I stalled in my reading somewhere in the middle of the year. So, it was an off year in terms of completed books. Nonetheless, I did read some great works and towards the end of the year recovered my joy in reading. Here’s an annotated list of the books I read in 2019:
1. Freedom from Self-Harm: Overcoming Self-Injury with Skills from DBT and Other Treatments by Kim Gratz and Alexander Chapman
This was an okay book. It had some useful strategies and explored the overall issue from some diverse perspectives. There were obvious points of disagreement between me and the authors as they do not write from a Christian perspective, however, and those disagreements complicated the value of the work for me.
2. Relief without Cutting: Taking Your Negative Feelings to God by Amy Baker
This is a great little booklet with some fine content in it, but the format just doesn’t lend itself to developing a whole lot of help. Both the conceptual issues and practical applications need more space.
3. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge
I am still working my way through this book but I have found it surprisingly well written, compelling, and insightful. Both confronting cultural resistance towards the cross and offering an in-depth look at the various themes and motifs of the Scriptures on the Cross, Rutledge offers a great theological meditation on the heart of Christianity!
4. Self-Injury: When Pain Feels Good by Edward T. Welch
Welch is always an insightful writer, but this was not his best work. While the book is good and offers some great encouragement to cry out to God it doesn’t give enough specificity on how to resist the temptation to self-harm. Crying out to God is certainly essential, but most readers will need help on developing steps to shift from self-injury as relief to asking God for relief. Welch falls short on providing those steps in this little booklet.
5. Cutting: A Healing Response by Jeremy Lelek
While this was a decent book, and very strong on the gospel, it’s approach centers around a case study narrative. The story of one individual can be incredibly helpful, but when it is the entirety of a text on addressing self-harm it feels less insightful. A mixture of personal narrative and broader information about self-harm would have served readers more fully.
6. Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutiliation by Steven Levenkron
The overall tone of this book was to direct responsibility for self-harm away from the sufferer. One can certainly appreciate the desire to express compassion and care. Those who suffer need support and care. But by shifting responsibility away from the individual I think we do them more harm and offer them less help. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the rise of this destructive habit, but Levenkron goes beyond just issues of influence to issues of etiology.
7. Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality by Michael Spencer
Michael Spencer, known as the Internet Monk, was a controversial Christian blogger a number of years back. In this book he goes hard after the church, which he views has settling for a shallow religiosity that ignores the real Jesus of Scripture. There were parts of this book that I loved, I felt a real kinship with Spencer. There were other parts of it, however, that I thought were misguided and off the mark in their criticisms, particular his openness to Christianity without the church.
8. Hope & Help for Cutters and Self-Injurers by Mark Shaw
A short and helpful introduction to the nature of self-injury and the help available to those who suffer with it. Shaw is great in his writing, and he certainly has the experience to speak to these issues in intelligent and informed ways. The length of this book is its greatest weakness, however, as it is so short as to leave so many necessary elements of this struggle untouched or only partially addressed.
9. God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America by Larry Eskridge
The Jesus People Movement is one of the most fascinating points in history for me. The intersection of both Hippie culture and Jesus is very attractive to me and Larry Eskridge wrote about it with great depth and insight. I loved reading this book and highly recommend his analysis and description of a far to under-analyzed point in American religious history.
10. Toward a Biblical Understanding of Self-Injury by Julie Ganschow
Another good little booklet on the subject that offers a helpful introduction to those who are suffering and gives some direction to build upon.
11. Depression: A Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch
This remains one of the best books on depression that I have ever read. It is short and yet pointed. Welch’s ability to be both sympathetic and understanding, as well as challenging makes this a unique work. Because depression is such a common problem I find I read it with at least one counselee every year.
12. Unstuck: A Nine-Step Journey to Change that Lasts by Tim Lane
This was one of my favorite books of the year. Lane’s work provides readers not just with tips but with a holistic approach to getting unstuck, and the model he presents works for a wide array of situations and challenges. Think of this more as a work in counseling philosophy than just a book on specific problems.
13. Balancing Head and Heart in Seventeenth Century Puritanism: Stephen Charnock’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by Larry Siekawitch
A dense academic read, it is after all a doctoral dissertation, but an insightful look at Charnock. I learned some great thinks about the Puritan and particularly his doctrine of God, but it was not easy to access the content of this book.
14. “Trinitarian Theology and Piety: The Attributes of God in the Thought of Stephen Charnock and William Perkins” by Hansang Lee
Earlier in the year, I helped to lead a workshop on Stephen Charnock and so I did lots of reading and study. This was another dissertation I slogged through, but I found it equally as fascinating and insightful. The content was slightly more accessible than the other book, but still it obviously an academic work intended for technical proficient historians.
15. Untangling Emotions by Winston Smith and J. Alasdair Groves
This was, hands down, my favorite book of the year. Smith and Groves have written a theology of emotions that both offsets reductionist approaches to emotional health, and which guides readers into the proper Biblical expression of those emotions. This should be required reading for all Christian counselors.
16. The Theology of the Book of Isaiah by John Goldingay
While Goldingay holds to a critical view of Isaiah’s authorship, the book as a whole actually offered some great insights into the structure and theology of the book. His approach of presenting the themes as “collages” was helpful and insightful.
17. Counsel for Couples: A Biblical and Practical Guide for Marriage Counseling by Jonathan Holmes
Another of my favorite new books of the year, Holmes gives the most helpful guide to common marital problems that I have ever read!
18. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman
This book provided some tremendous insights on understanding emotions, both as we experience them and as other express them. Christians will want to take some of his work further and reframe some concepts in light of Scripture – he is clearly a naturalist in his background – but there was a lot of good insight in this work.
19. Budgeting for a Healthy Church: Aligning Finances with Biblical Priorities for Ministry by Jamie Dunlop
Our elder board read this book earlier this year and I could feel myself inclined to grumble when it was first brought up. I am not a numbers guy and reading about budgets sounded like a terrible bore. I was shocked by how much benefit and challenge I received from this book. It helped me to see our church finances from a fresh perspective and to think theologically about our church budget! Great book and worthwhile read for elders, deacons, and anyone in church leadership.
20. The Intentional Christian Community Handbook by David Janzen
I really liked this book and found a lot of its content, critiques, and encouragements to be very inspiring. There are aspects of it that I would not necessarily endorse, to be sure, and while I have no current life interest in starting or joining a Christian commune, the book itself was very encouraging and deeply challenging at points.
21. Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness by Megan Hill
A wonderful devotional on a frequently neglected subject! Hill offers readers both a theology of contentment and practical steps to cultivate it in our own hearts. A great volume in a wonderful devotional series!
22. Listening & Caring Skills by John Savage
Despite having some helpful guidelines for developing the necessary listening skills we need, this book is incredibly dry!
23. The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships by Michael Nichols
This volume was a much more interesting read on the skills of listening and was equally full of practical suggestions and conceptual foundations for improving our listening skills.
24. Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken
McCracken offers a helpful reminder that the awkwardness, discomfort, and even frustration we can feel from being part of a local church are good for us! Not a ground breaking book by any means, but a helpful and encouraging one.
25. The God Who Gives: How the Trinity Shapes the Christian Story by Kelly Kapic
I really enjoyed this book and the way in which it approached and presented the doctrine of the trinity. More particularly his view of the generosity of God in the gospel is a beautiful depiction of our salvation, and reorients us towards God’s deep love as His motive to save.
26. False Love by Brad Hambrick
Sadly, I have to go through this work book on pornography and adultery every year with at least two guys. It is, however, one of the best tools for personal evaluation and Biblical confrontation! I highly recommend this study to men everywhere.
27. Prodigal God by Tim Keller
I reread this volume with a young man who was struggle with self-righteousness. This book helps us to understand the parable fo the Prodigal Son in a way that fleshes out its relevance for all of us and exposes our own hearts as either older or younger brothers. Well written, rich in application, and grounded in tight exegesis of Scripture.
28. When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch
I bet I read through this with a counselee at least once a year. It is a standard book for addressing the fear of man, or people pleasing, or relational insecurity from a Biblical perspective.
29. Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace by Paul Tautges
Another great volume in the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s devotional series. This volume handles anxiety both from a larger Biblical perspective and a practical details perspective. A great example of practical theology on a subject that is pervasive.
30. Shaped By God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms by John Piper
A great, short, little book on how to connect with the emotions of the Psalms and how to apply them to our own lives. Piper looks at five specific Psalms, from different genres, and shows how they can shape our experiences and responses to life.
31. To Know And Love God: Method for Theology by David K. Clark
This has been one of my favorite reads this year, despite being an older book. It is an examination of the essential factors in developing an approach to theology and offers readers building blocks for developing a theological methodology. If some of the chapters can get sidetracked into the knotty-gritty of philosophical arguments from bygone centuries, it is still a fantastic book.
32. From Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot and Cold-Climate Cultures by Sarah Lanier
In preparation for some missions early next year I read this book to help me understand different cultures and was thoroughly enlighten by the author’s work. I am sure I will make plenty of mistakes going over seas, but I am at least grateful that I will not make some of the foundational ones that Lanier identified in this work. A great read, and a must read for all international travelers.
33. Theology in Three Dimensions: A Guide to Triperspectivalism and its Significance by John Frame
I love John Frame and this short little examination of his theological methodology highlights one of his most creative and valuable contributions. The book gives an introductory look at his approach to theology, but in my opinion it would not be as helpful if I was not already familiar with his other works. Perhaps if I had read this book first I could see its contribution more clearly, but I personally feel that his other works give more depth and development to his Triperspectivalism, such that this book doesn’t really make sense without those fuller treatments elsewhere.
34. Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
I was shocked by how much I loved this book, I blew through it. It is one of the best books I read this year and I would recommend it to many in leadership positions (of whatever kind). Iger tells us the story of his rise to CEO of one of the most influential companies in the world, and that story is fascinating. Full of compelling anecdotes, fascinating characters, and drama Iger weaves a masterful account of his own biography – true to Disney standards. The principles he distills throughout, however, add greater value to the book. He gives readers insights on cultivating curiosity, practicing humility, speaking straight with people, and crafting vision. I was very encouraged and inspired from reading this book and I would recommend it to others without hesitation.