It’s that time of the year where I give you my top 10 books of the year. Curating this list is always fun and difficult. It’s fun because I love reading and recommending books. It gives me great joy to recommend a book that I think will help a brother or sister out. On the flip side, making this list every year is also frustrating and somewhat unsatisfying. I mean, I just get to pick 10 books? What about the books I read during the last few weeks of December that should have made the list — is it fair to leave them out? I’m sure I take this list way more seriously than my readers, and I’m nonetheless grateful to curate this list every year.
2017 was somewhat of a frustrating reading year for me. This was my first full year of being in seminary, and while I am blessed beyond measure to read books assigned by my professors, I can almost never make room for additional books that I want to read. I read what I’m told.
Also, I studied biblical Hebrew this past summer, which about made me drop out of seminary (not really . . . but it was hard). I think I only read one book this summer because night and day I studied biblical Hebrew.
Nevertheless, I’m grateful to God for a strong desire to read and accessibility to so many good books. Good books are a gift to the church.
Before we get to the list, let me give my super subjective ranking system. The books below made the list based on four questions:
1. How well was the book written?
2. How great of an immediate impact did the book have on my life?
3. How much of an impact do I think this book will have on my future?
4. How readily would I recommend this book to others?
And while one book may be better than another, the greater the book impacted me, the better the ranking it received. These were the best books I read in 2017, but not every book was published in 2017. Maybe I didn’t read every single word on every single page, but I read enough that it made this list. You can find the list below.
My Top 10 Books of 2017
10. The Doctrine of God by Gerald Bray
The more I study God, the more I love him. That’s the beauty of theology proper (A.K.A The Doctrine of God). While some of his work on the Trinity was long and difficult to read, I loved his insight into our knowledge of God and God’s knowability. God is knowable, and Christ-followers should take pains to know him as best as possible. Studying the Doctrine of God is the prominent way to know God more.
9. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher J.H. Wright
I absolutely love Wright’s writing style. While The Mission of God’s People is still my favorite book by him (ranked #3 on last year’s list), this book gave me a deeper understanding of the Old Testament. It’s a beautiful thing to see how the Old Testament points to Jesus. As Wright says, “If we were to throw away the Old Testament, we would lose most of the meaning of Jesus himself. For the uniqueness of Jesus is built on the foundation of the uniqueness of the story that prepared the way for him to come.”
I have not seriously studied church history until seminary. And what a joy it is. There’s something about studying church history (past) that fuels faith now (present) and inspires for the future (eternity). While Ferguson’s writing is less inspiring than it is informational, I loved learning about Augustine and Ambrose and Justin Martyr and others from him. When it comes to church history, I have much more to study. This book was a helpful start.
7. From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch by T. Desmond Alexander
I’ve always loved Genesis and Exodus, but the rest of the Pentateuch has always been a struggle for me. The book strengthened my understanding of the first five books of the Bible and how they fit together.
6. Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andy Naselli and J.D. Crowley
I have somewhat of a sensitive conscience. I thought this was a curse, but one of my professors told me this is a blessing. I read this book to help me and it was a huge blessing. I particularly like the emphasis on training your conscience and the emphasis on the gift Christians have to pray for a cleansed conscience.
5. Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message by Michael Bird
I read much of this book while laying by the pool with my wife in Mexico (maybe that’s why I like it so much). I loved learning more about the Apostle Paul’s background and extraordinary life. One of my favorite quotes from this book is when Bird Writes, “One of the most poignant images of Paul in his letter is that of a parent desperately concerned about his children.” That quote helps me understand Paul’s motives better.
4. C H Spurgeon – The People’s Preacher by Peter Morden
Of all the dead guys, John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon are my favorites. This book was extremely refreshing and inspiring to read. Morden honors Spurgeon with his amazing life, but also winsomely and encouragingly writes on his faults. Charle’s Spurgeon’s life inspires me.
3. The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry by Jason Helopoulos
I read this book toward the end of finals last semester and loved it. I could hardly put it down. With me preparing and being formed for pastoral ministry, this book helped put raw, real-world advice in an accessible and fresh way. I plan on reading parts of the book again in the future.
2. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem
As I mentioned above, I studied biblical Hebrew this past summer. During Hebrew, I thought, “Boy, when this is over, I’ll either not want to read or read something light.” I was wrong. I craved theology. And even though I studied biblical Hebrew for hours and hours on end every day, I still managed time to read lots of this book before bed, often going to bed with a deep sense of joy and satisfaction and gratitude to God for just, well, being God. He is amazing, and Grudem writes in such a clear and concise way as to make God’s awesomeness a reality not just for your head, but also for your heart.
1. Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving by Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie
This book was eye-opening, convicting, encouraging, and extremely useful. I hope and pray that by God’s grace and I can enjoy a long, fruitful ministry one day and books like these help ministry leaders do so. I don’t know a single ministry leader who could not benefit from it in some way.