I am a big reader. Reading is a valuable part of my daily desire to grow in knowledge and grow in grace. You’ve probably seen me post a book review here and there elsewhere on Medium. I have the privilege of reading a lot, and I recently outlined some of my principles for doing so in another pieceI’ve written.
I’ve been asked occasionally for book suggestions, so I wanted to take an opportunity to outline twelve of my favorites from 2015 to commend to you. These would all make excellent additions to your library for 2016. This list will contain a good mix of books by genre, size, and difficulty. I can personally vouch for each one as having read them, so I would encourage you to consider picking some of these great resources up for the new year if a couple (or a few, or all!) spark your interest.
BOOK OF THE YEAR
Newton on the Christian Life: To Live is Christ — Tony Reinke
Reinke’s volume on Newton is perhaps the crown jewel of Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life gold mine so far. Having a nominal understanding of John Newton prior to reading, I walked away from finishing this book desiring to consume everything Newton has written. Months later, I’m walking through Newton’s letters nightly. This book illustrates the rich ministry of John Newton, and Reinke does a masterful job. I have found myself returning to this book multiple times in my attempts to better understand and communicate the all-sufficiency of Christ, the holiness of God, the way we grow in sanctification, and many other core beliefs and practices in the Christian faith. Reinke’s writing style is so easy to read, that Newton on the Christian Life is very difficult to put down. Raymond C. Ortlund, in his endorsement of the book, says this could perhaps be one of the most important books outside of the Bible that many Christians will read. I stand behind that bold of a statement. For a more detailed review of the book, click here.
The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts — Joe Rigney
Many of us do not struggle to understand that God has gifted His people with gifts. What we do struggle to understand, however, is how to enjoythese great gifts He has bestowed on us. And further, how do we balance gift enjoyment with enjoying God Himself? The Things of Earth is a wonderful book that addresses this issue very specifically and very in-depth. It is a necessary book addressing such a weighty, rich, and oftentimes confusing doctrine.
The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision — Kevin J. Vanhoozer & Owen Strachan
The study of theology in the pastorate is sometimes cast aside for the sake of “doing ministry,” or to avoid “seminary-level snobbery.” There is a temptation to minimize the importance of theology for the sake of other things demanding our attention. In this important volume, Vanhoozer and Strachan team up to demonstrate the crucial aspect theology should play in our role as public pastors. A great resource especially for pastors and church leaders.
Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion — Os Guinness
This was a great year for books on apologetics, and this was a highlight. The noted apologist Os Guinness remarks in introduction that he waited over forty years to write this book, as he vowed to actually live out the life of apologetics before writing on how to do it. I respect that, and you can tell these are time-tested words and principles Guinness can vouch for. Fool’s Talk is not a mere “____ Tips for Better Apologetics” manual, but rather a conversation about the importance of persuasion and a wealth of wisdom in how we engage with unbelievers and skeptics. A really important read for any Christian.
Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service — John Bolt
This is the second entry from Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Lifeseries, which I feel validates how good the series in whole has been. Bolt’s contribution on Bavinck was extremely helpful in bringing the Dutch Reformed giant to the forefront for many people. Bavinck’s seminalReformed Dogmatics have only been translated in English for less than a decade, but already his influence is growing profound. Bolt helps us learn more about the man himself, his primary passions in theology, and notable life events. A great intro to the life and work of Herman Bavinck.
Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism — Tim Keller
Reading a book on preaching by Tim Keller is like reading Shakespeare’s book on theater. You know you’re going to get a smattering of insights. Such a book proves invaluable to those seeking to become more efficient, more clear, and more compassionate in and out of the pulpit. Keller’s concern is not so much “effective communication skills” as it is “effective declaration of the gospel,” so the pastoral insight is rich.
Experiencing the Trinity — Joe Thorn
Thorn has written a short, accessible, and heartfelt devotional in Experiencing the Trinity, a collection of fifty of Thorn’s personal lessons-learned and meditations over some of the hardest years of his life.Experiencing the Trinity gives its readers a Morning And Evening-like shot of gospel encouragement they desperately need daily. This is an excellent, short, rich devotional to walk through for 2016.
Their Rock is Not Like Our Rock: A Theology of Religions — Daniel Strange
There are few books that take the time to patiently outline, from an apologetic standpoint, the various religions of the world and proper perspectives for them with this intensity. Strange’s work in Their Rock is a fantastic, comprehensive binoculars approach to seeing these distant belief systems more up close. He also introduces the reader to much of the work of Hendrik Kraemer and J.H. Bavinck, a helpful intro to their work.
Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do — Paul Tripp
Paul Tripp has built an entire ministry on giving us all extremely wise counsel through his books, and Awe continues to deliver. Tripp’s book helps us get down to the nuts and bolts of how our heart operate, why and how we worship, and how to grow in our awe of God. Paul is a trusted voice on this kind of topic, and this treatise on awe is both refreshing and convicting.
Reformation Study Bible (ESV, 2015 edition) — Reformation Trust
The update to Reformation Trust’s study Bible are absolutely superb. Anyone looking for a theologically rich study Bible with lots of great features should look no further. Full-color maps, tables, book introductions, and over 20,000 study notes. There are plenty of appendices on key doctrines, with many of the Reformed tradition’s confessions and catechisms included as well. Dr. Sproul and his team of contributors have put together a great (and beautiful!) packaging of an ESV study Bible.
The Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit Into God’s Plan for the World— Jared C. Wilson
The best part about reading books by Wilson is that you don’t even have to know much about the book to know that it’s going to be a beneficial, encouraging, and heart-stirring read. Wilson has a way of balancing rich theology with the raw heart of a pastor that invokes the glory of God every single time. This book is centered on the massive redemptive plan of God and how all the minute details in-between fit in. A great book that has much to teach us on the past, present, and future of the Christian life.
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? — Kevin DeYoung
There has been a lot of discussion and writing on the topic of sexuality this year, for obvious reasons. I found DeYoung’s book on the biblical stance on homosexuality to be the most informative and practical of all the books. DeYoung spends half the book getting heavily into biblical exegesis, and the other half addressing the common questions from the revisionist side of the argument. Kudos to Kevin’s work; it is a clear and succinct defense of the biblical stance on sexuality and marriage.
Although these are what I’d call my “top 12,” there are plenty of books I left off of this list that certainly deserve much praise and recognition. For a more detailed look into some of the highlights from 2015, I would encourage you to check out Tony Reinke’s awesome list over at Desiring God.