A few years ago I counted the actual number of books I read in a year and was surprised at how few I actually completed. So, I started a project of setting reading goals for each year and tracking my progress. This includes rating books that I finished. This list reflects five of the best books I read, which some of you might also enjoy. I tried to include a few different genres.
- The Story of Reality by Greg Koukl
This may be the top book I read this year and the one I most highly recommend. Greg Koukl is known as a Christian apologist. He does a good job of skillfully communicating with people about issues of faith with clarity and charity. The Story of Reality is in many ways a modern version of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. His goal is to give a broad sketch of the storyline of life and history, according to Christianity: how the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between. A book like this is important for at least two reasons: first, it demonstrates that the Bible doesn’t just teach us about religion, but about reality; second, Christians benefit from a single volume, easily digestible work that summarizes the big picture of Scripture. This is that book. It is great for teens or adults, for new believers or mature, for Christians and non-Christians interested in learning about the faith. This isn’t a book on doctrines, but along the way the author tackles some important issues and arguments with a deft touch, while avoiding technical language. A very accessible and helpful work.
- All Things for Good by Thomas Watson
I love reading Thomas Watson. He is the easiest of the Puritans to read, in my opinion. Partly because he has a fine way of summarizing important ideas into pithy and memorable sayings, but also because he writes clearly and to the heart on weighty topics. All Things for Good is an exploration of Romans 8:28. As the title suggests, God works all things together for the good of those who love him in Christ. This is especially meaningful in times of affliction. If there was ever a year to read a book like this, 2020 is it. Maybe you should start off 2021 with this gem. It is a short read (127 pages), but it will stick with you for a long time.
- Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund
Oftentimes a book becomes especially meaningful when you encounter it at just the right moment of life. It speaks to your deepest needs or answers nagging questions. I suspect that Gentle and Lowly could be like that for many of you. Dane Ortlund draws from several Puritan writings, particularly Thomas Goodwin, to demonstrate the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers. Christians have always struggled believing that God loves us through it all. Guilt and shame from our sins lead us to believe that God is disgusted with us and has had enough. But nothing could be further from the truth. This book is balm for the soul of the wounded Christian who needs to be reminded (or taught for the first time) of the heart of Christ for sinners.
- Endurance by Alfred Lansing
Endurance is the classic true story of the doomed Shackleton voyage. In 1914, Ernest Shackleton set out with a crew of men to Antarctica with the objective to make the first overland trek across the continent. Things don’t go as planned and an adventure turns into a survival tale. What these men had to endure is shocking and the storytelling is riveting. Do they make it out alive? I won’t spoil the outcome, but urge you to pick up this book. High School boys in particular might enjoy the spirit of adventure, courage, and resolve that fills the story.
- Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw
This novel takes place in the common medieval-England setting that Western fantasy tends to live in. Much will sound familiar: an evil force rising up in the world, nations at war, a boy caught up in events greater than himself, a secretive society of warriors and an academy that trains them, sword fights, slavers, and a bit of magic. Behind all this also lies the painful relationship of a son and his abusive father. It isn’t subverting tropes, but there is a reason why these are tropes: they work. This book is well-written. The characters are well thought out and relatable. The action is fun. The world feels real. Mysteries are enticing. As a bonus, the writer is a Christian, who nods to Christian themes without writing a direct analogy (more akin to Tolkien than Lewis). This lengthy volume (700+ pages) is the first in a series, the rest of which aren’t out yet, but the first book has a satisfying end and leaves you wanting more.