Books I Read in 2021

I struggled with reading this year, to be honest. I fell into some discouragement about middle of the year and lost a lot of motivation to read. I went months without finishing a book and sometimes weeks without reading anything. There were a number of factors contributing to that but, by God’s grace, I was able to recover some encouragement and motivation towards the end of the year. So, it’s less than my usual fifty books, but here’s an annotated list of all the books I read in 2021:

(1) A Theology of James: Wisdom for God’s People by Christopher Morgan

Such a great resource for thinking about the major themes of James! I found it so helpful in understanding the overall structure and theology of the letter of James. Written by a scholar but not for scholars. It is a robust work but entirely accessible to the average reader.

(2) Pornography: Fighting for Purity by Deepak Reju

I went through this book with a counselee and it is a great resource for both reflection and mapping out action steps. Really appreciate Deepak’s work on this robust, action-oriented, devotional.

(3) The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte

This was a gripping and fascinating read about the major advancements and discoveries in the world of paleontology. Brusatte’s ability to tell a gripping story about prehistoric creatures is impressive. While the author comes from a very different worldview, and while I am not as overly convinced as he is about evolution, I was nonetheless fascinated by this book and loved getting to peak behind the curtain of this wonderful world of dinosaur discovery. This is a great book!

(4) Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier

This is both a heart-breaking and important book to read. Shrier’s exploration of the explosion of transgenderism among young girls reveals that this issue is less about actual gender dysphoria and more about political and cultural trendiness. The book offers compassion towards those who genuinely struggle with gender dysphoria while also raises the alarm about the unprecedented and unbelievable explosion of transgenderism particularly among young girls. Her research is compelling and important.

(5) People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue by Preston Sprinkle

A really gracious and yet confident interaction with the theological and interpretive challenges to the issues of homosexuality. Sprinkle strives to let the text of Scripture speak for itself and while he comes down on the side of “non affirming” he does so with a great love and respect for those who experience same-sex attraction. He encourages the church to stand on the Word of God but to love people.

(6) The Post Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges + Opportunities by Thom S. Rainer

This just felt like an opportunist book. It was basic and simplistic in ways that didn’t really prove helpful to me.

(7) Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction by Caleb Kaltenbach

This was an unbelievably compelling narrative about a young man growing up with gay parents and learning to walk that line of grace and truth. This is a great example of the way Evangelicals should approach this issue and generally all cultural engagement.

(8) Consider Your Counsel: Addressing Ten Mistakes in Our Biblical Counseling by Bob Kellemen 

This is Bob’s best book to date! A synthesis of his previous works and his years of training the book is the perfect text for training and equipping new counselors, and for helping seasoned counselors evaluate their practice. In many regards the book serves as an introduction to a basic philosophy of counseling but in an accessible and concise format. I highly recommend this book to all counselors and pastors every where!

(9) Beyond Submission and Authority: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society by Rachel Green Miller

This was an absolutely outstanding book! I found Miller’s work eye-opening and challenging. While not disagreeing with the gender distinctions found in Scripture (and therefore in the church and marriage), she does find the particular expression of those distinctions within Complimentarianism problematic. I could not agree more! There’s some shortcomings in the book, but overall this is a profound and important work.

(10) Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church by Diane Langberg

Langberg is an expert on abuse and trauma, but in this volume she seeks to expose the features of abuse within the church! She contrasts the priorities of the modern church with the priorities of Jesus in Scripture and reveals our deep need for reform. This is a powerful work of critique which, if modern Christians will receive, can serve as a much needed corrective.

(11) Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners: Loving Others As God Loves Us by Michael Emlet

Our elder board read this this wonderful and encouraging book earlier this year. It is a great resource for exploring the basics of “one-another” care and ministry. This is the type of book that can deeply impact pastoral ministry, member care, and overall church culture if it is applied well.

(12) Baker Exegetical Commentary: James by Dan McCartney

One of the most thorough, helpful, and insightful commentaries on the book I have ever read. I really loved this book. It interacts with the academic questions and debates without getting bogged down in them. It provided exegetical explorations, theological expression, and practical application.

(13) SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless by Steve Salerno

Salerno exposes the emptiness and deceptiveness of the self-help industry in this tell-all expose.

(14) Ego Trip: Rediscovering Grace in a Culture of Self-Esteem by Glynn Harrison

A powerful Christian response to the self-esteem movement!

(15) Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

Tripp expands on his groundbreaking parenting book in this follow-up volume, offering particularly a corrective to the ways that some of have taken and applied the principles of Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

(16) A Change of Heart by Nate Brooks

I am so excited for this book to release because it is a really important work on clarifying the nature of change. Far too often Biblical Counselors and Christians talk about change in simplistic and hyper-spiritual ways, this book will offer a corrective to that problem. Nate has written an insightful and important work.

(17) Healing from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Mindfulness-Enhanced CBT Approach to Regaining Control and Restoring Peace of Mind by David J. Keuler

The mindfulness exercises in this book just don’t add up to what the author claims, in my opinion. While offering some helpful insights I think it ultimately falls short of offering help, and settles for simplistic treatments lauded by poorly defined terminology.

(18) Help! I’ve Been Diagnosed with a Mental Disorder by Christine Chappell

Booklets are such useful tools and this little booklet offers readers a better framework for approach a mental health diagnosis than simply the sickness/cure one that is common. I loved this little booklet and will be stocking it for our counseling ministry.

(19) Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners: Loving Others As God Loves Us by Michael Emlet

Yes, I read it twice this year. I read it once with our elders and once again with a friend. It’s that good.

(20) Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive Compulsive Behavior by Jeffery Schwartz

This was a reread for me in preparation for an OCD seminar I taught, but it is an excellent book. It offers not just hope for change and help, but a really practical framework for addressing the issue.

(21) Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 by Charles Hodge

There’s a lot to love in Hodges systematic, but his overall approach to theology as a scientific discipline akin to the scientific method is, in my opinion, flawed.

(22) Exposure and Response (Ritual) Prevention for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Edna B. For, Elna Yadin, and Tracey K. Lichner

This is a really helpful resource full of productive exercises for those who suffer. I have actually already found some helpful tools to use in my own counseling from this volume.

(23) The New International Greek Testament Commentary: James by Peter Davids 

This is a good volume on James, engaging with the major issues of critical scholarship, linguistics, and historical setting. Ultimately Davids reads James as a composite work or a redaction, which impacts his interpretive decisions. I do not agree with that approach and therefore found the work somewhat unconvincing at a number of points. But it is a useful commentary if you can pair it with other works.

(24) Making Sense of Forgiveness: Moving from Hurt to Hope by Brad Hambrick

My choice for best book of the year, this work adds tremendous clarity to one of the most foundational concepts of the Christian faith. The way we often talk about forgiveness and attempt to apply it is simplistic and unhealthy. Here, Hambrick gives a robust exploration of the topic, rooted in Scripture, and applied with wisdom to real life situations.

(25) Man of Sorrows, King of Glory: What the Humiliation and Exaltation of Jesus Mean for Us by Jonty Rhodes

A short, but profound book exploring these two key aspects of Christ’s life and ministry. I was shocked by how insightful, encouraging, and moving this theological work was. A great example of what theologically-grounded devotional work should look like!

(26) A Small Book About Why We Hide: How Jesus Rescues Us From Insecurity, Regret, Failure, and Shame by Ed Welch

A wonderful and short devotional work by a great thinker and counselor. This simple and yet astute book addresses its subjects with sensitivity, clarity, insight, and ultimately gospel hope! A great resources for counseling, but also just a valuable read for my own personal life.

(27) Overcoming Bitterness: Moving From Life’s Greatest Hurts to A Life Filled with Joy by Stephen Viars

Viars has written on the past elsewhere but here he expands further on the subject of bitterness. Of particular interest to me was the manner in which he addressed issues of suffering not simply sin. Another great counseling resources that I am sure to use for years to come.

(28) Brother of Jesus, Friend of God: Studies in the Letter of James by Luke Timothy Johnson

This is a collection of Johnson’s essays on the book of James, exploring various topics from within the letter. It is extremely well-written, insightful, and deep. The essay on Friendship with the world was particularly insightful for me!

(29) The Gospel for Disordered Lives: An Introduction to Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling by Robert Jones, Kristin Kellen, and Rob Green

Every few years a new intro to Biblical Counseling emerges, but this one stands above the rest in its comprehensiveness. Jones, Kellen, and Green not only cover the common elements of an intro volume, and the basic issues of methodology, but the touch on a number of issues that are generally unaddressed in such intro books. They also cover a wide array of case-studies that give readers a chance to apply the skills and techniques to real-life problems. Other books may go deeper on any number of these subjects but this volume provides a one-stop introduction to all of them.

(30) The Christian Counselor’s Commentary: Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, and Jude by Jay Adams

Adam’s commentary is just okay, in my opinion. It is, to be clear, not a commentary in the true sense and he admits this. His interest is in helping readers apply the text to real-life counseling scenarios. The approach, however, leaves one often feeling disconnected from the text and reading random comments about life and counseling.

(31) A Still and Quiet Mind: Twelve Strategies for Changing Unwanted Thoughts by Esther Smith

Krista and I had the chance to read this book ahead of release and it is outstanding! It is easily the best book on intrusive thoughts that I have ever read from a Christian perspective and it has immediately impacted me and my counseling. I cannot wait for it to release next year!

(32) A Biblical Counseling Process: Guidance for the Beginning, Middle, and End by Lauren Whitman

Another intro volume for Biblical counselors but this one with a very niche focus: the process of counseling. Whitman has written a manual unlike any other and one that I found so fresh, simple, and insightful that it is one of my top five favorite books of the year! A great read for anyone doing counseling, and a great tool for teaching and training counselors!

(33) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, vol. 14: Order from Chaos by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

I ended the year out with a fun read. I didn’t read a lot of comics this year but in the week between Christmas and New Year I wanted something simple and fun to share with my son, so we picked up this series again and enjoyed catching up with the turtles. It’s not a real thrilling read, but it explores the tension between “saving the city” and keeping their family together. It’s interesting if not the most exciting.

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