My favorite books of 2016

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading around 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, some were terrible… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year—but this year, I’m doing it a little differently by sharing from a few different categories. Check it out:

Books for Christians

Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians by J.A. Medders and Brandon D. Smith. Rooted is tiny, which makes it a great read for new believers. This book is really a crash course on Christian theology—what is it, why it matters and why eschatology is actually filled with good news. (For more on this book, check out the first episode of Reading Writers.)

True Worshipers by Bob Kauflin. For years, in blog posts and now in this book, Bob Kauflin has been putting many of my hangups about goofy things we do during corporate worship into charitable, but direct words. But what I love about this book isn’t that it voices the concerns—it offers solutions for those who have them. (For more, read my review.)

Understanding the Congregation’s Authority by Jonathan Leeman. This short little book is an introduction to a larger conversation on elder-led congregationalism, but it’s a terrific place to start for anyone who needs a foundational understanding of what it actually means (before reading Leeman’s longer book, Don’t Fire Your Church Members). (For more, read my review.)

Books with great stories

Outlaws of Time Volume 1: The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson. This book kicked off a new series, and it’s one of his most fascinating (and fantastical), filled with time travel, action, and high-stakes adventure. It’s a terrific book for readers between the ages of eight and 80.

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Yes, this is four books, but I’m fine cheating this once since the four books tell one story. I’d heard about this series from friends here and there but hadn’t given it a chance until earlier this year. I’m so glad I did, as it’s quickly become one of my favorites. The writing is sharp, and often extremely funny. The plot moves quickly, the drama is authentic, and Peterson smuggles in gospel themes in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Definitely worth reading as a family.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This book is just beautiful. I really don’t know what else to say about it. Dickens’ words, the story of love and sacrifice, the quirky background players, and the setting of revolutionary era France… I can’t wait to jump back into this one.

Books about things that actually happened

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. The film version of The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite movies. And reading this book, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at its making, was a delight. I loved getting a sense of the camaraderie the cast members felt, and the genuine affection everyone involved had for the source material and the film itself.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Neshi Coates. This book was a helpful (and painful) glimpse into a world I don’t know. I’ve never experienced the world the way Coates has. I don’t know what it’s like to feel fear as the baseline the way he describes as being normative in the African American experience.

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short. I ran through this book during my commute, and had a number of moments where I almost had to pull over because I was laughing so hard. Until I got to the end, which nearly had me in tears. After reading it, I was left with this desire to take him out for a soda, and give him a hug.

Books with pictures

DC Universe: Rebirth by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, et al. This book is a blast to read, and reminds me of what comics are supposed to be: fun! The storytelling is tight, the art is beautiful, and the hook is compelling. I’m really looking forward to seeing where DC’s editorial and creative teams go from this starting point.

Grayson, Volume 4: A Ghost in the Tomb by Tom King and Tim Seeley. I’m actually surprised this one made the list, as I wasn’t sure I was going to keep reading the series beyond the first volume. But I’m glad I did because it’s become one of the most interesting takes on the character of Dick Grayson so far. And this volume is where you really see the creators are having a great time playing with spy tropes and the character of Dick Grayson, even going so far as to give him a hilariously terrible theme song.

Queen and Country: The Definitive Edition, Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka. Rucka’s Queen and Country is intense, intelligent and engaging. It’s also very much a read-with-discretion book regarding certain elements. However, what I appreciate about the book is the unsavory elements are not displayed in a way to glorify or titillate. They exist more as a reality, or even as a signal of despair as the lead character’s life quickly spins out of control.

See what made the cut in years past:

My favorite books of 2015

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading around 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, some were terrible… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year—but this year, I’m doing it a little differently by sharing from a few different categories. Check it out:

Books for Christians

The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway). This is the book I want to put in the hands of every church leadership team. It’s extremely challenging, convicting and God-glorifying—and one those of us who read it need to apply to ourselves first, before we start pointing fingers to determine what’s wrong with our churches. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Good News About Satan by Bob Bevington (Cruciform Press). Most books on spiritual warfare are—how do I put this delicately?—completely and irredeemably whack. Bevington, rather than getting all hoobity boobity and indulging in too much fanciful speculation, does something unique: he sticks entirely to Scripture to try to paint a picture of the reality of the spiritual opposition we face. And in doing so, he shows us both how serious a threat demonic powers truly are while proving that they are no match for Christ.

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney (Crossway). In all honesty, if I had to choose, this would be my top book of the year. It’s the book I’ve most immediately applied to my life and found great benefit from (I even used it as a guide for a staff prayer chapel at the ministry I work with). It is one of the most practical and easy to apply books on prayer I’ve read possibly ever, and  one I’m happy to commend to any Christian seeking to improve their prayer life. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Preaching by Timothy Keller (Viking). As I shared in my reviewPreaching is not a book on “how to preach the Tim Keller way”. And for that I am grateful. It is a book about the primacy of preaching, a call to put our trust in God’s word on display, and to rely on the Spirit to work through our preaching as we strive to show Jesus as the real answer to those the late-modern mind cannot answer.

Books to shepherd your kids

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung (Crossway). As I wrote in my review, if you’re looking for a book to introduce your kids to the story of Scripture, The Biggest Story is one you’d want to strongly consider. It’s honest and faithful to the Bible, but balances that well with a kid-friendly tone and beautiful illustrations. I’m glad to have been able to share this book with my kids. I hope you’ll enjoy doing the same.

God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb (New Growth Press). The Holcombs give parents a tool with which to teach their kids about their private parts, consent, and what to do if they need help. It’s thoughtfully written, easy to understand and explain, and very helpful for preparing you for difficult conversations. (For more thoughts on this book, read my review.)

Books about Canada

How To Be A Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson. This is actually a bit older than most everything on this list, but it’s fantastic. The Fergusons gently poke fun at all that it means to be Canadian from our inefficient government and universal health care to our exotic cuisine and our peculiar proclivity to say “sorry”.

Books for fun

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson. I bought a copy of this to share with my oldest daughter, though so far I’m the only one who has read it (she’s not into it at the moment). It’s a super-compelling, fast read that leaves most other modern fiction books eating its dust. If you’re looking for something quick to read this Christmas, this is one I’d highly recommend.

Books with pictures

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick (Random House). As a fan of Frumpy the Clown and Barry Ween (which are so not appropriate for children in any way, shape or form), this is a book I’ve been waiting a looooong time for. Winick hits just the right balance of drama and comedy in the first part of his new graphic novel series for the all-ages demographic. My two oldest children adore this book. I’m looking forward to seeing it fall apart from being well-loved.

Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday (Marvel Comics). I normally don’t read comics based on movies, but Marvel’s doing a brilliant job with their entire line of Star Wars books. The storytelling is compelling, the artwork is top-notch, and most importantly, they feel like they matter to the overall story. Though they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, these are great fun if you’re a fan of Star Wars.

The Batman Adventures by Kelley Puckett, Mike Parobeck, et al. (DC Comics). I used to love the 90s Batman animated series, which inspired this all-ages series which has been out of print for far too long. Thankfully, DC has started collecting and republishing the series as graphic novels.


Here are a few books I really enjoyed, but didn’t quite make the “best of the best”:

See what made the cut in years past:

My favorite books of 2014

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading around 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I wished I had a back… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year.

Prayer by Timothy Keller. From my review:

Keller’s message challenges us, but reminds us of the grace of God. … It is rich in its theology, winsome in its approach and wise in its application. There may be few good modern books on prayer, but Prayer is one of them—and among the finest I’ve read of any era.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung. From my review:

Taking God At His Word is one of the few books I want to hand out to everyone I know. It really is that helpful. Its punchy and powerful message is exactly what so many new and mature believers need, and I trust it will be a great benefit to all who read it.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

United by Trillia Newbell.

This is a wonderfully encouraging and challenging book on a really big problem: racism and the need for ethnic diversity. In it, Trillia presents a compelling argument for the necessity of reclaiming a sense of diversity within the church from a perspective one doesn’t see often enough: that of someone who has experienced racism firsthand. Learn more about this book from my conversation with Trillia.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Evangelism by Mack Stiles. From my review:

We should want this for our churches. We should want to be the kind of people who take risks in order to share the gospel with others, who understand that entertainment doesn’t equal ministry, that God truly rejoices when one lost sheep is found. This is the vision Mack Stiles presents in Evangelism.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert. From my review:

The Gospel at Work may not be a theology of work proper, but make no mistake: it is as intensely theological as it is practical. Idleness and idolatry in work are theological problems and they’ve got serious practical implications. One makes work a burden, the other makes you work’s slave. But the gospel frees us from both idleness and idolatry.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novack.

Funny story: My daughter, Abigail, and I were in Chapters a while back enjoying a post-dance class hot chocolate, and we picked up this book to read together. As I told her, “I am a monkey who taught myself to read,” her eyes lit up. As I read the entire book, a big smile never left her face. When I put it down, I asked her, “So, did you like it?”

She looked me right in the eye, and said, “Not really.”


Buy it at: Amazon

Is it My Fault? by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. From my review:

What I hope [this book] does is remind us all that none of us can stand by when abuse occurs in our homes or in our churches. In those situations, our goal should always be to bring hope into the darkness of abuse of all kinds. To humbly, earnestly and uncompromisingly call perpetrators to repentance, and allow them to experience the consequences of their actions. To offer compassion to victims and allow them to begin to experience some form of healing, while holding out the promise of the final restoration Jesus will bring when He comes to wipe every tear from every eye. This is what victims of abuse need, and by God’s grace, it’s what we can offer, if we’re willing.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Gospel by Ray Ortlund. From my review:

Though particularly aimed at pastors and church leaders, The Gospel is valuable for any reader. It is not a how-to for ministry; it is a rallying cry for revival. It leaves you with a desire to see the kind of culture Ortlund talks about (and has nurtured at Immanuel) birthed in your own life and church. … Where even as some are hardened to the gospel, others are softened and welcomed into God’s family. When that happens, when our gospel doctrine leads to a gospel culture, it’s a wonderful thing indeed.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior.

I love good biographies, and Karen Swallow Prior has produced an excellent one in this volume on Hannah More, the most important social reformer you’ve probably never heard of.

Buy it at: Amazon

PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. From my review:

There’s nothing stealth about the Calvinism in PROOF. There’s nothing hostile or conspiratorial. This is not a grim tome filled with condemnation. What Montgomery and Jones offer is a picture of grace—grace that is to be meditated upon, sung about, worshiped through. Pure, undiluted grace; the kind that truly changes lives, the kind that is meant to be engaged in all of life.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever by Thor Ramsey.

Two things that never (usually) go together: Hell and humor. But Thor Ramsey makes it work, and rarely goes over the top. Instead, he presents a clear case for what we lose when we lose Hell and why it matters. If you’re looking for a good entry level book on the subject, this is the one for you.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The best of what wasn’t released in 2014

Not everything I read (thankfully) was released this year, nor were all my favorites. So, as a bonus, here are my top three vintage (ish) books read in 2014:

How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer.

This should be required reading for every Christian.




You can tell I feel strongly about this, huh?

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. From my review:

I can imagine some reading this book as though it were an authoritative treatise—that this is the way that demons act in our world and act against us, in the same way some treat Left Behind as gospel truth on the end times. But this would only do injustice to what Lewis is doing here.

Lewis doesn’t want his readers to be looking for the devil behind every corner after reading this book. Nor does he wish for them to be shouting, “the devil made me do it!” whenever they go astray.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Few authors can blend the mundane with the absurd as masterfully as Adams. This is probably my favorite work by Adams (I know, heresy!). I’ve read it multiple times over the year, and I never tire of it.

Buy it at: Amazon

So that’s my list—what were a few of your top reads this year?

See what made the cut in years past:

The worst books I read in 2014


Yeah, I’m going there.

Usually at the end of the year, us blogger types only talk about the books and articles and moments and cookies we really loved. The ones that really mattered to us (at least for a few minutes).

I’ve got lots of that coming up, have no fear. But what I want to do today is I want to kick off the “best of” season with a bit of a twist, and share a few of the really bad books I read in 2014. Some (most?) were released this year. Some were crazy popular. But none of them were particularly good. Ready? Let’s go!

That time R.C. Sproul wrote a bad children’s book

The King Without a Shadow by R.C. Sproul. Okay, this might be a shocker to some. But if I’ve got my timeline right, this is Sproul’s first children’s book, and it shows. My wife and I read it to our kids and it was




It’s so long that Emily lost focus while reading it. I may or may not have feel asleep while reading it, too. We love Sproul’s other children’s books (although none of them are really all that short), yeah, this is one we’re not planning on going back to any time soon.

The one that put a cramp in my soul

Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. You may have seen my review over at TGC a while back. (And if you haven’t read it, will you please? I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.) That review, incidentally, took ages to write as I had to try really hard to not go all ad hominem on Furtick. Its false premise, defensiveness and hopeless help isn’t worth your time.

The other one that put a cramp in my soul

Killing Lions by John and Sam Eldridge. There’s a review coming. The first line: “I don’t even know where to start with this book.” True story.

The one that didn’t really say anything

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. I know this book is a business classic and all, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I can figure out why. So many pages, so little content. If you want to save yourself some trouble, just read the opening and final pages of each chapter; you’ll get everything you need from those. Then go read something by Patrick Lencioni, because he’s way more fun.

The one that is sincere, but sincerely wrong

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. This is another one I’ve been struggling to review, not because I don’t have a lot to say, but because I want to be as thoughtful as possible in doing so. My central point of contention is that while Vines relies on the standard—and largely disproven—arguments for homosexuality’s compatibility with Christianity, he bases his arguments in experientialism and emotionalism disguised as “fruit.”

Bonus: The one that was too obviously ridiculous to even bother reading

The Zimzum of Love by Rob and Kristen Bell. C’mon, like you didn’t know this book wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time from the title alone. When a supposed Christian ex-pastor starts spouting pagan[1. The term comes from Kabbalah] nonsense about increasing the energy flow between you and your spouse, and the displacement of God’s omnipresence (something that, by definition, is not even possible), you know you’re going to crazy town.

Photo credit: cesarastudillo via photopin cc

My favorite books of 2013

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading well over 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I’m not sure how they were even published… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year:

Jesus on Every Page by David P. Murray

From my review:

One thing is clear as you read Jesus on Every Page: Murray’s excitement for the subject matter is palpable, particularly when he shares 10 ways we can find Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus can be found in creation, in the characters we meet, in the Law itself, in the history of God’s people, in the OT prophets, in the work of Israel’s poets… Christ is everywhere—even showing up in person on occasion.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.

Death by Living by N.D. Wilson

From my review:

N.D. Wilson’s writing is an acquired taste. His writing isn’t entirely linear. He follows the rabbit trails of his mind wherever they lead. He leads you to conclusions in a way that’s sometimes so subtle it’s easy to miss. But, if you follow him where he leads as he celebrates lives lived well, you’ll see this important truth: our lives are meant to be spent. As much as we lament time passing us by, as much as we loathe the idea of death, we can see even death as a gift.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.

Boring by Michael Kelley

From my review:

For years, a number of authors keep saying they want to write about why it’s okay to be “ordinary.” I’m glad one finally did. Boring is a much-needed book, one that is sure to be a relief for many weary Christians who are exhausted by the unrealistic expectations of the radical, even as it calls us to a greater demonstration of faith: being obedient right where we are.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.

The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

From my review:

Too many of us struggle to understand how to ask questions well or even understand the purpose of a question. But Anderson gives us a framework for asking the right questions in the right way that I’m sure will be valuable for years to come. This book is a wonderful gift to readers of all stripes; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

This book, written for kids five and older, is a wonderful love letter to reading, and a fantastic reminder that regardless of how you read, it’s story that really matters.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.

Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson

From my review:

Jamieson’s book is thoughtful, helpful, and packed full of wisdom. It succeeds in reminding us that sound doctrine truly is for all of life—and it’s a book you can’t easily walk away from without feeling at least a touch of conviction. Indeed, we all too easily take the implications of our doctrine for granted.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.

Five Points by John Piper

From my review:

Piper desperately wants to see the love of God in the five points of Calvinism; to see the doctrines of grace manifest their fruit: faithful joy in the lives of God’s people.Five Points is the kind of book I want to give to the person who struggles with the idea of Calvinism. It’s readable, challenging, thoughtful, and, most importantly, faithful to God’s Word.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.

Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry

From my review:

…the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover even the worst of sins. Homosexuals aren’t a special class of sinner outside the reach of the grace of God. In Is God Anti-Gay?, Allberry does a tremendous job of equipping Christians to think biblically about homosexuality and, Lord willing, to use what they know to reach the homosexual community with the love of God and see them, like all sinners, “repent and believe.”

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

The second non-traditional entry on this list (scary, isn’t it?). If you were proto-emo in the 90s, you were a fan of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy comic, The Sandman. This book is not The Sandman. Instead, this is a fun, quirky story for kids 8–11 where the only angst comes from wondering when Dad’s going to get home with the milk. I really enjoyed it (even if my daughter didn’t).

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.

Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine

From my review:

Sensing Jesus, by the author’s own admission, is meant to be a slow burn. If you blast through this book, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. “Apprenticeship needs meditation and time,” as he puts it (27). Readers would do well to take Eswine at his word. Read slowly and thoughtfully. Make lots of notes. Be willing to recognize where you see yourself in its pages, and consider how God might challenge you through it to recover the humanity of your ministry.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.

And just for fun, here are a couple of honorable mentions:

  • The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson (my review)
  • Crucifying Morality by R W Glenn (my review)

See what made the cut in years past:

So that’s my list—what were a few of your top reads this year?