Editor’s Note: We asked some of our staff members to recommend books that have influenced them in the past or that they’re looking forward to reading this year. We hope you’ll benefit from these suggestions and find something to add to your reading list.
The Pleasures of God by John Piper. This insightful book about the God-centeredness of God turned me toward more God-centered thinking when I read it in 1998. It can be an important book for every disciple of Jesus to read.
Future Grace by John Piper is one of my all-time favorites and one I return to often. The subtitle is something like “the purifying power of the promises of God.” Future Grace reminds me that right now as I fight temptation there truly is grace available to me. I don’t fight alone. It’s not a lonely battle when we remember God’s promises.
Spiritual Depression is another wonderfully helpful book by Martyn Lloyd Jones. The Christian life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. There are times of great desperation. At some point everyone will probably experience a dryness that they had not anticipated. This book is helpful for identifying the cause and problem and sharing solutions through God’s Word. It’s just helpful to know you aren’t alone.
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller. If you haven't read this book, read this book. It's this generation's version of Mere Christianity. It's already, I think, a classic in that it tackles the most difficult arguments for the existence of God and the case for Christianity and answers them by making the skeptic lean on his own questions and in a way that is inviting to the story of Christianity. Do read this book.
The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story by D.A. Carson I had the privilege of studying with Dr. Carson at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His was this book on steroids. Or maybe a better way of saying it is that this book is that class encapsulated. At any rate, Dr. Carson traces themes throughout Scripture, putting the Bible together in a way that I had never heard before.
Created in God's Image by Anthony Hoekema This is one of the best theological books I've read on what it means to be created in God's image, on biblical anthropology. It's a textbook, not a beach read, yet it will prove to be one of the most rewarding books you have ever read.
Matt Perman's What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. The reason why I think it should be read is because it helps lay a foundation for “getting the right things done.” I believe it also helps us look back to “work” in general and move us forward with living out the gospel in our different vocations.
I am going to recommend a book I haven't read yet but am looking forward to reading in 2015. Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You by J.D. Greear is one of the top books on my list for the year. I am increasingly aware of my need for the Holy Spirit in everyday life, but don't feel like understand the Spirit well, or know how to consciously rely on him. J.D.'s books have been a great encouragement to me in the past, and I'm confident Jesus Continued will be as well.
I recently finished an older, shorter volume by Carl Henry called Toward a Recovery of Christian Belief. It's only available as a used book, sadly, but is an excellent, concise explanation into Henry's approach to theology and its application to the Public Square. Fair warning: It's not necessarily an easy read at all points (Henry rarely ever was!), but it's a shorter work that will help introduce the reader to the dean of evangelical theology. Evangelicals interested in ethics and public square issues would be well served to retrieve Henry's legacy—this book will help!
The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks isn't a new book, but one I completed this last year. As a mom of two littles, my reading time is limited, and this book felt like I took a course in anthropology, economics, psychology and more. Brooks is one of my favorite writers, and he took a comprehensive look at the way relationships affect human flourishing. There are direct implications for social and economic policy, as well as the church. As the wife of a small groups minister, I found it fascinating how science supported what we know–that living in community with others enhances our lives in innumerable ways.
What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman: God has given each of us different responsibilities in life, and yet all of us are called to be good stewards of that with which we have been entrusted—not only our money and resources, but also our time and tasks and work—and all of us in Christ are to live lives for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Matt Perman's book What's Best Next is a gift to the body of Christ that helps us to think about work and productivity with a gospel focus. This book is helpful, first, because it is not just a book on getting things done, but a book that frames productivity and work in the larger context of a the Christian life. The book is enormously helpful too, though, when it moves into the specifics of thinking through how to be more productive with one's time. Particularly useful are the ways in which Perman encourages readers to plan their week, to do so according to roles God has given each of us in life, and the way in which he outlines strategies for effective daily planning and execution. Not every person will adopt Perman's system comprehensively—I haven't—but I suspect there are very few Christians, regardless of vocation or life stage, that would not find something in this book from which they would benefit.