2016 Books: 3Q

Books read from July through September. Annual running count: 24.

Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective – Peter Leithart (2012); Library // Interesting thesis of empires being either Babels (forced homogeneity) or Beasts (anti-church), how Babels transition to beasts, and how America fits into this (hint: Babel for now). A bit forced at times, but definitely interesting.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015); Library // Eye-opening, saddening, angering, intensely personal book on being a black man and not being in control of one’s black body (to vastly and unfairly over-generalize it). Recommended.

East of Eden – John Steinbeck (1952); Library // A masterpiece and my favorite Steinbeck work so far. A heart-wrenching and beautifully written story loosely based on the story of Cain and Abel. Highly recommended with reservations for occasional adult material.

Knowing Christ – Mark Jones (2015); Print // Excellent book and highly recommended. Written in the style of Puritans but much more readable; also similar in style to Ryle or Packer. Each short chapter is a reflection on an aspect of Christ and his person or work.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness – Andrew Peterson (2008); Print // Really fun young adult fiction by a master songwriter. First book in a trilogy/series. Not quite on the same level as N.D. Wilson’s similar books, but still really good.

The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church – Timothy Witmer (2010); Print // Eminently practical and readable. Makes a biblical and historical case for church leaders as shepherds (especially pastors and elders), and provides an in-depth framework for implementing a shepherding ministry.

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love  – Edward T. Welch (2015); Print // Had high expectations for this, and it didn’t meet them. Practical and somewhat helpful but not particularly inspiring or deep.


2016 Books: 2Q

Books read from April through June. Annual running count: 17.

The Accidental Systems Librarian – Nicole C. Engard (2012); Library // Read for work; pretty helpful in taking on additional responsibilities in library systems work.

Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer – Eugene Peterson (1991); Print // Short but really excellent. Down to earth, thoughtful, insightful. Quoted often in Keller’s book on prayer (below), which was fun since, like a hipster, I read this one first.

At the Back of the North Wind – George MacDonald (1871); Print // MacDonald is one of C.S. Lewis’ largest influences, and I finally got around to reading one of his. Pretty good children’s story, though was expecting more depth. Will have to try one of his more famous fairy stories.

Cities of the Plain – Cormac McCarthy (1999); Library // Conclusion of the Border trilogy, and this one was disappointing after how much I enjoyed the first two (especially All the Pretty Horses).

Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the OPC – D.G. Hart (1988?); Print // Read for leadership training. Balanced and honest treatment of the history of the OPC from the perspective of “flashpoints” in its history. Would really like to see an updated edition of this.

Outgrowing the Ingrown Church – John Miller (1986); Print // Read for leadership training for perspective widening (not necessarily as an endorsement). Not balanced or nuanced at all, outdated, and I didn’t find it beneficial at all.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God – Tim Keller (2014); Print // Read for men’s reading group that I didn’t attend. Best book on prayer I’ve read; highly recommended. Comprehensive in scope, including biblical, pastoral, philosophical, experiential, and practical elements of prayer. Well researched and well grounded in Scripture and even the confessions.

The Spirituality of Wine – Gisela Kreglinger (2016); Print // So, so good. Well researched, engagingly written, joyful treatment of wine in the Bible, in the history of the church, in the Eucharist, in feasting, and in life. Echoes the frequent themes of embodiment, earthiness, joy, and presence of others like Berry, Capon, and Smith. Highly recommended.

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit – James K.A. Smith (2016); Print // A condensed version of his Desiring the Kingdom; this was good but not as good.

2016 Books: 1Q

Books read from January through March. Running count: 8.

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age – Sven Birkerts (2015); Library // Very good collection of essays exploring media/technology, pleasure, and beauty.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown (2014); Library // Meh.

Hannah Coulter – Wendell Berry (2004); Print // Earthy, moving fiction centered around place and characters, with little plot. Very, very good.

James: Reformed Expository Commentary – Dan Doriani (2007); Print // Not quite finished yet, but still including here. Pretty good; mostly pastoral/practical rather than scholarly (which is okay by me).

Lest We Forget: A Personal Reflection on the Formation of the OPC – Robert Churchill (1997); Print // Insightful and emotional personal perspective of the OPC’s formation.

Peace at Last: The Third Book of the Dun Cow – Walter Wangerin, Jr. (2013); Print // Conclusion of the Dun Cow trilogy; much shorter and not nearly as good as the first two, but a decent conclusion.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering – Tim Keller (2013); Print // One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a long time. Biblical, philosophical, practical, comprehensive look at suffering and Scripture. Highly recommended.

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys – Stephen James (2009); Print // Helpful and enjoyable, especially the sections on neurological and emotional development of young boys.

2015 Books: 4Q

Books read from October through December. Final yearly count: 32.

Christian Pipe-Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense – Uri Brito & Joffre Swait (2014); Electronic // Entertaining, mostly serious, great short read.

The Crossing – Cormac McCarthy (1994); Library // Sequel to All the Pretty Horses, and nearly as excellent. Vintage McCarthy (though not as violent as most of his books). The Spanish in it threw me for a loop, but I somehow kept up.

Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (1899); Print // Difficult read, which I found out afterward was deliberate: Conrad wanted the reader’s experience to be akin to an explorer’s in hacking through a jungle.

On Keeping the Heart – John Flavel (1670ish); Electronic // Clear and practical, which is saying something for a Puritan writer.

The Prayer of the Lord – R.C. Sproul (2009); Electronic // Vintage Sproul: expository, relatable, and practical.

The Practice of the Presence of God – Brother Lawrence (~1665); Electronic // Apparently a classic, and about what I was expecting: helpful at times, overly introspective at others. Very little scriptural allusions or quotations.

Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness – Eric Metaxas (2013); Library // Given Metaxas’ reputation and excellent research on his full-length biographies, I was very disappointed by this. It’s seven disparate chapters, each of which reads more like high school book reports.

Silence – Shusaku Endo (1980); Print // Moving and provocative historical fiction about missionary priests infiltrating 16th century Japan and their subsequent capture. A Scorsese-directed film adaptation starring Liam Neeson is being released in 2016.

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut (1969); Library // Vonnegut’s anti-war, time traveling masterpiece didn’t disappoint.

To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf (1927); Library // A classic, archetypal  stream of consciousness, modern fiction. Not my cup of tea

2015 Books: 3Q

Books read from July through September. Next reading list viewable by clicking here. Running yearly count: 23.

The Duties of Parents – J.C. Ryle (1888); Print // Handy, encouraging, challenging little volume.

Fidelity: Five Stories – Wendell Berry (2002); Print // Powerful collection of short stories. Some short, some long, all moving and well done.

The Joy of Less: a Minimalist Living Guide – Francine Jay (2010); Library // Meh.

Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus – Robert Farrar Capon (2002); Print // Brilliant, lucid, joyful prose that expounds much treasure in the parables. However, I was uncomfortable with his view of the final judgment/hell, which he was happy to share in nearly every chapter. It is hard to describe, but it at least earns high marks for stimulating much thought.

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough – Kevin DeYoung (2014); Print // I expected more; turns out it was very entry-level and seemed almost hastily written.

The Thanatos Syndrome – Walker Percy (1987); Print // Finally got around to completing all of Percy’s six novels. Last and least favorite of the sixth, in my humble opinion, but still Percy-esque enough to be entertaining and enjoyable.

The Violent Bear It Away – Flannery O’Connor (1960); Library // Incredibly poignant novel. I had to take a break from reading for a few days after finishing this.

2015 Books: 2Q

Books read from April through June. Next reading list viewable by clicking here. Running yearly count: 14.

All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren (1946); Library // Though I’ve never been one for political novels, I could barely put this classic down. The politics were only a setting for the masterful character studies on the meteoric rise of a back-country lawyer turned state senator, his right-hand man (the protagonist and narrator), and others they leave in their wake.

The Bruised Reed – Richard Sibbes (1630); Ebook // Encouraging, uplifting, sobering, and Puritanically repetitive and organized. A series of sermons on Isaiah 42:3 that is well worth the effort to read. Spurgeon described Sibbes as one who “scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.”

The Christian Faith in the Modern World – J. Gresham Machen (1935); Ebook // Since I’m back in the OPC, I figured it was high time to read more Machen. This is a series of radio broadcasts Machen did in the 1930s, a la Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Similar in nature to Lewis’ broadcasts, though Machen focuses more on giving a defense of the basics of the faith than Lewis’ apologetics.

The Creedal Imperative – Carl Trueman (2012); Print // Read for men’s reading group. A somewhat softer Trueman than his other works, it’s directed at those who claim “No creed but the bible!” and other similar objectors to creeds and confessions. Stimulated good discussion on a topic of which I’ve grown somewhat tired.

The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline: Inaugural Address – Geerhardus Vos (1894); Ebook // When learning about a new topic, I prefer to heed C.S. Lewis’ advice and go to the source. This was an accessible and helpful introduction to biblical theology (as opposed to systematic theology, for one). One of my biggest takeaways is that biblical theology thankfully isn’t a new topic for me, as I have been taught for years from the pulpit and other books without my knowing it.

The Man Who Was Thursday – G.K. Chesterton (1908); Print // Excellent metaphysical thriller/mystery by a true wordsmith. Creepy, witty, philosophical, and tense throughout and filled with plot twists and surprises.

2015 Books: 1Q

Books read from January through March. Next reading list viewable by clicking here. Running yearly count: 8.

Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One – James Jordan (1999); Print // Very good and convincing work of biblical theology (rather than a scientific defense). Chapters on gnosticism were especially provocative. Well worth a read, though I wish he spent more time on the “genre” issues of Genesis.

A Lifting Up for the Downcast – William Bridge (1648); Print // Thirteen (13!) sermons on one verse (1!): Psalm 42:5. Really top notch exposition and application.

Peace Like a River – Leif Enger (2001); Library // Highly recommended by Doug Wilson and others, but disappointing. Enger turns an excellent phrase, but the plot and characters are never believable or relatable, and the work feels forced and flat.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg (2012); Library // Fascinating and practical sociological/pop psychology work. Distilled down to: don’t focus on changing end behaviors, but cues.

A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You – Paul David Tripp (2007); eBook // Just okay, with some good nuggets sprinkled in about living for God’s transcendent kingdom rather than our own myopic kingdoms of one. Like other Tripp works, I found it to be repetitive and sometimes cliche.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy (2006); Library // McCarthy at his post-apocalyptic best. Darkly heart-wrenching with glimmers of hope. Powerful.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand (2010); Library // Couldn’t put it down. Almost unbelievable what this man went through, and survived. Heard the movie was pretty poor, though.

Young Men in Spats – P.G. Wodehouse (1936); Print // Fun as always, though these formulaic short stories aren’t nearly as good as his novels.