Favorite Reads of 2021

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At the end of the year I like to look back at the books I’ve read and pick out my favorites to share. So here are some that blessed and challenged me in special ways. I hope you can find your next read among them!

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund

This book was published in 2020 and was on many favorite lists last year. And, oh, what a lovely book it is. The only thing wrong with this book is that it is not longer! It is a book to be read slowly, one chapter a day, to savor the sweet truths it revealed. Dane goes back to the Puritans, mining their very long books for gems to share with modern readers. Puritans actually did write entire books on one verse of Scripture! That was much easier before the distracted age of the Internet.

The Message of Romans by John Stott

I’m guessing we’d all agree that next to Revelation, Romans is one of the most challenging—and important—books of the Bible. This year I am participating in a Precepts Bible study on Romans, and looking for a good resource, I chose this one by John Stott. I could not have been happier with my choice. His outline helped me enormously to see the flow of Paul’s thought. I was really impressed when I later read Romans 1-7 for You by Tim Keller and discovered that he quoted Stott extensively. I suspect he would rate this commentary highly also!

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey describes this as the book he was waiting all his life to write. It is the intimate and at times heartbreaking story of growing up with his older brother in a legalistic and racist church in the South with a mentally unbalanced mother. His mother teaches Bible classes to other people’s children and beats her own at home. Yancey’s talented brother is driven further and further into darkness, but somehow Philip is able to go another direction by following “where the light fell.” Reading this book will make you grateful for the light of Christ that shines in the darkness.

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

I’ve read a number of overviews of church history, but this is like none of them. It isn’t intended to be a comprehensive history, but instead, Dickerson highlights certain individuals and events to draw out misunderstandings and half truths about the role of the church commonly held today. By doing this, he is able to set these events and pictures into a bigger picture by providing fuller context and pointing to positive influences that were sometimes obscured by the shadow of evil. This book provides the kind of information that is helpful in explaining the somewhat checkered history of the church in the eyes of the modern world.

Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus by Laura M Fabrycky

Laura spends 3 years in Berlin when her husband, a US diplomat, is stationed there and becomes a guide at the Bonhoeffer family home, now a museum. This book chronicles her observations about what she learned by delving into Bonhoeffer’s life. His life offers much to admire, but Lara tries to get beneath the surface to discover principles that she can apply to her own experience. All of these “keys” are helpful as we look at the small decisions that can have lasting effects on a life well-lived. Laura’s style is personal and engaging, and she draws you into her discoveries over her three yeas of serving.

A Burning in My Bones by Winn Collier

 A Long Obedience in the Same Direction is the only book by Eugene Peterson that I have read, and I found a lot of value in it. So when I read about the release of his authorized biography written by Winn Collier, I decided to find out more about this man who influenced so many. I enjoyed looking at the life of a man who was anything but a celebrity pastor, especially in light of the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, which deconstructs the fate of a celebrity pastor who refused to submit to any authority. Eugene Peterson was cut from entirely different cloth.

This book is hard to categorize, just as the author is hard to categorize. Andrew is a writer of children’s fantasy, a song writer, an artist, and a cultivator of community and gardens. All these talents are woven together in the making of this book. He describes the experiences that have shaped his creative talent and the restorative solace he finds in nature in ways that will immediately make you want to go outside, and his writing is tinged with poetry throughout.

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

In this book, Gladwell examines how the development of precision bombing led to devastating destruction in WWII. While the topic seems grim, I have learned to read anything that Malcolm Gladwell writes. He has the particular kind of curiosity that uncovers hidden truths and principles in unexpected places. Also, this book needs to be listened to rather than read. It is a sort of cutting-edge combination of media styles, with narration, and many live interviews.

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

This is the first year I decided to pursue reading poetry on a regular basis. This delightful volume of 200 poems from across Oliver’s career was my companion for most of the year. I never failed to be touched when I dipped into it. Oliver’s poetry tenderly reflects her love of her natural surroundings and her ability to see the connections of life.

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