Best Books of 2015…So Far

booksI’ve had the joy of reading a great number of books this year. Some are older publications that I am just now getting around too, others are brand new. In addition, I have been reviewing books for several publishers and as a result have gotten to read a number of brand new volumes. Here’s my list of best books of the year…so far:

Worldly Saints by Michael Witmer

Witmer helps us to think critically about the tension that we experience as believers living in the world. In particular he aims to help us see that we can in fact follow Jesus and enjoy our lives. This book helped me to ease off some of the self-imposed guilt for enjoying television and coffee and meals with friends. He takes time to theologically and Scripturally help us see how enjoying our lives can actually help us to follow Jesus well. This was a great book, written in a highly accessible and witty manner.

Violence Among Us by Brenda Branson and Paula Silva

As part of our training seminar on counseling those in situations of domestic violence I read this book. It was extremely helpful and insightful. Not only does it pull back the veil on victims of abuse and help us to better serve them, understand them, validate their pain, and help them transition to places of safety and healing, but it gave some very practical tools to aid in doing that. Of all the works I’ve read on the subject this might be the best!

Loving My LGBT Neighbor by Glenn Stanton

This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this whole year. Stanton writes with freshness and simplicity as he helps readers navigate the tense relationships between conservative believers and their LGBT neighbors. His thesis essentially comes down to decency, common sense, and godly love. He argues that we essentially need to love people as people, build genuine relationships, and seek to be good friends. I loved, loved, loved the simplicity of this book and its very insightful comments. It is not only a great read, but it is written by someone who has done the very things he challenges us to do.

The End of Sexual Identity by Jenell Williams Paris

While I had a few qualms with the book, Paris has written a rather unique work. She proposes that sexual identity as a modern invention has no real value. She speaks not only to those in the LGBT community, but to those in the church who have equally identified themselves by their sexual identity (heterosexual). She proposes that part of our struggle to understand, communicate, and make progress on the issues of sexual ethics in our culture is rooted in the flawed association of sexuality with identity. This was a fascinating and short read.

The Presence of God by J. Ryan Lister

Lister has written a fantastic biblical theological work on a much neglected subject. His thesis, that God’s presence is both the means and goal of redemptive history is compelling and unique. The book was comprehensive in its treatment, and yet entirely accessible to the lay reader. Ever since I read John Frame on the immanence of God I have been struck by the importance of this doctrine, and Frame gave this book glowing reviews.

Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision by Paul House

I don’t know very much about Bonhoeffer beyond the basics. This book opened up a whole new world to understanding the man, his work, and his time. Beyond just surveying the work of Finkenwald, however, Paul House gives readers direct considerations for thinking about theological education in the modern era. We have sold ourselves short, he says, and we have turned away from discipleship in favor of modern information transference. House describes the kind of communal life that Bonhoeffer implemented in his seminary and compares it with pastoral training today. He finds the latter lacking much in value. Even while I might now be ready to buy all that House says in this book I was very attracted to the model he promotes via Bonhoeffer.

Side By Side by Ed Welch

I think I called this one of the most useful Biblical Counseling training tools available today. It was simple but not simplistic. Welch provides us with real practical help in loving, listening, and caring for one another. He helps us to see that counseling is well within the realm of the average, mature, godly believer. I think this is a work that every Christians should read, and particularly useful for every lay leader in the church.

Spiritual Friendship by Wesley Hill

This has been my favorite book of the year. Not only do I love the work of Wesley Hill, but I was particularly encouraged and challenged by this singular monograph. While the subtitle of the book focuses on “Finding love in the church as a celibate gay Christian,” the applications of this work are well beyond that niche group. Hill utilizes his own experience, however, to help us see the complete oversight of friendship’s value within the church. He traces for us a short history of friendship in the modern world, its disappearance, its value, and several suggestions on cultivating it afresh. I loved, loved, loved this book. It was so fresh, poetic at times, beautifully written, and incredibly insightful. It challenged me deeply to think about how to do a better job of cultivating friendships. It also encouraged me to think carefully and strategically about the needs of my single brothers and sisters, particularly those who feel they will never be able to marry because of their struggles with same-sex attraction. I am so thankful to Hill for all that he writes, this book in particular.

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life by Stephen Nichols

I have written a few times about how much I enjoyed this book. The whole Theologians on the Christian Life series is interesting to me, but this volume by Nichols helped me to evaluate afresh my own views and my own patterns. Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on the cruciform nature of the Christian life, and on the significance of a lifestyle of love were challenging. Nichols does a great job of giving readers a survey of Bonhoeffer’s life without losing sight of the main analysis of his theological perspective. This is a great read and a helpful introduction to a man who seems to be getting a lot of renewed attention lately.

Depression by Ed Welch

I’ve read this book a couple of times, but I forgot how valuable and useful it is. In light of our upcoming workshop on counseling those struggling with depression I reread it and was blessed again. Welch is so practical, so sympathetic, and so Biblical in his approach to the disorder. He is thoughtful and nuanced where others are not, and it is evidenced not just in the things he says but in the way he says them. Knowing, for example, that those struggling with depression just don’t have the energy to read long chapters, he has intentionally made the chapters short, without exchanging significant helps to the reader. I loved Welch’s work on depression even more than Charles Hodges excellent book Good Mood, Bad Mood. I highly commend it not only to those struggling, but to those who love the struggler.

Comments

  1. Ross Shannon says:

    Thank you for putting this together. I’ve not heard of Stanton’s book..added it to the list.

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