My goal going into this year was to read 52 books. So far, I’m halfway to that goal – a bit ahead of pace. But I already know I won’t be doing this again next year. Every so often I find myself pushing forward too quickly rather than slowly absorbing what I’m learning.
Anyhow, I thought I’d go ahead and share a brief snippet about the 26 books I have read so far in 2018. For space reasons, I will only include the first thirteen of them in this post, and then wrap it up in a couple weeks. As you’ll see, I tend to read a lot of theological books, however, there is a little variety sprinkled in.
Some of these books have been more impactful than others, and a few of them I highly recommend (with a couple I wouldn’t necessarily recommend). With that said, here’s my first batch of books for 2018 (in the order that I’ve read them):
21 Seconds to Change Your World by Dr. Mark Rutland
Excellent book that discusses the connection between the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 and the various ways each can be utilized in one’s daily prayer life. I have highly recommended this book several times to my church and many of our people have taken it to heart.
“It’s funny that prayer is one of the most difficult and simplest things to do every single day. Sometimes, though it might be all we have, it’s hard to find the right words. We can all attest to this. Who hasn’t felt the blush of guilt from having to admit that you don’t pray enough or that you should pray more? But always remember one thing when it comes to prayer— it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” – Mark Rutland
Raven by Tim Reiterman
An in-depth look into the personality of Jim Jones and his complex cult which ended in such horrible tragedy. Written by journalist Tim Reiterman, who was in Jonestown with Congressman Leo Ryan (and others) during Ryan’s fateful visit. Reiterman was shot but survived. Having bought the e-version of this book, I was not prepared for the sheer length and detail (688 pages), but it is a fascinating read.
The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider
I won’t take up too much space here since I’ve already shared my thoughts on this book here and here. But this is probably the most important book I’ve read in the last couple years (at least). I wish every American church leader would read Patient Ferment.
Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard
Dallas Willard has probably been my favorite author during my 30’s. Released after his death, Life Without Lack is a written adaptation of some lectures Willard gave on Psalm 23 back in the 1990’s. As such, it reads differently than some of his other books. While I certainly enjoyed Life Without Lack, it is not quite as cohesive as many of his other written works. For someone new to Dallas Willard, I would recommend A Divine Conspiracy or Renovation of the Heart. But content-wise it is every bit as rich as a vintage Willard book.
St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton
I love Chesterton’s writing style, but I would only recommend this one if you already have an introductory knowledge of Francis’s life (which I honestly didn’t).
Learning to Pray by Wayne Muller
Muller essentially outlines the Lord’s Prayer and how to use it in daily prayer along with contemplation and reflection.
“Prayer is a doorway into heaven on earth. It can open and clear our eyes and ears, quicken our heart, and deepen our mindfulness, so that we may more easily discern where heaven lives in this moment, in this place.” – Wayne Muller
Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
As much as I respect Merton, I cannot give this book an unqualified recommendation, only because of his willingness to occasionally quote from sources outside of Christian orthodoxy. From my perspective, this is unfortunate, because the wisdom Merton has to offer can be so helpful to modern evangelicals today, but this book, as written, will be inaccessible to many.
Columbine by Dave Cullen
An enlightening and sometimes quite graphic look at the Columbine killers. I was a junior in high school when this massacre took place and it deeply affected me. This book is a sobering read, especially in light of the high-profile school shootings that have taken place this year.
Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd
For whatever reason, there are certain theological voices that I tend to gravitate toward every now and again. For a span of 5-6 years it was Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. And here lately it’s been Brian Zahnd. Boyd & Zahnd have been like my theological big brothers over the years, helping me through some rocky seasons of doubt and de-/reconstruction. I’ve now had the pleasure of attending his Prayer School in St. Joseph, Missouri twice, and it has been a game-changer for my prayer life. Zahnd’s latest book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, is partly a response to Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, given in the mid-1700’s. Zahnd’s focus is on how we understand the idea that God is love, in light of the pictures of God many people have formed based on certain views of the atonement, hell, the book of Revelation, and violent Old Testament texts. How do we understand the love of God and how can we make sense of these other issues? I highly recommend this book.
In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
I used this one as more of a daily devotional. It’s a fairly light read that is more of an introduction to prayer.
Life With God by Richard Foster
Scripture can be utilized, studied, and analyzed in all sorts of ways. But our primary goal in coming to Scripture is to encounter God. I enjoyed this one so much, I am reading it again right now at a slower pace. I plan on using it as a resource to develop a workshop for my church on encountering God in Scripture.
Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal by Gordon T. Smith
Smith makes the case for blending the evangelical (commitment to preaching the Bible), the sacramental (encountering God through the tangible), and the pentecostal (participating in the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit through the charismatic gifts). I am still not quite sure what to make of this one, and I almost feel like I need to read it again. I was a little disappointed that his description of the pentecostal movement seemed to be based on only the worst elements. With that said, it was a good introduction into the way these three movements operate and how they could potentially complement one another.
Sacred Breath by J. David Muyskens
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Psalm 119:45
I thoroughly enjoyed using this 40-day guide in prayer earlier this year. While “meditation” is a scary word for some, it is a thoroughly biblical concept. The word is used over and over again in Scripture. Unlike Eastern or New Age meditation, biblical meditation is not about emptying our minds, but filling our minds with God’s truth and staying aware of his presence. I found Sacred Breath to be quite helpful as a guide in this practice. But some of the terms and language might be a little odd for some.
In my next post, I’ll be including:
The Case for the Psalms by N.T. Wright
The Day the Revolution Began by N.T. Wright
Francis of Assisi by Augustine Thompson
Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben
The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford
The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bergeault
Windows Into the Bible by Marc Turnage
Invitation to Solitude & Silence by Ruth Haley Barton
New England Insight Guides
Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen
James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes by James Acaster
Reading Revelation Responsibly by Michael J. Gorman
Every Scene by Heart by Peri Zahnd
What I’m reading right now:
100 Days in the Secret Place by Gene Edwards
Her Gates Will Never Be Shut by Brad Jersak
Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad