Once again we present the best book of 2018. As with previous years, these are not the best books published in 2018, but the best books I read in 2018. Also, I did not include re-reads. So as fantastic as Once and Future King is, I’ve read it before. Ditto The Rhetorical Presidency (which is a must-read if you want to understand just why our government has gone so insane).
The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson: (Reviewed here) This book is simply excellent both as a survey of how Christianity stands against both legalism and antinomianism and as an introduction to the Marrow controversy.
Made for Friendship by Drew Hunter: (Reviewed here) Most people don’t think much about friendship at all, let alone from a theological perspective. Hunter’s book is an important challenge to Christians to think carefully about just what it means to live well with others.
How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman: (Author interview available here) As our nation gets more polarized, how should Christians live in the world? What should we think about politics, and how should we live well with believers who have different political views? All of these questions and more are addressed in this excellent little book.
Defying the Odds by James Ceaser: We all know the 2016 Presidential election was a dumpster fire on the back of a train running towards a cement factory under attack by B-52s. But we may not know all the details of the campaigns and the overall meta-narrative in the context of historical elections. This book is both a history of the election and an analysis of how things happened the way they did. But don’t be fooled, it’s no technical manual. It is clear, concise, and a delightfully well-written read.
Restoring the Soul of the University by Perry Glanzer, Nathan Alleman, and Todd Ream: If the 2016 election was a train wreck, it’s nothing compared to the state of higher education in America. We just don’t notice it because it is so much a part of the background of our lives. This book goes a long ways toward diagnosing the problem and proposing a number of solutions, especially from a Christian perspective.
Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns by T. David Gordon: (Reviewed here) The short version is, contemporary Evangelical church music is so terrible that it has killed our ability to worship in any meaningful way as a congregation. The long version is that we need to get it together before the church loses any kind of musical institutional distinction from the culture, and the only difference between a church service and a U2 concert are the theological content of the lyrics.Fiction
The Obsidian Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory: (Book One reviewed here) This was my first Mercedes Lackey book (if it counts as a “Mercedes Lackey” book when it’s cowritten), and I was definitely favorably impressed. While I’m not much of a fantasy aficionado—I’m not against it, I’ve just not read much of it—this trilogy was well-written and interesting with a tightly-scripted plot. It also raises all sorts of interesting questions about the nature of power, the difference between good and evil, and the necessity of sacrifice.
Revival by Stephen King: (Reviewed here) Don’t be fooled by the description on the dust jacket, this isn’t really about a charlatan preacher. Instead, it’s King’s nod to Frankenstein, much as his earlier work Salem’s Lot was a nod to Dracula. To be sure there is something of religion in the book, but it’s the bigger picture/more vague sort of stuff that we would expect from a standard King story. Instead, the real focus is on the small individual trying to make his way in a terrifying world that is at best indifferent to us, and at worst actively working for our destruction.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: (Reviewed here, sort of) Somehow I made it into my 30’s without reading Stevenson’s masterpiece. This book has everything you could want, and absolutely deserves its status as a classic.
Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep: The relationship between the state of Georgia, the Federal Government, and the Cherokee Tribe in the early 19th century is one which makes it into most history and politics textbooks, but mostly without giving detail or background of the lead-up to the expulsion of the Cherokee to the West via the Trail of Tears. We get detail and background aplenty in this book in prose that is fluid and engaging. I strongly, strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the past and present relationship between the federal government and the Native American tribes. I can testify that the audiobook version is excellent as well.
The General vs the President by H.W. Brands: So you remember the time a general talked publicly about how incompetent the President is, and how all politicians are ignorant of everything that really matters, and what we need are the expert military minds to make the military decisions? No? That doesn’t sound familiar in 2018? Sarcasm aside, this book is excellent both as a historical narrative and as a reflection on the appropriate balance between political and military leaders in the midst of a delicate international situation and armed conflict.
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO