Top 7 Books I Read in 2015


As of yesterday I’m all finished with my final exams and papers for the semester, so what better way to celebrate then look back on the best books I read this year?

As the title suggests, these are not books published in 2015 but rather the best that I personally read this year. So without any further ado…..The Top 7 Books of 2015!

_240_360_Book.1491.cover1. Scary Close by Donald Miller

From my earlier review of the book: “Scary Close is a book of truth spoken in grace. It’s refreshing and encouraging and a must-read for any fan of Don’s, anyone seeking insight on intimacy, or anyone simply hungry for authenticity in a world where it’s far too uncommon.”

2. Home by Marilynne Robinsonhome

The central theme of this novel may very well be summed up with the following quote from the book: “It expresses the will of God to sustain us in this flesh, in this life. Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.” p. 102.

Marilynne Robinson has been a favorite author of mine ever since I read Gilead and this follow-up was a treat start to finish. Can’t wait to dig into Lila (her latest novel set in the same town as Gilead and Home) soon!

 

s_abrams

3. S. (Or Ship of Theseus) by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

An incredibly ambitious meta-novel that works on every level. The book within the book, “The Ship of Theseus,” is a novel in the style and tradition of Coleridges’ “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and would be an excellent work in its own right. The history of its fictional author, V.M. Straka, and the question of his identity and potential involvement with a shadowy cadre of writer/secret agents is similarly intriguing and well-conceived. And the story of Jen and Eric’s in-the-margins relationship adds yet another compelling and exciting layer to it all.

S. is a one-of-a-kind story of identity, change, struggle, and love. The most fun I’ve had reading a book in a long time.

4. Preaching by Timothy Kellerpreaching

It wouldn’t be a list of Josh Ray’s favorite books if there wasn’t a book by Keller on it, right?

Tim Keller’s Preaching is another home-run. While perhaps not as life-changing or spectacular as Prayer, this volume is filled with insights and wisdom from cover to cover. The chapter on “Preaching and the (Late) Modern Mind” and the bibliography of the best other books on preaching are each worth the price of the book alone!

And you don’t need to be a preacher to read it. “This book,” says Keller in the introduction, “aims to be a resource for all those who communicate their Christian faith in any way.” (P.S. Here’s a post I did with some of my favorite quotes from it!)

baxter reformed5. The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter

An indispensable guide and exhortation to not just preach to the crowd but teach to the individuals and families. It’s earned a place on my reference shelf for the future!

Baxter has written a book that doesn’t shy away from leaving you like you just got punched in the teeth with some good old gospel truth but that also leaves you encouraged and exhorted to minister faithfully. A keeper for sure.

imitation

6. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

There’s a reason that this book is perhaps the most widely-read book aside from the Bible in history. A collection of insights and meditations on Christ’s example and our proper response to it, the Imitation has much to teach us today about the Way of Christ.

orthodoxy7. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

I was blown away by how relevant and insightful Chesterton’s testimony of how and why he found Christianity convincing was over 100 years after he wrote it. It seems our world is not so different than it was then. Orthodoxy is a refreshing and revealing diagnosis of some of the ills of modernity and powerfully communicated defense of the faith. (It’s also intriguing for a fan of C.S. Lewis to see the ways he was influenced by and came to resemble Chesteron).

 

What about you? What were the highlights of your reading this year? Any on this list that you read too? Or any that now have piqued your interest?

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Book Review: “Scary Close” by Donald Miller


Donald Miller was bad at relationships. Life had become a performance where even the smallest interaction was (at some level) an attempt to get validation and worth from others. But after a particularly bad ending to a romantic relationship, he’d endured enough pain to start questioning if the problem wasn’t with everyone else but perhaps with himself.

_240_360_Book.1491.coverScary Close is Don’s chronicle of the things he learned about relationships, himself, and true intimacy during the period between getting engaged and his wedding. One of the things that I’m increasingly coming to value is complete, unadulterated honesty and it’s here that Don truly shines. He not only prescribes honesty as the only path to true intimacy and love in relationships: he models it by sharing the ugly portions of his life and journey alongside the rest of it. Don has taken “the long road” (xvi) to emotional health in relationships and shares his story  with the hopes that others will learn from his mistakes and find healthy relationships too.

“Love can’t be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other” (xvi). Don spends the majority of the book expounding on these words, illustrating through his experiences what love does and doesn’t look like and how to truly exchange love with others. Some might fault him for being too simplistic or optimistic in his approach. Surely it can’t be that simple! You can’t trust most people! You need to control other people and be always guarded in your interactions with others! To be sure, Don advises that you can’t expect a healthy relationship with an emotionally unhealthy person. But he’s been that emotionally unhealthy person and his empathy for those caught in patterns of manipulation or deception or whatever gives him a unique and grace-filled perspective. I think he sums it up well when he says:

“It’s a hard thing to be human. It’s a very hard thing. Nobody needs a judge or a scorekeeper lording their faults over them.

…Henry Cloud and John Townsend define what a safe person is. They say it’s somebody who speaks the truth in grace. I like that.” (p 113)

Scary Close is a book of truth spoken in grace. It’s refreshing and encouraging and a must-read for any fan of Don’s, anyone seeking insight on intimacy, or anyone simply hungry for authenticity in a world where it’s far too uncommon.

At one point Don shares that an article he read said “in the next five years we will become a conglomerate of the people we hang out with” (74). He finds some truth in that idea and so do I. In fact, I’d extend the idea to encompass the authors we “hang out with” by reading their words and thoughts. Who are you spending the most time with and who will you become most like? I think Donald Miller is worthy of inclusion in that group. If he’s already in your group, keep him there! This is his strongest offering so far. But if he isn’t, I’d like to introduce you to him: he’s a wise, humorous, and humble guide worth knowing.

Scary Close gets 5 stars out of 5 stars.

**Disclaimer: BookLook Bloggers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review.**