By now you have probably scanned half a dozen “best of” lists. Writers, critics, and commentators typically release these lists to summarize what books, films, or stories made the biggest impact. We’d like to share with you just five books that impacted us this year. We share these books because we think they’re important and were personally helped by them in some way.
A Small Book about a Big Problem by Ed Welch
If you are like me, you probably don’t think you have anger problems. But you’re wrong. This book may look like a small fist, but it will knock the breath out of you.
If you are like me, you probably don’t think you have time to read another book. But you’re wrong. It is a 50-day devotional. The chapters are no more than 1 normal book page. You could read a chapter while brushing your teeth or while waiting for the microwave to warm your left over dinner. The only downside to this book is that it is a bit pricey. But no more expensive than the nice dinner that gave you left overs. Nothing to get angry about anyway.
I guarantee you that this book will help you walk more wisely. I have found it to be crippling and healing. It will bring peace to you and those around you. Above all, it will help you become more like our great God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The New Living Translation “The One Year Bible”
For 2017 I decided to read through the NLT using the One Year Bible plan. I have never actually read through the entire Bible systematically in one year. Still haven’t! I made it 75% of the way in 2017 but stopped the Old Testament reading due to my Ph.D. work. Jenny read through the same plan in the ESV. We loved reading it together. We loved how it stretched us and kept us on track. Reading two different translations was enjoyable and allowed us to compare and contrast at times.
After becoming a Christian, I received a NKJV Study Bible and devoured it. After that, I consumed the original NIV. Today, the two translations I use the most are the ESV and the NASB. The NLT Translation has its pros and cons. I found it helpful during Old Testament narratives and the Proverbs. There were numerous times that I saw the Scripture better because of it. It does have its shortcomings in the Epistles and other places, but not enough to stop reading it. I’m going to stick with the ESV for personal devotions in the future, but I will keep the NLT handy for when I need a fresh translation to jumpstart my mind or heart.
The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabelle Wilkerson
My wife and I care how the gospel impacts racial reconciliation. We aren’t experts. We have a lot to learn. That led us last year to try to expose ourselves to literature, articles, and conversations that would aid us in getting small tastes of the complexities of the issues. The Warmth of Other Suns significantly impacted the way I now see racial issues in our country and the church.
Neither a political proposition nor a reaction to recent events, the power of this book resides in its narrative power. It traces the story of three African American “immigrants” who journey from the the southern lands of their parents or grandparents to start a new life in parts of the country promising greater freedom.
I’m convinced the best path toward racial reconciliation is for majority culture Christians to listen long to the voice of minorities around them. This book is a good doorway into those conversations. You won’t be the same.
Deep Work – Cal Newport
It’s been 18 months now since I became a bi-vocational pastor. I have learned that one of the main challenges of this type of ministry is not necessarily finding time for everything on my calendar, but being fully present for everything on my calendar. Deep Work by Cal Newport offers a vision for work and life the emphasizes depth in the areas most important to you to create real value in your area of influence.
I don’t know if Cal Newport is a Christian. But the thought that kept striking me was: if a non-Christian has this much zeal to use his time strategically to make a lasting impact in the world, how much more zeal should mark Christians?
I’m still working to implement some of his strategies (he recommends you quit social media!), but I think about this book almost every day after reading it. If you are in a job or ministry in which you are required to do most of your work through thinking and creating, you should read this book.
Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves
There are very few books that I would give to non-Christians, new Christians, growing Christians, and mature Christians. This book is one of them. What makes Reeves’ book captivating (it’s rare to have a theology book that you consider a page turner!) is that the truths he writes about are truths that he obviously believes are beautiful and good. That’s why I would give this book to a non-Christian – I want them to be introduced to Jesus by someone who actually enjoys Jesus.
I needed this book this year. It reminded me of the beauty of the Triune God, and why his love for himself is good news for me and everyone else. If that statement intrigues you (God loves himself? That sounds strange…), and you wonder how that could be good news – and perhaps even news that changes your life – then pick up this book.