The Top Ten Books I’ve Read This Year

Recently I told you I read a lot of books. Today I want to tell you which ones I liked the best. Here, in no particular order, are the top ten books I read this year.

Animal Farm

This was my last “five star” read for the year. The whole book is a fairly transparent parable about revolutions and the kind of governments that pop up in their place. I wish that this was required reading for every middle school student in the nation, as it addresses many ideas that are popular right now, both on the right and left. In the end it’s a story with more prophetic significance than when it was first written.

Murder on the Orient Express

So, you’ll have to bear with me on this list; a lot of these books are old. Case in point: Somehow I managed to spend the first forty years of my life avoiding this book. But you guys! This book is so good. Obviously this book has been made into movies and TV shows and plays, but I doubt many of them hold a candle to this book. Obviously there is a murder on the train, but the train happens to have Hercule Poirot on board, along with a train full of distinct international characters. The characterization in this book is incredibly strong and the twist at the end sets this book apart from most of the mystery novels or TV shows you consume. If you’re a fan of mysteries and haven’t heard the plot, you need to check this book out.

George Whitfield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century

If you, like me, have heard a lot about George Whitefield but haven’t read about his life, let me encourage you to start here. This book tells the story of George Whitefield, the 18th Century evangelist that along with John and Charles Wesley helped spark the First Great Awakening. I could tell you a lot of stories that this book told me from George’s life, but the highest compliment I can pay to this book is that while you read it, it feels like you’ve spent time with the great evangelist. I walked away from this book stirred to share the Gospel with my generation like Whitefield did for his. You won’t regret spending time on this one.

The Attributes of God

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” -A. W. Tozer.

This quote has captured my imagination for the last twenty years. Tozer undoubtedly had read Pink’s book and patterned his book, “The Knowledge of the Holy” after Pink’s book. This book methodically works through various attributes of God found in Scripture. If you’ve never read a book like this, you don’t need another reason to read this book. Just do it! If you’ve read others like this, I would tell you Pink is old enough to bring the thoughts of God from another age to bare on our current situation. It’s refreshing to not hear someone building their theology about God in favor of or against the latest ideologies, but based on their understanding of God from the Bible. The last two chapters on “The Wrath of God” and “The Contemplation of God” are worth the price of admission.

Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People

It’s probably not a secret that I try to read a bunch of books about evangelism every year. This book I picked up because it was short and by an author that I respect. This book was super short but packed a big punch. In it you will find five transformative practices that Frost encourages you to perform every week. The result of these practices on a person or a group of people will be a life that surprises the world with the attractive love of Jesus. I would highly recommend this book if you struggle with evangelism.

Church Transfusion: Changing Your Church Organically from the Inside Out

So, I’ve read probably a majority of Neil Cole’s books. I read at least two of them this year alone. His books have always had an impact on me. But this book was different. Even though Neil is the first one to tell you that all of his books can be applied to a traditional church setting, they are mainly picked up by the house church / missional church crowd. This book was specifically written to help legacy churches embrace organic church principles. There are several stories told throughout the book of legacy churches who have embraced organic principles to a greater or lesser extent. What I loved about this book is that seeing Neil and Phil apply these principles in a legacy church helped clarify for me where I’ve embraced less than organic principles in my own house church. I would recommend you pick up a copy whether you find yourself in a legacy church or a house church setting.

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives

I read this book for me, but the further I got into it, the more I realized this book is needed by most people. The author looks at the problem of the West’s need for constant motion and prescribes margin as the cure for peoples’ hectic lives. He then begins to offer practical advice on how to restore emotional, physical, financial, and time reserves and this is where this book shines.

Evangelism As Exiles: Life on Mission As Strangers in Our Own Land

If you’re a long time reader, you know that I try and read a lot about the topic just to keep me constantly thinking about how to share my faith better. This year was no exception. This was the standout book on that topic this year. The author, Elliot Clark, is a former missionary to a country where Christianity is illegal. His book makes the assumption that Christianity is beginning to lose it’s protected status here in the West and aims to instruct its readers in evangelism using examples from his missionary experience, the early church, and even the experience of African Americans during American slavery. This is such a unique and valid approach to evangelism that speaks to our current moment that I believe this is a must read for the entire church. This is my top evangelism book of the year and definitely in the top three books of the year. Get this book!

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

I loved this book. I’ll probably read it again this next year. It begins with a simple premise: Prayer is easy, we make it hard. He compares prayer to a meal with a close friend, something that should be easy. However, we spend so much time trying to get it right that we never set down and enjoy the meal. He then takes us on a journey of losing more of ourselves and becoming more childlike in order to grow in that relationship. It’s such a simple premise, but it’s a path that very few of us travel, which is what makes it so great. If you want to grow in your prayer life, whether you’ve spent your life in that pursuit or your brand new to prayer, this book will be helpful to you.

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself

Last but not least is “When Helping Hurts.” This is now a modern classic about alleviating poverty, written by someone who has worked with the poor around the world. The principles are fairly universal and I’ve was encouraged in how to use them both here locally and in our work in Africa. The authors are not against giving, but lay forth principles for giving that help the needy become more self-sufficient and help you not to be over-burdended in helping. If you find yourself working with the poor in any capacity, I would highly recommend picking up this book.

Please Note: Each of the links listed here is an Amazon Affiliate link.

I’ve Been Reading

It’s that time of year to join the chorus of people telling you what books I’ve been been reading this year and what you should be reading!

I set an ambitious goal for reading this year (for a father of six who works full time and serves a house church network on the side). My goal was to read 100 books this year and to be honest I’m not quite there yet. I’m 98% done (I’ll let you do the math on this one) and the last 2% is within striking distance. How awful would it be to get this close and not finish? So I’m continuing to work on it even though I’m writing about it.

So, with no further ado, here’s this year’s reading list:

January

Straightforward Thoughts For Young Men by J.C. Ryle / Utopia by Thomas More / Trump and the Future of America by Jeremiah Johnson / Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk / When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett / Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne / The Shy Child by Ward K. Swallow / Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp / Small Town Mission by Aaron Morrow / The Common Rule by Justin W Earley

February

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung / Them by Ben Sasse / Wildfire by Ed Waken / George Washington’s Farewell Adress by (who else?) George Washington / Sent Together by Brad A. Watson / And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer / The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scogal

March

Ten Commandments by David Washburn / A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller / Get Weird by C.J. Casciotta / A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards / The Confessions of St. Patrick by St. Patrick / How to Remember Names and Faces by Dale Carnegie / The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch / It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried / Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton / Cut and Run by Ben Acker

April

Little Words by Jeff Clifton / The Community of God by Douglas S. Bursch / The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi / Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Barton / The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

May

How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul E. Little / How to Talk To Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere by Chris Widener / Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie / A Technique for Producing Ideas by James W. Young / Evangelism As Missions by Elliot Clark / The Pioneers by David McCullough / Don’t Be Weird by Ellain Ursuy / Birthing the Miraculous by Heidi Baker

June

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday / Relativity by Albert Einstein / Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne / George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation by George Washington / Self-Publishing for the First-Time Author by M.K. Williams / Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt / The Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola

July

Anointed to Heal by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark / One Thing by Neil Cole / The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi / Why Authors Fail by Derek Doepker / Write Short Kindle Books by Nathan Meunier / Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins / Independent Publishing for Christian Authors by Ed Cyzewski / A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson / Common Sense by Thomas Paine

August

Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger / The End of Power by Moises Naim / The Last Emperox by John Scalzi / Margin by Richard Swenson / Church Transfusion by Neil Cole and Phil Helfer / Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi / The Art of War by Sun Tzu

September

Raising Worry Free Girls by Sissy Goff / Surprise the World by Michael Frost / Leap First by Seth Godin / St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton / The Indigenous Church and the Indigenous Church and the Missionary by Melvin Hodges / Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi / Contagious by Jonah Berger / Real Life Organizing by Cassandra Aarssen / The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller / Keeping the Fire by Rolland Baker / The Attibutes of God by A.W. Pink.

October

Do What Jesus Did by Robby Dawkins / Two Treatises of Government by Wendy McElroy / Culture Wins by William Vanderbloemen / Keep Christianity Weird by Michael Frost / The Fear of God by John Bunyan / Playing to Win by Michael Lewis / Pilgrims and Puritans by Christopher Collier

November

The Terminal List by Jack Carr / My Seinfeld Year by Fred Stoller / Beyond Awkward by Beau Crosetto / How Cosmic Forces Shape Our Destinies by Nikola Tesla / Nietzsche in 90 Minutes / The Living Reminder by Henri Nouwen

December

The Yes Brain by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson / Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray / George Whitfield by Arnold A Dallimore / A Cry for Justice by Shelley Hundley / It’s A Wonderful Wife by Camille Pagan / The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry / Six Lies People Believe About Divine Healing by Steve Bremner / Murder on the Orient Express / The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde / The Lonely Search for God by Henry Nouwen / Animal Farm by George Orwell/ Evangelism for Non-Evangelists* by Mark Teasdale / Unreported Truths About COVID-19 and Lockdowns* by Alex Berenson

* These books are the few books that I hope to complete by December 31st, 2020.

Tune in over the next couple of days as I tell you about my favorites on this list and talk about the effects of reading a hundred books in a year.

Photo Credit: Low Angle View of Tower of Books by Lysander Yuen on Unsplash

Solemn Assembly Pre-Meeting

Background: In light of everything going on in the country, I previously made a case that we need to gather people together and pray and fast. Since that post, things have continued along the same course. It’s time to become more intentional about moving forward. Please join us for a three day, virtual solemn assembly next week.

Here are the details:

When: We are holding a solemn assembly, virtually and in small groups, starting on Tuesday, April 7th at 7:00 PM Central Standard Time. The goal will be prayer meetings on Wednesday (4/8) and Thursday (4/9) as well.

How: We will gather virtually to start each meeting with the help of Zoom. People gathering are encouraged to fast for the three days of solemn assembly.

Where: To be determined. We want to gather in various places across our city in groups smaller than ten, government permitting, for those that are able and want to meet together. (More on where below.)

Who: If you are a believer in Jesus, we encourage you to join us.

Leaders: While the names of people who are leading isn’t important, we are looking for people who will join us in opening their homes for small gatherings. If you are interested in opening up your home for a group of ten or less to pray, please join us on a call to talk about the details of the upcoming solemn assembly. This call will be accessible using the following Zoom details:

Time: Mar 31, 2020 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/571011773

Meeting ID: 571 011 773

One tap mobile

+19292056099,,571011773# US (New York)

+13126266799,,571011773# US (Chicago)

Dial by your location

        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

        +1 253 215 8782 US

        +1 301 715 8592 US

        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

Meeting ID: 571 011 773

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/amqRuBZUy