One perennial blessing of the blogosphere is the list of favorite books of the year. I admit that if I see such a list in a title, I feel almost bound in conscience to click it. It is a way to learn about new books or old ones that continue to deliver.
This year I’m publishing a list of ten books I enjoyed this year. This does not mean the book was published in 2019, but it does mean I enjoyed reading it this year.
Top Ten Books I Enjoyed This Year
#10 Budgeting for a Healthy Church by Jamie Dunlop
Pastors (and churches) tend to dislike conversations about church finances. But this doesn’t make finances unimportant. After all, one way we articulate and execute our philosophy of ministry is with our church budget. Jamie Dunlop serves the church well by showing how the budget can be a pastoral tool to communicate and execute a healthy church vision. Jaime is a pastor who understands the types of questions pastors are asking, and perhaps more importantly, the ones we should be asking. I’ll admit that I wasn’t eager to read it but, after reading it, I’m eager to recommend it.
#9 Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke
I’m grateful that Joel Beeke continues to familiarize this generation with the Puritans. So often, he is tasked with dispelling the myths in this pursuit. In this book, he helps readers see that Reformed preaching was aiming at the heart as well as the head. He does this by introducing readers to the ministries of several faithful preachers from the previous centuries. In doing so, he shows how they modeled experiential preaching and how we can do so today. A challenging and informative read!
#8 Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time by Ian O’Connor
Growing up in New England and now ministering in Boston I have high regard for my hometown team. Bill Belichick’s success and how he goes about his craft always intrigues me. This book is a fair look into a polarizing figure who is the best football coach of all time. It walks through the low points as well as the high. Warning: there is some foul language.
#7 7 Myths about Singleness by Sam Allberry
In this book, Sam Allberry helps to equip Christians (both single and married) to think biblically about singleness. I was challenged to think about the family of God (the church) and how we are supposed to function faithfully amid the variety of life situations. Sam also does an excellent job pointing out how the contemporary idolatry around the family and marriage is out of step with biblical Christianity. Also, Sam’s perspective as a Christian who is single and has been wrapped into the lives of many families in his church is powerful and encouraging.
#6 Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
I read and enjoy everything that Cal Newport writes. This book complements his book Deep Work and helps readers to assess the various distractions that impede the type of work we desire to do. I feel like I’ve had this book recommended to me as much as I’ve recommended it to others. It’s great.
#5 Cotton Mather: The First American Evangelical by Rick Kennedy
This is a short introduction to the life of an important and misunderstood American pastor. People love to talk about the Salem witch trials but rarely talk about so many other aspects of his life. Mather was a pastor, historian, and a physician. Called the first American evangelical, Cotton Mather is someone we need to get to know. This is an excellent first step.
#4 Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough
Matthew McCullough is a young pastor but an old soul. He writes with a burden to help his congregation and his readers to live in light of the reality of death. I really enjoyed this book and the sober reflections it provides. I think we would be well-served to learn from our previous generations who regularly considered and discussed their own mortality. Remember Death is a useful tool to this end.
#3 The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry
This book helps provide diagnostic tools for assessing what might be draining personal creativity as well as providing a path ahead to develop increased creativity. As someone who writes regularly and tries to engage with the same group of people Sunday after Sunday, I found this book very useful.
#2 Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves
Michael Reeves does a beautiful job threading an often missed needle . . . he writes with doctrinal precision in a simple, clear way that informs the mind and stirs the heart. And the topic is the Trinity. I’ve read it multiple times and will return again. I love this book.
#1 Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification by Sinclair Ferguson
Pretty much anything Sinclair Ferguson writes or says gets my ears perked up. In this volume, he writes about the subject of sanctification. It’s like the Christian’s field manual for growing in holiness. He deals with so many important-and regrettably often neglected topics—such as mortification, union with Christ, putting-off and putting-on, and walking by the Spirit. This is one of those books that I would like every Christian to read. And it’s clear, accessible, and biblically faithful.
How and why did the Reformers build their liturgies (or order of service)? This book is thoroughly researched and clearly explained. It is a useful reference resource for me not only to study and learn but also to implement in the present.
#2 The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
The authors show how our culture of “safety” and “comfort” is creating a generation of people who don’t know how to engage with ideas that contradict their own. This is prevalent in universities, politics, and in the family. It’s a necessary critique against attitudes and policies that are doubtlessly well-intentioned but nevertheless dangerous.