- A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty – Joni Eareckson Tada
This book was an incredible encouragement to me over this past year (and will be in the future). Joni Eareckson Tada shares in a very transparent and vulnerable manner about her limitations and her chronic pain as a result of a diving accident fifty years ago. But she also reveals an absolute trust in a God who can choose to bring pain into her life in order to mature her faith and reveal his purposes and glory. Our world needs more faith and more books like Joni’s.
- LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media – By P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking
I’ve been somewhat aware of the information (and disinformation) campaigns by companies, groups, and even nations in the last decade – but I had no idea of the frightening reach of these efforts on our social media channels and beyond on the internet. The authors explain in detail how ISIS, Russia, China, Israel, and so many others use complex strategies (and armies of “bots” and fake accounts) to confuse, deceive, complicate, and eventually even alter the outcomes of wars, debates, and elections. This is such an important book.
- Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture – By David Murray
David Murray shares this little gem of a book (written primarily for men) about our current burnout culture and how we can be aware of and accept our God-given limitations in order to live a more beautiful, balanced, Spirit-led, grace-paced life. This was a real gift to me – and I’m still working to implement much of the wisdom of this book.
- Gay Girl, Good God – By Jackie Hill Perry
Jackie Hill Perry is such a gift to this world and to the church. God gave her incredible talent in the arts in and in communication. This book describes her sexual struggles as a young woman and how God came in to her life and changed her life purpose and priorities. I bought the audio-book – and it is incredible. It is like listening to an updated Augustine’s Confessions with the verbal brilliance and cadence of a magnificent hip-hop and spoken word artist. It is a stand-out book. It is especially helpful if you are wondering about how our sexuality and Christian ethics relate to one another in our modern world and how the church can love those who are struggling with sexual sins.
- The Power of Vulnerability – By Brené Brown
This “book” is actually an audio talk (I don’t think you can buy a print version). Brené Brown shares about how our society is overrun by shame, and how we can embrace vulnerability to push back against the fear, shame, and negative emotions from that come from uncertainty. She brings a basket of fascinating research with her and provides a picture of how we can use vulnerability to move to a place of wholeheartedness. This is a really beautiful and timely work.
- Spirituality of Gratitude: The Unexpected Blessings of Thankfulness – By Joshua Choonmin Kang
A big theme of this year has been discovering strategies to endure and be grateful even when we humans can’t figure out a way to escape our pain. Joshua Choonmin Kang offers a very precise and delightful collection of thoughts on how to cultivate gratitude in our lives and become people who are grateful in the midst of the trials and storms. This book is great to keep on a coffee table or a kitchen table and continually chew on for weeks or months on end.
- Walking with God through Pain and Suffering – By Tim Keller
This book is another excellent piece on understanding the role of pain and suffering in our lives. I went through this book at the same time I was going through Joni Eareckson Tada’s book (see above). Tim Keller’s book is more intellectual and it is helpful in addressing those nagging big philosophical questions about pain and suffering. If you are wondering about the big questions about why there is suffering in this world and why God allows pain and suffering – then this is a great book to dive into.
- Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower – By Gary W. Moon
One of my favorite philosophical thinkers of all time is Dallas Willard. I’ve always wondered about the story and life behind the profound teachings of this man – and Gary W. Moon does an excellent job at bringing out much of his background story. It helps to know that Dallas Willard was a real person, with some flaws, but who really did live the kind of life that he taught about in his books and speeches.
- Fear: Trump in the White House – By Bob Woodward
In this era of deceitful press releases, spin doctors, and outright lies – it has been difficult to know what exactly is going on at the White House during the past couple years. It always seems so dysfunctional, but it is hard to grasp the complexity and depth of the dysfunction. Bob Woodward did a tremendous amount of research on this book – with firsthand interviews of many of the key figures in the first two years of the Trump White House. The result is this very important book describing a very tumultuous, chaotic, and disturbing time of governance in our nation.
- Letters to the Church – By Francis Chan
I love that Francis Chan is not afraid to ask difficult questions, to admit that he’s been wrong, and to try new approaches in life and in ministry. This book is an encouragement to the American and Western church to unshackle ourselves from the unusual (and often unhelpful) ways of “doing” church. He calls us instead to a simpler, more sacrificial, and more relational way of “being” the church. I pray many pastors and church and ministry leaders will digest this book and begin to alter the trajectory of the American church.
- The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure – By Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
This is such an important book. I’ve sensed for a long time that the way many of us adults in the West are approaching parenting is imparting long-term damage in the lives of our little ones. We’ve tossed the values of struggle, pain, civil dialogue, endurance, and tolerance – and we’ve begun indoctrinating our kids and young people with some new negative ideas. Too many young people of today (especially generation Z or the iGeneration) on both the Left and the Right are unable to tolerate threatening viewpoints, to discuss ideas with civility, to regulate their feelings, and their tendency is to demonize opponents and think in dichotomous thinking. The authors are raising the alarm about what they are seeing on campuses and in schools (and the wider society) and are calling the United States (and Western society) back to fundamental virtues affirmed and reinforced by most wisdom traditions throughout history. We must heed this alarm and take corrective action.
- Strange Days: Life in the Spirit in a Time of Terrorism, Populist Politics, and Culture Wars – By Mark Sayers
Mark Sayers is a pastor in Australia. He has an amazingly deep grasp on society, history, politics, entertainment, philosophy, culture, and religion. I’m enjoying his podcast “This Cultural Moment” that he’s created with John Mark Comer here in Portland. Strange Days is an odd little book that does an excellent job at interpreting some of the trends in society today and it provides wisdom for Christians in navigating these new trends. These truly are strange days – with globalization, terrorism, migration, new technologies, confused ethics, individualism, and increasingly divided political battle lines all sowing chaos and confusion in our lives. But Mark does an excellent job at illuminating the times – and his continued commentary in This Cultural Moment provides me and my community with lots to think about during these very strange days.
What are some of your favorite books that you read or listened to during 2018? Did you read any of the twelve above? Feel free to leave a comment with any recommendations or feedback.