For your consideration: books that edify, entertain, or (hopefully) do both. If you have suggestions for great books to read, leave a blurb in the comments so other people can see! Keep reading!
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins) – Had to read these, of course. Gripping stories! They felt like a more sinister & macabre mix of George Orwell’s 1984 and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game. (The latter is a short story that’s really quite haunting. If you’ve never read it, you should. The link will take you to a page where you can do so.) Anyway, so yes: Hunger Games. One of the things I appreciate most about these books is that Collins writes realistically. When I say that I mean that she doesn’t force a desperately awful story to be a happily-ever-after story. And in doing so she makes the story all the more haunting as you are pulled into it. You don’t have to suspend belief as far, and so the impact of the horror feels much closer. Great books.
Tarzan: The Complete Adventures (Edgar Rice Burroughs) – This was the first purchase post-knee surgery earlier this year. There’s a couple dozen of these novels, which I got for $2.99 for the Kindle app on my phone. The link will take you to that same Kindle edition. If you want the paperbacks you can search for them individually, though some are hard to find apparently. If you’ve never read the first book – Tarzan of the Apes, or if you’ve only seen the Disney version, you are missing out! One of the foremost adventure stories and greatest heroes ever written. Once you read 5 or 6 of the novels, you realize that he gets a bit formulaic with the plot, but they’re still entertaining to read.
The Barsoom series (Edgar Rice Burroughs) – This was the second purchase after my knee surgery. I had heard that John Carter was coming out as a movie, and then heard that Burroughs was the author of the original novel, and decided to check it out. Well, the Barsoom series quickly overtook and replaced the Tarzan series in my affections. John Carter is every bit as much of a hero as Tarzan, and the stories are more diverse in characters, landscape, plot, and adventure. I am unashamed to tell you that I read 9 of the 11 novels in a little over a week. (I couldn’t find 1 of the novels for Kindle, and the last novel was written by Burroughs’ son and is awful. …I was laid up in bed for 2 weeks! Don’t judge me.) Again, Burroughs tends to be slightly formulaic…but I may have noticed that only because I read 9 novels straight through. The link will take you to a kindle edition of the first 7 novels for 99¢, and you can find the rest of the books on the wikipedia article if you’re interested in reading them. I purchased most of them individually on Kindle for about a dollar each. I’d love to blurb each one, but that would take forever. So I’ll just say: read ’em!
God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment (James M. Hamilton Jr.) – This is a breathtaking book. Dr. Hamilton’s aim in this book is to draw out the single main theme of the entirety of the Bible, that being: God’s glory in salvation through judgment. He traces this theme through every book of the Bible, pointing out how it surfaces continually and constantly through every piece of the Bible’s narrative. At 600 pages, it is the picture of thoroughness. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to be challenged in studying Scripture more. The depth of insight and passionate articulation contained in the pages make it worth your time. It’s quite an honor to study under this godly man at the seminary.
Dominion and Dynasty(Stephen Dempster) – This runs in the same vein as the book above. Dempster presents another view of the central theme of the Old Testament in particular. It was incredibly helpful. If you pick up Dr. Hamilton’s book and feel daunted by its massiveness, pick this one up instead. It’s more accessible, if a bit less thorough. Anyway, I found it to be an incredibly helpful approach to understanding the Old Testament. The thesis is basically that the focus of the Old Testament is Dominion and Dynasty, Land and Lineage, Geography and Genealogy. In other words, the focus is on Israel growing/surviving as a nation, and on their conquest of, residence in, exile from, and return to the promised land.
The Servant King: The Bible’s Portrait of Messiah (Alexander and Motyer) – This again is in the same vein, but is a much smaller book. (172 pages). It traces the revelation of a coming Messiah through the Old Testament, beginning in the garden of Eden with God’s promise that the seed of the woman would crush the seed of the serpent. The slow unveiling of the truth about a Savior unravels through the rest of the books, and it is a glorious picture! Additionally, each chapter has discussion questions, so it could be very useful for a group study.
The Great Jesus Debates: 4 Early Church Battles About the Person and Work of Jesus (Douglas Johnson) – This is an incredibly helpful book! Here you can see how our forefathers in the faith helped establish orthodoxy, how they fought against heretics who would deny the truth of Jesus, and where many of the theological terms regarding who Jesus was and what He did come from. Also, it is helpful in being able to recognize heresy today. After reading this you’ll realize that any theological problem faced in our age has already come, been dealt with, and faded. The same heresies just come back in fashion. Great book.
Humility (Andrew Murray) – Tremendous and wonderful little book. Easy to read, edifying, and practical. Murray has become one of my go-to writers who I trust to bring me in to the Lord’s presence.
How to Give Away Your Faith (Paul Little) – Incredibly practical book on the how of sharing one’s faith. Really encouraging read. Little draws from extensive experiences in which he has over time recognized patterns in how people respond to the gospel. He has some tremendous insight into the task.
The Master Plan of Evangelism (Robert Coleman) – Coleman focuses on what most of us would call discipleship. The brilliant aspect of this book is how he shows that discipleship is really not much different than evangelism. The revolutionary thought for me was somewhere in the middle of the book when he posed the idea that all of Christ’s efforts to disciple the men following him was for the purpose of sending them out to make disciples. He trained them for the purpose of sending them. Thus, shouldn’t our discipleship have the same goal? A very thought-provoking and needed book.