My Top 17 Books to Read for 2016

The past few years my “for fun” reading has consisted of mini, focused, in-depth “projects.” Two years ago I read close to 15 books on “marriage,” from many different perspectives. This led me in the next year to want to do some deeper thinking on “sexuality” – so I then purchased and read another 15 books on sexuality – in both straight and gay perspectives.

My personal curiosities then took a detour when in the last 6 months I had purchased and read another 15 books in the area of what we could call, “theological sociology” – especially as it relates to theological education and societal trends within the current youth, emerging and young adult generation. Mostly, I haven’t been too creative. I simply focused on what I could tell where the “big guns” in the fields and have used those books to guide the remainders of my reading in each category.

However, as much as I have loved what I have learned these past few years, I think I need a break from the monotony of reading the same thing 10 different times, with subtle nuances in between. As well, there are a few “fields” that seem to be calling my name, (whole fields I’ve done almost no substantive reading in), but I’m not sure I can commit to any of them just yet. So, this year I’m gonna try something different. I’m gonna prioritize getting through my eclectic list of the 17 books I definitely want to read. Just because I want to! Then, in 2017 I can decide which of these categories would be worth me pursuing in greater detail (Or, maybe this will be a two year project – who knows?). The following is that list. If any of you are planning to read any of these in the next year, please let me know. I’d love to have some dialogue partners!

  1. Be the Miracle. By Delores Liesner. Delores is the best story teller I have ever met. Her life is filled with the coolest stories you’ve ever heard – especially when she is the one telling you about them. This is her first published book, so I must read it. Oh, did I mention, Delores is my gramma? For real! Maybe that’s another reason her book is at the top of my list, but I’m trying not to be biased!
  2. Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection. By Hans Kung. I’ve got more than 10 books on “Justification” on my Amazon wish list, but not sure I’ve got the energy to delve into this as deeply as I’d like. This should be a fun, distinctive entry into the field, as I don’t know nearly enough about Karl Barth as I should, nor about Hans Kung. So I’m betting I’ll learn a lot. But will take me some time. It took me an hour to read the first 15 pages. This thing is dense like crazy.
  3. Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith. By Jen Pollock Michel. My “project” on sexuality touched on this topic but I haven’t done enough thinking about it.
  4. Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone. By Tara M. Owens. This was one of the only books in my project on sexuality that I meant to get to, but never did. Nuff said.
  5. Hermeneutics. An Introduction. By Anthony C. Thiselton. This is one of the main texts for Dr. Vidu’s Hermeneutics Course (at Gordon-Conwell), which I’d like to at least audit someday. This intro seems to be pretty good.
  6. Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture. By Craig C. Bartholomew. This one seems a bit more general and broad than the above intro by Thiselton, but I may still want (need) to read this one as a follow-up to help me remember the forest context as I walk among the trees.
  7. The Gospel According to Heretics: Discovering Orthodoxy through Early Christological Conflicts. By David E. Wilhite. I took a “Christological Controversies” Course with Dr. Fairbairn a few years ago but haven’t touched the topic since. Need to refresh and review.
  8. Overcoming Sin and Temptation. By John Owen. John Owen is all the rage right now, and I haven’t ever read him. Nor have I figured out how to overcome sin and temptation. Two good(?) reasons to read this book in 2016!
  9. An Invitation to Analytic Theology. By Thomas H. McCall. I definitely appreciate philosophical theology more than any other kind of theology – although I’m much less “analytic” (and sometimes more Continental) than I’d like to admit. I took an “Analytic Theology” course with Dr. Smith when I was studying for my Th.M., but this intro wasn’t out yet. It’s the first of its kind in the field, so I should check it out.
  10. Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same-Sex Relationships. By Robert Song. Wesley Hill said this is the best book he has ever read detailing a pro-gay theology. That’s enough motivation for me.
  11. Fools Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion. By Os Guinness. I disliked his last book. Increasingly, (similarly to how I feel about David Wells) I don’t always agree with him. Which I understand, is not allowed. Yes, I realize, Os Guinness is so the author. So I should read it. No arguing here.
  12. Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding it. By Greg Forster. When was the last time I preached on “joy”? When was the last time I heard a sermon on “joy”? Maybe that’s a problem.
  13. Identity and Idolatry: The Image of God and its Inversion. By Richard Lints. This is his latest “thing.” And as far as I can tell, it’s a pretty important topic. Shows up every once in a while in scripture, and in my own life.
  14. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. By Sinclair Ferguson. The reviews on this book are insane – if that many Godly, smart people say it is one of the best books written in the last 50 (or 500?) years – I’ll read it.
  15. Happiness. By Randy Alcorn. This one looks so fun! I am most attracted to reading his distinction between “happiness” and “joy” and whether or not we should still be separating the two.
  16. A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living. By Luc Ferry. I’ve also got John M. Frame’s A History of Western Philosophy and Theology on my wish list, but Tim Keller said if you are only gonna read one book on this topic, it should be this one. So I’ll read Ferry and if I like it, I’ll move to Frame.
  17. The Love of God: A Canonical Model. By John C. Peckham. I’ve been pretty sure for years that God’s love is NOT unconditional, and that is a good thing. But I haven’t read a good defense of that viewpoint. I think this book will get me as close as possible to thinking well about this topic. I already have and have read Leon Morris’ Testaments of Love: A Study of Love in the Bible. His was great and exegetically strong, but I don’t think he addresses the conditionality of God’s love in specific. But I think Peckham does! So I’m curious as to how his canonical approach will benefit my thinking in this area.

One thought on “My Top 17 Books to Read for 2016

  1. Wow Pastor Mike, Hope you get all that heavy reading accomplished. hat was the book you mentioned some time ago by one of your professors – the book that sold for $129? You are an inspiration to my reading habits. I review lighter material – usually 1-2 books a week and keep at least one “serious” book in the background – right now Switch On Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf and Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, yet unopened. I am back in school with a master class and a couple of webinars, so I find the lighter fare a good mental and visual break. Let me know if you get into Randy Alcorn’s book on Happiness – I would love to chat with you about a book or two. Thanks for including my book in your list. I will be eager to hear your impression. I’m not surprised you don’t have fiction on your list – you’ve always been a deep study and I loved playing devil’s advocate with you back in the day. But maybe more people would read about or understand the deeper topics if someone did include them in a fictional story – giving a face and a relatable journey to a heavy subject. Maybe that would be you someday:)

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