and so cultivate the inner fitness necessary for outward service of the church.” He met his goal.
- Sam Allberry, What God has to Say About Our Bodies — Allberry always writes clearly and concisely. This book includes a discussion about gender issues (I also read and found helpful Strachan and Peacock’s What Does the Bible Teach About Transgenderism?), but moves beyond that to consider our bodily weaknesses and how God redeems those weaknesses.
- Reagan Rose, Redeeming Productivity — While my favorite book on productivity remains What’s Best Next (Matt Perman), this book is concise, clear, and helpful in understanding not only some practices to implement to increase efficiency in work and home, but also the theological significance of making those changes.
- David Powlison, Good and Angry — This was my second reading of this book because it is so helpful. I also benefitted from The Heart of Anger (Christopher Ash and Steve Midgley).
Historical and biographical books:
- Dustin Benge and Nate Pickowicz, The American Puritans — a treatment of some of the most influential spirtual leaders in the founding years of America, like William Bradford, Thomas Hooker, Anne Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, and five others.
- Sonia Purnell, A Woman of No Importance — very well researched and written, this is true spy story from World War II that is engaging and suspenseful.
- James Wight, The Real James Herriot — My wife and I watched the first television series of All Creatures Great and Small, and read all the James Herriot books a couple of decades ago. I am now just about finished rereading all the original books. This biography written by Herriot’s son is a good complement to the stories.
- Jerry Kramer, Instant Replay — I first read Kramer’s account of the 1967 Green Bay Packer’s Super Bowl-winning season when I was in high school (I think). I enjoyed it again 40 years later.
- Candice Millard, River of the Gods — The bold and dangerous quest for the headwaters of the Nile River is recounted by an excellent story-teller, Candice Millard (my favorite book written by her is still Destiny of the Republic).
- Elizabeth Letts, The Ride of Her Life — the story of 63-year-old farmer Annie Wilkins who rode her horse from Maine to southern California.
Fiction (because periodically, I just like a good story):
- Elmer Kelton, The Day the Cowboys Quit — because every “best book” list I compile must have a Kelton book. This is my favorite one from this year (and yes, I read more than one Kelton book this year).
- Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows — I have heard my wife talk about this book many times; I finally read it last year and enjoyed it thoroughly. There is a reason certain books are called “classics.”
- Alistair MacLean, Where Eagles Dare — and the movie is also good.
- Alexander McCall Smith, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine — the Mma Ramotswe stories are as warm as the sunshine in Botswana.
So that’s the “best of” list. I read more books than these listed, but this the best of what I read. Maybe you will find something you also like and are helped by from this list.