Books I Read In 2015

booksHere’s a list of most of the books I read in 2015:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 4: Original Sin by Brian Michael Bendis

I assumed, based on the title, that this volume would be related to Jason Aaron’s Original Sin story. It didn’t even touch on it. Nonetheless the Guardians are my favorite story right now. Bendis continues to write witty and fun stories, with really funny dialogue. I liked this volume in the series, though it felt more like a couple of individual and isolated comics than part of the larger development of the narrative.

2. Messiah Complex by Ed Brubaker et. al

The premise was very interesting: the mutant race is nearly extinct, until a new baby is born. This child could save mutant kind, but everyone wants it. Lots of interesting twists and subplots, and follows on the heels of one of my favorite stories in House of M. There was some disjointedness in the storytelling, though, and the book as a whole suffered from this; it also suffered from the shifts in artists.

3. Kant: An Introduction by Roger Scruton

Scruton has attempted to do the impossible: make Kant easy to understand. He does a masterful job in this short introduction of giving readers an accessible overview to one of the most complex and important philosophers of the modern era. The content is still difficult at times, but Scruton does a great job at explaining technical terminology and avoiding overly academic engagements.

4. Onward by Russell Moore

A hopeful and challenging philosophy on cultural engagement, written by a discerning and nuanced theologian. Dr. Moore gives Evangelicalism a much-needed rebuke, but without the condemnation of other authors. He challenges the politics-first mentality of the moral majority, and promotes a “prophetic minority” philosophy that doesn’t negate cultural engagement, but reforms it according to Biblical standards. I loved and so appreciated this book.

5. Purity and Danger by Mary Douglas

A fascinating survey of the role of purity in religious and cultic life across a wide spectrum of religious and cultural beliefs. Douglas was a leading anthropologist in the area of pollution. In particular her argument is that dirt exists within a system of belief. The book’s value for me was in understanding the Levitical purity laws as within a system of belief about pollution.

6. Original Sin by Jason Aaron

A fun-to-read murder mystery that takes place in the Marvel Universe as the Watcher is killed. The surprising twist at the end was interesting as well. If it wasn’t always well-written it was still an exciting and intriguing story with a host of a characters that I loved to see interact.

7. Secret Wars by Jim Shooter

This was just an okay comic series from Marvel. It was highly convoluted, but the action and drama of it was fun enough. The first major cross-over of its kind, involving the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spiderman, it was fun to read if not super well written.

8. Gospel Conversations by Robert Kellemen

One of the coolest Biblical Counseling tools I have seen. Kellemen is a seasoned trainer and in this lab manual he provides counselors some guidance on how to become better equipped and to help each other grow as counselors. I look forward to using this in near future as a training manual for our church.

9. Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

This is an awesome new take on Ms. Marvel. As a young Muslim girl growing up in New Jersey, Ms. Marvel has some unique twists and is really well written. In this first volume from the new take we get a fun origin story.

10. The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

This is a fantastic work on the issues surrounding doubt, questioning, and wrestling with our faith. Anderson is definitely a philosopher and poses to us philosophical issues related to questioning and wrestling with faith, but he does so in a way that is very accessible. His prose is beautiful and inviting as well, making this a great read.

11. Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper

Piper has written a unique book, one that claims doubting, when stewarded well, can lead us into a deeper relationship with God. If it lacks some clear and precise definitions it makes up for it in very honest and practical writing. I loved this book.

12. The Walking Dead, vol. 23: Whispers into Screams by Robert Kirkman

I don’t remember much of the book, which means it was probably a forgettable contribution to the overall story of TWD. Yet, the interesting inclusion of the Whisperers into the story was welcomed. It took a fresh take on the danger of the living theme within the TWD Universe. I am intrigued to see who these people are and what role they will play in the future of the story.

13. Gay…Such Were Some of Us ed. by David Longacre

A wonderful collection of testimonies exploring the possibility of change in sexual orientation. Longacre has compiled a beautiful collection of stories, but avoids the universalizing of these transitions. A careful and beautiful work.

14. The Original Jesus by Daniel Darling

A good expose on the false Jesuses of our cultural Christianity. It was, at times, a little obvious, but overall Darling wrote a good apologetic for the true Jesus of Scripture.

15. Same Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw

One of the best books of the year. Shaw helps the church see how it has failed to love well those among us who struggle with a same-sex attraction. He offers several specific areas of focus that need to be revisited within the Orthodox church. He maintains a conservative theology, but pushes against the myopic discipleship we have adopted in the church. I LOVED this book.

16. Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman

Trueman exposes readers to the Luther we don’t often acknowledge. Most of us are familiar with a certain characterization of the great Reformer, but this characterization misses much of Luther’s later life and teaching. I really appreciated the deft scholarship of this work and the author’s helpful insights and applications of Luther’s ideas.

17. 1-3 John by Sean Douglas O’Donnell

A great commentary. I was fearful that the sermonic style of this P&R series would limit the usefulness of this commentary, but it didn’t. In fact O’Donnell’s ability to grapple with the relevant scholarship and make it accessible to our lives makes this not just a good commentary, but a good demonstration of how to study the Bible.

18. Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

An interesting new approach to apologetics as part of our evangelism. Guinness argues, rather convincingly, that we have made apologetics an academic discipline with little relevance to the average Christian, and yet apologetics is a vital tool in developing gospel conversations. In this volume he provides us a framework for rethinking apologetics and putting it to more practical use.

19. The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson

A good book that really emphasizes a pastor’s weaknesses and need for dependence upon God. It’s tempting and easy for all of us to become anxious or arrogant about our productivity and our accomplishments. As a pastor, writing to pastors, Wilson helps us navigate these temptations. I appreciated this volume.

20. Experiencing the Trinity by Joe Thorn

These short chapters are really devotional reflections on the character of God, written during the author’s own struggle with depression. I appreciated this book immensely and look to utilize it in my own counseling of others.

21. Out of the Blues by Wayne Mack

While a good book, with some really helpful counsel for those who struggle with depression, my complaint with the book is Mack’s tendency to reduce all depression to sin. It’s too simplistic an explanation and not a fair assessment of the diversity of people’s struggles. So, while I found it useful I would not recommend it to those who are struggling with depression.

22. Lord, I Just Want to be Happy by Leslie Vernick

I don’t know what to say about this particular volume. I like Vernick’s writing, and appreciate her insistence that Christians really can pursue happiness, it’s not unspiritual to desire it (see also, Randy Alcorn’s new book on the same subject). She does, however, use way too many stories to illustrate her point, at least in my opinion. The book drug on a bit for me because of her use of stories and case studies.

23. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller

This was such an amazing book. Keller writes both for the scholar and the average reader. The first half of the book explores suffering across the world, looking at it from a sociological perspective. The second half of the book is more theological, exploring what the Bible says about suffering. The final part of the book explores suffering from a pastoral perspective, encouraging those experiencing real trials and difficulties. This is an amazing and compelling read.

24. Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray

This would have been a great book if Murray didn’t have an axe to grind against the Biblical Counseling community.

25. On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry

An interesting argument for the political and social value of beauty. Scarry argues that beauty pushes us towards a greater concern for social justice.

26. Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark Yarhouse

The first Christian book on the subject will surely not be the last. But it has set a good standard for thinking holistically and Biblically about the subject. My one complaint with the volume is its lack of attention to the category of identity in Christ. This is a huge shortcoming and I think would have done much to impact some of the counsel that Yarhouse offers.

27. Schaeffer on the Christian Life by William Edgar

Francis Schaeffer is something of a hero of mine and this examination of his views on the Christian life is wonderful. It’s also unique. It’s unique in part because it is written by someone who was a very close personal friend of Schaeffer. This was  a fascinating peek behind the curtain at a man who had a massive impact on American Evangelicalism.

28. On Beauty by Roger Scruton

A brilliant and accessible examination of aesthetics from one of the most respected, fresh, and accessible philosophers alive today!

29. Defeating Depression by Leslie Vernick

Though written mostly for women, this book provides some great insight into how to wrestle with and hopefully overcome emotional suffering. Focusing on relationships (to self, to God, to others), Vernick provides a helpful framework for thinking about the potential causes of depression, and some practical ways to address it in our lives.

30. You Can Change by Tim Chester

A really hopeful book on the potential and possibility for change. Chester makes a bold declaration that life dominating sins do not have to rule us forever. Yet, for all its hopefulness, this book borders on being simplistic.

31. God Dwells Among Us by G.K. Beale and Mitchell Kim

A condensations of Beale’s massive and brilliant work The Temple and the Mission of God, this book makes the complex idea of God’s presence across the storyline of Scripture accessible to lay readers.

32. Mindscape by Timothy Witmer

Mindscape had the right idea: help readers cultivate biblical thought patterns in order to renew the landscape of their minds. The lack of practical help is noticeably absent in this book though, making much of what the author says fall rather flat.

33. Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life by Stephen Nichols

While not a biography, this is a great introduction to Bonhoeffer. Nichols not only deals with some of the more contentious issues surrounding the study of Bonhoeffer, but he gives us a particularly close look at his theology of the Christian life as well as his practice. I loved this volume and learned a lot about this important character from Church history.

34. Depression: A Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch

This might be one of the best books on depression that I’ve read. It is so accessible for and an easy read even for the depressed person. Welch writes with them in mind, and seeks to provide concise chapters, short for the reader, packed with important truths and practical steps. The chapters build upon themselves and offer some great help to those who struggle or those who are seeking to be helpful. In my own struggle with depression back in January this book was a great blessing.

35. Infinity War by Jim Starlin

Though it continues the storyline of the Infinity Gauntlet, this volume was not nearly as engaging as its predecessor.

36. Infinity Gauntlet Aftermath by Ron Marz

See above.

37. Theology as Retrieval by W. David Buschart and Kent Eilers

This was one of the more surprising books I read this year. It serves as an insightful primer on how to use the past in formulating our theological responses to today. I loved this book. It was fresh, challenging, and compelling.

38. The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin

In anticipation of the next big Avengers movie I went back and reread this great comic series. The story is so compelling and fun. It takes our superheroes to the galaxy and the brink of death as the encounter an omnipotent Thanos. I loved this story, and the inclusion of so many great characters. In addition, Thanos is just such an awesome villain.

39. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung writes with so much accessibility that I can appreciate nearly everything he publishes. This volume is one example of his deft pastoral insight. He walks readers here through the Biblical teaching on homosexuality. In some ways it is a more accessible version of Robert Gagnon’s massive The Bible and Homosexual Practice.

40. The Message of Leviticus by Derek Tidball

As part of the Bible Speaks Today series, this volume on Leviticus has been really interesting and helpful. Tidball interacts with much of the important scholarship, but does so in a way that avoids getting bogged down in academic and esoteric discussions.

41. Spiritual Friendship by Wesley Hill

My contender for bets book of the year! Hill does an amazing job of writing not simply about the experiences of same-sex attracted individuals within the church, but he writes about the importance and neglect of friendship within the church. I was both deeply encouraged and excited by this book. There is nothing like it, and Hill’s prose is so inviting and compelling.

42. Developments in Biblical Counseling by J. Cameron Fraser

A really short introduction to the history and context of the Biblical Counseling movement. I found it really helpful, and while it’s not as thorough as either Heath Lambert’s or David Powlison’s histories, it is still useful.

43. The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhammer

The thesis was incredibly compelling, and fresh. Sailhammer is a top-notch scholar. Yet this book suffered from a lack of good editing. Excessively redundant, to the point of even obvious repetition of  previous paragraphs. The book could have been significantly shorter and it would have been better. Still this gave me a lot to chew on in regards to the structural intent of the Pentateuch.

44. Side by Side by Ed Welch

Welch’s simple philosophy of counseling in the local church is a breath of fresh air. It is accessible and articulate. It is simple without being simplistic and I anticipate using it in training at Cornerstone in the near future.

45. Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 3: Guardians Disassembled by Brian Michael Bendis

This was a mostly fun addition to the Guardians storyline that Bendis has been developing over several volumes now. The inclusion of Agent Venom and Captain Marvel was interesting. The comic suffered some from both divergent artists and a lack of traction in the overall plot.

46. The Quest for the Historical Adam by William VanDoodeward

A massive work on the historical theological development of a literal reading of the first three chapters of Genesis. Though it is a rather massive historical survey, the intent to prove the validity of this view is, in my opinion, very successful.

47. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones

As a systematic theology this book is impressive. Through the Puritans, a broad array of them, Beeke and Jones give readers a very interesting examination of the major doctrines of the Christian life. They give us lots to think about and chew on. Some of the sections are dense and get bogged down in internecine debates among various Puritans, but still there’s a lot to appreciate about this unique volume.

48. Roman Catholic Theology and Practice by Greg Allison

This is easily one  of the best books on RC that I have read. Allison a faithful and devout protestant theologian, who is both exceedingly well-informed about RC and sensitive to mischaracterizations of it, presents readers with detailed explanations of the major doctrines of the church and the Protestant responses to them. It is the most thorough apologetic against Roman Catholicism that I have seen.

49. The Presence of God by Ryan Lister

A comprehensive treatment of the doctrine of God’s presence. This volume touches on a much neglected area of study within both academia and the church in particular. I loved this volume and was pleasantly surprised by it.

50. What is Experiential Calvinism? by Ian Hamilton

A short, brief look at what marks the piety of Calvinism. I appreciated so much that Hamilton is seeking to open wider the common understanding and perception of this system of belief. The narrow reduction of Calvinism to the Four Points, has led to both mischaracterizations from without and inadequacies from within. This is a good, if brief, introduction to the importance of practical living for Calvinist belief.

51. Mapping Apologetics by Brian Morley

This is easily one of the most comprehensive surveys of the various approaches to apologetics that exists. Morley gives us a very accessible, yet detailed exploration of the divisions within the discipline and the various values and weaknesses of each approach. A useful tool for students of apologetics.

52. Eldership and the Mission of God by J.R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt

With the potential to be a really interesting book, this book fell short because of a lack of clarity. Intending to clearly relate church leadership to a missional context, the authors never define what they mean by the mission of God and default to assumptions. This leads to all kinds of confusion and frustration within the book.

53. The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick

One of my favorite works of Vernick. Here she outlines what emotionally destructive relationships look like and how to break out of them. Her discussion of heart themes is particularly helpful, if too brief. I highly recommend this work for counselors.

54. Sanctification ed. by Kelly Kapic

A dense and academic look at the subject of sanctification, but with some very fascinating essays. Not for everyone, but I really enjoyed and was challenged by a couple of the conversations currently going on in academia.

55. Violence Among Us by Brenda Branson and Paula Silva

A tremendous resource for those wrestling with the subject of domestic violence. As Christians the authors help us understand the Biblical teaching against abuse and practical counsel for addressing it.

56. Church Elders by Jeramie Rinne

Our elders worked through this little book together at the beginning of the year and it was surprisingly helpful. Both concise and yet thoughtful I was pleased to be reminded of the role, requirements, and responsibilities of the office I am privileged to hold.

57. The Trial of Jean Grey by Brian Michael Bendis

The X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy in one comic: super cool! As a young Jean Grey, brought to the future, is being held to account for something that she has not yet done, we see an intriguing story develop about the nature of responsibility for potentiality. I was impressed with the depth of this story.

58. Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2: Angela by Brian Michael Bendis

I really love what Bendis is doing with the Guardians and this was a fun continuation of the story he started in volume one. The addition of the character Angela is interesting and I want to learn more about her backstory too. Overall the collection was more of a plot mover than a compelling volume in and of itself, but it was fun nonetheless.

59. The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney

I liked Michael Wittmer’s book on the considering the Christian’s relationship to the world more, but Rigney offers some particularly unique contributions to the discussion. His is a far more philosophical consideration of the subject, interacting as he does with the works of Jonathan Edwards and the doctrine of the trinity in particular. It some intriguing features but since I disagree with Edwards on the trinity I remained somewhat distant from Rigney’s work.

60. Is it My Fault? by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

The Holcombs have done a tremendous job in providing the church with a much-needed guide to thinking about domestic violence and responding Biblically and pastorally to it. With both important information and strategic counsel they guide us through how to best care for those who are victims, and how to address their ongoing needs. I loved this volume and will recommend it to every counselor and pastor I know!

61. God’s Battle Plan for the Mind by David Saxton

A really good work on explaining and promoting the practice of Biblical meditation. If the author tends to oversell its effectiveness it is nonetheless a good resource on this neglected discipline.

62. The End of the Law by Jason Meyer

Highly academic and comprehensive and yet really fascinating. Writing from a clearly New Covenant perspective Meyer gives a thorough treatment of the relationship of the law to the new covenant in Christ. I loved this book and was captivated by it. It will not be an easy read for those unfamiliar with theological and Biblical scholarship, but it is a great work on the subject.

63. Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer

One of my favorite works for the year, Wittmer deals with a subject that all Christians can appreciate is difficult: how should a believer relate to the world? Wittmer argues that we can follow Jesus and love our hobbies, enjoy our vacations, and delight in our stuff. He then walks us through biblically, theologically, and practically how this can be. A great work.

64. Comfort the Grieving by Paul Tautges

A pastor’s guide to care for those who grieve. A wonderful resource on a difficult area of pastoral ministry, and written from a fantastic practitioner.

65. Compassion without Compromise by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau

A great book on loving our gay and lesbian neighbors. Barr and Citlau expose us to the importance of love without losing any of the conviction of truth that is ours by Scripture. One of the authors shares some of his own personal struggle with SSA and that makes this a unique contribution to he growing literature on this subject.

66. Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor by Glenn Stanton

Essentially Stanton wants Christians to see those in the LGBT community as people, as their neighbors, as those we are called to love. This book is so simple that it’s a shame it needed to be written. Yet, it’s so inviting and challenging that I can’t sing its praises enough. With practical guidance the author walks us through how to befriend, love, serve, and respond to our Gay and Lesbian neighbors.

66. 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law by Thomas Schreiner and Benjamin Merkle

A very helpful resource, written more as a tool than a book to read through in one sitting. The questions are all given full, if concise, explanations and the answers are rooted in Scripture. A great book on an important topic by a renown NT scholar.

67. Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse

Though a bit dated, this book gives readers a great grid for thinking about how and when to use scientific research in their discussions about homosexuality. It also exposes some of the limitations and weaknesses of such research. A good tool for those attempting to think theologically about ethics, and for those engaged in apologetic conversations.

68. The Company We Keep by Jonathan Holmes

My friend Jonathan has written a fantastic book on how to build quality friendships with other believers. It’s not exactly a “how-to” manual, but gives us both a theology of friendship and loads of practical tips. I greatly appreciated this work.

69. The End of Sexual Identity by Jenell Williams Paris

A rather brilliant look at the modern development of sexual identity. Paris says things that will be very challenging to heterosexuals, but I believe in most of what she writes she is spot on! Heterosexuality is not the same as holiness, and sexual identity is a modern phenomena for all of us. I loved the central thesis of this book and know that I will be utilizing its content in conversations, articles, and classes for years to come.

70. Holiness to the Lord by Allen Ross

One of the best commentaries I have ever read, and on Leviticus at that! Ross guides readers through not simply the details of the text, but the major themes of it. In addition he gives real help for the preacher who is seeking to construct an outline and communicate those major themes. I look forward to reading many more of Ross’s commentaries in the future!

71. Atonement, Law, and Justice by Adonis Vidu

This was a fascinating and surprising work. Vidu gives an interesting survey of the atonement thought and how cultural context has shaped the understanding of the finished work of Christ. But, the value of the book is not simply in its historical survey, but rather in its ability to clarify how even our own culture shapes our reaction and interpretation of the Scriptural teaching on Christ’s death. A solid work.

72. Do Ask, Do Tell by Brad Hambrick

Forthcoming from Cruciform press, this practical guide to befriending those in the LGBT community is a much-needed tool. Brad gave me the privilege of reading an early edition and sharing my thoughts with him and I am so excited for this book to be published this year. It gives real practical counsel on how to love and care for those who strongly disagree with our sexual ethic. He also makes a contribution to the growing literature on helping those within the church who struggle with a same-sex attraction. I loved this book and can’t wait for others to read it.

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