“I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Jane Austen
“Reading is a gift, but only if the words are taken into the soul—eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” Eugene Peterson
I love books. Give me a good library or an hour at your used book store and I’m a happy man. There are a lot of things that make a book good, let alone enjoyable, so my list is admittedly subjective. But to add to the chorus of top books read in 2019, here’s my top-ten list. My criteria was reading them in 2019, not publication date, though most were printed in 2019. In no particular order…
You can read here my top five reasons to buy this book. It’s a deeply personal and pastoral book that helps us know what to do with our pain. This book will be a resource for years to come. Keep a handful on your shelf so you always have one to give away.
I’ve read these novels and short stories before when they were published independently, but this new collection of Wendell Berry’s Port William stories are set in chronological order. There’s so much to learn from Berry’s works, and I’ve captured a few of those lessons in these posts. Though this collection focused on Bery’s fiction, Russell Moore’s top read from 2019 was the collected essays of Berry.
I read this Pulitzer Prize winning novel all the way back in January. It’s part of an excellent trilogy from Marilynne Robinson, and you should also read Lila and Home. Like Berry’s fiction, you don’t read Robinson for an action-packed story but for the humanity of its characters and the familiarity of its place. You can read some of my favorite quotes here.
James K.A. Smith has become one of the few authors where I read anything he writes. He’s on a string of knock-it-out-of-the-park books, this one included. He brings history, theology, and philosophy to bear on the questions of our heart and the questions in our culture. Read my favorite quotes here.
This excellent book helps readers navigate some of the most significant ethical issues in church and society today. It not only nudges us to engage these issues to learn what we believe, often through various viewpoints represented by a spectrum of beliefs or counterpoints, but it teaches us how to do so. Pursuing truth and treating one another with grace are both essential.
The cover has two things I love: dogs and cookies. If that’s not enough, this book draws on science and the Bible to help form us through our habits. We all want better habits, but there are many reasons we don’t follow through. This book, also full of wit and self-deprecating humor, helps us understand our roadblocks and guides us toward practical and grace-centered motivations for change. This would be a great book for the new year or for Lent 2019. For some of you, this might be the book you haven’t heard of but are most in need of.
This timely work helps us better understand the culture in which Christians live and breathe, and how that affects us for good and bad. I’ve turned to it often for insights into how the constant noise and distractions today fight for our attention and influence our behaviors and experiences. But it does more than diagnose. It gives us clear ways to be disruptive witnesses with a compelling faith. Read some of my favorite quotes here.
If 2019 wasn’t an “interesting” enough year, we can only imagine what 2020 will look like with an upcoming election. Not only is our nation divided, but many churches are experiencing division among their members. This book helps Christians think about their thinking when it comes to faith and politics, though it touches on a number of other significant issues as well. It not only helps us root our thinking about politics in the Bible (the what of the book), but it also teaches us how to engage tough topics as Christians. I posted some of my favorite quotes here.
Ken Burns called our National Parks “America’s best idea.” I love visiting America’s pristine parks and seeing the beauty of God’s Creation well-preserved. The book is less about the US National Parks, though you certainly learn about them, and more about stories of family and memories with family members along the way.
Wirzba approaches many of the same concerns as Wendell Berry, but with a more theological spin. This book helps us better understand the goodness of food, gardening, and creation (three of my favorite topics), as well as how food fits into bigger issues in our world, such as creation care and responsible eating. Reading it made me grateful to our Creator, the author of every good gift, including the food we eat and the people who turn it into beautiful and tasty dishes on our plate.
What were your favorite books this year?