In no particular order, here are the best books I read in the first quarter of 2018:
Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
This book is a masterclass in vulnerability. Agassi really opens up and reveals his humanity. Did you know he was so self-conscious as a professional tennis player he wore a hairpiece when he started balding or that he had reservations about dating Princeton graduate Brooke Shields because he never even finished high school? Did you know he hates tennis and always has? On a deeper level, this is the story of a man trying to define himself amid all the things in life that try to define our identities for us—others’ opinions, worldly success, intimate and familial relationships, etc. In essence, it’s the story of an examined life, not in a deep philosophical way but in an everyman kind of way. It’s also an interesting inside look at the world of professional tennis.
The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down by David Bercot
This is on my short list of most underrated Christian books of all time. It’s a Christocentric analysis of how God’s kingdom differs from the kingdoms of the world and how the western church has gradually lost sight of (and on occasion, intentionally discarded) those differences. The content is similar to, and in some ways better than, Donald Kraybill’s fantastic and well-respected book The Upside-Down Kingdom. It’s also the type of book I love to discover—one written by an unknown layman, yet articulate, well researched, and deeply insightful. It tells the story of Christianity from the early church through the Reformation as well as any book I’ve read, and its explanation of the Constantinian shift is alone worth its price. Don’t judge it by its cover. The material inside is of much higher quality.
The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan
This is a well-written account of one man’s—one thinking man’s—search for truth. It’s peppered with deep insights and memorable quotes, but what struck me most was the author’s sincerity. It leapt off every page. Klavan is a genuine seeker, and his conversion confirms Jesus’ promise that “the one who seeks finds” (Matt. 7:7). Amen.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
This is such an interesting book it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve read more than my share of self-help books (Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, Tim Ferris, Stephen Covey, Deepak Chopra, John C. Maxwell, Jack Canfield, etc.) and this one is most unique. In each chapter, Peterson weaves together psychology, anthropology, history, and morality to make a simple yet profound point (e.g. compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today). Most of the values he promotes are sorely needed today, particularly among Millennials and Centennials: individual responsibility, the perils of the victim mentality, the importance of seeking meaning over happiness, how to confront inevitable suffering, etc. Peterson also ties many of his main points to some of the more well-known stories in the Bible, giving his readers a taste of its deep, practical wisdom. Regardless of whether you agree with everything in it, this book is a buffet for the intellect.
- Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said? by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo
- The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World's Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian by Brian D. McLaren