Posted by: Tim | February 15, 2010

Books I read in 2009

It’s time for my annual review of what I read last year.  The books are not listed in any specific order of preference, though I have tried to loosely follow the order in which I read them.

1. Christless Christianity by Michael Horton – Michael Horton is a strong reformed guy of Whitehorse Inn fame. His book laments the loss of the gospel in much of Christianity, and its replacement by a form of moralism, ranging from the ‘be nice’ lite of Joel Osteen to the ‘do good works’ heavy of Brian MacLaren. I’d never seen those two compared before, and Horton’s analysis was quite good, challenging us to return to the gospel. I felt he overdid it a bit on going after Joel Osteen – it felt like he was shooting a fish in a barrel, and the first shot hit, and more shooting wasn’t necessary. He has written a sequel called The Gospel Driven Church that I have sitting on my shelf, which I think aims to give the solution to the problem he presented in this book. Recommended.

2. Don’t Stop Believing, by Michael E. Wittmer.  I didn’t buy this book for the 80’s Journey song title, but it didn’t hurt. Wittmer is a professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and he wrote this book to challenge Christians not to give up on belief – i.e. orthodoxy as espoused by ‘conservatives’, and only have orthopraxy (as espoused by emergents). He argues for both. At times I thought it was really good, and at times it felt like he was being balanced, just for the sake of trying to be balanced. I’m all for balance, but on some issues, clarity is needed, and balance leaves you arguing both sides. The final illustration of the book was  a letdown for me, as it was meant to summarize the core of the book’s theme, but the situation was far-fetched and failed to make the point. But overall, recommended.

3. Reasonable Faith (third edition) by William Lane Craig. I wrote a full review of this one, that you can read HERE. This is an excellent apologetics book – heavy reading, no doubt, but well worth the effort. Highly recommended!  (Note: Craig Blomberg has an excellent article on Scripture in the 2nd edition, which is not included in this third edition, for reasons which Craig explains. I recommend this 2nd edition article as well.)

4. Tactics by Gregory Koukl. I wrote a full review which can be read HERE. Tactics is an apologetics book written to teach you how to interact in apologetics conversations. It teaches you some actual apologetics, but the value is in learning how to apply them. It’s easy-to-read and full of good suggestions for real life conversations. Highly Recommended.

10. Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.  You can read my review HERE. Don’t waste your time on this one unless you are reading it for research purposes like I was. Not recommended.

I wrote brief reviews for the next three books HERE, which were all part of my summer reading.

6. With Wings Like Eagles by Michael Korda. This book was part of my summer holiday reading (though I read it before I actually went on holidays as it was so good I couldn’t put it down). I tells the story of Hugh Dowding and the Battle of Britain, an amazing aerial fight between Great Britain and Germany during WW2 in the summer of 1940. Highly Recommended.

7. Six Days of War, by Michael Oren. This book is a play-by-play history of the Six Day War of 1967 between Israel on one side and Egypt, Syria and Jordan on the other side. It is riveting military history and reads like a novel. Highly Recommended.

8. Masters and Commanders, by Andrew Roberts. M&C closely follows the interactions of Winston Churchill, Andrew Brooks, Franklin Roosevelt and George Marshall as four key leaders and strategists during WW2. It is an intriguing book to read from a leadership perspective, and though a bit long, worth it. Recommended.

9. Young, Restless, Reformed by Colin Hansen. YRR is a piece of investigative journalism into the surging movement of young reformed Christians that has become visible in the past few years. It was a good book in some ways, though I personally do not enjoy the basic style of much modern journalism, which uses a story to make an editorial point and move the writer’s story forward, rather than actually reporting what happened. For example, when Hansen visited John Piper’s house, I wanted to hear about what it is like to be at John Piper’s house and what they talked about in some detail, but Hansen only shared a few quotes. To be fair, maybe there are reasons I don’t know for this, such as Piper requesting Hansen not to share some things. But it is a good book to read, especially if you are having trouble figuring out why there are so many in the under-35 crowd running around so excited about Calvinism. (If you want the short version, read this article at Christianity Today) Recommended.

10. World War One by Norman Stone. This book is a brief history of WW1, which I realized that I knew very little about, other than that Canada won the battle at Vimy Ridge! It is a helpful overview, and gives a glimpse into a world that is very different than the one in which we now lived. The picture on the front is telling of how WW1 was a transitional time in history: It is a photo of a cavalry soldier on a horse carrying a spear (lance?) with a gun slung on his back while wearing a metal helmet and a gas mask. One of the most interesting things to me was that a key component of war-readiness in Europe was the strength of a nation’s railway lines for moving troops. War planners would get concerned if someone built too strong a rail network, and an opposing country had to match it to remain prepared for war. Recommended.

11. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. This is a relatively short book about God’s will and decision making. DeYoung encourages people to make wise godly decisions and not look for a voice from heaven on every decision you make. It is a very practical book and offers sound guidance to making decisions. Highly Recommended.

12. Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Blanchard, Zigarmi and Zigarmi. I read this book as part of my leadership course requirements at Denver Seminary. It is a short, simple book with very practical suggestions for managing an organization.  Recommended.

13. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels. I read this book soon after it came out around seven or eight years ago, and at the time I thought it was OK but not great. I am also not a big fan of the seeker-sensitive approach to church ministry, so I wasn’t totally excited about reading this book again. But I was really blessed by it and encouraged in my own leadership. Regardless of whether you think Hybels is on the right track in his philosophy of ministry, he is a gifted leader who loves the Lord and His church, and he has some great insights into church leadership that I found very helpful. Highly Recommended. (Note: I finished reading this book in early 2010, but decided to count it as a 2009 book.)

I think that’s it. I am also preparing another post describing books I partly read in 2009 – there’s quite a few of those as well!

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