Ben's book list 2016
Most of the good books and authors I read came to me through the recommendations of others, and I love to pass that gift along. Here are a few books from my book pile this past year. Not every good book I came across is here, but these are a few of the ones that have helped me to grow...I hope they grow you as well.
“Charles Simeon of Cambridge” : I confess I am not through this one yet, but I am reading it slowly and enjoying a lens into life in another era. Charles Simeon, a gifted English preacher in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, revolutionized how many went about ministry. Recommended to me by Gordon MacDonald, how could it miss?! (Out of print but used copies are available online).
“The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology's Most Powerful Insights”: This book was another recommendation from a (“smarter than me”) friend whose recommendation I often scoop up. A bit slow to get started, but worth it in the end. An interesting look into how we make decisions, the wisdom of “gut instinct,” and my favorite chapter on how happiness is rarely related to great circumstances.
“Scripture and the Authority of God” NT Wright: One of my favorite authors and the former Bishop of Durham who always makes me think more deeply. This book tackles an essential issue for our times, the authority of scripture in the life of the Church and the Christian. This sentence from the book summarizes it well: “the shorthand phrase `the authority of Scripture,' when unpacked, offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus Christ himself, and now to be implemented by the Spirit-led life of the Church precisely as the Scripture-reading community.” How Wright writes as much as he does I have no idea…but I am glad he does.
“The Faith of Christopher Hitchens” Larry Taunton: I was prepared to dislike this book and it does leave me a bit conflicted. Taunton tells of his friendship as a Christian with the (now deceased) anti-theist Hitchens. This posthumous telling of the story of their friendship has left him open to some criticism, but I will let you be the judge if it is fair or not. I include it here because it left me liking Hitchens more than the headlines of his life did. This book will not convince anyone to believe or not believe, but it gave me a better perspective on conflict between “believers” and “non-believers” – that alone is worth the read.
“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown: I may simply be the only person who had not read this book, but it lives up to the hype. Reading about the 1936 rowing team and their quest for gold at “Hitler's Olympics” just prior to this year’s Summer Olympics was a bonus. I started “rowing” on an erg a few years ago to add some kind of exercise to my sedentary life and that probably added to the appeal of the book – regardless, you will be inspired by the boys in the boat.
“Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” Atul Gwande: I read this originally in 2015 with a book group I am part of, but I recommend it here since it is the book I have recommended to more people than any other this past year. Atul Gwande is a physician in Boston who writes with elegance and purpose. In Being Mortal, he takes a touching and important look at aging and the end of life, what we want, how we struggle, and how we can care for one another in those final years. For all who are caring for aging parents, who want to better prepare for the final stages of life and be better able to handle those meaningful conversations that often never happen: read this book.
“Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City” Tim Keller: A book for my ministry friends, more of a textbook in some ways. In Center Church, Keller makes a detailed case for the work of the church in ministering in a secular culture. Some of the best sections are on the topic of contextualization of our faith in our culture. This is not a book about a specific methodology or ministry style (nothing wrong with those); instead, it is a look into bridging the gap between faith, the church, and our culture which can be accomplished through a variety of ‘styles' of ministry but always through a specific theology.
“Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues” NT Wright: My second offering by NT Wright and a very different read. In Surprised by Scripture, Wright tackles some of the more difficult and complicated issues facing Christians and the Church. While I don’t always agree with him, I do always appreciate Tom Wright's devotion to scripture and thoughtful explanations. Addressing issues including the supposed divide between science and faith, the Christian commitment to the environment, and the problem of evil, Surprised by Scripture is a fresh look at these and other important issues.