Monday, December 21, 2015

My Top Books of 2015

It's hard to believe that 2015 is almost over and it's time for my third annual "top books" post.

I didn’t get to read all that much this year. When I was sick, I didn't feel up to reading, and the rest of the year was a blur of activity, both pastoral and authorial.

I did get to read some good fiction. Most of it was throwaway fun, but I also enjoyed re-reading the entire Aubrey/Maturin seafaring novels by Patrick O'Brian, some new (to me) page-turners by Edith Pargeter, and the unique Mark Helprin magnus opus, A Soldier of the Great War.

But this list is about the nonfiction books I read that:

- had the most personal impact on me, my thinking, my heart.
- I was the most consistently enthusiastic about.
- I kept coming back to again and again.
- I couldn't help recommending to others (and recommend without reservations and significant caveats).  [2013 Top Books, 2014 Top Books]

Drumroll please!

5. What's Your Worldview? by James Anderson

Here's what I said about it on Goodreads:

A brilliant and unique primer on worldview. There has never been a book quite like What's Your Worldview?  It's kind of like a cross between the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and "Philosophy 101." Anderson interactively introduces all of the basic worldviews that exist in terms that are easy to grasp AND constructively critiques each one. He shows how ideas are connected and have consequences. 

Readers answer each question for themselves and process through the maze (of course, you can read the book sequentially, as well) finding out the answer the title question and learning about how other people see the world at the same time. I think that adherents would say that Anderson is careful and fair in his descriptions of their worldviews even as he advocates for the claims of gospel-centered Christianity. He also writes concisely and with humor generously sprinkled throughout. So well done!

When I was a young Christian, I read James Sire's The Universe Next Door which gave me these same categories. This book is a Universe Next Door primer for this generation. I can't recommend it highly enough and have 3 people I want to give copies to right now.

4. What Is Marriage? by Sherif Gergis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert George

My short Goodreads review:

I'm so glad I read this book. The authors respectfully argue for conjugal marriage based on the notion of common good, not from special revelation (God, Scripture, or church tradition). I'm not good at making arguments and wrangling about logic, but I can tell a compelling argument when I see one.

I wish this was required reading for the US Supreme Court (and for a lot of other people, too). Highly recommended.

Reading this led me to read Truth Overruled also by Ryan Anderson which I'm just completing this week. It's so sad that our culture has reached the point where we must argue for the view that marriage the union of one man and one woman. I'm thankful that these (mostly Catholic) authors have undertaken to do just that winsomely, carefully, reasonably, and respectfully in the face of increased hostility to the concept which has formed the basic building blocks of society for all of human history.

3. Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine

I was very brief in my review on Goodreads but this book had a profound impact on both Heather and me this Spring:

Simply excellent. It captures our family's experience of this kind of suffering (and knowing God in the suffering) perfectly in beautiful, evocative, and hope-filled words.

I learned a lot about not only Spurgeon's experience and wisdom on the subject, but our Lord Jesus' own experience of sorrows. Highly recommended for both sufferers and those who love them.

Spurgeon's Sorrows very well might be the book on this list to have the longest influence on me.

2. Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer

Mike has the distinction of having a book on this list two years in a row! I hope he has a good one come out next year, too.

I had our Summer ministry interns read this book, and we had lots of good discussions over it. My Goodreads review only scratches the surface:

This book is easy to read and challenging at the same time. Easy, in the sense that Wittmer is an engaging writer with clear and funny illustrations. Challenging, in the sense that he provactively tests some false assumptions that we have tended to make in evangelicalism, especially about the spiritual importance of the hear-and-now (creation) in light of inbreaking (redemption) and the up-and-coming (consummation). I learned a lot, but not enough. I need to re-read this one soon.

Mike has also released a set of compelling videos that correspond to each chapter.

1. Side by Side by Ed Welch

The shortest Goodreads review of the pack which is somewhat fitting for this short book:

Distilled wisdom for personal ministry.

Don't be fooled by the size or simplicity of this slender volume. Welch has packed a lot of understanding of how people tick and how to help them into short sentences, paragraphs and chapters. Bears repeating.

Side by Side was not only a book but a conference by CCEF in 2015, and I had the privilege of sharing from Resisting Gossip in a breakout session called "Behind Their Backs."

I'm thankful to the Lord for these books and commend them to you.