Editor’s Note: We asked some of our staff members to share books they enjoyed reading this year. We hope this will give you ideas about what to read in the new year.
The Road to Character by David Brooks
In The Road to Character, New York Times Columnist David Brooks explores the important relationship between our external lives and our internal character. Through powerful stories and strong prose, he makes a case for why our lives should not be defined by “resume virtues” that focus on accomplishments over attitudes but by “eulogy virtues” that focus on character over credentials. Drawing on the collective wisdom of many great thinkers including Augustine, Brooks makes a strong case for why who we are is more important than what we do. Though the book lacks an explicitly gospel-centered approach to character, Christians who read the book will be challenged to think through the Bible's call to exemplify the fruit of the Spirit in everyday life.
On Writing Well by William Zinser
I've been writing professionally for almost 20 years, yet had never read Zinser's magnificent work On Writing Well. Every writer should read this. He's humorous, thoughtful and sharp. Zinser makes you love the craft of writing in a way that you won't if you don't read this book.
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch
Andy Crouch is always good, thoughtful and is always making us think in new categories. Playing God is no exception. Crouch takes us on a rich journey through the Scripture and the use of power. I can't say enough about how this book changed the way I think about how power, rightly applied, contributes to human flourishing. This books picks up on the language of “culture-making” and “image-bearing” that made his first book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, such an important read. Leaders at any level should put this on their reading list.
Jack Kemp: The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America by Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes
When I was in high-school, I argued in a debate that Jack Kemp would be a better nominee for President than Dan Quayle in 1996. It turns out that neither of these guys ran, but Kemp ended up as Bob Dole' s running mate that year in a losing effort. Kemp was a transformational force in politics. Stubbornly (even, at times, against the Reagan White House) for supply-side economics, Kemp could be a difficult negotiating partner from his position in Congress. But Kemp's contribution to the conservative movement, sadly lost in this polarizing and fear-mongering age, was a big-hearted view of people. Kemp strove to advocate policies that lifted up the poor. He courageously spoke out against racism and urged, prophetically, for change in America's urban core. This book presented Kemp as he was, flaws and strengths. Would it be that today's candidates displayed more of Kemp's big-hearted conservatism.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This WWII-era novel about a young boy thrust into the violence and evil of Hitler’s Youth and a blind girl struggling to survive the occupation of Paris is a gripping, beautifully written tale. Doerr skillfully weaves the vulnerability and hope of childhood with the brutal wages of war, and the result is a book that you won’t put down. An upcoming movie adaptation means you should read this book as soon as possible, for I can practically guarantee that Doerr’s prose is deeper and more satisfying than any screenplay could capture.
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Brower explores the history of our nation and the presidents through the lenses of the people who serve at the White House. This fascinating account of the private lives of the presidents and their families focuses on the group of people who make the White House run. I enjoyed hearing about the behind-the-scenes happenings of people who are typically unnoticed at the world's most famous address.
The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America by Richard John Neuhaus
My favorite book from 2015 is an older book, Richard John Neuhaus' Naked Public Square. Originally written in the 1980s, the book became a classic for re-energizing the role of religion in democracy. While technical and often digressive, the book's powerful prose and understanding of church and state speaks to its staying power.