My life has been enriched by great books. Through reading, my walk with Christ has been deepened, my understanding of the Bible has grown, my small corner of the world has been enlarged, and my uninformed opinions have been challenged.
Every year, I make my way through a variety of books using a plan I first ran across in a post from Al Mohler a few years ago. He suggests reading books on theology, biblical studies, church life, cultural studies, history, and literature. This helps a reader to ensure that they are not only reading one kind of book, but rather building a broad and healthy intellectual life.
Thanks to moving my family to a new town and starting a new job, I read fewer books than usual this year, but still got to read some great books that challenged me and helped me grow.
Here are my favorite books of 2018.
Theology and the Christian Life
Pray for the Flock by Brian Croft and Ryan Fullerton
For those of you who are pastors, the Apostles’ example of devoting themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer should challenge you. Pastors, pray for your people. This short and helpful book by Brian Croft and Ryan Fullerton will help you understand how to devote yourselves to this great task. Then, let your people know you are praying for them and ask them how you can pray for them. This lets them know their pastor loves them and helps you understand how to pray for the people God has entrusted to you.
God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life by Tim and Kathy Keller
I love the Proverbs and think about them almost every day. This year-long devotional through the Proverbs and parts of Job and Ecclesiastes contains great nuggets of wisdom and does a beautiful job of connecting the wisdom literature to the work of Christ. The Kellers also have a devotional on the Psalms titled, The Songs of Jesus. (You can read my favorite quotes from God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life here.)
Remember Death by Matthew McCullough
Let me start with a disclaimer, I almost did not include this book because the author is my good friend and brother-in-law and I didn’t want it to seem like I included it just because of that. However, I had to include it because the book is that good and the topic is that important. We are all going to die and the things we spent our lives accumulating will slip through our fingers. This book helps us reckon with this truth and will show us how our lives should change in light of our death-awareness. (You can read the best quotes from Remember Death here.)
Greek for Life by Benjamin Merkle and Robert Plummer
It’s a tale as old as time–a guy goes to Seminary, learns the biblical languages, and stops using them once he is pastoring a church. What a waste of a precious privilege and valuable time. Greek for Life helps the reader develop a plan to use Greek in Bible study and preaching for the long haul. This should be required reading for everyone who takes the languages.
Truman by David McCullough
Any book written by David McCullough is guaranteed to be good. I knew very little about Truman before I picked up this volume. McCullough shows Truman to be a humble and hard-working man who tried in every situation to do the right and honorable thing. This is the quintessential American story of a man who was born in poverty in Missouri and came to occupy the highest office in the land.
I’m not quite finished reading Ron Chernow’s tome on Ulysses S. Grant, but I have enjoyed every step of the journey so far. Chernow shows Grant at his best and at his worst. He doesn’t paper over Grant’s issues with alcohol and personal failure. Then, he beautifully narrates the story of Grant’s meteoric rise through the ranks as he proved himself to be the most capable of the Union Generals in the Civil War. I was also moved at Grant’s intense fight to protect the rights of newly-freed slaves in the years after the war.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Alabamians like myself claim Truman Capote as one of our own because of the time he spent here with his family and his close friendship with Harper Lee. In Cold Blood is one of the first true crime stories and details the hunt for the murderers of a beloved family in rural Kansas. The story provides stirring insight into human nature and tries to make sense of a needlessly gruesome crime.
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
There may not be a sadder line in literature than, “I always thought that when I got older God would come into my life in some way. He didn’t. I don’t blame him. If I was him I’d have the same opinion about me that he does.” The thoughts of Sherriff Bell frame this gripping tale about a man on the run from a cold-blooded hitman. I read this by the pool on vacation this past Spring and could not put it down. This is an incredible story.
On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior
We spend a lot of time thinking about developing skills and growing in our ability to work well, but we do not spend enough time thinking about the development of virtue. Karen Swallow Prior walks through twelve timeless works of literature and explains how they help us to develop the virtues that lead to a righteous and enjoyable life. In a culture where we are willing to sacrifice ethics for political power, we need to hear the message of this great book.
Atticus Finch by Joseph Crespino
It may seem strange for someone to write a book about a fictional character, but the difference between the Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird and the one we see in Go Set a Watchman needs some explanation. Joseph Crespino shows how Harper Lee based the character of Atticus Finch on her own father as a way of explaining Southern conservatives to her liberal friends in New York. For those of us who live in the South, this book lays out many of our blind spots on race.
What about you? What were the best books that you read in 2018?
“My Favorite Books of 2017“