Here they are! Out of the 86 books I managed to read (and finish) this year, I have chosen ten that stand out as my favorite reads of 2006. This list differs somewhat from previous years. In 2004, several of the books were either New Testament studies or about developing a Christian worldview. In 2005, three of the books dealt with the Emerging Church. This year, I read more fiction and also began reading some literary classics. That explains the reason for three works of classic fiction on the list.
10. Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity – Dave Shiflett
Dave Shiflett’s book is a thoroughly engaging look at the dynamic of Christian churches in North America, and why conservative churches are growing while the liberal denominations continue in their state of perpetual hemorrhage. I was so engrossed by this book that I read it in one day.
9. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book against slavery is deeply moving. Upon its release, it challenged the apathy of slave-owners and those who supported slavery by their reluctance to take a stand against it. Would that Christian writers today learn from Stowe’s example and write such a heartfelt book against the great moral evil of our day: abortion!
8. Why Men Hate Going to Church – David Murrow
David Murrow gets to the root of the problem of why men hate going to church. His pointing out how Christian services have been “feminized” is scandalous. Nevertheless, I do not agree with the solutions he offers. There’s more that has to be done than simply tweaking Christian worship services so that men will “feel comfortable.” Still, the book makes my Top Ten list because it influenced me greatly this year by helping me begin to see the great problem of how our female-oriented lingo and practice turns men away.
7. Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today – John Stott
Yes, I know it’s now the 21st century. But John Stott’s book on expository preaching is a classic that should be read even into the 22nd century and beyond. Terrific insight. Great encouragement. The book makes me want to preach!
6. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo’s portrait of France in the 19th century is breathtaking. The sadness of the story is broken by brief, but beautiful glimpses of grace that remain unparalleled in classic literature.
5. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers – Christian Smith, Melinda Lundquist Denton
This look at the religious life of American teenagers is both disturbing and promising. The writers’ conclusion is that American teens have a worldview called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” The challenge for youth pastors and parents? Overhaul the current youth pastor system in this country and throw out our flawed presuppositions about youth education.
4. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense – N.T. Wright
A masterful apologetic for Christianity in our postmodern, post-Christian society. Wright infuses his work with warmth, illustrations, and historical research that make this book one not to be missed. As a side note, this is the only book this year that I read twice!
3. Being the Body – Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn
This updated version of Colson’s The Body from the early nineties is better than the original. It is a clarion call for the church to engage the culture and for Christians to understand the importance of the local church.
2. Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be : A Breviary of Sin – Cornelius Plantinga
The most enjoyable (if that’s possible) book on sin that I’ve ever encountered. Plantinga focuses on the different aspects of sin, the ways evil manifests itself, and how we are all guilty. Prepare to see your need to ask for forgiveness.
1. The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
Last year’s Narnia movie, as well as my tutoring of middle-school kids this year, led me back to the Narnia series, now conveniently placed into a single volume. Once again, I was amazed by the spiritual depth of Lewis’ fiction, as well as the immense enjoyment I (as an adult) received from reading this series.