It’s that time of the year when everyone reveals their yearly reading list and what they consider their top reads of the year. Not to be left out, I’ve compiled my own list to help those who are looking for good reads for next year’s list. So, with no further ado, here’s the best of the best:
Joan: The Mysterious Life of The Heretic Who Became a Saint
This is the story about a young girl who begins to have visions of angels and hear voices. The voices tell her to unite the French to oppose the occupying English forces and anoint a man King of France. She does all of this as a young maiden in 15th Century France and is later tried and killed by the very country she saved. What I love about this book is the author treats her visions and voices as something that she actually heard and saw, rather than trying to explain them away. This book will be a great encouragement to you in your own journey of hearing the Lord’s voice and obeying it, despite the cost.
The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ
This is an obscure little book written by Catholic priest Saint Alphonsus Ligouri. The whole book is a journey through 1st Corinthians 13. It takes every virtue of love (“Love is patient, love is kind, etc.) and applies them to how a believer should faithfully love Jesus Christ. While it was written by a Catholic and you have to ignore some of his admonitions to pray to Mary and accept sickness as God’s will, there is a lot of wisdom in this book that you won’t find in the traditional Christian book being rolled out these days. This book will stir your heart to love Jesus more.
The Christian Book of Mystical Verse
This is a short book by A.W. Tozer that is filled with poetry written by some of the great Christian mystics throughout history. While that may scare some people, the fact that A.W. Tozer edited this compilation should put your heart at ease. Each of these poems are biblicaly solid while at the same time full of the kind thirsting after God that you’ve come to expect from a guy like A.W. Tozer. I found myself keeping a list of the poems I loved from this book, but I didn’t expect the list to include every third poem. Please read this book, take time to soak in the poetry within, and even spend some time turning some of these great works into prayer to aid your devotional life.
This was the second or third book about evangelism I read this year and it was easily the best. Jean is a prophetic minister who regularly hears from Jesus and shares His heart with lost people around her. Not only did I learn about hearing from Jesus and sharing what I’m hearing with the lost by reading this book, but I encountered the love of Jesus as I read the author’s testimony. I highly recommend picking up the audio book. There is an incredibly personal story towards the end of the book that the author narrates herself and it’s incredibly worthwhile to hear it in her own voice. If hearing from God is new to you or you’re old-hat at it, you will meet Jesus in a more personal way by reading this book.
This was the most disturbing, difficult read of 2019 for me. I’ve never read this book before it showed up on my Man Book Club reading list. This is a story about a dystopian future where three governments rule the world and keep those three nations in perpetual war. The story follows Winston Smith as he tries to navigate life living in this world where every activity is constantly monitored and history is constantly changed to reflect the governments’ narratives. I won’t ruin the ending, but it’s dark and unexpected. Truthfully, the book is a prophetic glimpse into a world that we are now living in and if you don’t leave this book rethinking where society has gone, you probably weren’t paying attention.
This book takes place 100 or more years in the future, where books are banned and society has adapted the role of firefighter as a force to find and burn them. Guy Montag, a fire fighter, secretly becomes a reader and must hide it from those he works with in order to not be killed. The real point of the book is to force us to look at our inability to handle concrete arguments and emotions that books present us and where it could drive our society. This book is slightly more hopeful than 1984 and there are important lessons in it that will help us today. Maybe give yourself some space between reading this and 1984, though.
The Cost of Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Nazi-resisting theologian, wrote this work believing that the time had come for believers to band together and practice living out the Sermon on the Mount together. This was a revolutionary statement in a time when many considered the Sermon on the Mount the code of conduct for the Millennial Kingdom, not something that applied to them now. The book begins with a look at cheap grace–a kind of grace where we can sin because we know we are forgiven–and how it prevents Christianity from being expressed the way Jesus wants it to be expressed. Bonhoeffer then walks us through each chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, detailing how it applies to every day believers. I recommend this book to everyone (it’s a classic!) but I especially recommend it to those who haven’t thought seriously about the Sermon on the Mount.
The Storm-Tossed Family
The family is under attack today by satanic forces. That sounds dramatic, but a quick look at the state of families around you will prove that statement true. Russel Moore writes, then, about cultivating healthy family as an act of spiritual warfare. To win the war, one he finds in the early stages of marriage all the way up to aging and dying with grace, it requires us to find the Gospel for every stage of family life. I loved that at every stage, he calls believers in Jesus to find the Gospel as the answer for common and extreme problems that plague the family. Also, though this is a book about the family, there is plenty in this book for singles to learn from and grow in practice. Some of the best explanations about the church as family that I’ve seen in a while were found in this book. I highly recommend it.
The Master Plan of Evangelism and Discipleship
This book is a classic. You can’t go anywhere in American Evangelicalism without encountering someone whose thoughts have been impacted by this book. What I found interesting is that so much of the house church movement’s thinking finds its origin and support in the discipleship principles laid out here. The key to effective evangelism is found in sharing the Gospel and training up converts in a way of life that leads them to do the same. Without this plan in place, both our evangelism and our churches will suffer. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.
A Tale of Two Cities
This is one of those classic books that everyone talks about but I feel like very few people read. It contrasts two cities, London and Paris, as the country of France is going through a revolution. It centers around a girl named Lucy who’s father was imprisoned when she was very young. When she is grown, she finds out her father is still alive and is charged with caring for him. During this season she falls in love with a French man who has connections to a former ruling family in France. Like many of Dickens’ works, there is a large Gospel thread woven through the whole story. Finishing this book felt both like a great accomplishment and the end to a marvelous story. If you’re looking for some fiction with some meat on it, this is the book for you.
And in case you’re interested….here all the other books I read this year with my rating for them in parentheses:
The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ (5) / Evangelism in a Skeptical World (4) / Atomic Marriage (1) / Prophetic Fishing (5)
Poke the Box (5) / A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (5) / Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (3) / Fahrenheit 451 (5) / 1984 (5) / Trump, 2019, and Beyond (3)
The Art of Invisibility (3) / The Master Plan of Evangelism and Discipleship (5) / Raising Giant Killers (4) / Beyond the Local Church (3)
A Tale of Two Cities (5) / Gospel Boldness: Mission, Prayer, and Evangelism (3) / Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out (4) / Disruptive Witness (2) / Spirit Led Evangelism (4) / Managing Oneself (4) / The Mystery of Catastrophe (4) / I see A New Apostolic Generation (4)
The Religious Affections (4) / Rising Tides (4) / God is Good (2) / The Three Day Effect (3) / Hope Never Dies (3) / Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (4) / Giving Up Control (4) / Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours (4) / The Dispatcher (4) / Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World (4)
The Cost of Discipleship (5) / The Consolation of Philosophy (3) / The Seven Spirits of God (5) / Getting Things Done (4) / To Be Near Unto God (3)
The Poverty of Nations (4) / Screwball (3) / From Cocaine to Christ (3) / The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon (4) / The Lost History of Christianity (3) / The Fuel and the Flame (4)
12 Rules for Life (4) / Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic (3) / Redshirts (4)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (4) / Journey to the Center of the Earth (3) / Godology (3) / The Charisma Myth (4) / The Joy of Early Christianity (4) / Grace Abounds to the Chiefest of Sinners (4)
Joan: The Mysterious Life of a Heretic Who Became a Saint (5) / Balaam’s God (4) / One Bloody Road (4) / Seeing in the Spirit Made Simple (4) / Burnout Generation (3) / Divine Healing Made Simple (4) / Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art (4)
Mostly Harmless (4) / Climbing with Mollie (4) / Microchurches (4) / Not the Parable of the Lost Sheep (4) / Fox’s Book of Martyrs (3)
The Communist Manifesto (2) / The Storm-Tossed Family (5) / Bird by Bird (4) / Called Together (4) / Do More Better (3) / A Preface to the Acts of the Apostles (3) / The Christian Book of Mystic Verse (5) / Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Spoke in the Wheel (3)
So…what’d you read this last year? And what did you love? Let me know in the comments.
I read a bunch of books this year. 72 books, to be specific. While there are certainly people who have read more books that me this year, this was 3.6 times more books than I read last year. I had hoped to end the year reading four books a month, but ended the year having read 6 books a month. So, for those who are looking to read more books, here are some how to’s that helped me read more.
For those of you who don’t know, Audible is a service offered by Amazon that sells and streams audio books for many of the books you’ve been wanting to read. When I started the year, I had been using Audible to get any reading in at all. Somewhere during this year I began using Audible to get through books that were longer or more difficult reads. Audible also began offering two free “Audible Original” books every month in addition to the one book I got with my monthly membership. This increased the number of books I was able to read from one to three on a monthly basis. I’m now able to read three books a month while I get ready in the morning, drive to work, or cut the grass, and it helped me read more than I was previously.
Less Social Media
Maybe I’m the only one who this applies to…and if so…good…but I was spending WAY too much time on social media. Early in the year I decided to spend less time on social media and more time reading. I had this shocking revelation that I can read books on my phone during the time I was looking a funny videos on Facebook! Amazing, right? This is probably why you’ve seen less of me on Facebook and Twitter, by the way. Eventually I began reading for a short time in the morning instead of scrolling through social media and it helped me get more legitimate reading done. Reading in the morning has also helped sharpen my mind’s ability to focus and process information. If you do one thing in 2020, spend less time on social media and more time in books, especially in the morning. You won’t regret it.
Man Book Club
In 2018 I had read The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse. It was a great read that left me determined not only to better parent my children but also to continue growing myself. One of the five solution chapters in the book encourages readers to develop “Five Feet of Books.” This is 60 inches (theoretically an inch per book) of the best books in twelve different categories. Then, Sasse gave his list of the best books in each of the twelve categories. I was talking about this chapter with a friend who admittedly wasn’t much of a reader and we both decided that to be good fathers we needed to read more good books like the ones on Sasse’s list. And voila! Man Book Club was born.
Now, usually once a month, but sometimes less, we gather in a greasy spoon bar and talk about the latest classic we’ve read from the list. Some of us are great readers, some of us have never read much at all. But each of us are committing to stretch ourselves and read books that challenge us and should change us. Last month was the book of Genesis (from the section on “God”), this month will be the Communist Manifesto (from the section called “Tyrany”), and after we get done with that, we’re going to start reading “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” (from the section on “Greek Roots”). The beautiful thing is having a reading circle with other men has helped me read more, be more thoughtful in my reading, and bite off a bit more than I would normally try on my own. I’m reading longer, older, and more complex books because I have a group of guys doing it with me. There are plenty of book clubs for women, but if you are a man, want to read more, and have an entrepreneurial bent, I would highly recommend starting a Man Book Club.
Hoopla made a significant addition to my reading this year in only the last month and I expect it to make a far more significant impact for me in 2020. Hoopla is an app that works in conjunction with your local library. If your library offers access, you will be able to borrow five titles every month from a significant catalog of ebooks, audio books, music, and more. Currently I have 90+ audio books identified that I want to read, many of which I was planning to buy through Audible. Not only will I save money using Hoopla, but I’ll also be able to listen to more books in a month by using the service. In December alone, I was able to listen to an extra three audio books. It’s also important to note that Hoopla offers a significant number of Christian Audio audio books. If your library uses Hoopla, I would highly recommend signing up.
So between Audible, less social media, Man Book Club, and Hoopla I was able to read 56 more books this year. Really the lesson here is do what works for you. These are the things that worked well for me and my hope is they work well for you, too. What worked well for you this year? Let me know in the comments.
Tomorrow, I’ll post my Top Ten Books of 2019 along with my list of books read. If you’re looking for a good read for 2020, stop by. I’m sure there will be something for everyone!
Yesterday I mentioned that I’m trying to read more books this year. Right before New Years, I read a blog post asking “If you only read one book a year for the rest of your life, how many books will that leave you?” This was a huge kick in the pants for me because I used to read quite a bit and I have dramatically slowed down how much I’ve been reading over the last couple of years. Last year I read two books. Not exactly thrilling, especially when there are so many books I want to read.
What Jesus Started
T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution
BiVo: A Manifesto
The Permanent Revolution
The Failure of Nerve
Three Roads to the Alamo
Jesus: A Theography
The Interior Castle
The Impossible Mentor
Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton
Getting Things Done
The Starfish Vision
The Starfish and the Spider
One thing I don’t want to do, however, is get too focused on reading to the exclusion of everything else in my life. I’ve certainly read more church planting books than I’ve planted churches and it’s always better to follow Jesus than read about somebody else following Jesus. I’m always (and especially in this endevour want to be) conscious of John Wesley’s warning about books: “Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.” So keep me accountable and keep me from adding too many other books to this list!
That said, have you read any of the books on this list? What did you think? And what are you trying to knock off your reading list?
“The gospel that the first century apostles preached was one of Christ’s lordship and God’s pure and unfailing grace in Him. Paul of Tarsus, for example, did not forge people together with rules, religious duty, or legalism. Instead he preached a gospel of grace so high and so powerful that it kicked down the gates of hell–setting the Jew free of religious duty and the Gentile free of immorality. His was a double-barreled, two-fisted gospel.”
It became really obvious to me last week when I was writing “Stuff I’m Reading…Err…Listening To” that my little breakdowns of the books I’m reading are becoming more like reviews and less like short run downs on the books I’m reading. And, while reviews are great, I’m thinking that in the interest of me actually writing one of these more than once a year (which has about been my track record) I’m going to write shorter, more promo-style blurbs for my “Stuff I’m Reading” page in an effort to keep things short, interesting, and more timely.
With that said, I’m moving my behemoth of a blurb to the “Stuff I’m Reading” Page to take its place in the pantheon of books that I’ve read. I’m also kicking around the idea of sponsoring a communal reading of a certain book over a certain period of time and posting thoughts and comments about content here and on my Twitter account. A good example is I just started reading Watchman Nee‘s “The Glorious Church” and I think it would be really interesting to either here or on Twitter discuss things we’re reading as we’re finding them in a common book. Let me know in the comment section or by tweet if you’re interested.
Until then, that’s all for tonight, folks!
In a continuing effort to keep the world updated about my reading habits, I now bring you the newest finished book in my collection. Before I go into the book, I have to say that I actually did not read this book, but I downloaded the audio version from Christian Audio. They make a free audio book available for download once a month and this was July’s freebie. You may see “Stuff I’m Reading” books corresponding to their free book of the month more often.
I just want to go on the record by saying “Crazy Love” was a lot better than I expected. I’ve seen it on the bookshelves of Christian bookstores for at least a year or more and had sortof written it off as the kind of book that would last a few weeks and fade in everyone’s memory. The whole book looked like it was written to get a sale but not change anyone. It took a recommendation from (I think) Frank Viola before I would actually read the book. Who would ever believe that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover?
The first thing I loved about this book was the time that Francis Chan spent delving into attributes of God at the beginning of the book. Most modern books present a problem and then tell you how to fix it. Chan takes us into the character of God before he takes us anywhere and I believe that is part of the reason this book is so successful. In a way, this section reminded me of the book “The Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer, but it’s written in a way that would move the heart of any college student. Because the remainder of the book calls the church to action, Chan spends the first three chapters describing a God worthy to act on. The book succeeds because it’s not a response to a problem but a response to God as He really is.
Chan then spends the next several chapters looking at what it looks like to not be moved by God in an appropriate manner. Unfortunately, we find more of ourselves in these chapters than we care to admit. The chapter entitled “Profile of the Lukewarm” was probably the hardest chapter of the book to listen to because it challenged me at a very deep level. Chan takes a look at a number of “religious people” in the Old and New Testament who thought they had it all together but really had no relationship with God.
I think a lot of people who read/listen to this chapter and the following chapter could very easily get offended because in a lot of ways it challenges what most of us feel satisfied with in our religious lives. But because Chan packs these chapters with biblical truth and an unfolding of God’s character from the earlier chapters, his observations make sense. There will still be many who will be offended as they read and my hope is that their offense will lead them to go back to the Bible and decide if what Chan is saying is true. This may be the beginning of some of us, including me, waking up.
From there Chan begins to unpack what it looks like to be moved by love for the God he described in the first few chapters. This is the “practical” section of the book where he begins to describe his journey and the journey others took to change their lifestyle to match what they see in scripture. My favorite chapter of this section is “Who Really Lives That Way.” Most books like this one leave you feeling like you could never do what the author suggests. But Chan introduces you to person after person who has lived radically for Jesus. Some of these people are from a century or so ago but most of them are still alive today. The beauty of this chapter is that most of the people he describes are not famous. They don’t even think they are special. They are all just changing their lives to respond to the God they have fallen in love with. If you want to get a picture of what that looks like, I highly suggest you read this book.
If I have one beef with the book, I would have loved to see more of Chan’s personal story to see how these things have been worked out in his life. While he doesn’t give us the whole story, he does give us quick glimpses. They are helpful, but I think readers would profit from a more personal perspective to encourage them that they can live whole-heartedly as well. I’m convinced from his writing that his life has significantly changed… I was just looking for more than a snapshot here or there.
But the book was a great read listen and I would highly recommend that if you have a chance, you pick up this book. I have to say I was moved by this book and am seriously rethinking some different aspects of my life, especially how I relate to the poor of the Earth. Chan provides one of the most balanced arguments for Christians living their lives differently that I’ve seen in a book in a long time. It will challenge you for the better. And, if you want more when you’re done, you can hop on over to Christian Audio and listen to his new book “Forgotten God” by clicking here.
[Btw, if you’ve read “Crazy Love” and have thoughts of your own, either leave a link to your review in the comment section or leave your thoughts in the comment box below.]