In no particular order, here are the best books I read in the second half of 2018:
Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life by Jack S. Deere
Through brutally honest autobiographical storytelling, pastor and theologian Jack Deere paints a raw, gritty, sometimes-hard-to-read but ultimately hopeful portrait of what life is like as a fallen being living in a fallen world. In our culture of carefully curated social media feeds that project seemingly perfect lives full of endless happiness and success, it’s a healthy reminder that no one escapes the brokenness of our fallen condition. We all battle temptation, undergo struggles, and suffer disappointments. And, we should all act accordingly, extending grace to others and ourselves.
The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant
This is a short but insightful book. To borrow from the Amazon description, it’s a “concise survey of the culture and civilization of mankind” resulting from “a lifetime of research by Pulitzer Prize-winning historians.” In a Jordan Peterson-esque style, the authors’ present their lessons by interweaving historical, philosophical, and anthropological evidence. I plan on rereading it once a year to maintain a big-picture perspective on life and humanity.
Of the eight books I’ve read on Revelation in the last year (as research for my next book), this one is in a league of its own. In fact, I can’t imagine a book on Revelation being any better. Gorman provides the perfect antidote to the non-contextual, genre-violating, often-shallow, too-literalistic interpretation that seems to pervade mainstream conservative Christianity. I deeply wish all of my fellow evangelicals would read it, particularly those who ascribe to a “Left Behind” view of the “end times.” Bonus recommendation: After getting your bearings by reading this book, jump to N. T. Wright’s Revelation for Everyone for an accessible passage-by-passage commentary.
According to Wark, although he doesn’t phrase it this way, eating the food God created in its originally created state (i.e. eating organic food) has powerful healing properties, so much so it can cure cancer. Makes sense. It’s typically pretty hard for humans to outdo God. Beyond resonating with my admiration for our Creator, this book is thoroughly researched, deftly presented, and highly motivating. If your notion of a healthy meal is a low-fat frozen dinner or a salad with ranch dressing (or you simply want to learn how to take your already-healthy-diet to the next level), read this book. By the way, Wark’s encounter with the healthcare industry’s near complete indifference to the role nutrition plays in health is nothing less than scandalous, if not criminal.
A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Revised Edition by Edwin H. Friedman
In this refreshingly “old school” leadership book, Friedman argues that good leaders are forged not through more data, better techniques, the latest management fad, or even increased empathy, but instead through a gradual, conscious process of taking responsibility for their own emotional functioning, which then produces the ingredients for strong leadership: character, maturity, and self-differentiation. As the author puts it, the book “encourages leaders to focus first on their own integrity and on the nature of their own presence rather than on techniques for manipulating or motivating others.” In other words, and to oversimplify it, the book asserts that good leadership arises from cultivating good old fashioned virtue, a message that’s needed as much today as ever.
The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty by Dwight Longenecker
Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual by Dennis Prager
Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible by Keith Giles
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