This was a great year of reading! Some of my new favorites were Deep Work, Strength to Love, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and Her Gates Will Never be Shut. I’ve been rereading books I love more this year as well. I think that’s something I’ll continue to do more of as I realize some books have so much more to offer upon additional readthroughs.
Below is the list of 61 books I read with my rating for them (5 being the best) along with a brief review. Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher. You can check out my running list throughout the year by clicking on the “reading list” link on the top right of my blog.
In addition to this list, you might also check out:
- my reading lists from previous years
- recommendations on how to become a better reader
- my top 15 theology books
- the 2 books I’ve personally written
- my goodreads account
Click on any of the titles below to get to a link to buy it.
- God Has a Name by John Mark Comer (3.5). John Mark does a good job of taking a key passage of the Old Testament and showing how it affects our theology of God across the board. He applies it in some intriguing ways.
- Deep Work by Cal Newport (5).Â He writes about a different type of work that is increasingly rare these days yet which offers a disproportionate amount of return.Â As the frequency and sophistication of the distractions continue to increase around us, those people who find the time and ability to achieve deep work will stand out from the rest.
- The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt (3). This isn’t a sympatheticÂ view of the Biblical narrative, yet it offers a historical and cultural look at the impact of Adam and Eve on everything else.
- When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink (3.5). An easy read about the scientific realities of how our bodies are wired with timing. Offered a number of practical ways I have begun to apply these ideas.
- Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks by Walter Brueggemann (4.5). This is at times a difficult read, but it provides a fascinating comparison to the fall of Jerusalem in the Old Testament with that of 9/11 in America.
- The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu (2). A study on the rise and fall of comic books. Presents an interesting parallel to much of the reactions to video games today, but ultimately feels too narrowly focused.
- The Re-justification of God by J.D. Myers (3). A short and specific dive into Romans 9:10-24 that does a great job unpacking Paul’s ideas. It would be a good commentary to anyone confused by Paul’s arguments.
- Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (3). Does a good job highlighting the things that made Leonardo
unique.Most notably, Isaacson shows the value of curiosity.
- Lost Boy by Christina Henry (3.5). This is a new backstory on Captain Hook and Peter Pan. I’ve always loved this story, so I thoroughly enjoyed where Henry took it.
- Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd (4.5). I love the way Brian thinks and I appreciate the ways in which he challenges the dominant (yet often unhealthy) narratives about Christianity.
- Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine (2). This was an interesting read. Offered some intriguing ideas but also felt a bit on the bizarre self-help/new age side.
- Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (4). This book was good for my soul. Offers a great historical perspective on the dangers of thinking too highly of yourself.
- Space at the Table by Brad and Drew Harper (3). A powerful story and perspective from an evangelical professor and his gay son. This book does a great job personalizing the topic so it isn’t an abstract issue.
- Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley (3). This is a short read about the value of generosity. Andy is an incredible teacher and offers solid content as usual.
- Giving it All Away… by David Green (1). This is the story of Hobby Lobby and how they run their company. I love the emphasis on generosity but it was difficult for me to get beyond the conservative evangelical talking points throughout it.
- Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard (4). The true story of the assassination of President James Garfield. It was a fascinating historical retelling and loaded with sad irony of how it could have played out differently in hindsight.
- Mere Morality by Lewis B. Smedes (1.5). I read this for a seminary class. It had a few intriguing sections but feels dated in style and was a dense read at times.
- Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr. (5). This is a collection of some of his sermons that he turned into essays for this book. Such amazing truth and perspective that holds up over the years. I almost went through an entire highlighter on this one.
- The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood (3.5). A fictional story about a group of people from 14 years ago compared with now. This was a bit hard to follow at times but the story is incredibly creative and well crafted. You want to reread it after you see what happens.
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (4). Part of my Oregon acclimation was in reading the history of Nike. This makes the corporate behemoth feel personal and offers an interesting insight into Oregon.
- Shrill by Lindy West (3). Lindy has an incredible wit and writing style and offers a profound perspective of what is like to be a woman and to be overweight in our culture.
- The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath (4.5). I’ve read other books from these authors and have enjoyed them. This book shows how we can design and foster transformational moments in our lives and for the benefit of others.
- Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins by Miguel A. De La Torre (4). As with nearly every book I read, I didn’t agree with everything in it. But it did a phenomenal job challenging my perspective of faith from the vantage point of vulnerable people.
- A Season in the Sun by Smith and Roberts (3). This is a biography of Mickey Mantle. While I’m obviously a huge Yankees fan, I actually found myself liking him a bit less after reading this. That’s not a fault on the book, just the reality of learning sometimes.
- The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann (5). This was my second read through it and my goal is to “
centiread” this book in my lifetime (reading it 100 times). As should be obvious, I’m a big fan.
- The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (3.5). This was an enjoyable read of an older classic. I kept expecting the story to go to some specific destination (which it never does), but it provides an interesting perspective on living life looking for something to fulfill you. I think I’d enjoy this
even morethe second time through.
- How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren (3). Reading a book about reading books is admittedly pretty nerdy. But this is a classic and definitely shows you there is a better way to read than what we often think.
- Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill (3.5). This is a good snapshot of history and
wherea lot of modern ideas came from. Helped me put a few things into perspective.
- I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown (4.5). A phenomenal read to better understand the differences of being black or white in America today. This opened my eyes to a number of things and I’m grateful for Austin’s vulnerability and passion.
- Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker (3). A catch-all looking at why some people succeed and why we often don’t. Incorporates a lot of good ideas and illustrations I’ve read in other books.
- Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki (4.5). Surprisingly, I enjoyed this far more than I anticipated. It’s an approach to minimalism and the way he writes makes it seem far more realistic than some lofty philosophy.
- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (4). I had read this years ago and didn’t remember it, but I really enjoyed it this time through. Lewis presents an intriguing model of the afterlife through a short and profound novella.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (3). I confess that I’ve never been able to fully connect with this story, even after my second read. It’s obviously a classic and has withstood the test of time since its writing.
- Bruce Lee by Matthew Polly (4). I’ve long been fascinated by the life and legend of Bruce Lee. This book does a great job telling the story behind the man, including the parts you rarely hear about.
- Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (3.5). This was a profound read, albeit a tough one to make it through. That’s because of the racial tension brought to life in the novel and this is ultimately what gives the book its power.
- The Stranger by Albert Camus (3). An existentialist classic on what matters and what doesn’t. Offers an intriguing look at isolation through a story about a man who goes on trial for murder.
- The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud (2). A storied response to The Stranger, revisiting many of the same themes. Feels a bit tedious at times, but is a good pairing with its predecessor.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (4). This book is both creepy and fascinating at the same time. The hardest part to read was the way they misused spiritual language to abuse and oppress others.
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (2). This book is a trip. I think I’d need about five more reads through it to begin wrapping my head around the nuances of this. Definitely paints war in a negative light if you can work through the story.
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (2). An old thriller of a story. Made famous by the movie version… but this one also needs a few trips through it to fully grasp what’s happening. Could be a rewarding experience though.
- My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (4.5). A profound fictional story about a Jewish kid with a genius level gift for painting. It was a moving story to read through his struggle of how to use his gift in light of his culture.
- The Unseen Realm by Michael S. Heiser (4). I loved the content of this but it’s not an easy read. I listened to it on audio first and then went back and explored the Kindle version in more detail. Heiser looks at supernatural ideas in the OT in ways I’ve never considered it. This is one I’ll revisit again.
- Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger (3). An interesting look at the twists and turns of Arnold’s life. He’s done a lot of very different things well and it’s fascinating to hear his perspective along the way.
- Resident Aliens by Hauerwas and Willimon (4.5). This is a beautiful call for the church to fulfill its unique place in culture. I found myself encouraged and inspired to be a part of something that can be so radical and transformative.
- C.S. Lewis – A Life by Alister McGrath (2.5). This book explores the life of C.S. Lewis from a more academic point of view. As such, there were times when he dove into details that I would imagine most readers wouldn’t necessarily care about.
- Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (3). An interesting autobiographical account of Lewis’ life. It does not necessarily build collectively on one theme but offers an engaging perspective for those wanting to understand Lewis better.
- Leadership Pain by Sam Chand (3.5). This is my second read through this book and I had our Lead Team at the church read it together. It paints an accurate view on what leadership in the church looks (and feels) like.
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (4). I’ve read this a few times now. One of the great theology classics. Even though I don’t agree with his view on everything, Lewis has an uncanny ability to break down complex theology into simple concepts.
- Miracles by C.S. Lewis (4). Lewis does a great job logically explaining how the God of all
creationworks within His own design to do what we call miracles. Like all of his writings, it makes theological ideas understandable.
- The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (3.5). I’ve read this one before but it is such an interesting read. The fictional story of one demon training a younger demon on how to seduce and destroy a human under his charge.
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone (5). This book rocked me. Cone unpacks the nature of the cross in light of America’s history of lynching. It is amazing how it moves you back and forth between tears and a renewed hope for what God wants to do through us.
- The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis (3). A short read about one of the issues of faith that creates problems for many people. Like his other writings, Lewis does a great job making complex theology make sense.
- The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis (1). I finally found a C.S. Lewis book I didn’t like.Â It covers subjects such as courage and honor but didn’t feel like a cohesive argument to me.
- Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (3.5). This was my second time reading this and I liked it more than I remember. This is the first book of his space trilogy fiction.
- Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (4). A heartbreaking look at the decline of the Native Americans and their way of life prior to the settlers taking over. Such a violent and tragic part of America’s history.
- Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt (4.5). Shakespeare understood the dynamics of tyrants and his insights are just as applicable in our political landscape today. Greenblatt does a great job organizing his thoughts throughout a number of Shakespeare’s greatest works.
- Her Gates Will Never be Shut by Brad Jersak (5). The best book on hell I’ve ever read. Jersak does an amazing job arguing for the three dominant Biblical views on hell and offers a way to make sense of them.
- Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett (4). I read this last year and decided it would join my yearly list as an accompaniment to A Christmas Carol. It focuses on the story of Marley instead of Scrooge.
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (4.5). I continue to read this every year and continue to find new things that stand out in it. I love this story.
- Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (4). This is a creative look at following Jesus in ways we often don’t expect. I found myself thinking about this a lot after I read it.
- The Bible (5). We recently released a new reading plan from Abundant Life Church and you can download it for free to use yourself (see: reading plan). This is the plan I used this year and I’ve been reading from the NLT translation.