The fact that hundreds of thousands of books are published annually didn't stop us from daring to cite the best ones in 2010, 2011, or 2012. So why stop now? Some of us on The Gospel Coalition staff have identified several books, all published in 2013, that we found particularly beneficial. Our comments briefly explain why we appreciated the book and how it might benefit you.
After reading our list, we invite you to join the fun and share your own favorite books published in 2013.
Collin Hansen, Editorial Director
The World Is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (InterVarsity). Maybe your motives to change the culture are pure. Or maybe you're an impatient sinner like the rest of us and prone to confuse activism with arrogance. Either way, if you don't want to waste your youth on naïve pursuits or end up burned out and skeptical, you can learn from this wise and timely book. [Review]
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller (Dutton). You wouldn't want someone to hand you this book, because it probably means you're enduring hardship and suffering. But you need to read this book, preferably before the hardship and suffering inevitably comes. Keller prepares our intellectual defenses even as he tends to wounded hearts. [Review, Interview, Audio]
Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, Allen C. Guelzo (Knopf). You don't want to start your study of the American Civil War with this massive volume. But your study will climax with this definitive account of three days in Pennsylvania that changed the course of world history and altered untold family trees, including mine. [Review]
Kathleen Nielson, Director of Women's Initiatives
C. S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, Alister McGrath (Tyndale). McGrath knows and skillfully opens up Lewis's world, from Belfast to Oxford. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lewis's death, this new biography lets us share a scholar's insightful processing of a steadily growing body of scholarship, including the collected letters of Lewis himself. [Review]
Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts, Jerram Barrs (Crossway). We're invited in this book to a celebration of the arts in light of the whole biblical story. It's a theological and not simply theoretical discussion that finally applies its focus to writers from Shakespeare to J. K. Rowling. Tim Keller calls it “the most accessible, readable, and yet theologically robust work on Christianity and the arts that you will be able to find.” [Review]
Memoir of Mrs. Ann H. Judson, Ann Hasseltine Judson (Forgotten). It's not new, but it has been newly revived, marking the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Ann and Adoniram Judson in Rangoon, Burma, on July 13, 1813. Available in various hard copies and e-book, this memoir was compiled with commentary by James D. Knowles and originally published in 1829. Ann's writings are alive with passion for the gospel, vividly describing the labor, the sufferings, and the fruit of the earliest American overseas missionaries.
Andy Naselli, Administrator of Themelios
What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus' Bible, Jason DeRouchie, ed. (Kregel). DeRouchie unapologetically explains that this isnot a theology of the Hebrew Bible on its own but a Christian Old Testament survey. Now that we have the whole story, how can we not read the first part in light of the whole? This clear and attractive book combines academic rigor with devotional warmth, and each chapter is message-driven.
From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, eds. (Crossway). This 700-page book is definitely the most thorough and compelling resource that describes and defends definite atonement. And best of all, it not only refutes other views and presents strong arguments for definite atonement; it also addresses the issue with the right tone. It leads the reader to worship the triune God. [Interview | Review | Review]
Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, Heath Lambert (Zondervan). This is the single most helpful book on sexual purity for men I'm aware of. It's clear, direct, practical, and grace-giving. I highly recommended this for those fighting lust or wallowing in it, and I pray that God will use it to help thousands of men be “finally free.” [Interview | Review]
John Starke, Editor
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, Andy Crouch (InterVarsity). This book challenges common assumptions about power in such a way that it opens the door to a new discussion. In other words, Crouch tells us to stop talking about power that way and talk about it this way. In doing so, he begins a more intelligent discussion on power, justice, the image of God, and institutions. [Review]
Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists, Kay Larson (Penguin). Warning: this book was written by a practicing Buddhist, arguing for the joy of Buddhism through the biography of musician and artist John Cage, who longed for happiness, meaning, acceptance, and love. You shouldn't buy what the author is selling, but it does create empathy and understanding, giving you a road to the heart. What you do with the heart once you get there should be different from what the author hopes. Aside from that, it's a fascinating story about Cage and the early avant garde art scene in New York.
Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel, Mike Cosper (Crossway). I have two copies of Cosper's book on worship; one on my shelf and one on my iPad. I keep one on my shelf to thumb through occasionally, allowing Mike's wisdom to become my wisdom. I keep an electronic copy so I can search for a quick answer on a topic I know Mike has talked about. It's probably safe to buy just one, but this is a wiser book on worship than the one you've read.
Bethany Jenkins, Director of Every Square Inch
A Prayer Journal, Flannery O'Connor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Her journal is full of honesty, longing, skepticism, confession, faith, and struggle. At times, knowing she didn't publish it herself, reading it feels somewhat intrusive, but her writing quickly turns the heart of the reader to prayer. O'Connor's confessions about her work as an author are particularly insightful.
The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age, Daniel Bell and Avner de-Shalit (Princeton). Professors Bell and de-Shalit accessibly discuss the ethos of nine modern global cities, including mine, New York (ambition). Anyone wanting to discern the joys and idols of their own city will be helped by their combination of storytelling, theory, philosophy, and social sciences.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (Little, Brown, and Company). The New York Times named this novel one of the top ten books of the year, and Amazon called it the best book of the year, describing it as “an emotionally trenchant masterpiece.” The Goldfinch is not a religious book. As First Things has pointed out, its characters “sin boldly and speak in profane ways.” Yet Tartt, who is Catholic, deals with eminently spiritual themes—love, loss, expectation, hope, tragedy, death, mystery, disappointment, and redemption. Last year, when I was co-leading a “Gospel-in-Fiction Book Club” for people exploring Christianity in New York City, I would've picked this book in a heartbeat because it's what the culture is reading, it's true to the human condition, it's beautifully written, and it has a redemptive arc. All these factors create wonderful opportunities for conversations with friends who may never pick up a Christian book.
Matt Smethurst, Associate Editor
Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions About Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction, Sam Allberry (Good Book Company). This is a sensitive, careful, brave book. Allberry, who himself struggles with same-sex attraction, has done us all a service by writing a brief and accessible primer on a contentious topic. His engagement with commonly debated texts and street-level objections is a model of exegetical clarity and pastoral warmth. [Review]
The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, Thomas Schreiner (Baker Academic). Schreiner, who's already written a Pauline theology and a New Testament theology, has now gifted us with a whole-Bible theology. With scholarly care and pastoral clarity, he traces the storyline of Scripture through all 66 books, demonstrating that the goal of God's kingdom is to see the king in his beauty and be enraptured in his glory. [Interview]
Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Tom Nettles (Mentor). Spurgeon is history's most widely read preacher outside of Scripture. It's estimated he preached to more than 10 million people during his lifetime. A 15-year project in the making, this book distills in 700 pages the Prince of Preacher's life, ministry, and theology. According to one decent preacher, it'll be the “standard for a long time.” [Interview]