It seems fashionable to offer a list of the best books of the year during these days. I can only offer some of the highlights in terms of what I’ve read. Consequently, not all these books were published in 2012, but they were read by me in 2012! I won’t include any of the books I am currently reading, even though there are some real gems, with bookmarks in them, next to my reading chair.
To be effective preachers we need to be readers. Readers for the sake of our preaching, our biblical studies, our theology, our cultural awareness, our personal spirituality and our growth in all aspects of ministry. So here are some books I’d encourage you to get hold of if they weren’t in your stocking yesterday or on your shelf already:
Best Theological and Spiritually Stimulating Read of 2012: The Good God, by Michael Reeves. This book is appearing on lists far more comprehensive and purposeful than mine. Hopefully people will get the point – this delightful book is well worth reading! It is rich yet accessible, theological yet heart-stirring, historically alert yet relevant and enjoyable. (It was released in the UK in March 2012 by Paternoster, and in the US in the fall by IVP under the title, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Click here to buy the book in the UK.)
Other Theologically Stimulating Reads in 2012. These are not new, but worth grabbing if you get the chance. Holmes Rolston’s John Calvin Versus the Westminster Confession is very thought provoking. Janice Knight’s insightful analysis of the Antinomian Controversy in New England in the 1630’s is a golden piece of work (at a golden price, it must be said). The contrast between a God obsessed with His own power and a God who gives of Himself in love is as fresh a discussion as any from all those centuries ago. Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism – buy or borrow if you can. (To buy in the UK, click here.)
Best Freely Accessible Historical Document of 2012: I have thoroughly enjoyed time with both Luther and Edwards this year. Edwards is not always the most accessible, and Luther is not always the most consistent, but both are worth some reading time! For starters, why not try The Freedom of a Christian, by Luther (aka Concerning Christian Liberty – easy to find online, but why not get The Three Treatises on your shelf – to buy in the UK, click here.)
Biblical Studies Book of 2012: Jesus on Trial: A Study in the Fourth Gospel, by A.E.Harvey. This is an older book, published in the 70’s, but worth its weight in gold. This book helps make sense of the continual legal tension between Jesus and his accusers. I will long remember reading this by flashlight in the sleepless nights after our youngest was born – she was worth being awake for, but this book only made it even better!
Not Overtly Christian But Well Worth Reading Book: C.S.Lewis’ Experiment in Criticism is a delightful read on literature and how it engages people. Instead of evaluating readers by what they read, what if we evaluate literature on how it is read? This is well worth pondering on a spiritual, as well as on a literary level. (To buy the book in the UK, click here.)
Insight Into Human Psyche Book of the Year: A New Name, by Emma Scrivener. – This was published this year. It will make a mark on you if you read it. Autobiographical, profoundly vulnerable and deeply gospel-centred. This journey through the agony of anorexia gives insight into a world many of us know practically nothing about (but many in our congregation do). (To buy in the UK, click here.)