I am really privileged to get paid to read. It isn’t my whole job (it is actually unfortunately a very small part of my job), but I am expected to keep reading and to keep pushing my knowledge and understanding. Fortunately I really enjoy that endeavour.
I often get asked what is on my reading list and truth be told that list is usually too long and too varied to be all that useful. That isn’t some sort of boast but rather an acknowledgment of unhelpful reading patterns as I usually find myself reading seven to eight books at a time at different speeds and different depths, and I must confess that there are many that I don’t complete.
With all that said, what is potentially more useful than a current reading list is a summary list at the end of the year. There are hundreds of these online at the moment and so I don’t assume its particular usefulness to you, but to the people who are interested it may help to shape your December reading list. The list below contains the books that made the most impact on me this year. They weren’t necessarily the best or even the most agreeable, just the most impactful. Enjoy the list, and let me know what was on yours this year.
In no particular order.
I read a lot on the topic of race from a gospel perspective this year, and Dr Evans stood out as a clear, passionate, resolute and Christ exalting teacher. The book is very US-centric and so needs some contextual interpretation and application work for a South African reader, but I loved it, and have referenced it a lot this year. Definitely one that I will come back to.
I know that this has been something of a Christian staple for a long time, but for some reason it was a book that I started many times, but never managed to get any traction on until this year. It is a hefty work, and unnecessarily detailed in some places, but it gives such great insight into the person, work, theology and humility of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It also got me to finally sit down and spend some time in Bonhoeffer’s writings. See below.
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I read this slowly and deliberately and highlighted most of the book. It did make me question whether I had a Christian view of community at all, and that was a good and necessary thing. The language makes it a slow and careful read but it is totally worth it. Should be a standard for all church leaders.
Mud, Sweat and Tears: The Autobiography – Bear Grylls
I have a real interest in people who are able to push themselves beyond regular or sensible human limits. This is a great light read. If you are looking for something complex, clever, or nuanced then this isn’t it. If you want a page turner about a total nutter who just happens to love Jesus, then this is a lot of fun and highly recommended.
When Grace Showed Up: One Couple’s Story of Hope and Healing Among the Poor – Tich and Joan Smith
I must confess that I know and love Tich and Joan and that we as a church have an active involvement in LIV Village. This book is the story of how that came about, and how God took two rebels with broken lives and made them into instruments in his hands. My one big takeaway after reading this book is that I don’t pray enough. Tich and Joan’s prayer life leaps off of every page.
I have been running hard the last couple of years and so this book really came along at a good time and forced me to look at some unhealthy habits and behaviours that were impacting me, my family and the team I get to serve. I didn’t like all of it. I found it cheesy in some parts and humanistic in others, but it made me stop and think about my own life and health and that has made an impact.
We had the real privilege of having JD come teach at BBC for a day on the very things contained in this book and it was very shaping for us as a leadership. Full of really practical but very biblical input on how to shift church communities away from focusing on themselves.
People To Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue – Preston Sprinkle
There are very few conversations as polarising as the ones around homosexuality, the bible’s teaching on it, and how the church should respond. The polarising nature of the conversation forces caricatures and flat positions that seldom reflect both thoughtfulness and love. Let’s just say that I think Sprinkle does a very good job of displaying empathy while holding to an orthodox position on the subject.
The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrim’s on the Way – Michael Horton
An important work and an essential addition to the collection of anyone who is interested in systematic theology as a discipline. Note to the reader, this is probably not a light summer holiday read. It is a hefty academic work, but one that rewards the reader for their rigour.
Steve Biko (Ohio Short Stories of Africa) – Lindy Wilson
A short, accessible and obviously insufficient telling of the life of Bantu Steven Biko. It was impactful for me as it gave me appetite to read more about and from Biko and so watch out for the list from 2017 to see how that goes. If like me you know very little about Biko, then this is a decent place to start.
There were many others, and I hope to start blogging some more thorough and thoughtful reviews of the books I read in the future. Hope this has been helpful.