Book Reviews

To be effective preachers, I am convinced we need to be devoted readers.  My goal is to read books and offer at least a one sentence mini-review on this page.  When I write a bit more, I’ll pop the review on the blog and link to it from here.  The books will include preaching books, but also related subjects that are potentially helpful to preachers.

35. Privilege the Text, by Abraham Kuruvilla.  2013 Preaching Magazine’s book of the year, Kuruvilla offers a critique of Christocentric preaching by attempting to show that every pericope in the Bible is offering a facet of Christlike character – the divine demand to which believers should then align themselves.  Overview of book here.  Review of book here.  (To get in the UK, click here).

34. How to Like Paul Again, by Conrad Gempf.  A wonderful little paperback introducing Paul through his letters to the Galatians, 1 Corinthians and Philemon.  A must read for beginners and seasoned preachers alike.  (To get in the UK, click here.)

33. Everyday Church, by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.  A helpful walk through 1Peter as a backdrop for considering how to make church evangelistically effective through life on life community.  (To get in the UK, click here.)

32. Can We Do That?, by Andy Stanley and Ed Young.  This is starting to feel out of date, so I would nudge you toward something newer by Andy Stanley, such as Deep and Wide.  Some good bits in here, but not a book to spend money on compared to his newer ones.

31. Come Back, Barbara, by C.John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani.  God’s grace in action through the journey of one family as their daughter walked away from it all, but by God’s work in her and her parents, was gradually won back, or rather, won, for and by Christ.  A must read for all parents, a case study in how God wins souls!  (To get it in the UK, click here.)

30. The Next Generation Leader, by Andy Stanley.  Five essentials for those who will shape the future.  This is an earlier Stanley book that is worth a read as he addresses important issues with his effective communication and personal stories.  (To get it in the UK, click here.)

29. Deep and Wide, by Andy Stanley.  The story, strategy and heart behind North Point.  This is a fascinating insight into the family dynamics of the Stanley family, followed by a probing explanation of the why behind the what of this well-known church.  Leaders should read this and prayerfully wrestle with the challenges it contains.  (To get in the UK, click here.)

28.  Pontius Pilate, by Paul Maier.  This is historical fiction at its very best.  Read this and then see if the Easter passion narratives don’t become much more vivid in your heart and your preaching!  (Here is the full review.)

27. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, by George Marsden.  This is not an abridged version of the longer “A Life.”  It is a very well written narrative that contrasts Edwards with Benjamin Franklin to make sense of how a country like the USA can be both the most religious and the most secular at the same time.  Worth getting just for the final chapter, although you’ll want to read the rest too!  (To get in the UK, click here.)

26. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, by Timothy Keller.  This is a tiny book that packs a helpful punch.  Gospel humility brings neither self-hatred nor self-love, but self-forgetfulness.  Very helpful little work from 10Publishing – we need to see more books like this one!  (Why not buy direct from the publisher?)

25. Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George Marsden.  Mammoth?  Maybe.  Magisterial?  Absolutely.  This is a delightful biography that is written with an energy fitting for the subject matter – not only the life of Edwards, but the trinitarian God that so captivated him.  This is a tremendous biography.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

24. Good News for Those Trying Harder, by Alan Kraft.  A very easy read, and a very helpful one too.  Our sin is worse than we realized, but our salvation is so much greater than we even dared to imagine.  This is a book to read and a book to give away.  I wish he’d offered something a bit bolder on Bible reading, but other than that caveat I wholeheartedly endorse the book.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

[2013 – let’s try to beat the total in 2012 . . .]

23. Tirzah, by Lucille Travis.  I just read this to my children, but I also loved it.  Historical fiction following a family from enslavement in Egypt to the 12 spies fallout – the value here is to imagine what we know as biblical fact all dressed up in real lives.  This is immensely helpful for preachers to be able to describe biblical realities and narratives better.  Easy read, but very touching.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

22. Two Kinds of Love: Martin Luther’s Religious World, by Tuomo Mannermaa.  If you haven’t read any of the Finnish Lutherans on the theology of Luther, this should be on your “to read” list.  Very helpful critique of the standard traditional understanding of Luther.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

21. A New Name, by Emma Scrivener.  This is a stunning book.  Brilliantly written autobiography of a life ravaged by anorexia, but transformed by Christ.  A book to give insight into others, into ourselves, and into the richness of the gospel.  Buy a few copies, you probably will need more.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

20. John Calvin Versus the Westminster Confession, by Holmes Rolston III.  This isn’t the easiest to get hold of, but once you get into it you discover some real gold.  Some of these chapters will make you stop and think and pray and ponder long after you read them.  Well worth getting hold of if you want an enriching theological read.

19. Exploring Protestant Traditions: An Invitation to Theological Hospitality, by W.David Buschart.  This is a helpful introduction to eight theological traditions, with an invitation to healthy hospitality as opposed to, well, opposition and tension.  Worth having and reading, even if not cover to cover.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

18. Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism, by Janice Knight.  The contents are worth their weight in gold, unfortunately, the book almost costs its weight in gold.  The contrast between a God obsessed with His own power and a God who gives of Himself in love … this isn’t just a historical contrast.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

17. A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture, by Mark D. Thompson.  This is an important subject – the often neglected sibling of Authority.  An important subject and a decent book worth a read, let me give you the final two lines: “A confession of the clarity of Scripture is an aspect of faith in a generous God who is willing and able to make himself and his purposes known.  God has something to say and he is very good at saying it.”  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

16. The Longest Week: The Truth About Jesus’ Last Days, by Nick Page.  This is a very well written and compelling explanation of the passion week (sorry the review is a bit late on here – I needed to finish it).  I wouldn’t agree with every detail, but the vast majority is solidly researched and very much on target.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

15. An Experiment in Criticism, by C.S.Lewis. This little book is a delightful read – Lewis 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?  What he writes of great literature surely applies to the greatest Book of them all.  This is well worth pondering on a spiritual, as well as on a literary level.  (To buy the book in the UK, click here.)

14. 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo, by Bryan Allain.  Some recommendations are wrong.  I read a strong recommendation and got this ebook.  It has a handful of useful suggestions in it if you are a blogger who doesn’t get blogging, blended together with consistently and frustratingly poor humour (made worse by the author’s high view of how funny he is).  Ah well, time for another book…

13. Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People, by Constantine Campbell.  This is a great little book for anyone who has studied Greek (or Hebrew) in the past and wants to maintain and grow in the added pressure of real life.  This is a great example of blog material turned into a helpful book.  (Click here to buy the book.)

12. Word Biblical Commentary: Galatians, by Richard Longenecker.  Over the past few weeks I have been reading through this commentary and have been very impressed by Longenecker’s careful attention to the text and consistent reading.  The odd quibble, but nothing compared to other commentaries, this really is a must have.  (Click here to buy the book.)

11. 3 Theories of Everything, by Ellis Potter. A quick read from a former Zen Buddhist who is now a very trinitarian Christian.  Interesting perspectives on both, particularly from a worldview standpoint. (Click here to buy the book.)

10. Concerning Christian Liberty (The Freedom of a Christian), by Martin Luther.  If you have never read any Luther, this would be a good place to start.  You’d find it both surprisingly readable and relevant, both humorous and challenging.  This little book is well worth a look, plus it is freely available online.

9. Jesus on Trial: A Study in the Fourth Gospel, by A.E.Harvey.  I am so glad this golden oldie was recommended to me, and so I recommend it to you too!  Harvey shows the cultural legal language of Jesus’ encounters with the Jews in John’s gospel (as well as comparisons with the synoptics), shedding much light on the interpersonal dynamics that are so crucial to grasping the interactions in the gospels.  If you preach the gospels, you should read this.

8. Basic Bible Storying, by J.O.Terry.  We are exploring the powerful field of storying in Cor Deo, and this is a decent introduction to it in respect to its use in non-literate mission fields.  There is potential application here in terms of evangelistic ministries in our churches too.  Some useful elements in regards to the telling of Bible stories too.  (Click here to buy the book in the UK.)

7. Mentor Like Jesus, by Regi Campbell.  I am convinced that mentoring is at the very heart of Biblical ministry and we should all be pondering and pursuing it in our lives.  While I don’t agree with every specific application in the book (some feel a bit forced), it does both provoke thought by looking at Jesus’ mentoring pattern, and enthuse the reader to make mentoring a real priority as it should be.  Easy read, worth a read.  (Click here to buy the book in the UK.)

6. Perelandra (Cosmic Trilogy, #2), by C.S.Lewis.  At the risk of offending his many fans, I found the first of this trilogy tediously slow and gave up, but this one is absolutely stunning and worth reading even without the first.  Lewis’ depiction of the struggle to protect innocence in the face of a Genesis 3-like temptation should be a must read for us all as every sermon we preach engages with our post-Fall world.  (Click here to buy the book in the UK.)

5. Quest for Renewal: Personal Revival in the Old Testament, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.  Kaiser, one of the finest evangelical OT scholars, argues that the whole issue of revival has been ignored by too many scholars, and then presents ten of the OT revivals with careful attention to the text.  (An older book, but as with all Kaiser, worth getting if you get the chance.  The newer Revive Us Again expands the content to sixteen revival accounts. Click here to buy book.)

4. The Good God, by Michael Reeves.  Reeves loves God and the God he presents in this brief book is an absolute delight…you won’t find a better, more accessible, more enjoyable, more worship-stirring book on the Trinity than this gem.  (This really is a sensational book, 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 pre-order book in the UK.)

3. Is There a Doctor in the House? An Insider’s Story and Advice on Becoming a Bible Scholar, by Ben Witherington III.  Witherington, a well-published scholar offers a compellingly written insider’s guide based on his own experience of getting a New Testament PhD at Durham in the 1970’s under C.K.Barrett, and then pursuing a vocation of biblical scholarship and all that that involves. (A great book for those planning further studies, those with an interest in scholarship, those antagonistic to biblical scholarship and everyone else who just wants to handle the Bible well in ministry!  Click link to see review. Click here to buy book.)

2. The Messiah in the Old Testament, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.  Kaiser, a great Old Testament scholar and compelling communicator, here offers a very helpful introduction to the predictions of the coming Messiah that will help preachers accurately handle the Old Testament predictive content.  (Anything by Kaiser is worth reading, although don’t expect Theophany/Christophany in this little book.  UK folks, click here to buy.)

1. Recovering the Real Lost Gospel, by Darrell L. Bock.  Bock is a top New Testament scholar, and this succinct little gem offers a wealth of New Testament content that makes clear how the gospel is so much more than just a business transaction – it is about a relationship rooted in God’s love! (Well worth reading by all, and one to own for preachers. Click here to buy in UK.)

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