Hundreds of thousands of books were published in 2012, and yet we still have the gall to cite the best of them. But we all love reading lists, and we even enjoy making them. So The Gospel Coalition staff identified this list of books from 2012 that will likely continue to guide and teach us in the coming years, and that we'd gladly hand out and recommend to friends and family. Our comments share a little of why we appreciated the book, what we learned, and how we're using it. After you read our list (and one from Kevin DeYoung), we invite you to join in the fun and share your own favorite reads among books published in 2012.
Collin Hansen, Editorial Director
Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat (Free Press). Whether Americans realize it or not, the country needs an orthodox, prophetic church. But as this New York Times columnist observes, the church today, bloated by a smorgasbord of heresy, is not fit to fulfill this calling. Heretical nationalism—whether vested in the markets, military, or government—has stifled our public testimony. For the sake of America, we must forsake the various heresies of Americanism. [Review]
Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, Tim Keller (Zondervan). If you're a church leader, this is the sort of book that could change everything. Keller's insights about how to break through objections to the gospel have changed my preaching and writing. I greatly appreciated his emphasis on the need, essence, and work of gospel renewal and revival. As I rejoiced over ways I've seen movement dynamics unleash the power of the gospel, I sought counsel for how to protect ministry from succumbing to harmful institutional trappings. [Excerpt, Video]
Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Crossway). I recently joined a church that blessedly embodies much of the biblical wisdom laid out in this insightful book. The example of Chester and Timmis will encourage you even when things in our culture (and theirs) look bleak. God is at work in our midst! It is a beautiful thing when the people of God live by the Word of God in harmony with one another and with deep, abiding, practical love for their neighbors. [Review]
Joe Carter, Editor
Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, J.P. Moreland (NavPres). For the 15th anniversary edition, Moreland has improved on what was already one of the best and most practical books on the discipleship of the mind.
Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, Michael Reeves (IVP). The Trinity can be a formidable and daunting topic, but Reeves shows not only that the Christian faith is rooted in the triune God but also how Christians tend to understand more about the doctrine than we may realize. [Review]
Kathleen Nielson, Director of Women's Initiatives
The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy, Douglas Sean O'Donnell (Crossway). It's not easy to balance relishing the poetic text, talking about sex and marriage, maintaining a consistent Christological focus, offering pastoral guidance, and being warm and witty at the same time! But O'Donnell does it in this book, and does it well. This is a great addition to Crossway's Preaching the Word series.
God's Good Design: What the Bible Really Says about Men and Women, Claire Smith (Matthias Media). What a delight this year to come to know Claire and her thorough, thoughtful approach to studying Scripture. Not only if you're interested in the subject, but also if you're interested in a good model for asking questions of the biblical text, this book offers a clear and capable guide. I'm so glad Claire will be one of our speakers at the TGC 2013 National Conference.
Esther, John Piper, illus. Glenn Harrington (Crossway). We should mention a novel or some poetry! (I'll slip in The Father's Tale by Michael O'Brien, a great big deep novel all about fathers and sons, published late 2011.) Piper's book is smaller, lovely, and recently published. It's an interpretive poem—unlike his sermons, in which one sometimes senses that he's restraining his imagination and in the best way harnessing it to the biblical text. Here, Piper again dons the freeing harness of poetry and gives his imagination beautiful rein. He's not just retelling it . . . not contradicting any detail of it . . . but rather opening one more imaginative door into the magnificent book of Esther.
Andy Naselli, Administrator of Themelios
Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation, G. K. Beale (Baker). This is an excellent entry-point into a complex, rewarding, and important topic, and it's by far Beale's most readable work that I've read. It's a good textbook for courses on the use of the OT in the NT (along with books like Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament).
Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis, Murray J. Harris (Zondervan). Perhaps the most rewarding part of exegeting the Greek New Testament is when you trace the argument with a syntactical display. And as soon as you start trying to explain how clauses and phrases relate to each other, you realize how important it is to understand prepositions, which can be theologically significant. This impeccably researched handbook is the go-to guide.
Paul Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study, Constantine R. Campbell (Zondervan). This is the most comprehensive book on union with Christ. Though one might quibble with some of the use-labels Campbell applies to prepositions in particular passages, the overall theological method and synthesis is robust.
Matt Smethurst, Associate Editor
Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, Jonathan Leeman (Crossway). Church membership can feel boring, secondary, extrabiblical, and unimportant. Aren't there plenty of more pressing things to talk about? Not really, Leeman demonstrates. In just 132 pages, he unfolds a clear and compelling case for submitting our lives to King Jesus by submitting to his earthly bride. This book is a concise goldmine. [Interview]
Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants, Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum (Crossway). Gentry and Wellum carve a new path between dispensational and covenant theology, having concluded that neither hermeneutical approach is sufficiently informed by biblical theology. Regardless of where you land, this is a groundbreaking contribution to discussions about the intersection of exegesis, biblical theology, and systematic theology. [Interview]
A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, Joel Beeke and Mark Jones (Reformation Heritage). Beeke and Jones have given us a substantial gift. Covering more than 50 areas of doctrine, highlighting the work of numerous theologians, and concluding with an exploration of Puritan “theology in practice,” this inaugural Puritan systematic theology is a truly remarkable achievement. [Interview]
John Starke, Editor
Meditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction, John Jefferson Davis (IVP). Because the power of the age-to-come is experienced by Christians “already” through our union with Christ, Davis argues that God is really present with the Christian when reading Scripture and is really transforming him into his likeness. Davis offers a theologically rich proposal on how to understand our communion with God that drives readers to Scripture with confidence they will taste and see that the Lord is good. [Review]
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt (Pantheon). Haidt's book is for patient readers. But in the end, The Righteous Mind equips us to better understand and persuade those who disagree with us. An important tool for preachers and apologists who want to do more than stir the choir. [Interview]
Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective, Ted Turnau (P&R). Lots of fun to read and equips us to better engage the world around us. [Review]