Here were some of my favorite reads of 2016. Listed in no particular order.
Rejoicing in Christ, by Michael Reeves.
I like small books. To me, they tend to pack a greater punch. And this one did that for me. Written in a fresh style, Michael Reeves breaks it down. Why is Christ at the center of it all? Not only will the Christian agree, but they will love Jesus more because of this book. Highly recommended.
Leap Over a Wall, by Eugene Peterson
Eugene Peterson’s writing style can be a bit slow, but highly rewarding. It’s like following a leisurely driver. The impatient reader can get a bit antsy, but if ya hang in there this guy can lead ya to some great sights. I’ll go 10 pages and nothing pops. Just gentle and relatively uneventful (yet beautiful) prose. And then Peterson takes a turn, and, all of a sudden, you’re traveling down one of the most breathtaking roads you’ve ever seen. I intend to make it through all of his works.
Imperfect Pastor, Zach Eswine
This was an outstanding read. Didn’t know much of Zack Eswine before beginning this book, but I definitely will be visiting him again. I can tell he’s somewhat of a contemplative. And he reads and cites many of my favorite authors, such as Eugene Peterson, Wendell Berry, and Marilynne Robinson. And the guy is a Spurgeon scholar to boot! So I feel like I’ve found an exciting new friend. And what a great author. He’s a little indirect, poetic even, but extremely thoughtful, insightful, and brutally honest. One of the best books on pastoral ministry I’ve ever read. But, I’m not sure this book should be restricted to just ministers. No doubt Eswine is writing to the pastor, but anybody can read this with great benefit.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
This story was set to the context of the segregated South. I read this to my kids and, as a half black man, I was proud to expose them to such an important segment of our history. I grew up largely in a white community, and now, so do my kids. So to have a portal into the American Negro past was truly a blessing. I’m proud to have African-American descent and I want them to be as well, or at least gain awareness and a sense of solidarity with their forebears.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
What an amazing story. From the Olympic games, to being adrift at sea, to being a POW, not to mention all the fascinating tidbits of his life… could there be a more engrossing story? Louie Zamparini was made of the stuff of greatness, yet God still took the man and broke him to make him even greater. An inspirational experience.
The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis
When I think of Lewis I think of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters. But, over the years I’ve been trying to delve into some of his other works. And after reading this, I’ll have to say Lewis might be my favorite author. The guy’s imagination was just simply off-the-hook good. And he used such artistry to cloak his presentations. And I love that his books aren’t these big tomes either. Pith comes in small portions.
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
Definitely not a short work, so I listened to an audio version of this during my daily commute. I’m very interested in some of the great works of literature. And after reading this, I’ll have to say Steinbeck is an amazing author. Such sweep, such weight, such beauty. My word. I love his prose. It’s strong, masculine, earthy. But, at the same time, there something in it I don’t like. It’s dark, ponderous, and, base. I include it here, cause the story (or shall I say experience) is amazing. His character development is unmatched. And his descriptions are stunning. And the story certainly makes one think on different levels. Read it prayerfully, and there could be real benefit here.
Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Since we’re on the topic of tomes, here’s another amazing work. Talk about exquisite writing, spoken in beautiful American dialect. And pathos drips from every page. So many feelings. And what a breadth of characters too. The story centers on two individuals who weather their storms. To be honest, through most of the story, I didn’t like either one. But by the end I felt such sympathy for each one. And for everyone else… what a cast of characters! Wow. This was an unforgettable journey. This is why I love books!
Redwall, by Brian Jacques
I would put this down as the best pure story I’ve ever read to the kids. This was outstanding. Beautifully written, and entertainment at its finest. When we chose the book, my 12 year old daughter was a bit iffy. But, by the time we were a third of the way in I could tell she was hooked. By the end of the book my 7 year old’s mouth was hanging wide open. Lots of good laughter, and dad got choked up at the end. This was GOOD. This is what reading great books is all about.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Dickens really was a beautiful writer. Very poetic. In this novella, he could get a little wordy, but conceptually what a great story. Few things touches real humanity quite like this narrative. And I love the Victorian era it depicts. What I would give to go back and witness this era. We finished reading this together as a family at Christmas time and loved every minute of it. A fun holiday tradition.
Reading goals for 2017:
- Read less, with paper and pen in hand.
- Re-read a half dozen books – devotionally and prayerfully.
- Read more biographies.
- Read news and culture periodicals.
- Read through the Bible in a year.