My Year in Books 

I listened to a sermon recently that bemoaned the decline of reading amongst not simply the modern person, but the modern Christian. The speaker suggested that our inability to think critically is linked to the declining rates of reading amongst almost all age groups and education levels.  

As Christians, we simply cannot get by without reading. After all, God has supremely revealed himself to us in his Son, the Lord Jesus (Heb. 1:1-2), whom we find in the pages of the Bible (Jn. 5:39-40). If you are not already, can I implore you to read the Bible. Perhaps start with Genesis or the Gospel of John. Can I also encourage you to read good works of theology and Christian living. Can I encourage you to read autobiographies, fiction, non-fiction. Anything that helps you to know God more deeply and worship him more fully. Below is a list of good books I read this year which I found stimulating, enjoyable, and helpful, and which I commend to you. 

Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough 

You’d think a book that highlights the dark reality of our inevitable death would be depressing and discouraging. Truth be told, it’s the opposite. As McCullough persuasively demonstrates throughout this unique book, “…honesty about death brings hope to life”. This book will help you to feel the weight of your creatureliness and life’s brevity but also help you to truly see the glory of God’s promises to us in Christ.  

Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners by Dane C. Ortlund 

How do Christians grow? This is the question at the heart of this helpful and hopeful book. Without being simplistic or reductionistic, Ortlund artfully demonstrates that sanctification is not mainly a matter of doing more or being better, but going deeper into Christ and the glorious truths of the gospel. Highly recommended. 

Perfect Sinners: See yourself as God sees you by Matt Fuller 

Are you a wretched sinner or a dearly loved child of God? Or both? Fuller helpfully explores and explains this Scriptural tension by distinguishing between our “status” before God and our “walk” with him. With each chapter posing an important question (e.g., How can God love me when he hates sin?, Does God’s love for me vary?, Should I ever feel guilty?, etc.), Fuller provides practical insights that will help us to live a healthy, balanced Christian life and to see ourselves as God sees us. 

Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look at the Good and Evil of Christian History  by John Dickson 

For many Australians the failings of the Christian church are one of the biggest barriers to belief in Jesus. The scars of violence, racism, and abuse perpetrated by those who claim the name of Jesus run deep. Rather than avoid the skeletons in our collective closet, Dickson swings open the door to drag them into the light, even if it’s uncomfortable and confronting at times. Tracing the storyline of the church from the Sermon on the Mount to modern day, Dickson helps us to recognise both the good and bad in our history as well as inspiring us to live up to the ideal given to us by Christ. This would be a great book to give someone who has written off the church and Christianity as hopelessly and irretrievably corrupted. There’s more to the story, as Dickson masterfully demonstrates. 

Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation by Collin Hansen 

There is perhaps no other person (at least from afar) who has had a more pervasive and important influence on my spiritual and intellectual formation than Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York and prolific author. This is probably why I found it particularly fascinating and illuminating to explore the people, places, events, and books that influenced and shaped Tim himself, who passed away earlier this year.  

The Boy Behind the Curtain by Tim Winton 

I have read most of Tim Winton’s novels and loved most of them. This autobiographical account gives a glimpse ‘behind the curtain’ into the life of this Australian literary legend. I particularly loved the chapters on Winton’s boyhood experiences growing up in Australia, the process of writing his books, and his conversion to Christianity and his ongoing experience with the church. 

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton 

There are some books you will never forget. This is one of them. Owing to a tragic mix of poverty, racism, and mistaken identity, Anthony Ray Hinton was wrongfully imprisoned on death row for 30 years, sentenced to death by electrocution. Hinton had every reason to descend into a hopeless quagmire of bitterness and resentment, but instead found a way over time to become an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Unputdownable. 

And a few more of my favourite things from 2023: 

  • Take Heart: Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith by David Powlison (book) 
  • The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill (podcast) 
  • Reconstructing Faith with Trevin Wax (podcast) 
  • Ordinary Ways by Jon Guerra (album) 
  • Javelin by Sufjan Stevens (album) 

With you on the journey,