Recommended books from 2019

Recommended books from 2019

I love reading. Reading good books stretches the mind, makes you think about things you otherwise wouldn’t, and sharpens your thinking. This time of year, perhaps you have a little more time to read. Here are some brief reviews of books I have found helpful in the past year for different reasons.

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The 10 commandments, Kevin deYoung

I read everything Kevin deYoung writes. He writes on important topics and does so in a way that is clear, simple and engaging. This book was no exception. Many don’t know what to do with the 10 commandments. Are they for today? What are we supposed to do with things like the Sabbath? Hasn’t Jesus done away with all of these restrictions? It’s a simple read, it holds to the historical view of the commandments, and it is full of winsome application. And, as a bonus, it’s not that long!

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi

This book has been out for some years, but I only got around to reading it in the past year. It is the autobiography of Nabeel Qureshi, who grew up in a conservative and committed Muslim household only to have his faith challenged at university. As someone who knows quite a few ex-Muslims, I wanted to understand the challenges and issues better, and this is the most accessible place to go. God was kind to Nabeel and worked especially through a close friend he made at university, challenging his thinking and his theology. If you would like to know more about the issues that matter to Muslim people and the challenges Jesus brings, this is a useful read. There is a companion book that deals in more depth with the theological issues at stake as well.

A HARDER (BUT WORTHWHILE) CHRISTIAN BOOK

Theistic evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, J.P. Moreland (ed.), Wayne Grudem (ed.), Christopher Shaw (ed.) and Stephen C. Meyer (ed.)

Evolution has been a challenge to Bible-believing Christians for some centuries now. Many around us just assume evolution answers all the questions as to how we became who we are today. Some Christians have tried to defuse the issue by claiming that God created the world using evolution, so there is no conflict at all. This book deals with that position in depth. Through a large series of articles, some scientific, some philosophical, and some theological, it forcefully makes the point that reconciling Christianity with evolution is not the best way to resolve the conflict. Personally, I learnt a lot by reading this book. The theory of evolution, as it currently stands, has significant problems with it and many non-Christian scientists are moving away from it. If you want to engage with this issue critically and well, I highly recommend this book. It is long and thorough though, not for the faint-hearted.

NON-FICTION SECULAR BOOKS

Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell

This is a recent release and deals with a series of inter-related issues about understanding those we don’t know. Gladwell covers some well-known legal cases and tragic misunderstandings to try to explain why we so often understand others so badly. The truth is that many people don’t react to events as we would do, and body language is often a poor guide to what is happening in someone’s mind. This book is well written, thought-provoking, and easy to read.

Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport

One of Cal Newport’s previous books, Deep Work, was incredibly helpful for me to understand how to be efficient with detailed, creative work. In his most recent book, Newport addresses the addiction that so many of us have: overattachment to our digital devices. Instead of just noting the issues with increasing screen time and ruefully looking to move back to the pre-digital era, the author develops a system for being thoughtful and intentional about how we use our phones and other devices. Too often, we are controlled by our phones, and we don’t make intentional decisions about the best way to use technology to improve our lives. To be honest, some of his suggestions are a little extreme, but perhaps we need some extreme behaviour change in this area — worth a read.

Whether you choose one of these books, or something completely different, read something challenging this Christmas period. Read something that will challenge your thinking or behaviour. Pick a type of book you wouldn’t usually read or engage with a topic you don’t know much about yet.