My Favorite Books of 2016

Over the past few weeks I have repeatedly promised (threatened?) to write down my favorite books from 2016, and a bit about them.  There are around 36 or so here and I tried to pick the best ones by genre, so that if you don’t care for a certain kind of reading, you could simply ignore all the nonsense I write about them.

I hope you enjoy, and as I’m always curious to hear what others are reading (many of the books I read were recommendations), please let me know what your favorites from 2016 were, and what you are looking forward to reading this year!

Favorite Books of 2016

With the Kids

Number the Stars – Lois Lowry – This was one of the first books we read with the kids in 2016, and later on we found a movie that was made based on the book that we watched as well. The story wasn’t one I’d heard, but it was thought provoking and a wonderful true story of courage that I think did a good job of introducing the kids to the concepts that defined and started WWII – especially the extermination of Jews in German occupied nations. Obviously questions were raised that were important: the value of human life, the nature of evil, and the way in which God made men different, and yet all equal in value before His eyes.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh – Robert C. O’Brien – This is one of the most vivid and creative books we read together this year. I really enjoyed it when I was a kid, and hearing the story again brought back memories. The Rats in this story aren’t the normal furry fellows, they have an extra level of intellect, and how they gained that, and then gained their freedom and independence (two different things for these rats) is an interesting story. I especially enjoyed the way in which O’Brien’s rats struggle with the morality of dependence on human beings. They have had their consciences awakened to the idea that stealing food is no way to live in this world, and set out to do something about it.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle – This is the famous first volume in what is actually a five-volume series. L’Engle uses some big (fun) words to explain amazing concepts of space and time travel to kids, all in a way that was quite a fun read. I’m really excited about reading volume two with the kids this year!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien – When I first broached the idea of reading some Tolkien to the kids this year, I was really thinking of The Hobbit, or something less daunting, like ‘Leaf by Niggle.’  But the kids were begging, and, how can one resist such entreaties? The time spent going through all 400+ pages of The Fellowship was really wonderful, and actually moved along pretty well. I thought they might tire of the story or that it might drag a bit for them, but every night the request for more was renewed. Given the quality of Tolkien’s writing, and the depth of the character development, I am not surprised looking back on our time. For those who know me well, know this was a dream come true. I love Tolkien, having first read through this first volume in the weeks before marrying Kate. For me it fires the imagination, and brings to light all the very best and very worst in the world and those who in inhabit it. Safe to say that I’m really looking forward to ‘The Two Towers’!

Biographies

Washington: A Life – Ron Chernow – Rare is the biography that leaves you understanding the man himself, and not just his accomplishments or what others thought or wrote of him. This is that rare biography. Chernow has written a masterful book that easily ranks as one of the top 5 I read all year, and probably one of the top 5 biographies I’ve ever read.  It’s not a book for the faint of heart. Clocking in at 817 pages, this book is really massive. But, to be fair, he does a good job of keeping the story moving, so that you really feel like it’s harder to get “stuck.” I came away knowing the mind and the man of George Washington so much better than I thought this seemingly inaccessible founder could ever have been know. Put this book at the top of your reading list.

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship – Colin Duriez – This one was…a slog.  But I’m not entirely sure if it’s because of how Duriez wrote it, or because I spend time musing over every detail. Either way, it took me a few months to actually get through this (not so big) book. The book is on the list because of how much it helped me to understand the relationship between these two great and gifted men, not necessarily because its be best written account – though Duriez has written a LOT on these two men.  If you’re at all aware of Lewis and Tolkien’s work, then you’ll appreciate hearing more of their personal story and how they encouraged, disagreed, and challenged each other along the way. I have two more similar books lined up for this year, so I’ll be interested to see how this one stands up!

John Adams – David McCullough – This was a re-read for me, the first time I read Adams was in 2002, so it was time to revisit this really wonderful account of his life. The read was made all the more enjoyable because I read it with my buddy Rod, who is also a student of history. If you’ve ever read anything by McCullough, you know he’s a master storyteller. One of the things that stood out to me this time that I hadn’t remembered from the first time reading it, was the graceful way in which Adams aged. What I mean by that is that he seemed to prize grace in his interactions and relationships with each year that he got older. He mended old rifts, and seemed to let all bitterness and wrongs go. As you read his letters with Jefferson and others, this is something to be on the lookout for.  Like Chernow’s ‘Washington’, this book is rather hefty, weighing in at just over 650 pages, but worth the time. 

Means of Ascent – Robert Caro – If you thought you knew something about Lydnon Johnson, then think again. This is volume two in a multi-volume account of Johnson’s life and rise to power.  This volume covers his days as a Congressman, and his runs for U.S. Senate – as well as the war years (not that he really served in the military in those years). If you read McCullough’s book on Adams, you come away with a certain sense that Alexander Hamilton was a bit of a rascal. Reading Caro’s account of Johnson will engender something close to loathing and detestation for the author’s quarry. The only people I felt more disgust for after reading their biographies were Peter and Catherine the Great(s) of Russia.   

The Generals – Winston Groom – I enjoyed Groom’s ‘Aviators’ and wanted to read something else by him this year. My choice was a book featuring three American Generals: Patton, MacArthur, and Marshall. Groom is easy to read, and I’m looking forward to reading ‘The Admirals’ some day as well. What made this book so interesting was how little I knew of Marshall and MacArthur. I’d read quite a bit on Patton. My plan for some time now has been to read Manchester’s ‘American Caesar’ in order to get the full color version of MacArthur, and this served as a welcome appetizer. With the format of the book, it’s easy to see common threads in these men, who had different personalities, skill sets, and theatres of action. One similarity I wasn’t expecting was how their parents all read books aloud to them as children – some of the same staples, in fact: The Bible, Plutarch’s Lives, and Sir Walter Scott’s novels were all hits. 

The Wright Brothers – David McCullough – I wasn’t sure whether it was fair to include two books by one author, but ‘The Wright Brothers’ was so good that I couldn’t help it (I actually also read ‘The Path Between the Seas’ as well, but it didn’t quite make the grade – though it was still fascinating!).  What was amazing about this story was the courage and morality of these men. I felt at the end of the book like they deserved every ounce of fame and reward they have been accorded. This is one I want my kids to read when they reach their teen years because it’s the story not only of courage, but of steadfast endurance and integrity in the face of trial after trial. This book is not quite as hefty as the Adams book, so it was much more manageable – I also listened to it on audio, and that combined with McCullough’s easy to read style made it very enjoyable. 

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill – Candice Millard – This is one of the few books that I had pre-ordered in advance so that when it was finally released, I was very excited. One of the issues of being only 34 years old is that much of the 20th century is much more freshly imprinted upon the memories of my elders – so I feel like I’m always playing catch up to books long since devoured. So when I get to pre-order a book…well, I don’t feel so doggone behind the 8-ball! This book in particular was a joy to read. Millard writes history in such a skillful way that you think you’re reading fiction. Each book is carefully researched, and you feel as though you’ve got a pretty good hold of the character by the time alls said and done. I thought her ‘River of Doubt’ was a bit too wordy, but she tightened things up here. My only critique of this volume is that I think she missed some of Churchill’s impetuous character as a youth (something very evident from his letters home from Harrow, and during his stationing in India). Nonetheless, it’s an exciting account, and highly enjoyable – even if you don’t know what a ‘Boer’ is, or give a fig about South Africa, Millard does a splendid job filling you in and painting the scene. Highly recommend.

The Narnian – Alan Jacobs – No one reads in a vacuum. Most every reader gets book recommendations from friends and family or book reviews. My friend Parris Payden was only about half-way through ‘The Narnian’ when he notified me of just how good it was. And he was definitely right! Jacobs does an excellent job of focusing on Lewis the man – what made him tick, what were the major and minor influences in his life. I know there are several biographers who have sought to sketch Lewis’ life, and I have not read McGrath or others yet, but this was a wonderfully written account that was not only enlightening on the man, but had many nuggets of wisdom that had my underlining time and again.  In fact, I’m thinking of reading it again this year, it was that enjoyable!   I will leave you with an excerpt:

We should recall here what he wrote in the aftermath of his late-night conversation with Tolkien and Dyson: “The ‘doctrines’ we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are translations into our concepts and ideas of that which God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.” And he also realized then, the “more adequate” language of historical event is best approximated by story. Who taught Lewis that? Tolkien of course (Pg. 246).

Fiction (Fantasy, Humor, Great Literature)

The Children of Hurin – J.R.R. Tolkein – Like ‘John Adams’ this is a bit of a retread for me. I first read this book several years ago, but had since misplaced my edition. So early in 2016 I purchased a new copy and began paging through the content, only to find that I had to dive in. After a short time, I got distracted with other books (as is want to happen), and found myself putting off this story until stumbling across Christopher Lee’s excellent audio performance on Audible! For the Tolkien fan, this proved to be too much temptation and I eventually pulled the trigger and added Lee’s recording to my audio library. Lee, who plays Saruman the White in the Jackson movies, has a very grave, deep, and almost creepy voice – perfect for a tragedy like ‘The Children of Hurin.’ I enjoyed the story again, though I found it rather dark, it was still worth coming back to.

Carry On, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse – Last summer my mom and I took a road trip to New England and spent a week or so going through a class on Jonathan Edwards at Yale Divinity School. On the way she introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse for the first time, and man was it funny! We listened to all of ‘Carry On, Jeeves’, and once I got home I bought my own copy and listened to it twice more!  I believe its Martin Jarvis who performs the edition we listened to – and he’s fantastic. Later I bought some used Wodehouse books, and armed with the unforgettable voice of Jarvis’ firmly ensconced in my head, I thoroughly enjoyed several of the short stories he tells about Jeeves! All I can say is that if you enjoy Monty Python, you’ll probably enjoy these stories. I’m smiling in light-hearted glee as I type, knowing that I need to re-inject myself with another dose of the old boy here in the near future!

The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells – Who hasn’t heard of H.G. Wells, right?! This wasn’t my first Wells story, but it was first time I’d ever read a book by him. I’ve seen the movies and such, but this was first rate fiction. You really really hated that invisible man by the time the book was at full steam, and I couldn’t help but note at the dim view of humanity that Wells seemed to take. Not that I completely disagreed with his assessments, but the characters in this novel were certainly vivid, and not all that flattering. Fear seemed to reign among men, and selfishness was closely on its heels as a prominent feature. No grand hero emerges, and no character leaves you drawn in to either identify or empathize with them. That said, the writing was pretty good, and the action was fast and continually coming. It was a very worthwhile read.

Nicholas Nickleby – Charles DickensSpeaking of “good writing”, here is a master at work. I grew up watching the Nathan Lane movie version of this well-loved novel, and thought the twists and turns in the plot something well worth exploring in book form. This book is a beast – nigh on to 1000 pages!  But the characters and their roles were so familiar to me that it seemed a wonderful 1000 pages – it was one that I both read and listened to the audio version to aid in my trek. Unlike some of his other work, this story isn’t dark or peppered with depressing characters. There is a good deal of suspense and the protagonists are certainly tried and tested in difficult – and somewhat odd – circumstances, but there are no cruel twists of fate like in A Tale of Two Cities.  The characters are endearing and enduring, and it’s given me a taste to read more Dickens in the future. Like Austen and Gibbon, Dickens is a master of the English language and is a heck of a lot of fun to read.

…let it be remembered that most men live in a world of their own, and that in that limited circle alone are they ambitious for distinction and applause. Sir Mulberry’s world was peopled with profligates, and he acted accordingly.

The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane – A short story, but masterfully told. This story takes place during the American Civil War, and is told from the point of view of a somewhat cowardly private in the Union army. You learn a lot about human character, nerves, the herd mentality, and how men react to war in this book. It’s really something else. The main character, Henry Fleming, will make you cringe, will make you angry, and yet you might also empathize with him as he deals with his battlefield experiences. This is one of those classics that I am catching up on, and am very thankful to have read this year. Crane is a wonderful story teller, whose use of irony and thorough research of the war (he lived just after in the later part of the 19th century) brings the book to life.

The King of Torts – John Grisham – It had been years since I last read this (or any other) Grisham novel. The last time I read it, it left a bad taste in my mouth. This time I found it more appealing – though it raised some of the reasons again why I think Grisham is both popular and yet not that great.  Grisham writes in ways that keep you mentally checked in to the action while give you a bird’s eye view of that action from the point of view of the protagonist. What I mean is that you’ll often hear the blunt thoughts of the main characters as they contemplate their next move, or whatever they’re considering. Often Grisham uses this as a way to fill in a sketch of his characters’ character (so to speak).  You learn a lot about these people as you read their “inside thoughts.” Still, you don’t come away feeling especially close to who they actually are as human beings. You feel like you know enough for everything to make sense, and because the story/plot is really what’s driving Grisham novels, character development can feel somewhat secondary, cheap, or slipshod at times. Still, the story of this books is about a young man’s rise to wealth and power – and how he handles it.  The effect of money and success on the characters is a central theme, and one of the most interesting parts of the story. Overall it was an enjoyable re-read, and an interesting look into the mass tort industry.

Miniatures and Morals: The Christian Novels of Jane Austen – Peter J. Leithart –  This was easily one of the most unique and creative books I read in 2016, and probably one of the volumes I enjoyed the most. In fact, Leithart’s explanation and Christian contextualization opened up for me deeper understanding and thinking on stories I’d been watching or reading since I was a kid. The concept of the book is to examine each major Austen novel and understand how Austen would have seen the characters from her own Christian perspective, and how we can understand their actions (for good and evil) in that same context. Leithart isn’t reading context into the author that isn’t there, indeed once you understand the morals of Austen, and her perspective as a Christian who enjoyed writing, you begin to see more clearly the failings and triumphs or her characters. Especially brilliant was Leithart’s explanation of ‘Emma’, what he considers Austen’s most Christian novel.  I will leave you with this paragraph from pages 168-169:

Above all, the romance that contributes to the cohesion of the community is an “accidental” rather than an “arranged” romance. When she (Emma) comes to recognize her love for Knightly, it comes as a shock, “with the speed of an arrow” (the wound of love). She has not been planning this; it comes at her without her asking for or wanting it. Matters of love are best left to fate – to God. Trying to play God with human affections is cruel and dangerous. True love always comes as an overwhelming surprise, and act of grace, as a rushing mighty wind.

The Hunt for Red October – Tom Clancy – When I was growing up, one of our favorite movies was ‘The Hunt for Red October’. My younger brother and I would lay in bed at night quoting the best lines to each other, seeing if the other would be able to finish the sentences, or perfectly quote the appropriate rejoinder. After years of enjoying the film, this was the first time I’d actually read the original novel, and it was a highly enjoyable affair!  To make matters better, I listened to the book on audio, which allowed my imagination to really take flight in a way that seemed to be a hybrid between the film and simply reading the book. The movie still holds a special place in my heart, but the book helped provide context for the plot and sub-plots that I found enlightening. If you enjoyed the movie, you’ll love the book. The research was typical of Clancy, top notch (if not a bit too in-depth!), and the writing was fast paced.

History and Politics

The Lion’s Gate: On the front lines of the six-day war – Steven Pressfield – I knew next to nothing about the six-day war, so this was a very exciting adventure for me – an excitement which was heightened by the fact that the way this book is composed of first-hand accounts from soldiers and generals. The pace is fast, and that’s good because the book is on the longish side.  Still, you’ll hear some simply astounding accounts of how Israel defeated its enemies and captured back portions of Jerusalem up to the ‘Lion’s Gate’ as the world watched. The inside accounts of how the nascent country scrapped together its rag-tag airpower alone was worth the read. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested in military history, or Israel’s modern miracle.

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume IV – Edward Gibbon – This year I continued my odyssey through Gibbon’s famous six-volume history of Rome’s decline and fall, ending the year half-way through volume five. That said, volume four gets the honorable mention on this list because of how enjoyable it was. For those who have heard me write about Gibbon in the past, you know I’m a huge fan of his writing abilities and powers of description. If you appreciate the English language, world history, or simply like a challenge, Gibbon is for you. NOTE: For those of you who are Churchill fans, you’ll appreciate Gibbon all the more for the role he played in Churchill’s self-education. While stationed in India as a young soldier, Churchill devoured Gibbon. Here’s a sample for your edification, from Gibbon’s summing up of whether or not Christianity helped or hurt the Roman empire:

…the introduction, or at least the abuse of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire…If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors.

The Lost Empire of Atlantis – Gavin Menzies – My buddy Rod encouraged me to check this volume out, and I wasn’t disappointed. Menzies may not be the most organized or systematic writer, but his journey and findings are incredible and must be reckoned with. The research he’s done essentially points to the Minoans as the conduit race for the explosion and spread of the bronze age. These intrepid people were traders who mined copper and tin and traded them from North America to Egypt and all over the Mediterranean. Evidence points to their having crossed the Atlantic multiple times much earlier than we had ever thought possible, and that they used a system for calculating lunars that would have made Nat Bowditch envious several thousands of years later. Even if Menzies is missing pieces of the puzzle or is wrong on some things, he’s done some fascinating work that blows holes in much of our typical historical assumptions about the sophistication and global boundaries of the ancient world.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World – Jack Weatherford – Again, I was encouraged by Rod to learn more about the great Khans of Mongolia, and this was my first foray into that part of world history. Little did I know how dominant, how tolerant, and how sophisticated the Mongols were. Their empire was the biggest empire in terms of square miles ruled in the history of the world, dwarfing the British and even Alexander the Great’s conquests. What you’ll learn is how this piece of the puzzle fits into medieval European and Chinese history, and how interesting and just plain different their methods and thinking was comparatively. I was impressed with Weatherford’s work, though the middle of the book really slackened on the pace, it was worth plugging away to read about Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis. It was Kublai who conquered and rules China, and almost did the same to Japan with his enormous armada (however some bad weather and cunning field commanding by the Japanese saved them).  I know there are many options for study in this period of history, but I think Weatherford did pretty well, and would recommend the book. 

Poetry

 Kipling – Poetry from the Everyman’s Library Collection – Most of the poetry I read in 2016 was of the variety that you read a poem, skip around, and then read another etc. But in this edition of Kipling, I found myself on a long plane trip, and was turning page after page in enjoyment right through to the end.  What made Kipling so good was that I felt I was right there in the action. I could sense the jungle, I could hear the tigers, and feel the impending danger of each situation, or the beauty of every description. I had really only known Kipling’s stories up until this year, but his poetry is just as good, and deserves a look if you’re thinking of putting something in your briefcase or purse for the Spring.

The Fall of Arthur – J.R.R. Tolkein – It is a great pity that Tolkien started and did not finish many a creative work, this project is one of those victims. Yet, what he did get done is of a very high quality. When I was a boy my parents gave me a book on King Author by Malory and it greatly fired the imagination. So as I read through the lines of Tolkien’s ‘Fall of Arthur’ it sent me back to those happy memories. If you enjoy poetry and great adventures, then you’ll enjoy this travel back into the days of medieval Britain.

Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson – Barnes & Noble Classics Series edition – I really had no idea that during the lifetime of Emily Dickinson no one really knew she was a poet, much less a poet of great ability. As I began to read her work, I quickly figured out how arresting it could be. She’s definitely going to make you stop and think – sometimes at moments when you least expected it. My rule of thumb for her is that if you think there may be something more to what she’s saying, there probably is!

Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Everyman’s Library edition – Early in 2016, after trying my hand at several famous poets (including Coleridge’s personal friend Wordsworth) I had become discouraged that I was destined to only enjoy Kipling…and maybe only rikki tikki tavi at that!  But as I lighted upon Coleridge that changed. His story and meter is fantastic, and you can almost feel your skin crawl or heart leap at times. Here is a man whose poetry made sense to me, and had me fully engaged for many an evening this past year.

Theology and Christianity  

When I Don’t Desire God – John Piper – Several years ago I was introduced to John Piper through the book ‘Desiring God’.  I found the book helpful, but long and a bit wordy. At first I found his concept of ‘Christian Hedonism’ to be fraught with peril and not quite the way I’d prefer to think if the Christian life. However, over time (and through many conversations with good friends), I came to appreciate Piper as a modern day Jonathan Edwards – a role he probably embraces more than any other recent contemporary. This book, however, is not simply an additional volume to the first, but a very thoughtful and practical application for the Christian battling through life’s many ups and downs (especially the latter).  I found it to be the best book I’d ever read by Piper bar none (even though I’d read many good ones from him in recent years). I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to persevere in their walk with God, and wants practical, theology drenched tools and thoughts about just how to do this.  At the end of chapter three Piper concludes this way:

The essence of the Christian life is learning to fight for joy I a way that does not replace grace. We must be able to say at the end of our lives, “I have fought the good fight.” But we must also say, “It was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” I have pursued Christ as my joy with all my might. But it was a might that he mightily imparted.

Church Elders – Jeramie Rinne (from the 9Marks Series) – This may not be a volume that applies to everyone sorting through my list, but I enjoyed the book immensely. Most of my enjoyment came in the form of a challenge.  That is to say that I found Rinne’s explanation of the Biblical passages surrounding church eldership to be aimed right at my heart. He does a wonderful job asking the tough questions of those desiring higher office in the church, and explaining the role of an elder in general to those interested in how their church is (or ought to be) structured.

The Cross of Christ – John Stott – I know many people who’ve read Stott’s classic and continually refer back to it. However, this was my first go at this formidable volume, and I found it dense, encouraging, and probably the best book I’ve ever read on the mission of Jesus and what he accomplished in his death. It is nothing short of a tour de force of theology and philosophy of the most important event in human history. It is extremely thoughtful, and is packed with theological goodness. As soon as I finished it, the realization hit me that I’d need to read it again. So comprehensive, so thorough, and so quotable is this volume that I think every Christian needs to own it and reference it from time to time. I’ll leave you with a sample:

Justification is our legal standing before our judge in the court; reconciliation is our personal relationship with our Father in the home. Indeed, the latter is the sequel to the former. It is only when we have been justified by faith that we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1), which is reconciliation (Pg. 190).

Philosophy 

Penses – Blaise Pascal – This was a real challenge for me. I found Pascal to be brilliant, if a little (heck, a LOT) disjointed. Following his thoughts from inception to conclusion could be somewhat difficult. However, some of the things he says are simply so fascinating and so full of wisdom and insight, that you can’t stop reading. He’s a master at getting to the heart of why people do things, act in certain ways etc. He doesn’t linger on the surface, but dives into man’s motives, and it is that exploration of man’s will and motive that made this so interesting to read. Some parting wisdom…

Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.

The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand – This was my first Rand book.  I both loved and hated it simultaneously.  Mostly I felt that her writing abilities didn’t square up with the great men and women of allegory in her time. For instance, as obvious and overt as C.S. Lewis can be, he has a style that draws you into the story and characters that are believable.  Rand’s characters are machines with human names who would never believably act in the way that they’re portrayed.  Yet there is a lot of compelling storytelling going on, and a lot of interesting points about architecture and the desire of man to be happy. I really enjoyed the overall story, and found it compelling to the point of not being able to stop reading/listening to it for days.  Ultimately, however, I think she misses the mark in a serious way, because she failed to understand the true wiring of the human being. She is clearly advocating her own special brand of hedonism, but that hedonism isn’t that kind which ultimately fulfills a man/woman.  If only she’d read Piper…

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl – Earlier in the year I had read Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ before reading Frankl, and found the combination of the two formed a powerful impression. Both men dealt with the horrors of concentration camp life in different ways. Without disparaging Wiesel in anyway, I felt that Frankl’s thinking and descriptions resonated with me a bit more. This is certainly a book that everyone ought to read, if for no other reason than it provides the inside look at how men thought during this experience, and deals with the lies and truths they tell themselves in order to survive. You will find yourself grappling with Frankl, and being forced to ask serious questions about assumptions of humanity, the way we’re wired, good and evil, and morality.

Science

Not a Chance – R.C. Sproul – With typical skill in communication, and adroit understanding of the logical, scientific, and philosophical issues at stake, Sproul exposes some of the mistakes in the Big Bang theory, discusses causality, and dives into modern scientific thought – its motives and its pitfalls. To get an idea of the fun that awaits you, when discussing Einstein, Sproul quotes Stanley Jaki and then (in typical fashion) sums things up nicely on the topic of “chance”:

If anything is really a chance product, then the battle is already over. Science falls in the battle. Here science suffers from intellectual hemophilia. Scratch science with chance and it bleeds to death…if chance can produce anything we can have something from nothing, which destroys both causality and logic with a single blow. We are left abandoned to ultimate, inexorable chaos.  

I personally haven’t spent much time studying issues of cosmology or cosmogony or causality in years! So this was a welcome reminder of how important it is to approach the universe with humility and logical thought, and not surrender the sciences to those whose starting point is often irrational.

Business 

Every Good Endeavor – Tim Keller – I’ve read my share of business and leadership books over the years, and this was by far one of the most enjoyable and helpful books on business I’ve ever read. Keller’s focus is to look at the concept of work from a Christian perspective, and he does a wonderfully thorough job of this. The book is divided into three parts: God’s Plan for Work, Our Problems with Work, and The Gospel and Work. A small sampling from his exposition of work as “cultivation” …

…that is the pattern for all work. It is creative and assertive. It is rearranging the raw material of God’s creation in such a way that it helps the world in general, and the people in particular, thrive and flourish. This pattern is found in all kinds of work.

This is a book that will demand some thought, and provide a helpful perspective on life whether you’re a professional banker or stay at home mom. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

Happy reading to you in 2017!

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4 thoughts on “My Favorite Books of 2016

  1. You must be a master “speed reader”. When do you find time to eat, sleep & work? I’d be lucky to do even 1or2 of the volumes. Grammy

    1. Well – I have help. I listen to audio books, I don’t watch as much TV as I used to, I have 10 or so going at one time so that I never get bored of reading and can always go from one book to another, and I don’t always finish every book. So if I read one that I’m simply not Enjoying, then I will quit at 100 pages or whatever, and mark it down. I still like to keep track of that. Also, when I stumble on a good book on audio, I often buy the hardcover edition so I can follow along and make notes and add bookmarks. Every year I learn to read better and still have a long way to go.

  2. One summer in the 1970’s during my undergraduate years at Bible college I needed to “recreate” after the intensity of a full load, along with a full time job. I spent time each day reading through Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” while listening to classical music. I never forgot how wonderful those times were. Some of the music selections I heard over and over then still recall Tolkien’s scenes to my mind when I hear them now.

    1. That’s a great memory! Thanks for sharing that Jack! During the lead up to our wedding 13 years ago, I had a great deal of anxiety. I was trying to get a full time job (was already working 30 hours and taking a full load of classes), graduate from school (early), and get married. The stress of it left me in bad shape. But all the while, I was reading my Bible and The Fellowship of the Ring. It wasn’t as enjoyable sounding as your time, but it was like medicine to my wearied mind. I’d take that book everywhere with me, and a few years ago when rearranging my books, I found the original print out of the vows I memorized for our wedding tucked into the pages!

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