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My Top 10 Books of 2011

January 2, 2012

As Mortimer Adler, author of How to Read a Book, wrote, “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.

Last year, I read 53 books. Some were great, some were good, some were disappointments, and a small handful were duds. Thankfully, the vast majority fit into the good to great category. Here are my top ten books that really “got through to me.”

1.  King’s Cross

Timothy Keller has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary Christian authors. Of the books I’ve read by him, this one is by his best (in my opinion). In King’s Cross, Keller works through the Gospel of Mark (though not covering every single verse or passage), focusing on Jesus as King and then upon Jesus’ cross. With precision and directness, Keller describes the earth-shattering Good News of the Gospel and emphasizes how it shatters our religious paradigms and takes us further and deeper than we ever expected.

2.  Slavery by Another Name

This book is an eye-opening account of the shameful “Age of Neoslavery” that was rampant in many Southern states following the Civil War and going on through the time of World War II. It shows how many people accepted and excused this activity, and how such slavery was perpetuated long after freedom was promised to a 400-year-plus era of legal enslavement. Although it is a history book, it has been life-changing in many of my friend’s lives, as well as my own.

3.  The Kite Runner

In this novel, Khaled Hosseini masterfully tells the journey of two young Afghan boys. Although the story and characters are fictional, much of the setting and and atrocities of a war-torn Afghanistan are not. A powerful, moving, eye-opening novel.

4.  Unbroken

Although Louis Zamperini’s life story has been told before, Laura Hillenbrand’s retelling of it in Unbroken has done so in a way that has set it apart and created a bestseller. This book recounts his early life, his years as an Olympic athlete, a military man, a crash survivor, a POW, a struggling veteran, and eventually a man whose life is changed by Christ.

5.  Half the Church

Read in conjunction with Half the Sky, I found Half the Church to capture a global, biblical vision of and for women and their needed contribution to the church. Additionally, it gave awareness to the struggles and atrocities many women face on a daily basis.

6.  The King Jesus Gospel

In an age when books whose titles included the word “Gospel” are weighing down the shelves of bookstores, this is a book that could potentially be left on one of those shelves. However, The King Jesus Gospel is more than just another how-to book on living a “Gospel-centered” life. Author Scot McKnight asks his readers to reevaluate what our American modern-day portrayal of the gospel has become, and proposes shares how we’ve reduced the Gospel to a quick and easy 30-second presentation. Helpful diagnostic of American Protestant Christianity.

7.  Generous Justice

Generous Justice adds second Timothy Keller book to my top ten list. But it’s not the author; it’s the content inside. Keller draws from a broad overview of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, teachings of church history, and specific teachings of Jesus as he lays out the beautiful picture of the righteousness/justice of God, showing God’s heart  for and identification with the vulnerable and helpless of society. Throughout the book, Keller draws out the beauty of the  gospel, and the amazing grace that God has shown us in His love for us. Especially helpful for those of us who may have grown up and been taught to be skeptical of anything that rings of “social justice.”

8.  The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Having grown up being taught (and believing) that Martin Luther King, Jr. was “a bad man,” I was blown away as I read his autobiography. Anyone who has encountered the teachings and life of Martin Luther King, Jr. will undoubtedly attest to the fact that he was a powerful, eloquent speaker. But what impressed me most about his life was his commitment to non-violence, love, and to not reacting to both verbal and physical attack. MLK is truly an American hero.

9.  Practical Theology for Women

In this book, Wendy Horger Alsup lays out the importance of women studying theology and applying it practically to their lives. (Although women are not limited to reading theology written “for women,” I think Alsup’s hope is that many women would be more likely to pick this book up than, say, a 600-page book on systematic theology. This book could have just as easily been titled, “An Introduction to Practical Theology.”) This book is basic, yet still in-depth and practical, avoiding the fluff. I’m not listing this book in my top ten because it was full of new revelation or even ten ways to revolutionize my life in 30 days. I list it here because I believe the simplicity and basic theology pointed to in this book would be a helpful book to women (or men), both myself and others desiring to grow in the knowledge of and walk with God and seeing the ways where that practically fits into life.

10.  The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

I was surprised by this book, and the authors’ skill at diagnosing what can potentially become dangerous dynamics within the church. While also addressing the problems, the authors also point to Scripture and address many passages that are used as a weapon by those who seek to use Scripture for their own purposes. Although I don’t agree with everything in this book (or, for that matter, the other 9 listed above it), the book was not only personally very helpful and healing, but very much a word of caution toward the temptation to use spiritual position, power, or influence to manipulate others.


It’s the start of a new year now, but you don’t need a New Year’s Day or even New Year’s resolutions to set goals. Read much; read more. Read deeply; read widely. This is an attainable and admirable goal, regardless of whether it is January 1 or July 1.

“If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions.”  ~Author Unknown

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~Dr. Seuss



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