The Best Books I Read in 2019

In the middle of a flood of writing assignments and deadlines, I’m taking a quick break to write about something I actually want to write about: the best books I read in 2019!

(Side note: what does it say about me that my break from writing is just a different kind of writing, particularly writing about reading?)

One thing to note: these books weren’t published in 2019–I just happened to read them in 2019. So without further adieu and in no particular order, the three best books I read in 2019 were:

the meaning of marriage

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy Keller

This was required reading for my Marriage and Family Counseling course. It should be required reading for anyone that is married, is about to be married, or someday might be married. The Meaning of Marriage is a powerful combination of biblical wisdom, practical insights, theological depth, and vulnerable personal vignettes that help readers understand the gospel-reflecting beauty of the marriage covenant.

Or if you’re a Star Wars person, I’ve heard Tim Keller referred to as the Christian Yoda, so there’s that.

Favorite Quote:

“Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it.”

none like him

None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing by Jen Wilkin

This little book made multiple “best books of the year” lists several years ago and, per the usual, I am late to the game. Don’t be fooled by the cover art–this is not just a book for women. None Like Him is deep and weighty, yet accessible, making readers feel small and weak in comparison to an infinite God–and that’s a good thing.

As an aside, Jen Wilkin is becoming one of my favorite voices. Her podcast titled, “Raising Daughters Beyond Stereotypes” is a must listen for anyone raising a little girl. I still have it saved to my phone after first listening to it over 2 years ago.

Favorite Quote:

“A measureless God begins to upend our sense of personal awesomeness.”

life together

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you’ve never heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, do yourself a solid and add this to your “to read” list. In short, he was a brilliant German pastor-theologian that was ultimately sentenced to death for his involvement in an attempt to assassinate Hitler (read: he’s way more hardcore than you or me). Life Together is his extremely convicting classic on authentic Christian community.

Favorite Quote:

“The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves . . . Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.”

What about you?

What were some of the best books you’ve read recently? I’m currently working on my 2020 reading list, so let’s hear what you got!

Best Reads in 2016: Part 2

I’m a sucker for the “best books of 2016” lists that flood my timelines and news feeds this time of year, so to follow suit, here’s a list of my favorite reads from the second half of 2016.

(As a sidenote, these are not not necessarily books released this year, but books that I read this year.)

The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis

I offer you this quote from the book: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” I don’t think I really need to add anything more.

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies

Tim Challies consistently puts out some of the best Christian content and resources on his blog. That’s why this book was a no-brainer when I heard it was coming out. Do More Better is a super quick and easy read but will revolutionize the way you think about productivity. I’m still applying and tweaking many of the suggestions and tools he offers in the book, but I feel that they have helped me immensely over the last few months. Do More Better would be a great read for anyone looking to be more productive in the new year (so, basically everyone).

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

To quote the aforementioned C. S. Lewis, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” I first read The Explicit Gospel just before graduating from seminary in 2012. It was a game-changer of sorts for me. It helped me to see that the gospel is not just the entry point of the Christian life, it’s central to the entire Christian life from beginning to end. I will never graduate from the gospel. Neither will you. That’s why you should read The Explicit Gospel.

As I mentioned, I’m a sucker for “best books” lists, so I’d love to hear your recommended reading from the past year. Also, here’s the list of my favorite reads from the first half of 2016.

Best Reads in 2016: Part 1

Bookshelf filled with colorful books

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump lately. Then again, “slump” may be a bit of an understatement given my current “one-post-every-six-months” rate.

While I haven’t written as much as I promised myself I would over the first half of 2016, I have certainly read plenty over the past six months. Below is a list of some of my favorite reads through the first half of 2016.

(Note: These are not necessarily books released this year, just books that I’ve read this year.)

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper

desiring-god

“There are many professing Christians who delight in God’s gifts, but not God. Would you want to go to heaven if God were not there, only his gifts?” This sentence was copied directly from the pages of Desiring God and serves as somewhat of a foundational statement of the book. A very challenging and thought-provoking read.

Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn

cash

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had some strange fascination with Johnny Cash. I don’t think I’m alone in that. As the title suggests, this lengthy biography gives readers a backstage glimpse into the life of Johnny Cash. It is a fascinating look at the fame, fortune, struggles, and redemption of one of America’s most iconic musicians.

The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball by Gene Wojciechowski

The-Last-Great-Game

As an avid Kentucky sports fan, I couldn’t pass this up when I saw it on the clearance shelf. I was only four years old when Laettner hit “the shot,” but I’ve seen it plenty of times over the last 24 years. Wojciechowski does a masterful job of capturing the stories and personalities that preceded “the shot.” Best $4 I’ve spent this year, but I still hate Laettner.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

to-kill-a-mockingbird

Being that I’m late to the game on this one, there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said about To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s considered a classic for a reason.

A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards

threekings

Paraphrasing the narratives of Saul, David, and Absalom found in Scripture, Edwards beautifully and subtly paints for readers a picture of what leadership looks like in light of the sovereignty of God. Surprisingly good read, especially for those that find themselves in positions of leadership and influence.

2015: Good Reads

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Way back in January I made a pact with myself to aim for quality rather than quantity when it came to the books I would read in 2015. I should have done that several years ago. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of my three favorite reads from 2015.

(Note: this list is not exclusive to books released in 2015.)

The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges

christianministryThis might be the most practical and relevant book on ministry that I’ve read to date—what’s impressive is that it was published in 1830. Just goes to show you that there really is nothing new under the sun. It was also refreshing to read a book on ministry/leadership that couldn’t possibly push any sort of modern agenda.

The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler

minglingofsoulsConfession: I may have a slight man-crush on Matt Chandler. However, I think I can relatively objectively say this is a special book. What makes Mingling of Souls great is that it biblically addresses the full spectrum of love—from initial attraction all the way to the well-worn marriage–where as most books on “love” simply begin on the wedding day.

On Writing by Stephen King

onwritingI’ve heard several writers recommend this book on various podcasts, so when I found it for about $3 in a used book store, it was a no-brainer. This wannabe writer couldn’t put it down. King’s biography combined with his practical tips for writing make this a must read for anyone that wants to be a writer someday. (Warning: book contains some “flavorful” language.)