You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
No book I have read in the last year has impacted my thinking more than this one. The exploration of Augustinian ideas applied to how we function as human beings, and how faith functions in our lives, is one of the most needed ideas in our time. It broke open a whole world of psychological realities to help me be a better exegete of culture and humankind (to help me preach to the heart not just the head), but also a better father, husband, and friend.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
One of the best books I have ever read and one of the most important to the life of faith and Christian theology, written in a way that is accessible and inspiring for everyone, not just theologians! “For over 40 years, J. I. Packer’s classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God.” If you only read one book on this list this year, let it be this one!
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
One of the most important books ever written on what it means to be a Christian in the world. Bonhoeffer lived in the midst of the rise of Nazi Germany as a theologian and a pastor. He could have stayed in America but went back home to help lead and teach the church in Germany around how not to become part of the Third Reich in their practice and theology. He tried to kill Hitler in the end, even as a pacifist, and was killed for it days before the war was over. The Cost of Discipleship is not directly about any of that, it is about how to live a life sold out to Jesus in the world when it costs you everything. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy R. Pearcey
Pearcey is both an academic and a pragmatist. She is a great philosopher, professor and writer. Her other books have added to the cultural conversations about worldviews and truth, this book enters into that conversation in the context of sexuality. How we as the church and culture think about things such as sex in marriage, hook-up cultures, transgenderism, homosexuality, pornography, abortion, euthanasia, etc., Sure to stir up all kinds of feelings on both sides of these issues, she is always well researched and well argued.The book helped blow up the body / soul dichotomy so many live with in our culture and the church, and elevated the life of the body to me in a new way. The title says it all, and I wasn’t prepared for how it would effect my view of the body and it’s role in my life, and all of our lives, as profoundly as it did. Timely as our culture – and the church – wrestles with these extremely important topics.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
A rich book framed as demons writing letters to one another, but really it’s about living the Christian life in the midst of the pressures of the world we face every day. It’s unbelievable insights into how the mind and soul work have made it a classic. One of Lewis’ best!
Didn’t See it Coming by Carey Nieuwhof
So needed by so many! It explores the ideas behind burnout which can lead to depression, cynicism, etc., It explores optimism and an approach to working hard but not burning out, and facing head on the challenges of this busy life. Practical and theological. Not just because he’s my homie, but because this book is amazing and so many I know need to read it before it’s too late.
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll
An amazing exploration of the fact that so often modern Christians aren’t known for their intellectual life anymore, though we used to be, but more experiential, or feelings driven faith. Noll examines this reality, critiques it, and calls the modern Christian world to recover the life of the mind.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
A classic for good reason. Recognized as one of the great works of literature. It is amazing in its poetry and its insights into living the Christian life, conversion, and our day to day journey with God until the end. Bunyan’s story is amazing as well (imprisoned for 12 years for refusing to stop preaching the bible, etc.,) and is a great way to appreciate this book all the more. The drama and the poetry of the story itself help them frame Christianity as a journey rather than a list of doctrines.
The Way of the (Modern) World: Or, Why It’s Tempting to Live As If God Doesn’t Exist by Craig Gay
Heavy. Profound. Thought-provoking. Written years ago, but still one of the deepest books I come back to around the question of thinking through faith in the modern world. It’s not exactly a devotional book, as it is heavy philosophically, theologically, and socio-economically, but man it’s good! It delves into how Christianity interacts with politics, technology, economics, and personhood, among other things. One of the ideas that so profoundly impacted me was Gay’s exploration of the ‘grave-digger effect’ of the Protestant Reformation around capitalism and it’s connection to secularism.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Fun for leaders, church planters, entrepreneurs, or just people who love to think about why ideas move. Social epidemics are fascinating realities and Gladwell explores why they happen and of course how we can leverage them. I love reading these chapters through the filter of an evangelist trying to make the best idea – the gospel – move through a culture, and change peoples lives as a social epidemic.
Leadership in Turbulent Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Any time we can explore great leaders of the past and learn we should. This book, by the brilliant Doris Kearns Goodwin, pulls together four presidents and explores how they led, with the specific thesis, of how they did so in difficult times. Required reading for any leader who faces pressure, challenge, criticism, pain, or all of these – so basically, every leader in some form.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
An amazing book. An almost unbelievably true story of Louis Zamperini from his days as a world-class athlete (running in the Berlin Olympics), being stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a raft after being shot down in WWII, resilience in the face of intense suffering in a POW camp, and his life upon return (alcoholism, anger, etc.,) but then ultimately redemption in the context of accepting Christ into his life. The movie was good, but the book is next level.