My 63 Books of 2013

A Faith Not Worth Fighting ForS JJ AbramsThe Naked Gospel Last year I set a new record for most books I’d ever read in a year. This year, I just realized that I read the exact same amount. It’s not exactly like sixty-three is a natural number to read so I’ll now be self evaluating myself to figure out what’s going on. My favorite books this year were The Naked Gospel (reread), A Faith Not Worth Fighting For, and S. Here is the list the books I’ve read since January of 2013 with my rating for them (5 being the best) and a brief review. Make sure you also check out my lists from previous years, as well as my recommendations on how to become a better reader. Also, click here to check out my book Crowdsourcing the Message.
  1. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (4). This starts the Chronicles of Narnia series and introduces us to Aslan and the magical world of Narnia.
  2. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (4.5). Such a great story that brings to light the incredible sacrifice of Jesus through a fictional story of talking animals.
  3. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (3). A look at a neighboring land of Narnia and how the kingdoms intersect.
  4. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (3.5). A year later, the four children from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe return to Narnia to find that hundreds of years have passed in Narnian time since they were last there.
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (4.5). Might be my favorite one of the series. Prince Caspian (book 4) and two of the kids from books 2 and 3 sail to the end of the world and find incredible magical islands along the way.
  6. Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell (2). Thomas brings up a lot of interesting points about the damage that the intelligentsia can do to society (mainly liberal intellectuals). However, he does not spend any time on potential solutions to this problem or how his stance on everything is any different than the people he is criticizing.
  7. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (4). Two of the kids from book 5 return to save Prince Caspian’s son from an evil enchantress.
  8. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (4.5). The end of Narnia. The is both the darkest and the richest of the entire series. I was shocked how bummed I was to end the series. Lewis is brilliant and the entire series is so good.
  9. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (4.5). Gives a great perspective of what the Holy Lands would have been like to experience 150 years ago. Twain writes with clarity of wit and insight. Allowed me to enjoy my experience all the more because of how much better it was than his!
  10. Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (3.5). A fascinating look at why Israel produces such great results economically amidst all of the conflict and turmoil. The book unpacks how this unique culture also creates and fosters the entrepreneurial spirit.
  11. The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan (2). A more relational look at the tension between Israelis and Palestinians over the land of Israel. It is told through a story that isn’t overly compelling yet it is helpful to walk through details of the struggle for the last fifty plus years.
  12. Pursued by Jud Wilhite (4). Technically I read this book at the end of last year but I forgot to put it in my list. Since it came out in 2013 I feel that it warrants a delayed mention on this year’s list. I loved this book so much I taught a message on it.
  13. The Blessed Life by Robert Morris (3). The biggest strength of this book is the stories that he tells of ways in which God has moved both in his life and in the lives of those around him. It left me realizing that I need to pray bigger prayers and look for ways in which God can supernaturally get involved in how I give.
  14. Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore (4). A detailed account of the power struggles for the land of Israel and especially this great city from the time of antiquity to modern day. While any reader will only retain a small fraction of the wealth of knowledge in this book, it serves as a great guide to give perspective on the last 4000 years.
  15. How Fantasy Sports Explains the World by A.J. Mass (4). This is half fantasy sports, half witty social commentary. As a writer for ESPN, Mass has first hand experience in all things fantasy sports and he displays his stellar writing ability and humor as he looks at life through this unique lens. One of the most truly enjoyable reads I’ve had in awhile.
  16. Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley (4). I’ve always liked Andy’s tendency to say things that are a bit aggressive in confronting the status quo, and this book delivers that in bundles. There are parts where I chuckled to myself when Andy would challenge the reader and then pause to reflect on how harsh he was being in the process. In addition, Andy delves deeper into his own story in this book and I found that particularly fascinating.
  17. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris (4). I love how much this book challenges your thinking. Much of it was too extreme for my taste but even his extreme concepts challenge you to process why you do things the way you do. This is a great book for work perspective and it’s LOADED with specific tools to use like websites, books, and companies.
  18. The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley (5). I first read this book more than three years ago but it remains one of the most transformational books on Christian faith that I’ve ever read. Just as good the second time. I strongly recommend that EVERY Christian read this.
  19. Unstuff Your Life by Andrew J. Mellen (2.5). While his concepts of “like with like” and “one home for everything” are solid, the book is more of a practical workbook than a philosophy of how to think differently about your stuff. I was hoping for more of the abstract but he gets way down into the weeds on how to implement it.
  20. Start by Jon Acuff (4.5). This is the third book I’ve read from Jon and I loved it maybe the most yet. What I love most about the book is how Jon inspires you to get off your butt and do something about those dreams you have lingering inside you. I’m convinced that we all have them but only a few of us ever do anything serious about them.
  21. The Sisters Brothers (4.5). This was a wildly entertaining fictional story set in the wild west. It follows two brothers who are hired killers yet have a way of really getting you to root for them and even feel sorry for them. The only part that kept it from being a five for me was the ending.
  22. Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller (3.5). I became interested in olive oil during my trip to Israel this year. This book explores the health benefits, historical significance, and commercial climate of olive oil today. Surprisingly interesting.
  23. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (3.5). Obviously, I disagree with the thesis of this book but Dawkins argues his points well. It is insightful as a believer to hear his perspective. Most of all, it makes me sorry for all of the Christians who live their faith without any logic as to why.
  24. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson (4). As becomes readily apparent in this book, Mark’s journey with God and his ministry career can be unpacked through moments of prayer. He certainly practices what he preaches. Prayer isn’t an area where I feel as disciplined as I want to be so there was much to chew on for me and much to encourage me.
  25. The Source by James Michener (4.5). I absolutely love the concept of this book and the depth in which the author explores the history of Israel and the Jews. My only issue is that his books are SUPER LONG and this one took me quite a bit of time and discipline to finish up.
  26. Excellence in Preaching by Simon Vibert (2). I had hoped that this would be a modern biography of great preachers and their habits but it looked namely at a sermon or two from each one and talked about style and content.
  27. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin (4.5). I really liked this book. He focuses on how we are all telling stories and the importance of making sure that your story is a good one.
  28. The Essential Epicurus (1.5). I read this as research for my next book and for that purpose I’d give it a five. However, to a person who isn’t writing my next book I’d give it far less.
  29. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll (3.5). An inspiring look at a guy who went from couch potato to ultra marathoner. Stories of discipline like this one often do a good job of motivating us to look beyond our own sense of normal.
  30. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (2.5). A fictional story from the great comedian about the art world.
  31. Present Perfect by Greg Boyd (3.5). This book takes a break from the intellectual depth of Boyd’s other books and focuses on the practical. The concept is simple: how do we experience the presence of God in each and every moment?
  32. Blunder by Zachary Shore (4). Why do smart people sometimes make dumb decisions? This book explores a few reasons why and shows us what to look for lest we create our own blunders.
  33. What Money Can’t Buy by Michael J. Sandel (4). Sandel does a terrific job showing how much money can buy these days, but then explores the things it can’t buy and why it never can. A very interesting look at culture.
  34. What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell (4.5). One of my top two favorite Rob Bell books. I really enjoy the way he talks about God and how he challenges the reader to think about God in a fresh way. (It’s much better than Love Wins).
  35. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris (3). Just as weird as the other book of his that I read. But somehow, through all the weirdness I still like his writing and his honesty. Some of his phrases are amazing. Weird guy but killer writer.
  36. Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov (3). This is an incredibly well written classic of literature. It’s a racy tale of forbidden love that can be interpreted on many levels. The superb writing style allows the reader to get over the harshness of the subject. I picked this book just to listen to one of my favorite narrators—Jeremy Irons—read it on Audible.
  37. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (3.5). This is the first book in Lewis’ space trilogy. With all of Lewis’ success I’m not sure how this trilogy is such a secret. It’s a complete foreign environment with three new species of creatures so it takes a bit to get foothold with what’s happening. I’m looking forward to seeing how books two and three build on it.
  38. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (4). The second book in Lewis’ space trilogy. Using the characters from the first book but able to have much more of a plot because you are already familiar with the world Lewis creates. A great repacking of the temptation of Adam and Eve.
  39. Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln (4.5). A great book for public speakers. The author gives tons of real life examples from famous speeches and argues for 21 secrets to great speaking.
  40. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (3). The third and final part of Lewis’ space trilogy. This one takes a dramatic shift from the first two and has almost nothing to do with science fiction. I was overall disappointed with it as it seemed very random and felt like too much of a departure of what he had established in the first two books. This book is a more blatant social/religious commentary than story.
  41. Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd (3). I was curious to learn more about Shakespeare given how much of our culture is shaped by what he wrote. Unfortunately, it seems there is far more of interest in what he wrote than in the man himself. Either he wasn’t a very interesting guy or history has lost the interesting details about him.
  42. The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (4.5). I loved the insider look at the relationships between these guys. Also speaks volumes about the challenges of leadership and how different high-caliber leaders have tackled them.
  43. The Skeptical Believer by Daniel Taylor (3.5). I like Taylor’s view on faith and would have rated this book higher except that this book is far longer than it needed to be to communicate his point. Also, he includes side notes from his “inner atheist” throughout the book which is a little odd to get used to.
  44. Too Great A Temptation by Joel Gregory (4). A fascinating look from the early 90s of a church succession gone horribly wrong. It offers a unique insight into church politics as seen through the Baptist denomination. It has an erie amount of similarities to some of today’s churches.
  45. Jesus Is __________ by Judah Smith (3.5). Our life group went through this book together. A foundational look at the person of Jesus and what He means for us today. Great for a beginning look at faith and Judah’s humor shines through to make this quite enjoyable.
  46. Benefit of the Doubt by Greg Boyd (4.5). Greg does a great job challenging the supposed value of certainty in our faith. Around chapter nine the book really kicks it into overdrive. He explains that all of Scripture must be read and understood through the lens of the cross.
  47. Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin (4). I absolutely love reading Dickens. His life was intriguing but sad. His qualities that made him a brilliant writer also led to his demise in other areas (with his wife, kids, mistress, etc). Despite his many flaws, I love how much he cared for the poor and neglected in society and used an elevated platform to awaken the middle and upper classes to the needs of others.
  48. Seven Men by Eric Metaxes (3.5). Eric has stumbled into the biography genre and does a great job yet again. Here he provides 7 mini biographies of men who used manly strength to benefit others.
  49. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (3.5). As the title suggests, this is a funny book about parenting. Specifically, a comedian’s insight into parenting five children. While the book is unabashedly funny, you can sense the conviction and determination that Jim brings to his role as a dad.
  50. Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson (4). A great study into a very interesting and significant person in history. I’m fascinated by how many things Franklin did in his lifetime and how he managed to be influential in so many different key areas. Like his biography of Steve Jobs, Isaacson does a terrific job keeping his life detailed yet engaging.
  51. Unapologetic by Francis Spufford (2). While much of his language proved difficult to navigate at times, I enjoyed his perspective. As he explains the uniqueness of Christianity in England, it almost feels as if he’s writing to us from the future. We can only speculate about what parallels we’ll see in the American version of Christianity with what has happened in places around Europe.
  52. Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxes (4). A fascinating and well described look at the life of William Wilberforce, one of the greatest leaders of change for abolishing slavery in England and ultimately worldwide. It’s especially interesting to hear about his struggles and discouragement despite all that he accomplished.
  53. The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray (4). I loved the depth of history and unique perspective the book provides. Instead of thinking of Anabaptism as a denomination in and of itself, think of it as a tradition of Christianity. As such, there is much to explore here for our post-Christendom culture.
  54. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (4.5). I really enjoyed reading about Jim’s life and his stunning creative brilliance. This book offers a great glimpse into the highs and lows of the creative process… and all that goes with it.
  55. Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business by Michael Parrish DuDell (3.5). A look at the fundamentals of business, especially in today’s context, through the wildly popular show Shark Tank. Most of it will be review for you but it’s presented with a great perspective and serves as a great reminder.
  56. A Faith Not Worth Fighting For by Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer (5). I wish you knew when you were about to be completely rocked by something. This book was that type for me. Often times a book like this with a collection of essays from multiple authors feels disjointed and repetitive. Not so with this. I was amazed how the chapters seemed to tackle all of the questions I had going into this book and how well the authors painted a mural of perspective.
  57. Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour (4.5). It is an absolutely gripping story of Elias Chacour and offers a Palestinian perspective. More than just a retelling of facts, it provides a profoundly helpful conclusion as to what we are to make of things today. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone as it will open your eyes to the Israeli/Palestinian tensions but also to tensions of humanity in general.
  58. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (4.5). My favorite Dickens book which I read every December.
  59. Axiom by Bill Hybels (2). Bill compiles thirty plus years of ministry and leadership insights into short little phrases. Each chapter captures an idea and gives some perspective on why Bill lives by it. Taken collectively it is a very practical look at leadership in the trenches.
  60. A Year With C.S. Lewis (4). This is a daily devotional plan featuring excerpts from Lewis’ writings for each day. It’s a great way to be exposed to some of his ideas you may not have read before or to get a good reminder. I posted each month on my highlights.
  61. John Adams by David McCullough (4). A very extensive look at Adam’s life and the many pivotal moments he played a part in. Adams doesn’t strike me as the sharpest of the early presidents but there is much to learn from the depth of a biography like this.
  62. The Bible (5). In 2013 I did the Lookout Bible Reading Plan and read through the New Living Translation.
  63. S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (5). A brilliant idea for a book. It contains an old story called The Ship of Theseus written by a guy named V.M Straka. That has been translated by someone named F.X. Caldeira. Then, a grad student left handwritten notes in the margins as he studies the book. Finally, an undergrad student saw the annotations and started leaving her own while also having a conversation with the grad student. Confused yet? It’s a brilliant, beautiful, truly enjoyable experience that anyone who enjoys reading should absolutely read.

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.