Twelve Books to Start 2012

I’m not a great reader, but I love to read. I finished 2011 reading some mission books and several older novels (Moby Dick, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Scarlet Letter). I’m trying to plan my 2012 reading a bit more, enabling me to read more widely and intentionally. (I’ll default to old novels sans a plan.) Here (in no particular order) are some at the top of my list for the new year, along with an explanation of why they’re there. I’d appreciate recommendations of some that should be there but aren’t. Please chime in.

1. Unbroken by Laura Hildebrand. I enjoyed her Seabiscuit and I enjoy WWII era stories (like Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys). I started this in 2011 but didn’t finish it. Weird. I just got into other books. Anyway, I’m eager to finish it up, especially because several friends have spoken so highly of it.

2-3. Preaching and Preachers by D. Martin Lloyd Jones and Between Two Worlds by John Stott. Because my brother-in-law recommended the first to me and gave the second to me. Because I haven’t read either, and I should have. Because I think it’s healthy for pastors to at least annually read something to help them improve their ministry, whether on preaching or pastoring or church life.

4. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a book about expressing ideas in memorable ways. As a preacher and writer, this fascinates me. It comes recommended by a friend.

5. God’s Wisdom in Proverbs by Dan Phillips. I enjoyed Dan’s The World-Tilting Gospel very much (and was surprised to be cited a few times, which was fun). I appreciate both his insights and his engaging and comical writing style. I need to spend more time in Proverbs—as a man, father, and pastor. And Dan’s a friend who has been unduly kind to me.

6-7. The Atonement by Leon Morris and Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray. Both are standards on the doctrine of salvation, and I’d like to read them for my personal nourishment and the good of those to whom I minister.

8. Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. The project has fascinated me sense I first heard of it from my friend Andy Naselli, one of the book’s editors. I’m looking forward to finally reading it. I also need to read Andy’s Let Go and Let God? on Keswick Theology. I’ve heard lectures on it, but I need to read through it myself. Make it 8.5 on the list.

9. George Whitefield by John Pollock. I love Pollock’s biographies (like Hudson Taylor and Maria and The Cambridge Seven), and I’m eager to learn more about this man who had such a sweeping influence on American evangelicalism and gospel advance. If you’re not working through a biography every year, you should be.

10. Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally by David J. Hesselgrave. I’m endeavoring to keep reading more on missions, having recently started playing “catch up” for earlier neglect. Hesselgrave’s books come highly recommended by friends I admire, and he kindly endorsed Gospel Meditations for Missions.

11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’m always working through a classic novel, both because I enjoy them and because I believe that reading well is essential to speaking or writing well. A friend recently told them that my ignorance of this modern American classic should be remedied right away. (It would be already, but amazingly, I can’t find the book on Kindle. What’s up with that?)

12. Puritans in the New World by David D. Hall. This was recommended to me and reviewed by a friend at a local pastor’s fellowship. It’s an anthology, so it will serve as a good introduction to Puritan writings, which is a weak point of mine.

That should keep me busy for a while. There are many on my desk calling for attention. I’m sure that many of your favorites aren’t here. What would you recommend, and why?

Favorites of mine from 2011:

  • A Biblical Theology of Missions by George Peters.
  • To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson. (This should be your next read.)
  • All Things for Good by Thomas Watson.
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins. I listened to this business/leadership book in 2011 and plan to read it in 2012. I’m surprised how often concepts from the book come to mind.
  • Middlemarch. It’s not short, but I enjoyed it. And it’s free on Kindle.
  • Moby Dick. I enjoyed most of it. Some of the non-plot sections were quite tedious. But it’s a classic of American literature and I’m glad to have both experienced it and knocked it off my bucket list.

26 Responses

  1. Chris,

    One of my favorite topics…

    Regarding Whitefield, the other option is Arnold Dallimore’s two-volume biography. His is certainly more pricey but well worth it.

    Two historical books in particular are on my reading list for this year. One is “The Glorious Cause” by Robert Middelkauff, a book regarding the American Revolution. The other is “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009” by Gregory Wills. Looking forward to both of these.

    On a related note, I purchased several books for my 12-yr old son this Christmas, hoping to get him more interested in reading. I’d be curioius what you or your readers would recommend for young teen boys.


  2. Those all sound very interesting, Andy. Thanks for the Dallimore tip. I’m anxious to get a quick overview via Pollock but will keep that set in mind. Anxious to hear about the SBTS book, too.

    Teen boys? Wow. Not my area of expertise, obviously. :)

    Generally, I recommend the following with teens: First, read with them. I’ve enjoyed sharing books with my girls and being able to discuss them. Second, make them a deal. Have them read some reasonable fiction of their choice, then a Christian devotional or biography, then a classic novel, then repeat.

    Wish I’d read more as a teen! And read better! We had to read books like A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, Catch 22, and the like. And I certainly wasn’t going to read other books by choice. :)

  3. The five best books for boys who don’t like to read (in order of difficulty):

    My Side of the Mountain
    Banner in the Sky
    The Black Pearl

  4. That reminds me. I enjoyed The Cay a few years ago. Nice boy book.

  5. loved the book you recommended about adoniram judson. i, too, was thinking i should re-read mockingbird, but im a little scared to. perhaps i am worried about being able to identify the underlying ailments more readily?!?

  6. One of my favorites from this past year was “King’s Cross” by Keller. Thought-provoking – as you would expect from Keller.

    Also reread portions of “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount” by Lloyd-Jones. That one doesn’t grow old.

  7. Thanks, Chris.

    I think you’ll get a lot out of Stott on preaching, and Murray is of course a classic. Very meaty; not the easiest reading, but your a big tough guy.

    Naselli’s book is also both informative and helpful. Good reading.

    I’d recommend Jim Hamilton’s terrific Biblical Theology for consideration.

  8. If you like history, Stephen Ambrose’s “Nothing Like it in the World” about the building of the transcontinental railroad is a fascinating read.

  9. True Grit (Charles Portis)
    Peace Like a River (Leif Enger)
    Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
    The Odyssey (tr. Robert Fitzgerald)
    That Distant Land (Wendell Berry)

  10. My favorite book I read this year was Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson (mother and daughter). I don’t think I agree with every single point, but I think it’s the best parenting book ever. It’s on the Kindle too.

  11. Elizabeth, I got it, largely based on your recommendation. I’ll plan to get it read in the next few months. You have me interested.

  12. All these sound great. I picked up Hamilton’s book based on Joe’s recommendation of it from his class with Hamilton at Southern.

  13. Definitely get a hard copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and enjoy every page!

    You may want to find the author Frank Boreham on Kindle. He was trained by Spurgeon’s Bible College and went on to pastor in NZ, Tasmania, and Australia. His view of the pastorate its refreshing. I recently enjoyed his autobiography written in the 1940s.

  14. Have to check back in to second the recommendation of “Give Them Grace…” by Fitzpatrick and Thompson…wonderful book that ministered to my wife and I. It is the book I recommend to those who ask about parenting resources.

  15. Chris, if you like Morris in #6, and if you haven’t read it already, his book The Cross in the New Testament is also excellent.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  16. I would recommend Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips or anything by Carl Trueman.

  17. Every reading list for 2012 should include the new biography of John MacArthur by Iian Murray, published by Banner of Truth. (In my humble opinion :)

    Warm regards,
    Greg Barkman

  18. Thank you Mr Barkman for mentioning Dr MacArthur’s biography. I echo your sentiments – it is an outstanding book that I read in 2011. Iain Murray is a terrific author and gives an outstanding look at Dr MacArthur’s ministry and lessons that can be learned from it.

  19. Chris:

    First–Yay! at my first official comment. :-)

    As for books:

    1) The Gospel According to Jesus and The Gospel According to the Apostles by MacArthur (obviously). I am sure you’ve probably read these already but I think they are the type of books that should be read about once a year. Very helpful in understanding the biblical gospel–which is slways a good thing!

    2) Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. I just got this for Christmas and it is a very thoughtful, God-centered treatment of how to affirm other people to the glory of God.

    3) Feelings and Faith by Brian Borgman. Another Christmas gift and a careful treatment of how emotions fit into the Christian life.

    4) The Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. This is an excellent historical fiction series dealing with the early church.

    5) The Begotten trilogy by Lisa Bergren. Lisa and I are Facebook friends and she is an incredible, artistic, God-centered writer. You won’t agree with some of her theology (I don’t!) but these are great, fast-paced, beautifully written novels.

    6) Tell the Truth by Will Metzger. A gracious treatise on biblical, God-centered evangelism. John Piper endorsed it. :-)

    7) Because He Loves Me, Idols of the Heart and Counsel from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I will admit that I have not finished any of these but they are all wonderful resources on how to integrate the Gospel into our daily lives.

    8) Pocketful of Pearls by Shelley Bates. Another novel, dealing with Christ’s redemptive power for a woman trapped in a cult. One of the best bovels I have ever read, which has had immense impact on me as a writer.

    That’s as many as I could think of that I figured you wouldn’t have already read. :-) Thanks for your suggestions, and I hope these encourage and challenge you!

  20. Chris,

    If you enjoyed Good to Great, I think you may like “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” also by Jim Collins. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Good to Great is supposed to be the “prequel” to Built to Last. I’ve not read Good to Great yet, so I’m not sure if/how much overlap there is. I am 40% through and find it helpful. There are some interesting concepts that I think parallel how the Church should operate. It’s fascinating to see the world identify God’s wisdom, while at the same time masking and slightly twisting it as something else.

    All the best,

  21. David, I’ve read the Mark of the Lion trilogy. Riveting, though occasionally unnecessarily racy. My take on Redeeming Love is about the same.

    I’ve had the 2 MacArthur books on my list for a long time. I’ll add them to 2012, as well, which I think puts me up to 14-15 to start. :)

  22. Bill, Good to Great is different from Built to Last. According to Collins (in G2G), B2L told how companies stay great. But G2G tells how they got that way in the first place. And I agree @ lessons for the church and biblical principles sometimes being manifest in other settings. Fascinating to me.

  23. I’ll be adding this to the list, too:

  24. Chris,

    Yes, I noticed a few days ago you’d read MOTL (as well as a number of other books I have read and enjoyed) since it was listed in the “What I’m Reading” tab. :)

    Have not yet read “Redeeming Love” but I do agree there were one or two scenes in MOTL that could have been toned down a tad.

    You’ll love the MacArthur books, I assure you. It would be good to hear your thoughts in one of your reviews if you have the time…my pastors speak highly of John’s ministry (John Street from Master’s will be preaching our men’s conference this year; Greg Mazak was in 2011, and was amazing) and have endorsed these books more than once in the pulpit and in informal conversation.

    Also, please forgive the typos in my earlier comment…I thought I was fairly adept at typing on my iPhone. :-)

    Happy 2012, and happy birthday!!

  25. I loved Made To Stick. Hardly a week passes that I don’t think about the “curse of knowledge,” a concept from the book. I’ve been slowly trying to give MTS to my friends who are in the ministry.

    Wordsmithy went on my Amazon wishlist tonight, too. :-)

  26. […] few weeks back that Leon Morris’ book The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance was on my reading list to start 2012. It’s been a profitable read. Yesterday I was encouraged by Morris’ thoughts regarding […]

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