Listening to a book counts as reading it, right? Between washing dishes and running the hills with our puppy, I managed to get through a good number of audio-books this year – far more than I actually read. As with past years, my list of books for this year are a mix of theology, novels, and non-fiction, and I have not listed them in any particular order. Just ten books that I enjoyed reading and benefited from. Enjoy!
Empire of the Summer Moon – S.C. Gwynne
This book tells the true story of one of the fiercest and violent tribes in America and their eventual downfall at the hands of American settlers and Texan rangers. It is a fascinating story which gives a much more accurate and raw portrayal of the ‘cowboys and Indians” that are so often romanticized. One thing becomes clear by the end of the book: both the people of the New world and those of the Old were capable of violence, prejudice, and hate, and we ought to be careful about making heroes of either side.
“The Texans were not the Spanish of the Mexicans. They were tougher, meaner, almost impossible to discourage, willing to take absurd risks to secure themselves a plot of dirt, and temperamentally well suited to the remorseless destruction of native tribes.”
Love Thy Body – Nancy R. Pearcey
As relevant a book as any for our new age of confusion over sex, gender, and biology. Pearcy covers topics such as transgenderism, homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia, from a biblical viewpoint. One the most helpful arguments in the book in that the worldview of the world is dehumanizing, it makes us less human. By insisting on and advocating for the Christian view, we are not merely pushing for our particular view, but seeking the good and flourishing of humankind.
“To protect women’s rights, we must be able to say what a woman is. If postmodernism is correct—that the body itself is a social construct—then it becomes impossible to argue for rights based on the sheer fact of being female. We cannot legally protect a category of people if we cannot identify that category.”
Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace – Iain M. Duguid
Jacob is one of the most interesting saints of the Old Testament as well as one of the prime examples of God’s unrelenting grace. Duguid’s treatment of both Jacob and his father Isaac, as well as their wives, is theological, biblical, and accessible. There are more books in the series so perhaps one of those will show up on my list for next year.
“All his life, Jacob had been struggling and striving against human opposition. The cards had been stacked against him, yet through his craftiness he had often come out on top. Behind him, however, he had left a trail of broken relationships and a history of running away when the place got too hot. He had been afraid of what people could do to him. What Jacob needed to learn was that all his struggling against men had got him nowhere because the one with whom he must ultimately struggle is God.”
The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Christy Lefteri
A terrible and beautiful novel about a beekeeper and his wife who flee the war in Syria, but cannot escape the darkness it cast over their lives. The story speaks of both the dark evils of men, but also of the bold resilience of hope.
“Sometimes I think that if I keep walking, I will find some light, but I know that I can walk to the other side of the world and there will still be darkness. It’s not like the darkness of the night, which also has white light from the stars, from the moon. This darkness is inside me and has nothing to do with the outside world.”
Blessed Are The Misfits – Brant Hansen
Church culture in North America tends to focus on the grandiose and emotional – being passionate and on-fire for Jesus. In other words, it tends to cater towards the extroverts and to “experience”. In his humorous, easy-to-read style, Hansen shows that the genuineness of our faith is not dependent on our feelings, and that there is most definitely room for the misfits and oddballs in the church.
“It seems like being “passionate for something big” is something positive, but I keep running into Jesus telling us to be like children. And children are small. Maybe you’ve noticed that too. They do little things, and they’re okay with it. Jesus seems passionate about other little things too. Mustard seeds. Sparrows. Lilies of the field. Single days, like today, instead of The Big Future. Little acts of our will.”
The God I Don’t Understand – Christopher J.H. Wright
Perhaps a more accurate title, but less provocative, would be: The God I Don’t Completely Understand.” In any case, this a book defending the Christian faith, but not from the position of “Let me tell you all the answers.” Rather, the author takes the approach of “There are hard questions at the intersection of life and faith. I don’t have all answers, but here are some things to think about.” In the end, Wright concludes that God is trustworthy so we need not shipwreck our faith on the shores of unanswered questions. Wright tackles tough questions such as the existence of evil and suffering, the violent conquest of the Promised Land, the cross of Christ, and the End Times.
“When we run out of explanations or reject the ones we try, what are we to do? We lament and protest. We shout that it simply isn’t fair. We cry out to God in anger. We tell him we cannot understand and demand to know why he did not prevent it. Is it wrong to do this? Is it something that real believers shouldn’t do, just like “real men don’t cry”? Is it sinful to be angry with God?”
The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown
An engaging account of how nine working-class boys from Washington overcame great odds to win gold in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, beating out the German boat rowing for Adolf Hitler. The boat, its oars and rowing team which powers it, become strong metaphors for life and what it means to be strong.
“The ability to yield, to bend, to give way, to accommodate, he said, was sometimes a source of strength in men as well as in wood, so long as it was helmed by inner resolve and by principle.”
The Unfolding Mystery – Edmund P. Clowney
One of the greatest proofs of the divine inspiration of Scripture is their comprehensive unity. When we see how interconnected and complex the whole story of Scripture we become more and more convinced it is not the work of mere men, but the work of God. Clowney helps us see Christ in the Old Testament, and not just in a few well-known stories, but everywhere from Genesis to Malachi.
“The story of Jesus in the Old Testament becomes the story of the gospel in the New Testament.”
Born to Run – Christopher McDougall
This book makes the argument from evolution that humans were born to run. Running for long distances gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage and so running is the reason humans survived until today. But don’t worry, that argument is not essential to the enjoyment of this book, which tells the story of the coming together of an eclectic ultramarathon in the Copper Canyons of Mexico amongst the Tarahumara Indians. I found that listening to a well-told story about running was good motivation to get out and run!
“But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.”
Fool’s Talk – Os Guinness
Os Guiness argues that Christians done well at preaching, proclaiming, and protesting, but we are weak in the area of persuasion. Apologetics can easily end up being an exercise in winning arguments and answering questions we assume others are asking. But often, people are not interested in the gospel, or are confused by the Christian jargon we present the gospel in. What we need is more persuasion – the art of speaking winsomely, truthfully, and lovingly.
“Far too much Christian evangelism and apologetics is based on the assumption that almost everyone is open, interested and needy—when most people most of the time are quite simply not.”
Hello Scott and Anne Marie, I hope you had a very special Christmas and Ed and I want to wish you a blessed New Year. May God make your work fruitful in Mexico, keep up the good fight! Thank you for this list of books…. I always appreciate it when people recommend good reads! All the best to you and your children. We keep you in our prayers and hope to visit Pan de Vida some day soon ?? Peace
Thanks! a belated merry Christmas and happy new year!
Thanks Scott! It’s always great to see a list of recommended books. Definitely some to add to our list.
Wishing you, Annemarie, and children a blessed and joyful year of our Lord, 2023!
thanks! A blessed new year to you and your family as well