My Top Seven Books of 2014


This year I read a lot of books. As such, I decided it was a better idea to write a blog with a list of my top seven books of 2014 instead of everything I read this year. These are not necessarily books published in 2014–though several were–and these are not in any particular order. Instead, it’s simply a list of my favorite books that I read in 2014. I’ve broken them down into a few categories and included some thoughts on each. Enjoy!

Sci-Fi/FantasyWordsOfRadianceCover

1. Words of Radiance-Brandon Sanderson
I previously reviewed this book on my Goodreads account. Here’s an excerpt:
If you already have read some or all of Sanderson’s other books, rest assured-this is his best yet. But if you consider yourself a fan of fantasy (from Tolkien to Jordan to Martin to Rothfuss) and yet DON’T know about Sanderson-FIX THAT NOW! You will NOT regret it…Sanderson picks up all the threads he left them at the end of book one [of the series] with confidence and aplomb and deftly spins them out into gripping, surprising, and inspiring webs that reveal the true purpose and history of the Shattered Plains. Couldn’t recommend this book enough, even if I were to go on for several thousand more words, so I’ll leave it at this. Read this book!
That was how I felt back in March and it’s still how I feel now. This book is emblematic of why Sanderson is my favorite currently-living fantasy author. One of the most well-balanced, exciting, and just plain quality fantasy books I’ve ever read.

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2. The Lions of Al-Rassan-Guy Gavriel Kay

Again, here’s an excerpt from a previous review (this time from this very blog):

The Reconquest of Al-Rassan is at hand. The three hundred year golden age of the caliphate’s rule is ending, and three characters-a Jaddite commander named Rodrigo Belmonte, a Kindath doctornamed Jehane, and an Asharite poet and soldier named Ammar ibn Khairan-are caught in the middle. The world is changing and they must find their place within it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the writing, and the characters. If you’re looking for another new fantasy author, look no further.

Theology/Devotional

51G4bZO8VML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_3. The Cost of Discipleship-Bohnoeffer
Perhaps one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. And not just challenging, but paradigm shifting. In examining the difference between cheap grace and costly grace, commenting at length on the Sermon on the Mount, defining the believer’s part in this, and painting a vision of what the church should look like, Bonhoeffer answers the question of “what can the call to discipleship mean to-day?” (38) I already know I will be revisiting this one often.

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4. Celebration of Discipline-Richard J. Foster
Again, from a previous blog review:
[In reading this book] I found myself continually challenged and stretched in the best way possible. This is a book to read slowly and savor. Time and time again I found myself setting the book down to reflect or pray. Both a helpful book to read straight-through and also to serve as a reference in the future as a refresher.

51xmLGfqceL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_5. Evangelism in the Early Church-Michael Green
Evangelism in the Early Church is a superb introduction to, resource on, and portrait of the early Church’s evangelistic endeavors. Green is both careful and skillful in his analysis, presentation, and application of his insights on the state of the early Church. While it is not for everyone and while it has its areas of weakness, those who are dedicated enough to the material will reap rich rewards from his study on the message, messengers, and methods God used to spread the gospel and grow the Church in the first few centuries. As our culture increasingly reflects the circumstances the early Church encountered in the ancient world, it is a more timely set of lessons than ever. May we as the Church and the successors to the earliest believers rise to Green’s challenge of being willing to pay the price to return evangelism to the place of first importance that it held for them. (**I may post an extended review of this book in the future**)

91wDmVN6shL6. Prayer-Tim Keller
Disclaimer: As of the writing of this post, I haven’t fully finished the book. That said, this just might be the most important book on prayer written for quite some time (and certainly that I have personally read). I will CERTAINLY be reviewing this book in more detail in the coming days/weeks, but I couldn’t post this list and exclude this book. It’s just that good.

Biography

amazing-grace7. Amazing Grace-Eric Metaxas
I previously said that this book is “a heroic story about an amazingly humble and incredibly influential individual that is masterfully told by Metaxas. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!” As with my previous reviews, I’m sticking to my guns. This is the best biography I read this year. There’s a reason that Abraham Lincoln and David Livingstone (among countless others) considered William Wilberforce to be one of their heroes. An invaluable look at the life of a great man of faith.

Runners Up:

I initially wanted to include these books but will simply list the links to my reviews elsewhere for those who might be interested.
What about you? What were your top three or five or ten books that you read in 2014? I’d love to hear your recommendations for my to-read list for 2015! Sound off in the comments to join the conversation.
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Book Review Roundup: July 2014


I was going to write separate reviews for two or three of these books but decided to combine them into one post and also throw in a few extra (but shorter) reviews that I might not have included otherwise. 

17675008Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller (4 stars)

Keller has become a warm, familiar voice to me over the past few years as I’ve read many of his books and listened to a good number of his sermons. One of his more recent offerings, “Encounters with Jesus” is to the heart what “The Reason for God” is for the mind. For those familiar with Navigator terminology, it’s like sitting down across the table from Keller and him leading an Investigative Bible Discussion with you. The book focuses on encounters Jesus has in the Gospels with several individuals and teases out theological principles, questions, and answers from these encounters, all the while revealing more and more of the character of this Jesus.

The first five chapters focus on the book of John and the last five on events from the other Gospels. Keller’s conversational prose is very easy to read and his gentle but firm counsel proves a reliable guide for the reader who is honestly skeptical (that is, actually interested in addressing doubts and not just looking to dismiss them).

Highly recommended whether you’re meeting looking to meet Jesus for the first time or perhaps looking to be reintroduced in one way or another.

The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung (4 stars) 148972402

I read this book mainly because of a lot that I’d been hearing about various leaders and pastors having some conflict about the role and purpose of sanctification in believers’ lives. Tullian Tchividjian represents the “Grace, grace, and more grace!” side of the spectrum and I read his book One Way Love recently (which I reviewed here). While not denying or downplaying the role of grace, Kevin DeYoung is on the other end of the spectrum in the “debate.”

It’s unavoidable that I ended up comparing this book to One Way Love from start to finish. The verdict? This is the better book. Now, that’s not to say that Tullian’s book is bad. This is just a superior book. DeYoung is both humorous and humble throughout the book, showing in page after page that is dripping with Scripture what it looks like to pursue holiness not in order to somehow earn salvation but as a result of union with Christ.

In one sentence, he sums up New Testament ethics as: “Be who you are.”  That is, you are holy positionally because of Christ’s imputed righteousness. Now pursue that holiness each and every day.

An enjoyable and yet convicting/exhorting read.

 

The-Kneeling-ChristianThe Kneeling Christian (2 stars)

I had this book recommended to me by a few folks and was available as a free pdf online so I slotted it into my “to read” list. Among the many, many areas where I could grow in my Christian walk, prayer stands out as one that I feel I need the most help in. And so I eagerly dove into this book…but petered out pretty quick. I mainly finished it just to finish it. It was probably a combination of the style and approach of the book. Additionally, there were a few things that the author suggested about prayer that I wasn’t sure I agreed with that seemed to suggest that every time a prayer is unanswered it must be because of some fault within the prayer. Seemed like echoes of Job’s friends to me.

Now, to be fair, there were many more quotes that I actually liked a lot than ones I disagreed with. But there was enough about the book that I didn’t enjoy or connect with for me to only rate it “okay” (i.e. 2 stars).

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas (5 stars)amazing-grace

The only time I had heard of William Wilberforce before reading this book was hearing a story about how when he became a Christian he felt the only way to serve Christ was to become a pastor. He went to John Newton, known for composing the hymn “Amazing Grace,”  for advice. But instead of affirming his perceived “call” to the pastorate, Newton challenged Wilberforce to remain where he was–an incredibly influential position in the British Parliament–and use that position to glorify God and benefit his fellow man.

And use that position and influence he did. Wilberforce was one of the main, if not THE main, drivers in the campaign to abolish the slave trade in England. Metaxas, the author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, argues that Wilberforce “overturned not just European civilization’s view of slavery but its view of almost everything in the human sphere…it was nothing less than a fundamental and important shift in human consciousness” (p. xv). In other words, Wilberforce is responsible for shaping the character of Western civilization! If you believe that every human being is fundamentally equal to and has the same rights as every other human being, you owe it to Wilberforce’s Christian faith and his influence on society.

That is a massive claim, especially for someone that most of us have probably never heard of. But Metaxas supports this claim and reintroduces Wilberforce to a modern-day audience. It’s a heroic story about an amazingly humble and incredibly influential individual that is masterfully told by Metaxas. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 What are you currently reading? Any suggestions or thoughts on these books I’ve just finished?