2011 Book blurbs

So many books, so little time. The ones from last summer are here, and some good options for edifying things to read are here, if you care to look at them. Off we go!

*Note: The 4 biographies on the top of the list (Kisses from Katie, Reckless Abandon, Bonhoeffer, and Moody) have done more to strengthen my faith and deepen my soul than much of my other reading this year. If you like biographies – get them! If you don’t like biographies – I dare you to try reading these without reconsidering your love for biography.

See you in the blurbs next year!

  1. The Life of D.L. Moody, by his son (William R. Moody) – I never knew what an extraordinary man D.L. Moody was. Where Bonhoeffer was brilliant academically and theologically, Moody was brilliant practically and evangelistically. He built churches of thousands by the insurmountable mountain of energy thriving inside him. His boldness for the gospel and effectiveness for the Kingdom was nothing short of supernatural. It is a humbling, convicting, wonderful read.
  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Eric Metaxas) – I have enjoyed and respected Bonhoeffer’s writing/thinking for quite some time. However, this book has catapulted him into the stratosphere of my respect. His brilliance was almost unfathomable, and he was one of the Third Reich’s most outspoken opponents. He was a constant thorn in Hitler’s side, from the moment he took over the country. It is a somewhat ponderous volume, at nearly 700 pages. But it’s greatly worth it! Metaxas is a brilliant writer of history, PLUS he is writing from a conservative Christian viewpoint. One of the best biographies I’ve read.
  3. Reckless Abandon: A modern-day Gospel pioneer’s exploits among the most difficult to reach peoples (David Sitton) – This is a great book to pair with Kisses from Katie. The stories David tells about planting churches in previously cannibalistic/headhunter tribes are a powerful testament to the fact that God has called people to Himself from “every tribe, nation, language and people” (Revelation 7:9). God was, is, and will continue to accomplish the work. He will build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Read this book and be encouraged that these things are true.
  4. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) – Read this one a couple days before Christmas, because I’m not sure I ever have. It was really quite good, and pretty short. I was intrigued by Dickens’ references to religion, and how they played into the plot of the book. I’m not positive what exactly his views were, but it adds an interesting dimension to the reading of the book.
  5. Kisses from Katie (Katie Davis) – I have read close to 50 books thus far this year, and if I had to recommend just 1 to every person who asked it would probably be this one. Katie Davis is a young woman (22) who moved to Uganda 4 years ago in obedience to the Lord’s call. Since then, simply in obedience and trust through the immense struggles, she has adopted 13 little girls (as a single mom) and founded a non-profit which sends several hundred children to school and feeds thousands of other children. I do not believe that I am making an overstatement when I say this: Katie is the Amy Carmichael, the Lottie Moon of our day – God has chosen to do great things through her in order to glorify His name and expand His kingdom. Please, please read this book. If you cannot buy it, message me and I will buy one for you. I’m not kidding: I will buy this book for you and send it to you. Read it. You can also read her blog at Kisses From Katie.
  6. Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Rutherford) – This book sits beside Valley of Vision on my desk. Samuel was a pastor who loved Jesus and loved his people, and who knew God through His Word. These letters come mostly from a time when he was imprisoned for his faith, as he wrote to shepherd, comfort and exhort his flock. His great suffering through imprisonment, losing a child, losing a wife, and a hundred other things enabled him to write deeply moving, powerfully encouraging, and Gospel-laden letters to others who were suffering. Again, for the good of your soul, get this book.
  7. Valley of Vision (Arthur Bennett) – As a general rule, the Puritans were deeper spiritually than basically anyone alive today. They knew and enjoyed God in a way that few of us ever do. Bennett has put together a collection of their prayers – a heartbreaking, joy-inducing, Jesus-glorifying, convicting, worshipful, tearful collection of prayers. When I find it difficult to draw near to God, reading this book for 5 minutes is usually enough to warm my cold heart – nothing but some of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever heard, organized topically. Get this book. For the good of your soul, get this book and keep is somewhere close.
  8. This Momentary Marriage (John Piper) – Oh goodness. As always: how can we thank God enough for this man’s writings? This book in particular is a deeply practical, gloriously Christ-exalting, future-joy-in-Christ-expecting book. You will not look at marriage in the same way after reading this. Piper will help you see marriage through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have a good marriage, read this book. If your marriage is struggling, read this book. If you are not yet married, read this book. (P.s. – You can download it for free from Piper’s website here, along with most of his other books.)
  9. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Paul David Tripp) – The danger with so many books I read is that I want to say something like: “This is a book on biblical counseling.” My fear is that in saying that, you will dismiss this book because your job/calling is not counseling people. So, instead I will say – This is a book about how to interact with people in a Christlike way. It is a book about how the gospel should infect our speech and relationships. It is valuable no matter who you are.
  10. Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach (Robin Routledge) – This is another good reference or study tool. Much like Goldsworthy’s book, this is a theology book written for the church at large. Routledge attempts to present an understanding of the Old Testament’s theology by drawing out the major themes, conveying good information without writing over the head of non-seminarians. He mostly succeeds. So many people suffer from misunderstandings of (and even disdain for!) the Old Testament. This book would be useful in counteracting that.
  11. According to Plan (Graeme Goldsworthy) – I can’t remember if I’ve written anything about this before. I read it a couple years ago, and again recently. This book is a valuable resource for anyone – whether general church member or scholar. In fact, Goldsworthy wrote it with general churchfolk in mind. It traces the plan of God through Scripture, explaining in depth without being too technical. Each chapter ends with a summary and discussion questions to be used for group studies. I plan to use this at some point to go through with my church.
  12. Baptist Confessions of Faith – This is a great reference work if you’re studying or interested in Baptist theology through the years. This is simply a collection of primary resources in the form of confessions of faith from various baptist congregations and theologians. It’s a little bit tough to find. I had more success finding it on abebooks.com (see title link) than Amazon.
  13. The Baptistsvol 1, vol 2, vol 3 (Tom Nettles) – I had the great privilege of taking a class on Baptist History with Dr. Nettles, and this 3-volume set was one of our textbooks. In a unique approach to historical writing, Nettles paints the history of our belief tradition though biography. In these volumes, short biographies of baptist leaders through history show the development of theology, or the consistency of theology that has existed. These volumes are history, yes…but all too often I came away with the encouragement and conviction of Christ from reading about the giants of faith upon whom God has built our tradition. If you like history, or biography, or theology, or philosophy…or all of the above, then get these books. Read them. Be informed and encouraged.
  14. A General Theory of Love (Lewis, Amini and Lannon) – Fascinating. These 3 doctors got together and wrote beautiful prose about an intensely scientific topic: how the physical processes of the brain affect and are affected by love and other intangible emotions. They are deeply rooted in evolutionary thought, so be on guard for that. However, though they fail to recognize it, their research is striking evidence of a God of love who has created us to be loved and to love. Fascinating.
  15. Leading With Confidence (Bob Biehl) – This was on a reading list for a class I had, and when I saw it the eye-rolling started immediately. “Oh boy, here we go. Another book on leadership.” Two chapters in, I was reading every single word voraciously. Simply put, this is THE MOST HELPFUL book on practical skills for leadership that I have ever read. In fact, you don’t even need to be a leader to read and benefit from this book. This book will help you prioritize, make hard decisions, and a thousand other everyday things you have to do whether you’re a leader or not. Everyone should read this book. Best of all, it’s done from what seems to be a Christian perspective. It is not a worldly, success-worshipping book.
  16. Lilith, A Romance (George Macdonald) – This was a really neat book to read. George Macdonald was a generation before C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and it is obvious from his writing that he was a moderate influence in both of their lives. This book in particular is deeply reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ writings. It’s based on Jewish Rabbinic tradition, which taught that Adam had a first wife, before Eve – named Lilith – who became evil and was known for stealing babies. It’s a fascinating, rich, beautiful book.
  17. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) – Indubitably! Holmes’ brilliance is…staggering. These are just fun stories. The book is a collection of shorter tales, and so has become a favorite for my phone-kindle reading. Waiting for my food at the restaurant? Sherlock. Waiting for a phone call? Sherlock. Sitting at a redlight? Sherlock.
  18. Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth (J.R.R. and Chris Tolkien) – If you like the Lord of the Rings books, this is a rare and wonderful look into the more distance history behind those stories. Many of these are (as suggested by the title) unfinished, left as notes or half-written manuscripts when Tolkien passed away. Chris, his son, has compiled and edited them into short stories and maps and such, and it’s just a great and engaging read.
  19. The Complete English Poems (George Herbert) – This man was, in a word, brilliant. If you enjoy poetry, you should find some of his stuff and read through it. It may take a moment to get pulled in, but all of a sudden you find that you’ve been gripped by the gospel-rich, moving language in which Herbert writes so effortlessly.
  20. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) – I read this book in 1 sitting. Ok, well…I take that back. I did get up to go to the bathroom once. But only because I had to. If you were to cross a more haunting/dramatic version of The Most Dangerous Game with a more sinister version of 1984, you would get this book. A gripping read, and will certainly be a classic of modern literature.
  21. The Cross Centered Life (C.J. Mahaney) – This tiny little book is good food for the soul. All 85 pages are directed towards reminding you and stirring you up to putting and keeping Jesus Christ and the gospel of the cross in the center of your life. What this means, how it affects us, and how we go about doing it are all covered. Great, quick read. I heartily commend it to you.
  22. For Self-Examination (Soren Kierkegaard) – Well, if you haven’t read any of Kierkegaard’s works, fair warning: he is a tad difficult to follow sometimes. However, he was truly a great thinker, and this book in particular would be a great introduction to him. He states his ministry as he sees it: to stir up a restlessness in the Christian life that pushes us towards an inward deepening of our faith. Again, only around 80 pages. The subject specifically, is of how we must read the word of God for self-examination, rather than for simply gaining biblical facts or to learn who God is. We must constantly say to ourselves in reading it: “It is me to whom this is speaking. I am the one being spoken of.”
  23. Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis) – Chronicles of Narnia…This book highlights a struggle that every Christian has experienced, or will sometime in the future – the frustration of not having clear direction from God. This comes as the Pevensies attempt to go to the aid of Caspian and the other Narnians, being led by Aslan…except that only Lucy can see Him (at first). The others struggle with trusting her, and with wondering why they aren’t able to see Aslan themselves. Battles, struggle, heroism, delightful wit, and all the other characteristic of the Chronicles in full swing here.
  24. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis) – Chronicles of Narnia…It is so extraordinarily difficult to pick a favorite out of the Chronicles. However this book is probably in my top 2. The adventures and characters and villains and plot are all so varied, so rich, so detailed, so delightful…that it becomes increasingly more difficult to put it down. You’ll love Reepicheep in this book. You’ll hate Eustace (for a while). You’ll be glad you never drank anything on the island Goldwater (or was it deathwater?), but you’ll long for the sweet waters approaching the uttermost east. Yes, I think this is my favorite book of the series.
  25. The Silver Chair (C.S. Lewis)  – Chronicles of Narnia…My goodness, this is a heart-wrenchingly frustrating book. I don’t mean the book itself is frustrating, no – it’s a great book! However, the dramatic irony is so tense that over and over I wanted to scream into the pages: “NO! Don’t you see what’s happening?! Look out!” The quest of the two children in this passage is fraught with mishaps, and dangers which seem like delights. The theological emphasis of the book seems to be: obedience to the commands of God even when we do not understand why. However, all turns out well, as do most stories in which Aslan has a part. Be sure to watch out for one of the brief images in the book, which nonetheless stuck more firmly in my mind that nearly anything else: Bism – the land of fire where rubies grow on vines and diamonds are living and filled with sweet nectar.
  26. The Last Battle (C.S. Lewis) – Chronicles of Narnia…If the previous book was frustrating, this one is heartbreaking. I don’t often shout at a book’s characters in anger, but I admit muttering angry words against Shift continually as I read this book. It centers around the end of Narnia as we know it. The anti-Aslan (antiChrist) is raised, brings destruction into the world, makes sacrifice to a demon god…and then comes the great judgment of Aslan. The world and all its creatures are either sent away from Aslan, or brought into the new, brighter, better, more glorious Narnia. Did I saw the book was heartbreaking? It is also glorious. The description of New Narnia (new creation/heaven) is good enough to make one’s heart ache to be home.
  27. The Magician’s Nephew (C.S. Lewis) – Chronicles of Narnia…Things you should know about this book: (1) It is definitely fiction. The rich storyline and imaginative elements are fiction in top form. (2) It is definitely not fiction. While the details and telling are fictional, at the core of this tale is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this book we see a retelling of Genesis: Jesus (Aslan) sovereignly creating all things as whole and beautiful and giving man vice-regency over them; man bringing sin/evil into the perfect creation of Jesus; the plan of Jesus from the very beginning to take upon Himself the weight of sins’s evil for His people; on and on and on. The language is beautiful. The story is gripping, tragic, moving, glorious.
  28. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis) – Chronicles of Narnia…This book is worth reading solely for the climax scenes as Aslan (Jesus) is preparing to walk willingly to torture and death in Edmund’s place. The heartbreaking, shining splendor of Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of his people shines with utter clarity. If you feel disconnected from reading the pages of scripture on the death of Jesus, read this book in conjunction with one of the biblical gospels.
  29. The Horse and His Boy (C.S. Lewis) – Chronicles of Narnia…The center of this volume’s theological allegory seems to be the sovereign direction of God in the events of our lives. What appears to be a chaotic, frantic storyline is revealed to be tightly in the Lion’s grip throughout. Unceasingly creative and effortlessly captivating.
  30. Communion with the Triune God (John Owen) – This is, perhaps, the best book on any subject about God that I have thus far read. Owen’s indefatigable clarity and breathtaking thoroughness are…well, they’re rather amazing. Owen is not particularly easy to read, but it is SO WORTH the effort. I could not commend this book more highly.  The copy I’ve linked is excellent. The language has been updated, the reference system Owen uses made more modern, footnotes for strange or out-of-date words.
  31. Desiring God (John Piper) – Reading this book alongside the Owen book above has been wonderful. Piper’s passion and clear, absolutely Biblically-rooted writing is so invigorating. The core truth which drives his entire ministry and the framework through which he sees redemptive history is presented here. It is a stirring call to “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psa. 37:4). With both of these books, I feel like I just need to come up and gasp for air every once in a while after the weight of glory presses down on me through the pages. Both are treasures.
  32. The Unexpected Adventure (Strobel and Mittelberg) – This is an encouraging book. Set up as daily reads for a number of weeks, Strobel and Mittelberg share some of the stories they’ve been involved in over the years centering around evangelism, and how God has done extraordinary things through the simple sharing of faith. I’ve shared several of these stories with the folks in my congregation, and it has particularly encouraged them, spurring them on towards like enthusiasm of evangelism.
  33. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) – Just about every summer I start things off with a bit of Tolkien, because his fiction is easy to get lost in. The writing is so enjoyable (for me) that it refreshes my love of reading after the end-of-semester-bash-my-brain-in-with-a-book feeling. Now, I’ve heard a number of people that have said they don’t enjoy The Hobbit. I don’t understand this. It is an extraordinary epic tale with some really beautiful and evocative writing. It moves at a slightly slower pace than the trilogy, but it gives so much backstory information that it will enhance your enjoyment of the trilogy. So…anyway…read it.
  34. A Guide to Biblical Manhood (Stinson & Dumas) – This is an excellent, excellent book. It’s an easy read, being small (less than half-sheet of paper size and only 109 pages), humorous (both Stinson and Dumas are witty and enjoyable), and chock full of biblical, convicting, encouraging truth. There’s a section which uses biblical men to create a biblical framework for manhood, then specific sections on being a biblical husband and father. You should get this book, even if you’re not married. It’s cheap! $4.50
  35. The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway) – If you enjoy Hemingway, then this is one you will enjoy…probably. If you enjoy brilliant writing in general, then you will enjoy this…probably. If you dislike either Hemingway or literature in general, this will probably only frustrate you. In classic Hemingway style, we follow the story of one wealthy American man living a life of ease abroad in Europe. He stays up all night partying in clubs, takes extended trips to the countryside, and drinks a great deal of various booze. The story climaxes in a small Spanish town during a bull-fight fiesta. It is a fascinatingly told story, as only Hemingway can tell one. Viscerally real and intriguingly hidden.
  36. The Art of Prophesying (William Perkins) – Man this is a good book. If you’re a preacher – read it. If you do any sort of biblical teaching (Sunday School, AWANA, etc) it would be beneficial. If you want to have some great material to think on – read it!
  37. George Mueller (Various authors) – I list just the name here because there are several great book on this man. His stories are some of the most powerfully encouraging testimonies to the steadfast faithfulness of God to answer prayers which I have ever read. I’ve linked his books before, but that’s ok. I will probably try to read his stories at least once a year. If the abundance of choices in the link on his name are too much for you, here is a good option.
  38. Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott) – Ok, fair warning beforehand: this book is written in a language style that is pretty foreign to most of us. The english of a several hundred years ago is somewhat different than today, and will read awkwardly at first. There will be vocabulary you may not know, though in the copy I linked there is a glossary in the back which explains unfamiliar words and phrases. Now, that being said: this is one of the most fantastic books I have ever read. The epic storyline sprawls gloriously over saxon princes, courageous errant-knights winning glory by the might of their arms and swords, damsels in distress…the whole bit. It is the absolute classic standard for the tale of knights and chivalry. Please, please read this book, and don’t be daunted by the difficulty of the first few pages.

9 thoughts on “2011 Book blurbs

  1. I believe why some say they do not enjoy The Hobbit is because of Tolkien’s intricate detail to, of course, everything. I guarantee you once the movie is released next year numerous people will flock to the book and then perhaps read The Lord of the Rings to connect the dots.

  2. I felt the opposite… I loved the Hobbit and hated LOTR. I loved the mix of theological/philosophical and fiction. I wish I could blurb about my summer reading… but I’m just too lazy. 🙂
    Also, you listed A Horse and His Boy twice. It was THAT good!?

  3. Pingback: Edifying and just plain good « The Occasional Theologian

  4. You have great taste in books. I have not read all of these but several are on my list to read, especially the first one. I’ve heard great things about it. Also, I appreciate your mix of fiction and non-fiction. I’m an avid fiction reader, and many people here (by “here” I mean in seminary) are not, which saddens me.

    • Thanks Allison. Yea, I really think that reading fiction is a deeply beneficial exercise for preaching/teaching. Good fiction writers/poets use words and language in a way that no one else does, and to learn how to do the same in our teaching can only help. Plus, I just like fiction. 🙂

  5. Yeah, I’m hooked on Hunger Games. I think I started them last Tuesday and I’m hoping to finish the series by tomorrow. We’ll see.

    Also: (I just saw your response) Yep, hated LOTR. I totally understand that Tolkien wanted to create this whole world and civilization and junk… but I just wanted to read the story. That’s why I’d just rather watch the movies… and that’s the only time you’re ever going to hear me say that. About anything.

    Except Twilight.

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