2019 has been life-changing. Or at least I can say my life changed in 2019!
This was my first full year as a parent, I had several great ministry trips to Mexico and Ecuador, and started a new evangelistic/Bible teaching ministry in an area I really love.
My reading life changed as well; not just from parenthood and less time overall, but from downloading the Hoopla app from my library. The Hoopla audiobook library has revolutionized my audiobook listening to say the very least. If you love audiobooks, I highly recommend looking into if your local library does Hoopla.
Below you’ll find a rather long list of books I read this year arranged in mostly chronological order. You’ll also find my top books read marked with a *. Best book lists are always subjective, and often a book that impacts you does because of where you are in life. Hopefully this list will give you a book or two to include on your to-read list! (Which reminds me, if you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to be your friend. Also see my top reads of 2017, 2016, 2015 or 2013. Not sure what happened in 2014!)
And before the books a quick PSA: the links below are Amazon affiliate links (meaning I earn a small amount of what you spend at no extra cost to you). You may want to consider supporting Westminster Books instead of Amazon.
My (Top) Books Read in 2019 (with a handful of mini-reviews mixed in):
E.M. Bounds: Man of Prayer by Lyle Wesley Dorsett
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
The Lord and His Prayer by N.T. Wright
Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges
Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd. In this book, Kidd explores the complex and often contradictory religious beliefs of a fascinating figure who had massive international influence as a printer, scientist, diplomat, and founding father. Franklin, the self-proclaimed deist, praised virtue and doctrine-less Christianity, which makes me wonder if his friend George Whitefield, the famed Calvinist evangelist, ever explained the message of Titus to him—that sound doctrine leads to good works! It is not surprising that a man who pursued virtue failed to live up to his standards. We all sin. Franklin’s religion in some ways was an amalgamation of Enlightenment thought, deism, and biblical Christianity and points forward to the prevalent moralistic therapeutic deism in American churches today. I also found it interesting that Franklin played his religious audience by bolstering public arguments with Scripture, whether or not the Scripture in question taught what he argued. Overall, Kidd’s religious biography of Franklin is an engaging and worthwhile read, especially if you are interested in the timeframe in which Franklin lived.
Don’t Waste Your Sports by C.J. Mahaney. A helpful primer on what it means to follow Christ as an athlete.
*Studies In The Sermon On The Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
¡Latinoamérica despierta!: 95 tesis para la iglesia de hoy by Miguel Núñez
Man of the House: A Handbook for Building a Shelter That Will Last in a World That Is Falling Apart by C.R. Wiley. I wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s not that I disagreed with much, but Wiley often overstated his case. Comparing working for a corporation to a concentration camp? Where’s the room for nuance? What about all the good a corporation can do like employ thousands of people? Other than that squabble, this book is useful for men looking to build a strong household. It would have been nice if the author drew more from Scripture and also not be so dogmatic about things Scripture is silent on. Not a meh but neither is it a must read.
America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation by Grant Wacker. Wacker’s America’s Pastor is a fascinating book about a fascinating figure. I knew I didn’t agree with Graham on everything, and this book only gave me more reasons to question parts of his theology and approach to ministry. This isn’t to say I don’t admire all the good he did. There is no one doubting Graham’s massive influence, what Wacker’s book made me consider is Graham’s negative influence on the evangelical church. Would God approve of lowest-common-denominator theology and the diluting effect it had on American Christianity? What about being wishy-washy with theological differences of groups like Jews, Mormons, liberals, and Catholics? I realize it’s easy for a guy like me to throw stones. Graham was a pioneer and entrepreneur if the kingdom has ever seen one, meaning he faced situations that no one else has or likely will. He was a bridge-builder not a theologian, an entrepreneurial leader of a parachurch ministry to the world and not a denominational leader. I recommend the chapter in Iain Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided on Graham for a helpful critique. If you’re looking for a study on Graham’s influence in the US, this is your book. The chapter on politics is alone worth the price of admission.
Don’t Just Send a Resume: How to Find the Right Job in a Local Church by Benjamin Vrbicek. “Don’t Just Send a Resume” is a gift for those starting out in pastoral ministry. It will not only answer “how-to” questions about searching for a ministry position, but it will also help you do so with the right expectations and the right heart. I can see readers reaching for this valuable resource throughout the entire job-search process. I wish I read this book as a seminary student!
Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper. This was my second time reading Let the Nations Be Glad! (First was in seminary.) This is classic Piper and gave me a fresh reminder of biblical priorities for missions. So many missions conversations get off target and need to keep the truths of this book (and the NT) in perspective. What a mighty God we serve!
*Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story by Christopher Yuan. I found Holy Sexuality and the Gospel to be a breath of fresh air. Yuan skillfully and appropriately explains how the Bible story relates to sexuality and what it means for each of us. He also dismantles false views many claiming the name of Christ import from psychology or other non-biblical frameworks. The result is an accessible book that is theologically precise, tremendously encouraging, and practically helpful for a variety of people thinking through issues of sexuality for themselves or with a loved one. While I recommend this book to every Christian, I suspect singles, those struggling with same-sex attraction, or those with a gay loved one will value it the most. The eight-session study guide will provide fruitful fodder for small group conversations. If I were a youth pastor, I would seriously consider working through this book as a youth group since so many of today’s identity issues and sin struggles deal with sexuality.
The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges. A clear explanation of the fear of God. Straight forward, not flashy, very biblical.
Double Play by Ben Zobrist, Julianna Zobrist. I’m glad I didn’t give up on this book like I almost did early on. Zobrist is one of my all-time favorite MLB players and I enjoyed hearing about his faith, family, and baseball journey. Young athletes can learn a lot from his integrity and intentionality as he plays on a major platform as a believer. Bonus factoid: Zobrist’s double down the left field line in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series is my favorite all-time sporting moment. (UPDATE: Zobrist missed most of this year due to difficulties with his wife. The word ‘divorce’ came to light publicly but it appears they are still together and are working on their marriage. Pray for them!)
Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies. What a wonderful book! Quite the encouraging read for moms. Highly recommended!
Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World (Short Studies in Biblical Theology) by Thomas R. Schreiner. A great concise treatment of the Covenants. I will definitely revisit this in the future. I also recommend Kingdom through Covenant, but that’s a little longer.
Prayer: Communing with God in Everything by A.W. Tozer. This little book is a compilation of Tozer’s writing on prayer and excerpts from sermons. I wasn’t a huge fan of the format, but some of what is shared is really helpful. At the end of each excerpt, the compiler shares questions for reflecting and applying. I could see that being helpful in a small group setting. While this isn’t a bad book, there’s at least a dozen other books on prayer I would recommend before this.
The Preacher’s Portrait: Some New Testament Word Studies by John R.W. Stott
True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney
Assisted Suicide (Talking Points) by Vaughan Roberts
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss. A great, well-written biography on a fascinating player. A very personal look at the passions and character of a player under-appreciated in his time but honored in his legacy. I found it eerily strange there were many ‘predictors’ (or at least coincidental moments) of the untimely death of Clemente—his own strange remarks, dreams of others, even a song stuck in his mother’s head.
How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit by A.W. Tozer. Good, not great. If you’ve read Tozer, you know what you’ll get. The book is four condensed sermons. Part of my beef with the book is that the title only describes the last two sermons and not the first two, which dealt with who the Holy Spirit is and the promise of the Spirit.
Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David P. Murray. This was a reread. I appreciate Murray’s approach to take what is sometimes a complex subject and make it accessible for all believers. His story of discovery is a thread throughout the book that keeps the book interesting. Each chapter is a helpful summary of a Christocentric reading of various OT texts/themes. Highly recommended.
*Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age by Tony Reinke. Great book! Here are five of my takeaways.
The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris by Mark Kurlansky. This book is the convergence of several personal interests: history, Latin America, and baseball. I also have a brief history in the Dominican Republic as an intern for HOPE International (almost ten years ago now), but this book had sentimental value for me as I reflected on my experience there. The book is a baseball-focused biography of the small town of San Pedro de Macoris, “where all the shortstops come from.” It shares the winding journeys of several big leaguers and the travails of growing up poor, dealing with signing bonuses, corruption, fitting into a new culture in the US, and more. For two good songs dealing with (or at least referencing San Pedro de Macoris), check out Juan Luis Guerra’s La Llave de Mi Corazón and Guavaberry.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Heartbreaking story. But easy to see why it was such an influential book in the 19th century and how it helps turn the tide with slavery. This really should be read by all Americans.
The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott. A remarkable book! A blend of accessible yet historical, theological, and devotional material. No wonder this is a classic.
God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts. A great introduction to biblical theology that is also available for free in video form.
Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer by Eugene H. Peterson
1776 by David McCullough
*The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Earley
Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters by James K. Hoffmeier, Gordon J. Wenham (Contributor), Kenton Sparks, Charles Halton (Editor), Stanley N. Gundry (Editor). A helpful analysis of three prominent views on the historicity of Genesis 1-11. I knew I would agree with Hoffmeier and Wenham more than Sparks, and yet found their interactions illuminating and telling. I didn’t get all my questions answered but got a solid overview of what leading scholars believe about the early chapters of Genesis.
*Knowing the Holy Spirit: Ten Classic Sermons by Charles Spurgeon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Great book! Spurgeon has such a way with words. Reading his sermons is a worshipful experience! Read the foreword at ReasonableTheology.org.
Know the Creeds and Councils (KNOW Series) by Justin S. Holcomb. A helpful, introductory level book on creeds and councils.
*Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J. Williams.
The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It by Lawrence S. Ritter. What a neat audiobook! I felt like I was on the front porch spinning yarns with a bunch of old-timers, all of whom have been dead for generations. It was so interesting to hear how different things were in the early 1900s: player salaries, players buying their own uniforms, riding public transportation to games in their uniform because there were no locker rooms. If you’re a baseball history fan, this is a must listen. I say “listen” because the audiobook shares recorded conversations. You can hear these stories in the words and with the emotion of the men telling it, something totally lost in the print version.
*The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts by Dale Ralph Davis. Dale Ralph Davis a pleasure to read, and that’s not merely because I enjoy the subject matter. He can craft a clever sentence, share a great illustration that draws out the meaning of a text, and do so in a clear and not overly-academic way. His writing sings. He is a master at Old Testament narrative and this book shares some of his tools of the trade. Of course having a master explain his tools and using them yourself is another thing entirely, but I am now more equipped in the important genre of narrative and look forward to digging into the text, growing more myself, and sharing these tools with others. I don’t agree 100% with his take on preaching Christ from the OT, but understand where he’s coming from. It’s hard for me to not want to talk as much about Christ as possible! But as Davis says, we don’t want to shoehorn him into a Scripture that doesn’t naturally speak of Him.
A Theology of Biblical Counseling: A: Audio Lectures: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry by Heath Lambert. A clear, helpful, and profoundly encouraging look at core Christian doctrines from a biblical counseling perspective.
Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig. A great book about possibly the greatest baseball player of all-time and remarkable man. Tragic seeing his physical body waste away, but that also is what makes his life so intriguing.
Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David G. Peterson. A great book tracing biblical revelation about what worship is and how its forms change over the sweep of Scripture. Would be excellent for all pastors and worship leaders to read. Peterson didn’t focus on the practical in this work, but does leave many rich practical nuggets along the way. Highly recommended.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. The Gospel Comes with a House Key challenged and encouraged me greatly. It is more biographical than propositional, which is great since Butterfield is a great storyteller with a story to tell. I’m going to have to spend time soul searching for how God might want us to open our home and lives more to our neighbors and those in need. I listened to the audiobook read by the author, which is always a much more personal and intimate look at their story even if it is the same exact words another narrator would’ve read. This review is brought to you by the Nextdoor app. (Just kidding.)
*Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin. A truly exceptional book that details the story of how the BTTF trilogy was made—with stunning visual detail. (I’m an unashamed BTTF fan if you didn’t know.) I had no idea the first movie had so much drama (they had their budget cut, had to change major parts of script, and originally had Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly!). I loved all of the anecdotes from shooting and will never watch the movies the same. The book comes with extras like removable photos and novelty items from the movie. If you are a big BTTF geek like me, this is a must have. It’s your density.
Stalin: The Kremlin Mountaineer (Icons) by Paul Johnson
*The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell. Such a helpful book. If you know Sowell, you won’t be surprised in hearing that. This book gets to foundational issues around social justice conversations and shows the flawed logic many SJWs use. Facts don’t care about your feelings, but unfortunately so many politicians today do not care about facts. Like other Sowell books, this one is a bit repetitive. But the clarity he brings to such an important issue is so needed today. If you care about (social) justice, this should be required reading.
Getting Shredded Is Simple: How to Transform Your Body Quickly with Common Sense by Paul C. Maxwell. I’ll never be shredded. I’ll never have the time it takes to get shredded, but I am slowly trying to apply a few eating principles to my life and work smarter, not harder. This book is clear, short, and really helpful for giving you one plan for shedding pounds and bulking up. It sounded too hard and miserable for me, but Maxwell’s approach is logical and will work for you if you apply the principles. I did glean several healthy eating tips I will use daily.
Dominican Republic – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs Culture. This is a helpful overview of the Dominican life and I look forward to others in the series (thank you Hoopla app!).
Is God Green? by Lionel Windsor. A helpful little book sharing a biblical theology of the environment. Windsor doesn’t get into any policy or specific suggestions on climate change but does challenge and encourage readers to care for the environment while hoping in Christ for the New Heavens and New Earth.
Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl.
Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science (A Guide for Sinners, Quitters, and Procrastinators) by Drew Dyck. I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. A very helpful book on a very important topic.
*Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin. Superb. Now one of my top recommended apologetics books. It’s up there with Keller’s two books yet an easier read. I hope McLaughlin writes for years to come.
“Free Grace” Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel by Wayne Grudem. Wayne Grudem DESTROYS “free grace” theology and mows down straw men like a monster truck at a Scarecrow festival. In all seriousness, this is a helpful addition to what many know as the Lordship Salvation debate (although Grudem rightfully shys away from using that term). Grudem is biblical, clear, and precise in arguing against theology of Zane Hodges and the like. While others have written on the topic (John MacArthur has a couple of good books), it would be hard to find a better go-to book for refuting the errors of “Free Grace” theology.
Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn. A refreshing and convicting guide to thinking through how to manage what God has entrusted to us. It wasn’t new material that challenged me but application of biblical material that is so counter-cultural and counter the way my flesh operates. It drove me to my knees in prayer for God to help me use what He has given me for His glory. A great primer for Christians on financial stewardship.
*Walking in the Power of the Holy Spirit: Ten Classic Sermons by Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
*Humble Calvinism by J.A. Medders. A well-written and Christ-exalting plea to not be a theologically-grounded jerk. I needed to hear this book’s message and I need the Lord’s help to change me in a couple of areas. (PS: Medders can write–he should host a podcast on writing or something!)
Cuba – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture (Culture Smart!) by Russell Madicks.
God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelmed a Life Built on Lies (Spanish Edition) by Costi W. Hinn. Highly recommended!
Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham.
How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish.
Confessions by Augustine of Hippo.
A Transforming Vision: The Lord’s Prayer as a Lens for Life by William Edgar. There are a lot of great books on the Lord’s prayer out there. This volume looks at the prayer as a lens for life, and applies the prayer to many situations we don’t normally think of when we think of this prayer. Edgar at times dives into apologetics to prove his points. This book is a useful addition to the larger collection on the Lord’s prayer.
*Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission as Strangers in our Own Land by Elliot Clark. My soul needed this book. If you’ve been discouraged in you faith by our godless culture, this book will lift your spirits.
George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century by Arnold A. Dallimore.
All the Prayers of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Leslie Newbigin. Tim Keller always cites Newbigin and Trevin Wax said this was a good book for those new to Newbigin. All that to say, even though I’m not done yet with it, it’s been very thought provoking.
Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp
The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments by Thomas R. Schreiner. I haven’t finished this whole book yet, but I’ve really loved it so far. If you want a hefty volume that will deepen your love for the Scriptures and lead you to worship, here’s a great pick.