By Jesse Jost
I finished 50 books this year. Here are 10 I found most enjoyable and/or beneficial:
10. Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
We have to sort through a ridiculous amount of data and complexity as we try to make sense of things and endeavour to make wise choices. Often times we don’t have time for thoughtful reflection, so we develop mental shortcuts that work most of the time. However, these shortcuts and assumptions end up causing truly troublesome errors in belief and judgement.
This is a comprehensive book examining our biases and what we can do to mitigate their harm.
9. Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories
by Rob Brotherton
Obviously we will never agree on what ideas are overblown conspiracy theories and what are verified facts that are being suppressed. This book takes a historical look at how conspiracy theories have played a role in events, and what makes us susceptible to conspiracy thinking that is not warranted by the evidence.
This book was written before many of the emotionally charged theories common today, so it should be able to be enjoyed regardless of how you interpret current events.
8. 1861: The Civil War Awakening
by Adam Goodheart
How did the most Christianised and devout nation in history develop so much fire and passion against their own family and countrymen, that over 600,000 men and boys ended up dead?
It’s truly a fascinating and relevant question that will never be fully answered. But this book takes a large scale approach and explores the characters, and their beliefs on why the issues mattered, from all parts of the United States so a wide variety of perspectives are examined.
7. Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition
by Glenn S. Sunshine
Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world, and His apostles said our citizenship is in heaven.
At the same time, the born again Christ-follower is supposed to be motivated by love for our fellowman. Government policy deeply affects the quality of life, so Christians should care about government and the harmful effects of government overreach and tyranny.
Jesus and the apostles called the church to submit to human authorities. But they also declared that Jesus was King over every earthly ruler. These two complementing ideas have caused interpretive challenges for believers.
What is the most effective way for us to be salt without compromise? When do we obey? When do we resist?
Some of the most godly minds have wrestled with these ideas throughout history. This book explores their thoughts on the issues and gives numerous examples for how they handled church/state relations. A highly relevant book!
6. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Doris Goodwin puts extraordinary amounts of research into each of her books. This results in fascinating and deeply person psychological character studies and detailed explorations of the events that shaped the personalities.
Franklin and Eleanor were complex characters who made a huge impact on the world during one of the more tumultuous seasons of the 20th century.
This book is full of absorbing details about what was experienced in North America during the war years, a topic often missed in other wartime literature.
5. Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism
by Joshua Muravchik
Socialism, the most deadly idea of the 20th century, offered a captivating story about the world’s primary financial problems and what could be done to fix it.
Socialism’s solution: Through revolution and state regulation, we could transfer wealth from the corrupt greedy wealthy to the poor, so that whole world could live in harmony and equal wealth.
This idea so compelled men and women that they willingly sacrificed millions of people’s lives in an attempt to achieve utopia.
But the story of socialism was incomplete and did not take real world consequences into account.
With frustration toward the wealthy on the rise and more people falling into poverty because of the pandemic and the restrictions, we need to heed the warnings from history. We need to evaluate what has happened in the past when certain ideas were tried.
This book gives fascinating portraits of socialism’s greatest defenders and implementers. It also shows the disastrous consequences of the many socialist experiments that have happened in the past. Regardless of your economic views, there is much to ponder in these pages.
by John Piper
It’s easy to forget the sovereign invisible Hand that is at work behind the scenes when our hearts and mind are filled with the ever-impending doom of the news headlines.
John Piper takes a very thorough and comprehensive look at the whole of Scripture to see what God Himself has to say about the extent of His control of the world and what His ultimate purposes are for His creation.
A very challenging and mind-stretching read, but ultimately so comforting and hope giving. A very necessary book for these times.
3. Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World
by Tom Holland
Tom Holland (no, not that one!) is an expert in the ancient pre-Christian cultures and their beliefs. This gave him startling insight in just how shocking and revolutionary the ideas of Jesus were.
Unconditional love, and the valuing of the weak, elderly, and marginalized were not common in the ancient world. Christianity, and its teaching on sexuality and the family, brought new worth and stability to women and children and all of society.
So much of what we appreciate about western civilization is directly tied to our Christian heritage. Holland warns that if we abandon Christian beliefs, we will risk losing these benefits and advantages.
2. Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church
by Diane Langberg
Abuse takes many forms. When we are given positions of power, we have a grave responsibility to not silence those beneath us or use our power for selfish advancement.
All authority belongs to Jesus. Any use of power that does not look like Jesus is an abuse of power. The church has a long and sordid history of misusing its power and driving people away from Jesus.
This book is full of practical advice and strong warnings to make sure we use our power in love and for Christ’s purposes not our own.
1. Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church
by Tim Muehlhoff
When should the church divide? When should we seek unity while there are still strong differences of opinion? How can we have productive conversations when the issues are so polarizing and emotionally charged?
It was tough to pick the top book from so many choices. But this book was filled with so much practical wisdom and “aha!” moments. That, combined with the fact that this topic is so painfully relevant right now, made this my book of the year.
I highly recommend reading it with a pen nearby to take notes. I took more notes from this book than I did from any other because it was so filled with insight.
I hope you can find time to enjoy and be enriched by at least some of these titles. Happy reading!
I’ll leave you with the ten more fantastic titles that I highly recommend as well:
The highly recommended 10 that just missed:
Where the Light Fell
by Philip Yancey
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
by Candice Millard
How to Win Friends & Influence People
by Dale Carnegie
Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality
by Rachel Joy Welcher
by Brother Andrew
The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid
by Lawrence Wright
The Wisdom of Crowds
by James Surowiecki
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World
by Timothy J. Keller
Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear
by Max Lucado
Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm
by Mark Sayers