Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Top Books of 2014

I didn’t get to read very many new books this year, especially good non-fiction books for Christians. I was too wrapped up in writing Resisting Gossip Together and creating the corresponding teaching films.

Catch as catch can, I still got to read about 100 books, mostly escapist fiction, especially detective mysteries and some oldies but goodies like Robinson Crusoe and our personal favorite: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

The Best Reads of 2014

But of the newer books I did get to read, some were really good. Following a tradition I began last year, I have picked out my top books read (not necessarily published) this year. Like last year's list, these were the ones, besides my Bible:

- That had the most personal impact on me, my thinking, my heart.
- That I was the most consistently enthusiastic about.
- That I kept coming back to again and again.
- That I couldn't help recommending to others (and recommend without reservations and significant caveats).

Last year, I picked out 5, and I did the same this year (if you count the two commentaries as one set):

5. Despite Doubt by Michael Wittmer

This is what I said on Goodreads about Despite Doubt:

"A unique book on the subject of doubt and Christianity. Wittmer encourages us to "Doubt Away" in the first chapter by which he means (1) allow yourself to ask the questions of doubt (and struggle toward good answers) and yet (2) don't make doubt a virtue, instead send unbelieving doubt packing. I've heard the first message from others before but not as much about the second. Interestingly, Wittmer argues that biblical faith is trusting in what we KNOW and teases out some of the implications of that, blowing away the typical fog about faith being a leap into the void.

Wittmer's style is popular, hilarious, quotable, and fairly easy to read (though he references erudite sources from far and wide). He sprinkles in stories that underscore his point and inspire at the same time. I admit that I didn't understand every twist and turn in his argument, but that's probably just my need to read it again, not his writing. I know that what I understood was very good. Recommended for those who want bolstered in their faith, for those who want to understand what faith is and isn't, and for those who struggle with doubt."

4. Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

This one won the Christian book of the year award, and I liked it, too.

I ended my review of Crazy Busy at the NextStep Resources Blog this way:

"You don’t need me to tell you this is a good book. Anyone who has read a book by Kevin DeYoung knows that he can wordsmith with the best of them and always offers meaningful biblical and theological reflection. In Crazy Busy, DeYoung is up to his usual humorous, poignant, and pointed best. I’m glad that I took time out of my busyness to read it. I’ll be going back through it again soon. Recommended."

3. 1-2 Samuel Focus on the Bible Commentaries  by Dale Ralph Davis

I've quoted Dale Ralph Davis more than any other author this year on social media, especially while doing Saturday sermon prep.

1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart by Dale Ralph Davis

My conclusion on Goodreads:

"Simply excellent. Never have I read commentaries so FUN yet carefully researched as this series. The author is quotable, humorous, scholarly, and insightful at every turn. If I could only have 1 commentary on 1 Samuel, this is the one I'd pick, hands down. Highly recommended."  [Read DRD inspired sermons manuscripts in my series on 1 Samuel.]

2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity by Dale Ralph Davis

My Goodreads review:

"Superb. Davis understands all of the issues but doesn't let himself get distracted by them. Pity, quotable, funny, insightful, and even practical. Highly recommended."

[Read more DRD inspired sermons manuscripts in my series on 2 Samuel.]

This five star book came at just the right time for me. My Amazon review says it this way:

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading Preparing Your Teens for College. My oldest child is 13 years old, and she's got brothers that are 12, 10, and 9. So we're just on the cusp of this teenage adventure, and I believe that reading this book has just oriented my next 8 years!

Preparing Your Teens for College is a discipleship manual for young people in our current cultural situation. It's not a book about college so much as about following Christ into young adulthood. Simply excellent."

Read my interview with the author here.

Westminster Bookstore has it for sale right now for only $2.00 (87% off)! 

1. Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry

This Summer at the EFCA Challenge Coference, I had the amazing privilege and heavy responsibility of talking to two big roomfuls of teens about homosexuality. In preparation, I read everything good I could get my hands on. 

The Biblical Counseling Coalition has posted my list of the 17 best resources I ran across, and at the tip-top of my list is Sam Allberry's little gem:

"Is God Anti-Gay? was the all-around best resource I found. It is my new “go-to book” on this important topic as a succinct introduction and guide. It’s winsomely written while being biblically firm and authored by a pastor who experiences same-sex attraction himself. There are many books available on this issue right now that explore the topic from many other important angles, but Sam Allberry’s book is concise, clear, and helpful. This is one book that I will recommend to anyone as a place to start. Allberry is a frequent contributor to the helpful website livingout.org.


You should also read John Freeman's "Hide or Seek" which just came out recently. I think his discussion of/counsel on SSA, temptation, and freedom in Christ is more robust than Allberry's. Although, I do like most of Allberry's book, I think over time, Sam will likely tweak how he refers to himself and how he talks about his experience with SSA. That's why Freeman's new book is so helpful -- it applies all of the gospel to this all of this issue in a very helpful way that enables strugglers to walk away from the bondage of sin.


I'd like to read Freeman's book. I love the resources that come out of HarvestUSA. Thanks!