Book recommendations from 2017

My love for reading started as a child.  My Mom would read to us every day for almost an hour and this sparked in me an enduring passion to read.  Yet, reading is becoming more and more a dying art.  I recently read an article in Time Magazine entitled, “Reading makes us smarter and nice”.  In it author Annie Murphy Paul writes,

Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who read often appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective.

“Deep reading” — as opposed to the often superficial reading we do on the Web — is an endangered practice, one we ought to take steps to preserve as we would a historic building or a significant work of art. Its disappearance would imperil the intellectual and emotional development of generations growing up online, as well as the perpetuation of a critical part of our culture: the novels, poems and other kinds of literature that can be appreciated only by readers whose brains, quite literally, have been trained to apprehend them.

Reading is a skill whose loss will be felt (and is being felt) by society.  For Christians this is skill is made all the more important, because psychological and sociological benefits aside, the most basic reason to grow as a reader is this; God gave us a book about Himself.  If we want to grow in our knowledge and relationship with God, then few skills are more important than growing as a reader.

If you love to read or are trying to grow in this skill (and joy!), here are some recommendation from my favorite books that I read this past year.  Any of these would make a great Christmas present to put on your list, or to get for someone else.

Fiction

The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis

A highlight of my year was reading through the first four books of this series with my children.   I had to finish the series by myself, because the last few books are over my children’s head.  Every time I read this series, I am usually moved to tears at several points.  Lewis’s powerful allegories bring scriptural truths to light, making these books not just compelling stories, but revealers of deep spiritual truth. Thought these are written for children, anyone would be enriched by reading these stories.

Timekeeper by Mitch Albom

I went on a Mitch Albom kick this year, reading 6 of his books and loved them all.  This was my favorite though as he deals with ideas of time and what really matters in life.  This is a quick read and great place to start if you are trying to grow as a reader.

The Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilder

This is classic book that I have read many times and wanted to revisit this year, because of its insight into human nature.  Dark and sinister, Wilde gives (unintentionally) a biblical picture of the depravity of man’s heart.  If you want to be provoked to deeper thought, this would be a good book to read.

Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I prefer novel length stories to short stories, but this is one of my literary works and I try to read it every few years.  Like Portrait, I think this short story has tremendous insights about our human nature.  I like to read books that are entertaining and make me think and this book definitely fits that category.

Non Fiction

Deep Work by Cal Newport

In our fast paced culture that idolizes being able to “multi-task” Cal Newport makes a compelling case from history, psychological research and personal anecdotes about the dying art of focus and the need to be able to engage in “deep work”.  He argues that being able to do “deep work” is the determining factor of success in today’s market.  I found this book intriguing and have changed certain parts of my work habits as a result.

Unbroken by Lauren Hillbrand

This book has been recommended to me for years and I finally got a chance to read it.  Incredible story of survival, courage, despair and redemption of a bomber pilot during WWII.  One of my new all time favorite  books.

A God Sized Vision by Colin Hansen and John Woodbridge

This is a short survey of the history of some of God’s greatest revivals. A very  encouraging and faith inspiring read

End of the Spear by Steve Saint

This is the biography of Steve Saint, the son of Nick Saint.  Nick Saint was one of the missionaries who was murdered along with Jim Elliot as they were trying to bring the good news of Jesus to the Aucas.  In this story, Steve gives his account of the effect of this event on his life, the revival that ending up happening among the Aucas and how he led his family from the comforts of America to the wild jungle in response to the call of Jesus.  This book will challenge you as you think about sacrifice, bold witness and the power of the gospel.

D-D By Stephen Ambrose

I’m a sucker for books about WWII and Stephen Ambrose is one of my favorite authors.  He makes history come alive and this is a very readable and accessible book.

Theology

Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne

I am so encouraged to see the plethora of new books coming out on this vital topic.  Our union with Christ is one of the most, if not the most, important things we need to understand about our faith.  Yet, I think it is something that is very often overlooked.  This book is theological rich, while also being readable and accessible.  Highly recommend.

The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

This book is the best book I read all year.  Sinclair Ferguson is one of my favorite authors, because not only is he theological rich, but he writes in a very clear and easy to follow style. Out of all that he has written,  I think this is his best book.  In the Whole Christ he explores the “marrow controversy” which took place in Scotland during the early 20th century.  Through this he explores crucial questions like; What is the ‘marrow’ or the core of the gospel?  How can we have assurance of salvation?  What is the role of repentance and good works?   Highly, highly recommend.

Making sense of God by Tim Keller

Anyone who goes to Christ Church knows I’m a huge Tim Keller fan.  His unique blend of socially informed, well research and theological solid writing is a work of art that every Christian can benefit from.  This book is not written primarily for Christians though, but for those who say “So what?” when you try to share with them about Christ.  Pastor Keller builds a compelling case about why God is crucial to living a meaningful life.  Great book to equip you to engage your neighbors and co-workers.  Maybe you could read it with them?

Leadership

Nehemiah

It is cheating to put a book of the Bible on here, but I can’t help myself.  Going through our Nehemiah series has been a tour de force for me in learning about leadership.  Not many of those insights have made it into my sermons, because I don’t think they are the main point of the text.  However, if you want to grow as a leader, I can’t think of any better use of your time then to study the life of Nehemiah.  If you want to study Nehemiah through a “leadership lens”, I highly recommend James Boice’s commentary in the Expositional Commentary series.

Crucial Conversations

This was probably my favorite secular book that I read all year.  It is incredibly insight about the contours of communication and full of (unintended) biblical wisdom.  If you want to grow in navigating hard conversations with your spouse, your children, or in your business, then this NY best seller is a tremendous place to start.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

As soon as I finished reading this book, I immediately started right over again.  As a highly driven, type A personality, this book was a God send to help me grow in discerning not just what is good to do, but what is the best thing to do.  If you feel like your life is cluttered and that you have too much going on, but don’t know what to cut out, you need to read this book.

Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud

This book is about 6 character qualities that are positive prognosticators for success in life.  This is a secular book, but full of biblical wisdom.  It is easy to read and very applicable, especially for those in leadership.

Christian Life

Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

This is another book that is on my regular rotation of books that I read.  Holiness is not something that gets talked about much in Christian circles and yet it is what God calls his all followers to pursue.  Jerry Bridges is a winsome and accessible author who knows how to break things down and make them easily applicable.  Everyone should read this book at some point in their life and more than just once.

Tech Wise family by Andy Crouch

Technology has had a tremendous impact on us.  Technology saves lives every day, has improved our quality of life in many ways and is something we interact with on a regular basis.  However, psychological study after psychological study are coming out about the negative effect that certain kinds of technology can have on us, particular that of the effect of screens and our children.  This is a wonderful book about how to put some things in place in your life to help keep technology positive without suffering its detrimental side effects.  Any book that gets me to change how I do things is a book that I think is worth recommending.  This book has changed things in my family for the better.

Happy reading!

Pastor Jeff

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