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!

 

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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?

10 Books Every College Christian Absolutely Needs to Read


If someone were to ask me for a book recommendation, there are several factors that I would take into consideration. But if that person was a college student (or college-aged even if they weren’t currently attending a specific school), there would be an even more specific set of criteria that I would apply. You see, college is an incredibly important and formative time in any person’s life. The decisions that you make during this time have the potential to impact the rest of your life and shape your future in very tangible ways. And what you read influences-at least to some extent-how you go about making those decisions.

the ten

So I’ve complied a list of ten books that I would immediately recommend to any and all college students. Wait a second, you might say. TEN books? Isn’t that a bit much? My answer is no: if you just read one book a semester and one during your summer breaks you’d still have to come back for more recommendations from me before you finished your degree! But I’ll limit myself to ten here for now. Before actually getting to the list, a disclaimer and then the set of criteria I applied to this particular listing.

The DISCLAIMER is that I personally did not read most of these books until after completing my four years as a student at CSULB. But I wish I had! So if you are reading this and have already graduated, keep reading! Although the list is aimed at college-age students, it’s still a great list no matter who you are if there are some you haven’t read.

The set of QUALIFICATIONS that I used in selecting the books were as follows. The books had to be:

  • Short/Accessible. No overly technical or academic volumes here. Why recommend something that people might read 10 pages of and lose interest in just because of the form or style of the book and not the content?
  • Comprehensive as a group. The ten books couldn’t all be on one subject. Instead, I tried to compile a list that included fiction, personal finance, theology, and a whole host of other subjects/focuses.
  • Rereadable. A test of how valuable I consider a book’s contents to be is whether or not I would spend time rereading it. There are books that are just worth reading once and there are books worth reading a half dozen or more times. Each of these books on the list I have already reread or plan to reread.
  • Sharable. If you came over to my home and I found out you hadn’t read any one of these books, it’s almost certain that you’d leave with my personal copy in your hand to borrow OR to keep! These are books to buy multiple copies of so you can give them away and bless others with!

So what books made the list? Here they are (ordered alphabetically by author):

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5 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Home” by Marilynne Robinson


home

First with Gilead and now with Home, Marilynne Robinson has cemented her place as one of my favorite authors. I might say a bit more about the book in a future upcoming post, so for now I’ll limit myself to blatantly copying an idea for a blog post I’ve seen elsewhere: sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book.

  1. “There is a saying that to understand is to forgive, but that is an error, so Papa used to say. You must forgive in order to understand….If you forgive, he would say, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace.” p. 45
  2. “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
  3. “Prayer, you know, you open up your thoughts, and then you can get a clear look at them. No point trying to hide anything. There is a great benefit in anything the Lord asks of us, especially in prayer.” p. 132
  4. “I suspect Scottishness is another name for predestination. It explains everything, more or less.” p. 135
  5. “It is in family that we most often feel the grace of God, His faithfulness. Yes.” p. 183

Who is one of your favorite authors that you’ve been (re?)reading recently? Or a recent discovery you’ve made?