Favorite Books of the First Half of 2014

Here are some of the books I read from January to June that I enjoyed/appreciated most. 

Fiction 

  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (2004 Pulitzer Prize) 
  • The Runaway Jury, by John Grisham 
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (collection of ten short stories) 
  • A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the debut story featuring Sherlock Holmes) 

Theology and Spirituality 

  • Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness, by Wesley Hill (a gay Christian’s reflections on living a celibate life out of convictions about the gospel and Christian morality) 
  • Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate, by Justin Lee (a gay Christian’s account of coming to terms with being gay, exploring Scripture, and presenting a case for legitimizing gay relationships/marriage within Christian ethics) 
  • Behold the Pierced One, by Joseph Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict XVI)
  • How to Be Rich, by Andy Stanley (on Christian stewardship and generosity) 
  • Ten: Words of Life for an Addicted, Compulsive, Cynical, Divided and Worn-out Culture, by Sean Gladding (exploration of the Ten Commandments and significance for today)

Leadership and Ministry 

  • The Leader’s Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation, by Herrington, Creech, and Taylor (on the place of spiritual and emotional maturity in the life of a ministry leader) 
  • Rich Church, Poor Church, by Clif Christopher 
  • Effective Staffing for Vital Churches, by Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittain 

Recent book reviews at Seedbed.com

I wrote a couple of book reviews for Seedbed.com this spring and summer.

In April, I wrote about Sean Gladding’s latest book, TEN: Words of Life for an Addicted, Compulsive, Cynical, Divided, and Worn-Out Culture. Gladding explores the Ten Commandments through a story about Monday-morning congregants at a coffee shop.

This month, I wrote about Rob Renfroe’s new book, The Trouble With the Truth. Renfroe contends that living out an authentic Christian witness requires balancing grace and truth. “The Christian faith is not one instead of the other or one more than the other but both together in equal measure, because this is the nature of our God.” Our culture’s understanding of truth has rapidly changed and this is a challenge that must be met well by the church.

Both are good books that will challenge their readers in various, helpful ways and I recommend them.

My Favorite Books of 2013

Looking back over the books I read in 2013, here’s a list of those I most enjoyed and heartily recommend.

Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Chronicles of Narnia, volumes 4-7, by CS Lewis – Ben and I finished reading these together this year to complete the whole set, read in the order in which they were originally published: The Horse and His Boy, The Silver Chair, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle
The House at Pooh Corner, by AA Milne – Another book read to the kids. Classic stories.

History and Biography

The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South, by Bruce Levine
The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro – The fourth volume in Caro’s series on Lyndon B. Johnson, this one covers his failed bid for the Democratic nomination in 1960, his Vice-Presidency under John F. Kennedy, his ascension to the presidency upon JFK’s assasination, and the first couple months of his presidency as he established himself and his administration.

Faith and Theology

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Timothy Keller
Longing for Enough in a Culture of More, by Paul Escamilla
Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters, by Luke Timothy Johnson
Speaking of Sin, by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Illumined Heart: Capturing the Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christianity, by Fredrica Mathewes-Green
Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament, by Sandra Richter

Other Non-Fiction

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall – Really fun read by a good storyteller
The Post-American World, release 2.0, by Fareed Zakaria
The Rare Find, by George Anders
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathon Haidt
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in LIfe and Work, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Book Review of Minding the Good Ground at Seedbed.com

My latest book review for Asbury Seminary’s ministry resourcing site Seedbed.com is up. The book is Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (Baylor 2011), by Jason Vickers. Vickers is a professor at United Methodist related United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Here’s the link.

Seedbed Book Review of Deep & Wide, by Andy Stanley

My latest book review is up at seedbed.com. It’s a look at Andy Stanley‘s recent book for pastors and church leaders, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.

Check out my review here.

Review of Christine Pohl’s Living into Community

My review of Christine Pohl’s excellent book, Living into Community: Cultivating the Practices That Sustain Us, is up at seedbed.com. I had Dr. Pohl for a couple of classes as a student at Asbury Seminary, including Ethics of Hospitality. This new book is a wonderful companion to her classic Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition.

My review is here.

Review of Laying Down the Sword, by Philip Jenkins

My latest book review is up at Asbury’s resource site, Seedbed.com. It’s a review of Philip Jenkins’ fall 2011 book, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses.

The book deals with a difficult subject, the presence of troubling examples of, and even commands to participate in, extreme acts of violence. It’s a subject that represents a stumbling block to many.

Jenkins is a scholar with a good reputation. I read his excellent book, The Next Christendom, ten years ago. It calls attention to the shift in the “center of gravity” in global Christianity from the northern to the southern hemisphere with the exceptional growth of the Church in South America, Africa, India, and China.

Check out my review of Laying Down the Sword here.

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