The books I completed during 2016:
- Jason Roberts, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became the World’s Greatest Traveler
- J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle (including the full text of the first edition of Ryle’s, Holiness)
- C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
- Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism
- Sarah L. Delaney and A. Elizabeth Delaney with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years
- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (part 1)
- Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors
- Warren and David Wiersbe, Ministering to the Mourning: A Practical Guide for Pastors, Church Leaders, and Other Caregivers
- Vaughan Roberts, True Friendship: Walking Shoulder to Shoulder
- Joseph Epstein, Envy
- Michael Emerson & Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
- Devery S. Anderson, Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement
- Don and Petie Kladstrup, Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure
- Shelby Steele, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air
- Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters
- Thomas Watson, A Treatise on Meditation
- Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman
- Gene Dattel, Cotton and Race in the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power
- Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers
- Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
- Timothy & Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
- J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men
- Bram Stoker, Dracula
- Dale Ralph Davis, Slogging Along the Paths of Righteousness: Psalms 13-24
- J.D.Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
- William J. Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice
- Daniel Silva, The Black Widow
- Jane Dawson, John Knox
- Alexander Whyte, Bunyan Characters (volume one)
- Sally Palmer Thomason with Jean Carter Fisher, Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson
- Stuart Stevens, The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football
- Yuval Levin, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism
- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
- Seamus Heaney, The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles’ Antigone
- Heather MacDonald, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe
- Iain H. Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone
- Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- Ian Caldwell, The Fifth Gospel
- Christopher Ash, Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice
- Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures
- Kate Grosmaire, Forgiving My Daughter’s Killer: A True Story of Loss, Faith, and Unexpected Grace
- Thomas Fleming, A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War
- Jonty Rhodes, Covenants Made Simple: Understanding God’s Unfolding Promises to His People
- Ron Rash, One Foot in Eden
- Sean Michael Lucas, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America
- Thomas Murphy, Duties of the Church Member to the Church
- Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965
- Cornell West, Race Matters: With a New Preface
- John E. Ellzey, Yazoo
- The Bible
I enjoy reading. Some books I read because I must. After all, I am a pastor and professor; sermons and lectures must be prepared. But most of the time I read not because I have to but because I want to.
Several books on my list I’ve read before. Every year or two The Pilgrim’s Progress shows up on my list, as do Shakespearean plays. Early in my ministry, I read J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, which profoundly shaped the way I think about this critically important Biblical doctrine, and I have revisited it many times since. In fact, Ryle has influenced me as much as any other evangelical writer. So, this year I eagerly read Ian Murray’s biography of Ryle.
My favorite 2016 read was Jane Dawson’s John Knox. In my opinion, she does for Knox what Bruce Gordon ‘s biography did for Calvin: both authors’ deft use of historical materials and elegant writing present the lives of men who shaped the Reformed and Presbyterian world.
Among books on American culture, three stand out.
Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic demonstrates that much of the polarization of 21st century American political and cultural life has its roots in America’s emergence from the Second World War as the world’s economic powerhouse. Unlike many places in Europe and Asia, our cities were not reduced to rubble. Our manufacturing and industrial products helped to rebuild a war-ravaged world, and led to a period of economic ascendancy that has shaped the aspirations of our nation’s two principal political parties. One longs to return to the postwar conditions that witnessed the rapid expansion of organized labor, social reform legislation, and welfare benefits; the other seeks sustained economic growth that can only be achieved when America dominates global markets. Neither aspiration is possible. Levin argues for the renewal of America’s mediating institutions, those which stand between the individual and government – family, religious institutions, schools, and civic organizations.
During the past few years I’ve done some reading on issues relating to race, policing, and mass incarceration. William Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice has helped me put contemporary issues in their historical, political, constitutional, and legal context. Ghettoside by Jill Leovy – a book I read last year – recounts the tragic murder of a policeman’s son in South Central LA and its aftermath. These two books provide a compelling introduction to very agonizing issues.
Hillbilly Elegy is J.D. Vance’s personal recollection of growing up in a poor white family that joined the Appalachian migration into the American midwest. At places the book is searingly painful to read; at others uproariously funny. This often forgotten culture became a a major part in the successful presidential campaign of Donald Trump. In closely contested midwestern states affected by the migration, Mr. Trump significantly outperformed recent Republican presidential candidates.
Joseph Epstein is my favorite contemporary essayist, and his insightful observations in Envy will serve pastors and counselors well.
I enjoy the occasional snack book; spy and mystery novels are my favorites. Since the death of Tom Clancy, my espionage novelist of choice has been Daniel Silva. I hope at some point to finish all the mysteries of P.D. James.
I serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Yazoo City, Mississippi. I spend a good deal of time in commentaries. Here are my series this year and the commentaries that I have found most helpful: Book I of the Psalms (William Plumer), Matthew (technical, R.T. France/non-technical, Mark Ross), John’s prologue (J.B. Lightfoot), the case laws of Exodus (John Mackay), and Ecclesiastes (Charles Bridges). I also taught an eight-week course on biblical covenants, and found Covenants Made Simple by Jonty Rhodes an accessible introduction that I heartily recommend.
I still get almost all of my news from printed material: The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger, and The Yazoo Herald. Lynne regularly points me to articles in The New York Times.