For more than ten years now, I’ve been blogging regularly. And every year, I like to pick the ten books I most enjoyed reading.
Feel free to peruse this list and some of previous years’ selections (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, as well as my Hubworthy page of “Essential” recommendations). You’ll find some great titles to add to your Christmas wish list.
Here are my picks for 2016.
#1. STRONG AND WEAK
Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing
by Andy Crouch
This is the only book that I read twice this year. Don’t let its small size fool you. This book is packed with insights into humanity, Christian service, and what leadership should like for followers of Jesus. Andy’s take on vulnerability and authority has helped me to see aspects of selfless leadership that I had never noticed before.
#2. THE FELLOWSHIP
The Literary Lives of The Inklings
J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski
A month before our family visited England (where we planned to see the pub the Inklings gathered in, as well as C.S. Lewis’ house and grave), I picked up this book because a pastor friend was raving about it. I wasn’t disappointed. To write such an engaging biography of a group of men, as well as to assess their literary achievements, is no small feat.
This debut novel from a Spanish journalist subverts the secular worldview and challenges contemporary orthodoxy regarding marriage, the economy, the place of religion, what constitutes progress, and the definition of feminism. Fenollera’s tender treatment charms the reader into wanting the main character (Miss Prim) to give up her stubborn, secular ways and give in to the dazzling mystery of the Christian faith. See my full review here.
Keller has been publishing a lot these days, to the point you may feel like you can’t keep up. I predict this book will become one of the essential Keller books to read. It serves as a “prequel” to the bestselling The Reason for God, in that it backs up a few steps to make the case for why a skeptical person should even entertain the thought of God’s existence or Christianity’s vision of the world. This book does more than simply invite the skeptical to consider the faith; it also grounds believers in the beauty and sensibility of their own worldview.
Mindy Belz, a renowned reporter for World magazine, has been traveling to Iraq for more than a decade now. She knows the people. She knows the places. And she wants you to know them, too. Her book, They Say We Are Infidels, does just what its subtitle promises: it takes us on the run with Christians fleeing radical jihadis. See my full review here.
I first heard about Silence when someone in the Nashville Chesterton Society passed it around at one of our meetings. I bought a copy for myself and read it quickly. The novel is brutally powerful. Its haunting picture of faith, apostasy, and the silence of God left me emotionally drained and disoriented, while still mesmerized by Endo’s work of art. Makoto Fujimura’s book places Endo’s work in the Japanese context, where the horrifying treatment of missionaries and stamping out of nascent Christianity has left a lasting mark on the culture. Taken together, these books will give you much to ponder and will invite you into the complexity of Japanese art and culture.
#7. GOOD FAITH
Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme
by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
The research in this book paints a sometimes-grim, sometimes-hopeful picture of Christianity in North America. Lyons and Kinnaman interpret the statistics well, give us stories of churches making an impact, and help chart a way forward as devoted, grace-filled people of God. One of the most helpful books I read all year, Good Faith became a resource for me when I was writing my next book.
by G. K. Chesterton
My commitment to reading all of the writings of G. K. Chesterton progressed considerably this year, with a number of his essays and fiction works primarily. Manalive is, so far, my favorite novel from Chesterton—a rollicking adventure that celebrates the gift of life. Crazy, and good.
by Randy Alcorn
Over the years, Randy has delivered encyclopedic yet highly readable takes on heaven, suffering, and generosity. Here, he turns to the meaning and significance of happiness. A landmark work that will keep you from ever pitting “happiness” against “holiness” again.
#10. THE FRACTURED REPUBLIC
Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism
by Yuval Levin
One way I can judge how much I enjoyed a book is by how many blog posts it inspires. Levin’s work was the basis for three different posts this year. See here, here, and here. This is an important work that reestablishes the need for and significance of mediating institutions in a divided country.
IN THOSE NIGHTMARISH DAYS
by Peretz Opoczynski and Josef Zelcowicz
Until this year, despite having done extensive reading about the Holocaust, I had never given much thought to the ghetto experience that most Jews endured in the months and years before they arrived in concentration camps. I saw the ghettos as a precursor to the real tragedy, the true terror of Auschwitz and Treblinka. I was wrong. See my full review here.