The 3rd annual “Top 12” list is here. Christmas is coming up, and maybe you’ve committed to being a better reader this next year. Here are the 12 best books I read this year, published in 2017, that can fill your 2018 reading list (Each book has an Amazon link). This list will contain a good mix of books by genre, size, and difficulty, though all of them fall under the umbrella of non-fiction Christian. 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
The Christian Standard Bible
Holman Bible Publishers
For what my two cents are worth, the CSB was perhaps the most significant highlight of Christian publishing in all of 2017. For years, many Christians, whether pastor or Bible study leader or layperson, have been longing for a Bible translation that captures fidelity and accuracy while preserving readability. Some feel that many of the translations on the market tip too far one of the two ways. The HCSB attempted to solve this problem, and while it was a step in the right direction, it didn’t receive quite the widespread use and acclaim hoped for. Transitioning the HCSB into the CSB was no easy, quick process, but it was a necessary one, and already it is growing to become a favorite among many Bible readers. Perfectly straddling a formal and dynamic reading of the text, the CSB has become my go-to suggestion as a Student Pastor for my students and their parents. Available in a variety of kinds of study Bibles and designs, you can read more about the CSB with my review here.
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
Close to the top of the list this year is Tony Reinke yet again (my Book of the Year in 2015) with a new book on the smartphone. An ever-increasing topic of discussion in Christian publishing, Tony Reinke takes on the topic of technology from a different angle than most, grounding his studies more in theology and anthropology and less in pragmatism and solutionism. Thoroughly researched at both biblical and social levels and a chiastic structure ordering the book’s contents make this one hard to put down. See full review here.
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place
Another worthy mention on the topic of technology from 2017 is Crouch’s Tech-Wise Family, a short, Barna-infused tome calling families to a new vision for technology in the home, and ways forward against the growing tide. One thing I particularly love about Crouch’s work is how honest he is about his own family’s use of the practices he puts forth, offering “Reality Checks” at the close of each chapter. The same exact number of pages as Reinke’s 12 Ways, but felt a little shorter to read, likely because of the many pages of graphs and illustrations provided by Barna’s research. Extremely helpful for the family looking for direction. See full review here.
How Does Sanctification Work?
Short, packed books are uniquely special to me. For someone to be able to explain theology with brevity is no easy task, and I feel such books deserve high praise, especially when considering how they can help so many in the Church think through key issues (see a recent 2016 favorite by Naselli and Crowley). Powlison is one of my favorite Christian living writers. His writing is never fluff, no chapter is wasted. He communicates with a clarity few can replicate. This particular book on the ins and outs of the doctrine of sanctification is one of his best. See full review here.
Sanctification (New Studies in Dogmatics)
Powlison’s work on sanctification is not the only significant one of the year. For a more academic, in-depth look at the doctrine of sanctification, one will find Allen’s volume to be a major help. Allen’s volume in Zondervan’s New Studies in Dogmatics series bolsters the whole lineup. Rooted in patristic and Reformed scholarship, I found this book to be extremely informative and not too heady for the general reader (don’t be afraid of the big words!).
New City Catechism Devotional: God’s Truth for Our Hearts and Minds
edited by Collin Hansen & Timothy Keller
Besides the CSB translation, the New City Catechism has arguably been the loudest mover and shaker in Christian publishing this year. That’s because the New City Catechism is a project, edited by Collin Hansen and Tim Keller, that is working to transform the way families study theology together. Accompanying the 52 questions and answers that make up the catechism are Scripture reflections, and devotional pieces from historical and contemporary pastors and theologians. Excellent work. See full review here.
Faith. Hope. Love.: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace
Keeping in line with Crossway’s catechism books is a new work from Mark Jones. This is (sadly, and somehow) the first book of Jones’s that I’ve been able to read, but there’s no doubt how important his work has been to many. Faith. Hope. Love. is a brilliant discussion on “the divine sisters,” as Jones writes his own catechism and succinctly explicates these three components of Christian faith. Mark Jones does a great job of incorporating a whole host of Reformed thought to build his points. A very helpful contemporary catechism.
Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World
This is not a typical book on spiritual disciplines. No “six steps to better Bible reading” will be found here. But Cosper, with his ear low to the ground within the world, is a voice we need to call us back to stand by the ancient roads and look, and walk in the way God has called us to. Speaking on our Christian disenchantment with the mystery and majesty of God, Cosper’s book is simply refining for the one who heeds its wisdom. See full review here.
The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together
Jared C. Wilson
Jared always seems to end up on my list year after year. Some might believe it’s just because of the name, or the hype. But I truly believe his books are consistently exceeding already-high expectations, and The Imperfect Disciple is no different. Broad in its scope but powerful in its message, Wilson’s writing quality hasn’t lost a drop. See full review here.
The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance
Senator Ben Sasse is one of the more popular voices in the political sphere among evangelicals. His denouncement of Trumpism and the moral majority, and laying claim of Augustine and John Calvin caught our attention, even earning him a spot on the stage at The Gospel Coalition’s national conference. While not explicitly a Christian book, Sasse’s book on adulthood is a refreshing vision for what the home and children growing in it can be, primarily written with parents in mind. Its conclusions will help many Christian and non-Christian parents alike. Thank goodness for voices like Sasse in the public square.
Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death
It is one thing to read a theological book on suffering and starting death down the barrel, and quite another thing to hear it in the voice and words of a man who is actually going through such motions. Ramsey’s memoir on encountering death after an episode of heart failure is beautifully written, stirring, and forces the reader to grapple with the living God. Memoirs can often bring out theological lessons that other non-fictions books can’t. A great read. See full review here.
Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc.
Books on gospel-centered pastoral ministry are slowly becoming a dime a dozen these days, but that does not take away from their unique voice or their message. See Jethani’s Immeasurable, a short but loaded call to doing ministry in a way that cannot be quantified or calculated but that is Spirit-dependent, complex, and building a better scoreboard. Jethani addresses over 24 topics, whether broad in nature like “Rest” or “Ambition” or more narrow like “Books” or “Justice.” It is sure to help pastors especially. See full review here.
2016 (Winner: You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith)
2015 (Winner: Newton on the Christian Life, Tony Reinke)