Some will never want to listen. Others want to listen, yet fail to discipline themselves. Still others listen to the wrong voices. But who to listen to? Everyone claims to be an expert and the internet has only made it more difficult to know which voices can be trusted.
Books hold wisdom. Sure, lots of them are lame – but if you want more than a 30 second interview soundbite, and you want to be intentional in terms of who you listen to, books are gold. Starting graduate school this year required me to read significantly more than I have in the past. Ironically, I read more for pleasure this year despite the increased demands on my time – perhaps a later post will delve into the reasons. Not counting books of the Bible, I read 35 books this year. I have ranked the top 10 for those who want to invest in intentional listening in 2014.
1. Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis)
Many books are long simply because the author talks in circles. Others are short because there really isn’t much to say. Neither is the case here; Lewis presents a cogent and concise introduction and defense of Christian faith. Regardless of your worldview or religious affiliations, if you haven’t read this book, it needs to be the next one you read. As is the case every year, I will look forward to reading this book next year.
2. The Abolition of Man (Lewis)
Lewis’ analysis of the educational system appears to be written for today, never mind that 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of its publication. As an education major, it bewilders me how this book was not required reading. I’m sure the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th reading will provide additional insight, but the 1st time through was well worth it.
3. Resurrection Books
Beginning intense apologetic research into the topic of the resurrection of Jesus brought me to several important texts on the topic. I lump the top 3 into one category because each has its own distinct purpose, but all were excellent. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Gary Habermas and Mike Licona) is a terrific introduction to the topic with some great ideas on winsome presentation and practical discussion pointers. The Resurrection of the Son of God (N. T. Wright) is a monumental text primarily focusing on 1st century understanding of the term “resurrection” within Jewish and Greco-Roman thought and the unexpected explosion of Christianity as a movement distinct from Judaism. Finally, The Resurrection of Jesus (Mike Licona) provides over 700 pages delving into the historical method and abductive reasoning which provides strong evidence for believing that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
4. Origin of Life Books
The topic of life’s origin was new to me, so reading 5 books (2 Christian authors, 3 Naturalistic) provided far more insight that any 1 book could have provided. These books have brought me to avoid debates over Darwinian evolution since it assumes life’s existence. The origin of life itself has literally no naturalistic explanation – and this is widely admitted within the origin of life community. The 5 books are The 5th Miracle (Paul Davies), Life’s Origin (William J. Schopf), Origins of Life (Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana), Creating Life in the Lab (Fazale Rana), and The Emergence of Life on Earth (Iris Fry). If you had to read only one, I would go with Fry.
5. Runnin’ the Show (Dick Devenzio)
Fantastic basketball coaching manual. Brilliantly simple. It’s not really a book to read and put on a shelf. Read it, review it, repeat. Probably the most beneficial 150 pages I’ve read as a coach.
6. Every Good Endeavor (Tim Keller)
The subtitle says it all: Connecting your work to God’s work. Given all the questions the conservative evangelical subculture asks about God’s will, vocation, and calling, this was an excellent read. I have adapted portions of this book to fit a J-Term class I teach mainly because it properly refocuses my perspective on work, but also because my students really, really need Keller’s insightful and Biblical words.
7. The Reason for God (Keller)
This falls to #7 mainly because the first 6 were so outstanding. Like Mere Christianity, I read this book every year. A very conversational introduction to intellectual barriers to faith and how Christianity prevails.
8. When Athens Met Jerusalem (John Mark Reynolds)
Easily the most unique book on this list, When Athens Met Jerusalem explores the ancient philosophers and how their beliefs prepared the world for the coming of Christ. Dr. Reynolds wrote his dissertation on Plato and his masterful integration of Platonic philosophy and Biblical truth is an inspiration to study cultural trends as a means to show God’s truth as preeminent over all.
9. Church History in Plain Language (Bruce Shelley)
It’s really simple. If you want to read about church history, you need this book. Sure, it’s 550 pages. But if you want to read about church history, that number probably seems a bit meager to you – because it is.
10. Reasonable Faith (William Lane Craig)
When you are working on a degree in apologetics, you are bound to read lots of books on apologetics in general. Several books could go in this slot, but Dr. Craig’s signature book takes the cake. If you have seen him debate at all, you will get the background research on many of his points in Reasonable Faith. That said, his chapter on the absurdity of life without God is probably the best handling of this subject that I have seen.
Give me your thoughts on what I should read in 2014! Or, if you have studied a particular area/author/book that I mentioned, let’s get some discussion rolling to take it a bit deeper! Either way, thanks for reading and Happy New Year!