Here is a too-brief listing of my favorite books read in 2017. As your pastor, I encourage you to read (or listen to) at least one book every month. Too much of our intellectual input these days comes from headlines, tweets, news flashes, and snap judgments. So many religious, political, and cultural exchanges are full of misunderstandings, spin, or hopelessly trite cliches. St. Paul urges us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). The mind is a muscle which strengthens and stretches through use. We ought to exercise this gift through the reading of Scripture, old books and new.

One of my new delights in 2017 was the launch of the Reformation Book Club. We tackled a biography about Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian” by Luther, and “Life Together” by Lutheran Nazi-resistor and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This month we begin “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. I’d be delighted once more if you considered joining!

Lewis wrote about the reading of old books in his introduction to a new translation of Saint Athanasius’ 4th century gem, “On the Incarnation.”

“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said…It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

Favorite Theology/Biblical Studies

  • On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius
  • Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther
  • Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Eugene Peterson
  • Law and Gospel, Mockingbird Ministries
  • The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, Gregory Boyd
  • The Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami?, David Bentley Hart
  • Faith Formation in a Secular Age, Andrew Root Favorite Fiction
  • The Violent Bear it Away and Everything that Rises Must Converge, Flannery O’Connor
  • The Kind of Brave You Wanted to Be, Brian Doyle (R.I.P.)
  • Arcanum Unbounded and Oathbringer, Brandon Sanderson

Favorite Non-Fiction

  • The Grace of Dogs, Andrew Root
  • Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker, Andrew Root
  • The Vanishing American Adult, Ben Sasse
  • Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, Chad Bird
  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt
  • The Road Back to You, Ian Cron & Susan Stabile

~ Pastor Tom