The end of the year is closing, and many people are reflecting on the past and preparing for the future. We’re not sure how you appraise your year, but we view life through the books that have impacted us. We don’t read just for the sake of “reading.” We read because we want to be changed.
We want to be better, more in love with God, more aware of reality, and more equipped to think wisely about life. We think through good books. If you are similar in this way, you might enjoy some recommendations for the next year. Below are five favorite books from each of us that we have read (or are still reading) in 2016.
I picked up this book because I never read it in middle school. I always wanted to read it because I have a small obsession with politics. The book is short, my copy is only 141 pages, and I found it captivating. I could have read it one sitting if time permitted. The book is a parable and never once mentions politics. Even if you are sick and tired of the 2016 election, you will still find this book enjoyable. Parts of it are creepy with relevance, and it is nothing less than sobering. I recommend reading it in order to make sure you have eyes to see when people are abusing power. You will realize that it isn’t just the animals on the farm who are saying: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
This is the shortest book on the list, 81 pages, but it is the most challenging. I guarantee that you won’t be able to mine all its depths with just one read. But don’t let that scare you. You should read it and wrestle with it before you realize that “you don’t have a chest” and are inhuman. This book is not necessarily an argument for the existence of God. It is an argument that Darwinism is essentially inhuman and incongruent with virtue.
This book will help you think critically about truth, virtue, and morality. It will increase your ability to think intellectually about the most significant issues in life. To my surprise, I also found this book to be an interesting companion to Animal Farm because it discusses how the removal of objective virtue ensures an abuse of power and unhinged dominance.
Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez
There is a small list of people who influence me on a regular basis. Francis Schaeffer is one of them. His writings and ministry shape the way I think. I can’t get his books He is there and He is Not Silent or The God Who Is There out of my mind. It is a holy haunting in my head.
This biography by Colin Duriez is able to zoom into historical details to satisfy my inner nerd and also tell the broad story of the Schaeffer’s ministry. Pick up this book if you want to know more about the hospitality of the Schaeffer’s along with their deep convictions that have impacted innumerable people.
Standing Strong: How to Resist the Enemy of Your Soul by John MacArthur
This is a book about how to fight the devil. John MacArthur takes you through the spiritual armor of God in a way that is devotional, practical, and easy to understand. He argues that faith and repentance are the ways to combat demonic activity. If you pick up this book, I’m confident it will help you grow in your spiritual walk with Christ.
Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children by John A. Younts
A friend at church recommended this book to me back in the summer. I ordered it then, but didn’t start reading it until this month. Jenny and I have reading a few pages each night before bed in order to help us with a couple of counseling cases involving children. This book is simple, practical, and full of the gospel.
It hits right at home because it addresses the most basic conversations we have on a hour-by-hour basis. Do you find it difficult to talk about God with your kids? Does it feel unnatural to talk about the Bible each day? This book will help oil the spiritual hinges of your house and enable you to have a long-term impact on your family.
A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by John Frame
Philosophy and theology impact almost everything in our culture. Pop songs and Bible tracts stand on the shoulders of philosophers and theologians. That’s why John Frame’s A History was so enlightening for me earlier this summer. Frame is a seasoned teacher, and his simplicity and depth attest to it. He gives helpful, clear, and deep overviews of the major players and ideas in philosophy and theology. But what benefitted me the most was Frame’s ability to set each thinker in context, show how their ideas affect us today, and to biblically evaluate their ideas. This isn’t a book to read from cover to cover, but is a helpful resource for any Christian to have on their shelf. I’d particularly recommend it to any student getting ready to enter into college.
Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies
I’m cheating here. I read this book at the very end of last year. However, it’s ideas shaped me in 2016, and so it deserves to be recommended here.
I love productivity books and tools. I haven’t read deeply in the literature, but I have read enough to know that productivity books are a dime a dozen. Most of us don’t have time to wade through all the techniques, life hacks, and shortcuts most productivity gurus offer. But Challies’ book is different because it offers a simple, short, practical approach to productivity that busy mom’s, overwhelmed students, and frazzled professionals can apply to their life. This book shines because it’s both doable and devotional. It’s my first recommendation for anyone wanting to grow in productivity.
America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation by Grant Wacker
I read (actually listened) to this book for two reasons.
First, I’ve always been drawn to Billy Graham. I have always admired Graham’s personal integrity, humility, character, and commitment to proclaiming Christ to those who are lost. Reading this book gave me a closer look at the man, blemishes and all, and left me challenged and inspired.
Second, I just began pastoring a congregation made up of many elderly people whose understanding of what it means to be a Christian in America was shaped by the life and ministry of Billy Graham. As I was reading this book and listening to Wacker’s observations of how Graham shaped the nation’s understanding of Christianity, I felt like I was studying my people. Wacker helped me grapple with, understand, and appreciate what was American Christianity in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s through the filter of Graham’s ministry.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book took my breathe away on several occasions. Anthony Doerr’s metaphors bring a sense of awe at even the most common experiences of life. Doerr’s sentences are like sweet serenades that you never want to end. This book, set in World War II France and Germany, takes the people and places we call common and fills them with meaning. The story is joyful yet tinged with sorrow, dark and yet filled with shafts of light.
Disclaimer, this book has brief language and a few disturbing scenes and descriptions as a result of its setting in World War II.
Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Butterfield
Butterfield’s follow-up book to Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert continues to speak to the toughest issues about sexual identity with tenderness and transparency. The first three chapters on conversion, identity, and repentance are worth the price of the book. Her final chapter on community and hospitality embody the type of warmth that the New Testament pictures when it calls the church the household of God (Eph. 2:19). Read this book if you want to be equipped to speak into the complexities of our day with both biblical fidelity and warm compassion for the lost around you.
Sean and Spencer are the authors of Letters to a Romantic: Biblical Guidance on Dating and Letters to a Romantic: Biblical Guidance on Engagement (P&R, 2017)