BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Associate Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian
Well, another year has passed and another reading goal is in the books, so to speak. Every year I set a new reading goal intending to stretch myself, continue to learn, and Lord willing, grow closer to Christ. At the beginning of each new year, I like to reflect on the books I read during the past year as I set my goal for the upcoming year. I’ve found this to be both encouraging and motivating. I’m encouraged as I reflect on the great books I encountered and the many things I learned during the year. It’s motivating because the list of books looks so much smaller when it’s written out, and that makes me want to read more in the future!
I’d like to share with you some of my favorite reads from 2022 and encourage you to add one or two of them to your own book list.
As many of you might remember from the previous post about books, I love the Harry Potter series and I’m almost always reading (or listening to) one of the volumes. I did read some of those books this year, but I’m going to add a different work of fiction here. Somehow 2022 reignited a childhood love for The Lord of the Rings. Maybe it was the new Amazon series, but whatever it was I made my way through the entire series, and I found The Fellowship of the Ring to be a particularly beautiful read. I also read Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien, and oh man, is that a fantastic piece of literature! If you’ve never encountered Tolkien’s masterpieces, make 2023 the year!
I always love a good book recommendation and Sue Johnson’s book Created for Connection; The ‘Hold Me Tight’ Guide for Christian Couples is one I’m thankful came my way! I’ve read many books on marriage over the years, but this one might be the best. It is without a doubt the most practical marriage book I’ve read. Sue Johnson helps you to see the ‘why’ behind so much marital conflict. And she has more to say than “you fight because you are sinners” – as true as that is. Much of our sin and subsequent conflict arises, according to Sue, when the thing which marriage is designed to provide (and for which we all long) is interrupted: intimacy, not merely physical intimacy, but deep connection. I highly recommend this book.
Another top book from 2022 came by way of recommendation from Pastor Dan: Be Thou My Vision; A Liturgy for Daily Worship by Jonathan Gibson. This book is just what it sounds like: a month’s worth of daily liturgies designed to facilitate private and family worship. Each day you’ll find a call to worship, prayers of adoration, confession, and assurance, creeds and confessions, scripture readings, and guides for intercessory prayer. This is a wonderful aid for daily devotions!
Last year Carl Truman published an academic work entitled The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. It was an instant classic written to explain how our culture has arrived at our present cultural moment. It’s a worthwhile read, but it’s a bit of a slog. Thankfully this year Truman published the every man’s version of the book called Strange New World; How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution. This is essentially a scaled-down version of his earlier work. Those if you interested in the development of western culture, and in thinking about what it looks like to be a Christian in western culture, will want to grab a copy.
I try to choose a few biographies off the shelf each year, and in 2022 I stumbled across Peter Stark’s volume on George Washington entitled Young Washington; How Wilderness and War Forged America’s Founding Fathers. This work was different from other biographies I’ve encountered on my favorite president. Stark covers only Washington’s early years focusing particularly on his experience as an officer in the British Royal Army. If you’re a history buff this is a book worth picking up.
Finally, if you’re like me and tend to be an anxious sort of person, maybe especially anxious when it comes to your practice of the Christian faith, you’re going to want to read Phillip Carry’s book Good News for Anxious Christians; 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have To Do. Carry helps us to think more deeply about some of those things that tend to make anxious Christians anxious; finding God’s will, discerning motivations, experiencing joy, being transformed, and much more. He’s trying to help Christians shift from an inward-focused, experienced-based Christianity to a Christ-focused, gospel-based Christianity. I loved it!
Here are a few others you might want to check out:
- The Politics of Ministry; Navigating Power Dynamics and Negotiating Interests, Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman, Donald Guthrie
- Confronting Christianity; 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion, Rebecca McLaughlin
- Trinitarian Dogmatics; Exploring the Grammar of the Christian Doctrine of God, D. Glenn Butner Jr.
- The Lord’s Supper; Eternal Word in Broken Bread, Robert Letham