With 2019 drawing to a close, I’ll throw my best of list into the mix as well, so below are my favorite books that I read this year.
1. The Lord’s Prayer by Thomas Watson
Technically, Watson’s treatment of the Lord’s Prayer is the third volume of A Body of Divinity, but it requires no prior reading of the first two books. The writing of Watson overall is short, concise, and filled with quick but memorable illustrations of his points. If nothing else, read through his almost 100-page study of the petition Your Kingdom Come, which is deeply soul-searching.
2. A Guide to Christian Living by John Calvin
This short book is one chapter from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christians Religion, but it stands alone quite well on its own. Focusing on the necessity of self-denial in light of the cross and our hope in the life to come, these words are just as needed today as they were in Calvin’s time.
3. The 10 Commandments by Kevin DeYoung
After preaching through the Ten Commandments, if I needed to recommend one book about the Decalogue, this is it. This book is both doctrinally rich and theologically accessible, and most importantly, it fulfills its subtitle by defending why Christians still need the Ten Commandments.
4. The Other Side of History by Robert Garland
Okay, so this isn’t technically a book. It’s a series of lectures from the Great Courses, but since I listened to it on Audible, I’m still counting it. The premise of the course is to describe life within ancient societies as an ordinary and unimportant person. These portraits of what life was like for our forerunners are so different than the modern lifestyle, which makes them highly fascinating to discover.
5. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
This was my third time to read through The Silmarillion, and even though I didn’t want to put it on this list, it genuinely was one of my favorite reads of the years. The large number of names (which require a glossary at the end) are a labor of love to keep up with and certainly keep this book from being for everyone. But Tolkien’s account of the Elder Days has only grown more endearing to me with each read through.
6. Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper
Recapturing the Wonder was one of my favorite reads of 2018, and while I wasn’t as thoroughly enamored with Rhythms of Grace, it is a wonderful and enlightening read, nonetheless. If nothing else, Cosper helped guide me through the beauties and benefits of being intentional how we worship and structure our worship.
7. Words From the Fire by R. Albert Mohler
I’ve placed Mohler’s book about the Ten Commandments slightly below DeYoung’s book because I feel that DeYoung’s is a bit more comprehensive and accessible. Words From the Fire, however, should not be ignored. In particular, Mohler’s look at the Third Commandment was firing on all cylinders!
8. The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson
If my appreciation for Watson’s clear and potent writing style was not clear, I’ll reiterate again with another one of his books. The Godly Man’s Picture does exactly what the title suggests, paints a portrait of a person who is marked by godliness. Read it slowly and prayerfully, and it will be of great value.
9. Luther and His Katie by Dolina McCuish
Although I knew some of Luther’s relationship with his wife, this book painted a quick but beautiful portrait of Katie’s influence upon her husband’s life and ministry. As a pastor whose wife is also of a very strong character, McCuish’s book resonated with me deeply.
10. The Book of God by Walter Wangerin Jr.
I purchased this book in high school and have attempted starting it a few times over the last several years, but I took it up this year and enjoyed it greatly. If the idea of turning the Bible into a novel is off-putting to you, Wangerin probably won’t win you over. The chapters covering David moved me to tears by the end, while those over Solomon were my least favorite (though still thought-provoking).
Honorable Mention: Toxic Childhood by Sue Palmer
I place this book as an honorable mention solely because I am still not finished reading it (so it’ll probably make my list for 2020). Here Palmer describes how many aspects of our modern society negatively impact our children. From junk food and family time to naps and television, the book is at least worth reading thoughtfully and wrestling with the conclusions.