These are my twelve favorite books that I read in 2012:
1. Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ / Herman Bavinck
Reading through this volume was the highlight of my reading life this year. Bavinck writes such worshipful theology. For example, after unpacking the hypostatic union, Bavinck writes: “How utterly the mystery of the union of the divine and human nature in Christ exceeds all our speaking and thinking of it. All comparison breaks down, for it is without equal. But it is, accordingly, the mystery of godliness, which angels desire to look into and the church worshipfully adores.” (3:308).
2. Paul and Union With Christ / Constantine Campbell
Campbell examines every reference to union with Christ in the writings of the Apostle Paul. I’ve been awaiting a substantial, exegetical-theology of Spirit-wrought, faith-union with Christ for some time. This was worth the wait.
3. Instruction in Faith / John Calvin
I’d never heard of this gem of a book until Pastor Mark introduced it at Theology Breakfast earlier this year. It’s sort of like a 100-page mini-Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin writes: “True piety consists rather in a pure and true zeal which loves God altogether as Father, and reveres Him truly as Lord, embraces His justice and dreads to offend Him more than to die.” (22)
4. Smooth Stones From Ancient Brooks / Charles Spurgeon
In the preface of this wonderful collection of quotes from the Puritan Thomas Brooks, Spurgeon says: “As a writer, Brooks scatters stars with both his hands.” I agree wholeheartedly. I was so encouraged by Brooks that I dipped into several of his works. I kept stumbling into sentences like this one: “This is your glory, Christians: in the presence and sight of all your graces, to see the free grace of Christ, and His infinite, spotless, matchless, and glorious righteousness, to be your surest, sweetest, highest, and choicest comfort and refuge.” (The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3, 86.)
5. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (John, Vol. 1) / J.C. Ryle
Before 2012, my only exposure to Ryle had been through his classic book on Holiness and the excellent posts over at J.C. Ryle Quotes courtesy of Erik Kowalker. I decided to delve more deeply into Ryle in 2012 and I enjoyed his company so much that I added him to my Canon of Theologians. His devotional commentary on John’s Gospel was food for my soul. I’m looking forward to spending more time with him in 2013. If you’re a pastor, be sure to check out his Simplicity in Preaching.
6. The Precious Promises of the Gospel / Joseph Alleine
If you’re looking for a great, short book to give away to a fellow believer who’s especially in need of spiritual comfort and encouragement, then I’d recommend this one. Alleine “impersonates” God speaking to His people by weaving the promises of Scripture into nearly every sentence of the book. My favorite section describes the day of the Christian’s death as “the birthday of glories.”
7. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness / Tim Keller
A short but very convicting read. Keller reminded me that humility is not about thinking less of myself as much as it is about thinking of myself less.
8.Delighting in the Trinity / Michael Reeves
Reeves helped me marvel at the beauty of our Triune God. Chapter 2, on the Father’s love, was particularly encouraging to me: “Knowing God as our Father not only wonderfully gladdens our view of Him; it also gives the deepest comfort and joy. The honor of it is stupefying. To be the child of some rich king would be nice; but to be the beloved of the emperor of the universe is beyond words.” (76)
9. What I Learned in Narnia / Douglas Wilson
10. Wordsmithy / Douglas Wilson
Wilson on Narnia. Wilson on writing. Enough said. Here is my favorite quote from the latter: “As a general pattern, read quality literature, and go ‘slumming’ occasionally to remind yourself what quality is and why quality matters. And when you go slumming, enjoy yourself. Don’t act like you just came down to check out the rubes and cornpones. In the writer’s restaurant, you should know what first rate cordon bleu is and, at the same time, not be above enjoying an elephant ear or a funnel cake at the state fair.” (Wordsmithy, 42).
11. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 / Max Hastings
This is the best book I’ve ever read on WWII. Richly detailed and deeply moving.
12. Baseball and Memory: Winning, Losing, and the Remembrance of Things Past / Lee Congdon
If you love baseball, you’ll love this book. Congdon’s section on losing was worth the price of the book.
As always, happy reading and Happy New Year!