Several years ago I began developing an intentional reading list. I selected a variety of categories and continue to use those same categories with a few slight changes each year. Of course I read more than what’s on my reading list, but my reading list helps to ensure a more balanced diet of reading. I share this list not because I think everyone should read these books, but because I hope you might find a good book or two that you might add to your reading list.
“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.”
-Mortimer J. Adler
My reading list is divided into five categories: (1) discipleship, (2) ministry, (3) family, (4) history, and (5) literature. These categories are then divided into subtopics and a book is listed for each subtopic.
Christian Living. Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything by an anonymous author. This book has been highly recommended and been on my digital shelf for a while. I plan to write a review of this book sometime in the coming year, so keep an eye out for it.
A Christian Classic. The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther. I read Martin Luther’s Three Treatises (To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of a Christian) in seminary and decided to pick one of them up again in 2020. The Freedom of a Christian unpacks Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Apologetics. The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity by Mark Clark. This book was recommended by a friend about a year ago. The author is a skeptic turned Christian who writes about the questions of faith. This is another book I plan to review this year.
A Christian Biography. John Huss: His Life, Teachings and Death, After Five Hundred Years by David Schaff. John Huss is one of the predominate pre-reformers. He and John Wycliff were instrumental in getting the Bible translated into the language of the people which is what ultimately sparked the reformation.
A Bonhoeffer Book. Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Many years ago I was advised to find a past author, theologian, or pastor and dig into their life. I chose Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Each year I select a book either written by Bonhoeffer or about Bonhoeffer to read or reread. Letters and Papers from Prison is a collection of Bonhoeffer’s writings while he was in prison as an attempt to work out his theology with his Christian community. Bonhoeffer never meant for these letters to be published; however, after his death, his friend, Eberhard Bethge, collected and published these letters.
Student Ministry. Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ by Richard Ross. Richard Ross has been very influential in my life as a student minister through his writing, teaching, and spending time together. This book is now several years old and has been sitting on my shelf for the same length of time. As with many of the books on my reading list this year I selected an old book I have not read yet to fill this category.
Counseling. Pursuing a Heart of Wisdom: Counselling Teenagers Biblically by John C. Kwasny. Each year I select a counseling book in order to further develop my counseling skills (a task I do frequently in my ministry yet have no formal training). This book was the original book on my list but I came across it late in 2019 and knew I had to add this to my 2020 list. This book will be my first read for 2020 and my first review post as well, so look for it coming sometime in January 2020.
Education. Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake by Gary Millar. Another book that has been on my shelf for many years. Alluding to the Biblical story of Eutychus in Acts, Millar offers insight and wisdom on the preaching ministry in the church.
Contemporary Issue. Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting by Robert Banks. I am not sure to what extent I will agree with this book, but I will enter into it with an open mind. Many books that look at the early church movement are great at outlining the patterns of the early church, but where I tend to disagree is the legalistic overlapping of those patterns onto the church today without any consideration of cultural context. The truth is that the Bible gives us very little explicit prescriptive teaching about how to conduct church and much of what we know of the practices of the early church are extra-biblical. Therefore, we must be careful about legalistically adopting the patterns of the early church. That is not to say that we should not revert to some of those early patterns and practices, or that the early church does not teach us proper practice, but only that we need to carefully consider how to apply the practices of the early church today.
Leadership. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell. A couple of years ago I read the sequel to this book and decided to read this volume as well. The authors look at the change in structure and strategy of military special forces in addressing terrorist forces rather than governmental forces. This book dives into the ideological change whereas the follow up book, One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, looks at the practical implementation.
Theology. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented by David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn. Another book that has been on my to-read list for a couple of years. In this book, the authors lay out a biblical and theological case for the doctrine popularly known as Calvinism. While Calvin did not come up with these “five points” he did crystallize these historical Christian doctrines through his writing and ministry during the reformation.
Marriage. What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp. I love Paul David Tripp and am greatly challenged by his writings on the family and the gospel. Tripp is one of the best at taking the gospel of Jesus Christ and applying it practically to the family.
Parenting. Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley. I have had this book on my shelf for many years and have even recommended this book (as it has been recommended to me). In fact, this is the only book on my recommended reading list on my resources page that I have not read. So I figured I should finally read it. This is another book I plan to write a review of in 2020.
Manhood. The Dude’s Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits by Darrin Patrick. I know nothing about this book except that it looks interesting and it is about manhood.
Biography. The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger. If you know me, you know that I have been un-systematically working through the presidential biographies for many years. This year I’m adding a little more system to my quest by picking up the earliest president of which I have not yet read a biography. If you are a fan of presidential biographies, there is a great blog that reviews biographies for each of the presidents (https://bestpresidentialbios.com/curriculum). This blog is the first place I visit when looking for a good biography on a president. If time permits this year I may also read Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America.
Story from History. A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander. I came across Adam Makos sometime in the last year through a few different podcasts. His love and passion for history is contagious and so I decided that I needed to start reading some of his books. To be honest, this book was not my first choice, but this was the book my local library had in its collection.
Church History. How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot. Another book that has been on my shelf from many years. As Christians we should all have a familiarity with the history of the Bible. I’ve also recently come across another book by the same name, How We Got the Bible, written by Timothy Paul Jones that I would like to read as well. This is another book I plan to review this year.
I have never been a big fiction reader, but I am challenging myself to add some fiction works to my regular reading list.
Literary Fiction. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. I continue my quest to read through Tolkien’s greatest epic The Lord of the Rings.
Literary Classic. Republic by Plato. I have begun reading Plato’s Republic many times, but for one reason or another I have never finished. Maybe this is the year I will complete the challenge.
Christian Fiction. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Another book that has been on my shelf for many years. I have read bits and pieces of The Screwtape Letters, but never read it from cover-to-cover.
Have a great book recommendation? Leave a comment with the title, author, and one sentence why you think it is a book worth reading.