As we pass on towards a new decade….
When I was a kid, I hated to read. Nowadays, I never find enough time to read all of the books I want to enjoy. Thankfully, audiobook outfits like ChristianAudio and Audible have made it a lot easier to digest good books on the work commute, or while working in the yard. Here is a list of the top books of the decade (the 2010s), noting that not all of these books were written in the decade, but that these are ones that I have read…. and would even like to read again (I have hyperlinked below to previous Veracity book reviews). These are top 21, as we are in the 21st century, knowing that I probably have neglected to mention some other really good titles. Here we go!
- Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis. Lewis is simply outstanding to read, even 50+ years after his death. What a great introduction to the Book of the Psalms. Everyone should read more C.S. Lewis!
- Augustine and the Jews, by Paula Fredriksen. It took me two years to read this hefty book by this Boston University scholar, a Roman Catholic turned Orthodox Jew. Fredriksen writes a fascinating account of Augustine of Hippo’s life, perhaps Christianity’s most influential, non-biblical personality. But she also educated me to the sad and sordid historical roots of anti-Semitism, that crept into the church, a theological trend that Augustine himself sought to turn around.
- The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, by Susan Wise Bauer. I had to include Susan’s book that I read, not simply because she only lives a few miles from me here in Virginia, but because I simply enjoy her writing. Susan is an excellent writer in the world of home school education, and History of the Medieval World is a broad, sweeping, global in scope introduction into the second half of the first millennium, since Christ’s first coming. Not sure if I really would read this particular title again, but it made me very interested in her other books in her world history series.
- Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, by Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Deborah Haarsma, and Stephen Myer, and edited by Jim Stump. I really like these type of “multi views” books, offering different Christian perspectives on critical Bible interpretation issues. This is the best book I have read to introduce someone to the Bible “versus” science controversy, that is so divisive in the church today.
- Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology, by Alister E. McGrath. By far, McGrath is my favorite evangelical theologian, as he writes for scholars as well as normal people, with real jobs in the real world, across a wide array of important topics for the Christian. McGrath is a Brit, who teaches at Oxford, but has worked for years with the popular apologist, Ravi Zacharias. Darwinism and the Divine shows where McGrath shines the brightest, in being able to reconcile scientific thinking with biblical theology. McGrath affirms Cardinal John Newman’s 1870 famous quote, “I believe in design because I believe in God; not in God because I see design.” I have a special interest in the Bible/science discussion, but just about anything McGrath writes is worth reading.
- Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, by Albert Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, John R. Franke, and Peter Enns, and edited by J. Merrick and S. Garrett. The “inerrancy” debate during the 1980s swirled around in my InterVarsity college circle, confusing me greatly. I wish someone would have written a book like this some 30 years ago to have helped me to see that there are various nuances as to understanding what “inerrancy” really means. For the record, my position is somewhere between the views of contributors Kevin Vanhoozer and Michael Bird.
- An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, by Grant Palmer. The fascinating story of a Mormon Church Educational System director, who learned the history behind Joseph Smith and early Mormonism, and who made the painful journey out of Mormonism towards becoming a more orthodox, evangelically-oriented Christian. Palmer’s journey began with the Mark Hofmann forgeries and murder scandal in the 1980s (remember the Salamander letter?). An Insider’s View is dense and geeky for me, which I like, and Palmer makes for a definitive resource on Mormonism. But if you really want to read a total page-turner on the same topic instead, go for Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven (Krakauer also wrote the popular Into Thin Air, about the 1997 climbing Mount Everest disaster). I read Krakauer years ago and could not put the book down!
- When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible, by Timothy Michael Law. I wish I had read a book like this during my years in seminary, as it makes sense of why sometimes it can be difficult to connect the Old Testament to the New Testament. This made me want to study my Bible a lot more deeply!
- Original Sin: A Cultural History, by Alan Jacobs. Now at Baylor University, Jacobs is just a wonderful writer, and in this book, he outlines how the doctrine of original sin has impacted culture down through the ages.
- Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine, by Peter J. Thuesen. An historical look into how the Calvinist/Arminian controversy shaped the evangelical church in America.
- The Reformation: A History, by Diarmaid MacCulloch. The definitive treatment of the Protestant Reformation.
- Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton. The classic biography of the Reformation’s most important person, Martin Luther. More recent biographies are more up-to-date, but Bainton still stands out as the best introduction. The perfect book to remember Luther’s stand for the Gospel 500 years ago.
- Tyndale, by David Teems. Great biography of William Tyndale, who gave us one of the first English Bible translations, and who has made a lasting impact on the English language.
- George Whitefield, by Arnold A. Dallimore. A classic biography of the First Great Awakening’s most powerful preacher.
- Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas. Controversial at times, yet a penetrating examination of Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who resisted Adolph Hitler. Would read Metaxas again, but would need to read Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer first.
- Single Gay Christian, by Gregory Coles. A transparent self-reflection by a young man who struggles with desires, that he did not ask for, while seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures. An important read for those who do not understand why someone might describe themself as being simultaneously single, gay, and Christian. Read this book. It might save someone’s life.
- People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just as Issue, by Preston Sprinkle. An in-depth examination of what the Bible teaches about human sexuality, while helping Christians to better love those whose who do not easily fit into stereotypical categories. The best book I know on the topic, that holds to an orthodox view of Christian marriage.
- Irresistible, by Andy Stanley. A bit jagged for the first two-thirds of the book, but during the last part, pastor Andy Stanley lays down what I think is the best evidentialist approach to Christian apologetics, that I have ever read.
- Is the Bible Good for Women?, by Wendy Alsup. So far, Wendy Alsup articulates the best, most convincing argument as to how the Bible views the topic of “women in ministry” in the church, from a more mediating perspective of the debate.
- Paul: A Biography, by N.T. Wright. A masterful biography of the Apostle Paul, one of N.T. Wright’s best books.
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. Excellent help from a secular, moral psychologist, exploring why people can become so divided from one another, when making moral judgments. Definitely the best book I read in 2019, and maybe, even right up there as being the best book I read in the decade. Should be required reading for Christians and non-Christians alike.
What do you think?