Top 10 of '13

As we come to the close of another year, I want to continue what’s become an annual tradition by sharing with you the top 10 books that I read in 2013.  Looking at the stack of ten volumes, I’ve got to confess that these are some really good ones, so much so that in previous years most of these would have been ranked number one. 

#10: Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis: A Life

One of the best biography’s I’ve read on Lewis, and as you can imagine there’s more than a few bios on him.  In fact, for those of you who maybe infatuated with the life of this great 20th century man, and wonder where to start, I’d recommend McGrath’s biography.  He gives a wonderful treatment of Lewis, addressing his writing, teaching and personal life with great depth and fairness.

#9: John Piper, A Hunger for God

Ever read a book that just spoke to your soul?  This book did that for me.  I’m always looking for books that will help me to be a better man, and specifically I was searching for something that would instruct and inspire me to make fasting a more part of the rhythms of my life.  Piper’s, A Hunger for God, really convicted and challenged me towards this end.  It also was helpful in spurring thoughts that will go into my January series on prayer and fasting at our church.

#8: Larry Tye, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

I read a ton of biography because I love history, and find that biographies, among other things, are great fodder for sermon illustrations.  My grandfather played in the Negro Leagues, and of course I heard of Satchel Paige stories from the time I was a little boy.  Finally, I got around to reading a bio on his life, and talk about a page turner.  By all estimates Satchel was the winningest pitcher in baseball history, and played into his sixties.  But it wasn’t all substance with him, it was a ton of style- the high leg kick, the pause in his windup and calling in his whole team, leaving just him, his catcher and the batter to decide the fate of the game.  Wow, what a life, and what a book!

#7: D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance

Chuck Colson once said that every Christian should read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  His point was that the duty of the Christian was to exegete the Scriptures and the culture!  What this means for us in the 21st century is that we have to be able to speak to such conflicting philosophies as the “new tolerance,” which is “tolerant” to everything but Christianity.  Dr. Carson has done it again in providing a thoughtful and helpful resource.  I found it so helpful that I had our staff read the book and discuss. 

#6: Robert Smith, Jr. Doctrine that Dances

Best preaching book I’ve read in years!  As the title suggests, preaching is to be both head and heart.  Words like inspiring, insightful, foundational, challenging and necessary come to mind when I think of Dr. Smith’s volume.  I had my preaching cohort read this.  I wish this would have been the first preaching book I read.  All aspiring preachers drop what you’re doing and read this.

#5: Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God

In  most years this book would have been number one…hands down!  What a moving book that chronicles the modern day persecuted church all over the world.  The stories you hear of believers who are putting it all on the line for their faith in Jesus Christ will compel you to beg God for forgiveness in being too ashamed to share your faith with the person next to you on the airplane.

#4: Diane McWhorter, Carry Me Home

There’s a reason why this book won the Pulitzer Prize.  Diane does a stellar job chronicling the Civil Right’s Movement in her home city of Birmingham in 1963.  Not only a great researcher and writer, but because she lived in Birmingham at the time, she is able to write with a unique perspective. 

#3: Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath

Malcolm has done it again!  What attracted me to this book was Gladwell’s revelation that he had come back to faith as a result of writing David and Goliath.  His premise is that not all underdogs are underdogs, in fact, he argues, if you look closer they’re actually the favorites.  You won’t agree with everything he says (like every other book outside the Bible), but you will at least stop and do your best Arsenio Hall impression and go, “Hmmmm”. 

#2: James Swanson, Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer

This summer while on vacation I was looking for a little beach reading, and so I picked this up.  Ever read something so good that your loved one’s got mad at you because it took you away from them for long periods of time?  Well, this was it.  A page turner!  But beware, if you are not in the best season with your loved one’s you might want to wait a while before reading this, because you won’t be able to put it down.

#1: Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

A black woman dies in 1951, and without her families knowledge doctors take her cells and are shocked when they discover that hers are the first to continuously grow outside of her body.  This revolutionizes the medical industry, allowing them to come up with a cure for Polio and a host of other diseases.  Henrietta’s cells have been to most countries, and even gone to the moon, spawning a billion dollar industry.  And yet the great irony of it all is that her descendant’s wallow in poverty, many not even having health insurance.  I see now why it’s a New York Times Bestseller

Well, there you have it.  Hope you’re able to get to some of these books.  While you’re at it, look out for my new book, Letters to a Birmingham Jail in February through Moody Publishers.