Books of the Year 2014: The Contenders

I plan to select a list of my favorite books of 2014. My last list covered 2012.

Unlike 2013, during those years when I do have time to stay current on the non-fiction releases from Christian publishers, I usually take some time in July to begin writing out a list of contenders. At this point the list is quite incomplete, but a rough list at this stage will help inventory the books that have caught my attention so far. So here is the early stages of my list of books that will be seriously considered as I develop my final list in November.

My list (updated on 10/10) is now up to 50+ titles (* = recent adds):

Reading Re-Treat

Once a year I set aside time for a personal reading retreat, a few days blocked off for me to dive into a stack of books I’ve collected (and some I’ve already started). In the last two years, neck deep in the John Newton writing project, these reading retreats have been focused on the topic at hand. And for the first time since we moved back to Minneapolis, this weekend affords me my first retreat to work through a stack of books on random topics of interest.

Whether I focus on one particular topic (like in my 2011 retreat) or whether I read more generally, these reading retreats give me a chance to largely disconnect from the Internet and cut away from the digital entanglements of daily web communication for the purpose of reading printed books for 12 hours each day (the goal). Such a discipline may seem daunting, but I find the practice life giving, and it has increasingly become an essential strategy I need to protect and develop my sustained, linear reading concentration, a skill that seems to otherwise erode every day (a concern I addressed at length in my book Lit!).

The goal of this retreat, like every reading retreat, is not to finish a lot of books, the goal is simply to read a lot. And for the interested, here are the titles I’ll be taking along —

Reading Digest (January 11)

Books I’m Reading

Every January I dedicate the month to reading books about writing. Writing is my golf game, requiring (never ending) practice as I chase (always elusive) perfection. This year, I’ll be reading five titles:

Forthcoming Books

Carolyn McCulley and Nora Shank, The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work, and the Home (B&H; February 1, 2014). A gem to help women navigate the tricky questions of work, home, and ambition. The particular strength is the way it walks through the decisions of women and the workplace through the many changing seasons of a woman’s life. The core chapters on purpose (5), rest (6), identity (7), and ambition (8), will benefit single and married women (and even the men who read it). Early they write: “Is this a book about women working in the marketplace? Yes. Is this a book about women working at home? Yes again. What follows is our exploration of how this looks for different women at various stages of life. We believe there is much wisdom to be mined from the Bible to help us think about love and labor throughout the entire arc of a woman’s life. Therefore, we have segmented this book into three sections: the story of work, the theology of work, and the lifecycle of work.” And it delivers.

Trillia Newbell, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Moody; March 1, 2014). “Being black, female, and Reformed is one of those unique blends. I am a rare breed.” She is, and in her first book Trillia offers us a valuable message — a blueprint really — for building a diverse array of relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, because maybe most rare of all, this black, female, Reformed friend is also a model of racial diversity in her own life. Her blueprint is clear and realistic and hopeful and driven by one clearly defined ultimate purpose. “My hope is that in reading United, your eyes have been opened to what I believe is the heart of God for diversity. What I am after as I share the beauty of diversity in the church is one thing and one thing only: the glory of God. I don’t want the church to find yet another trendy pursuit to latch onto. The pursuit of diversity is important, yes, but not because it’s trendy, this generation’s ‘hip thing.’ It’s important because the nations fill God’s Word. Seeing the importance of diversity in Scripture should make us want to explore how we can emulate this today. Ultimately it’s all about His glory on this earth and reflecting Him to a broken world.”

New Books

Stephen Altrogge, Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine (self published; 2013). “In order to truly love and follow God, I must come to terms with the fact that I am a spiritual beggar. I am flat-out broke and desperately thirsty. I’ve got nothing to offer God. I must take advantage of him. I don’t have a two-way relationship with God, in which we both give and take. No, he does all the giving and I do all the taking. The reason it is more blessed to give than receive is because it is a model of my relationship with God. God does all the giving and I do all the receiving. There is no bartering with God. I don’t offer him two weeks of prayer and obedience in exchange for two weeks of blessing. I come to God a dirty beggar with empty hands. I leave a son loaded down with blessing. I come to God thirsty and spiritually dehydrated and leave refreshed and overflowing.” Classic Altrogge. The Kindle edition is currently 99-cents.