I generally am about a year behind on “the best books of the year” except for the ones in my field of interest. This is mainly because I cheat. I wait to hear from others what books are most worth my time. I love all the December “best of” lists because they help me to create a reading list for next year.
Although in the past I have tried to keep a “books read” list, I never actually keep up with it. So really, this list is my favorite books that are fresh in my memory.
I have tried to start in order, but by the time I get to five the list becomes random.
Christ is King: Joshua Jipp
This book has been very influential in my thinking. It is not that Jipp says anything radical, it is more the way he frames things and also his incorporation of Hellenistic and Greco-Roman background material. His chapter on the “law of Christ” made me think scholars have been going about explaining this phrase all wrong, and his solution is natural and easy to explain. The best books make you think their material can be applied to different areas in a fruitful way. I am planning on employing some of the concepts in my work on the Gospels.
Silence: Shūsaku Endō
Endo’s book is painful to read but it is powerful nonetheless. It tells the story of Porteugesse Priests who travel to Japan in the late 17th century. They know they will most likely be captured and tortured for their faith, but they go in attempt to follow the path of their suffering savior. If Hillenbrand’s book a few years ago was about being Unbroken by the Japanese, this is about being broken by them.
Hillbilly Elegy: J.D. Vance
I read this book because of Rod Dreher’s interview with Vance. Of all of the hundreds, no thousands, of articles I read on the election, it was Vance’s answers that made the most sense to me of the Trump phenomenon. The book isn’t even about Trump but it gives a glimpse into a people group in the US that are neglected and misunderstood.
Biblical Authority After Babel: Kevin Vanhoozer
Vanhoozer is a unique theologian who is both an excellent writer and someone who engages in a number of fields. This is one of the most important books of the year because Vanhoozer answers the charges against Protestantism and gives a nice defense of the five solas.
Read my review here:
Read Bobby Jamieson’s as well:
Day of Atonement: David DeSilva
You have to read this book. DeSilva turns the Maccabean revolt into a narrative that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Although sometimes the narrative feels a little forced, the book will put you into the world of the intertestamental period. After I read this book I told my wife that I need to somehow incorporate this book into my classes.
Read Mark Strauss’s recent review of it.
The Triune God: Fred Sanders
The positive effect of the grenade launching Trinity debates this past summer is that it made me revisit some of my Trinitarian categories. It also showed me that what I thought were sometimes pedantic and philosophical debates about the Trinity are quite important. Fred Sanders’ book is welcome contribution to the ever-expanding field of Trinitarian work. You might as well also read his review of Rohr while you are at it.
Paul and the Trinity: Wesley Hill
The first chapter of this book is worth the price of the book. Hill helpfully overviews the history of scholarship on “low” and “high” Christologies and then proposes a relational model. After I read this book I thought this was one of the best examples of Theological Interpretation of Scripture. Although Carson critiques the movement for not doing excellent exegetical work and tying it to Systematic Theology, that is exactly what Hill does so well in this work.
The Fractured Republic: Yuval Levin
I read this book over my vacation and thought it was a decent proposal for a way forward for our nation. I am not sure it will happen, but I am glad to see someone proposing a positive alternative rather than launching A-bombs at the opposing political camps. Levin argues that both conservatives and progressives are often given over to competing nostalgias, both seeking to “get back” to some mythical golden era—just different golden eras.
Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord: L. Michael Morales
Carson’s series continues to pump out excellent material and this study of Leviticus is now my go to resource on Leviticus. I don’t think a work like this has been done on a book that confuses many. Morales puts the book into a narrative structure and centers it in the Pentateuch.
The Crucifixion: Fleming Rutledge
Confession. I am not completely done with this. It has been at my bedside and I have been slowly working my way through it before bed if I am not too tempted by another Netflix show. Although I don’t agree with everything in Rutledge’s book, I put this on my list because I have been served well by a book focusing on the cross. It is incredible to think that there are not a lot of books solely dedicated to the cross. The more the better in my mind, and a work has not been produced of this magnitude on the cross since Stott’s book The Cross of Christ.
Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: Craig Bartholomew
I like anything Bartholomew does and this is a good “Theological Interpretation of Scripture” introduction. I did a review of it. Read what I think about it there. 🙂
I have a few books that I have been meaning to pick up that may have made this list but I have not got around to them yet. Here are the books on my “to read soon list.”
- Richard Hays: Echoes of the Scriptures in the Gospels
- Larry Hurtado: Destroyer of the Gods
- Daniel Starling: Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship
- Andy Crouch: Strong and Weak
- Larry Tauton: The Faith of Christopher Hitchens
- Mendy Belz: They Say We are Infidels