16 Books from 2016
Earlier this year, when I published 15 Books from 2015, I started a precedent – one that will get harder and harder to accomplish every year! This year, however, the goal is still manageable. The following selections might help you to choose a book for 2017, or at least give you some ideas. Enjoy browsing!
- The Epistle to the Hebrews (John Brown) – John Brown was a pastor, and professor of exegetical theology in Edinburgh. His grandfather, John Brown of Haddington, was a genius who taught himself Greek simply by comparing manuscripts. That genius was passed on to his grandson, and John Brown’s Exposition of Hebrews is filled with insightful, challenging, and edifying thoughts. This book is a treasure worth every penny.
- The 33 Strategies of War (Robert Greene) – I am fascinated by history, especially when I can learn from the mistakes and triumphs of the past. Greene has done us all a service by analyzing scores of military battles and leaders to find the 33 strategies that lead to victory. This book is a real page-turner, filled with interesting anecdotes and practical application. While it is based on mostly military battles, it is applicable to many other aspects of life. Note, however, that Greene is not a Christian. At several points he advocates strategies that are more based on power than piety.
- Strengthsfinder (Tom Rath) – Learning about your own personality is not only interesting, but also practical. Strengthsfinder is based on the premise that recognizing and developing your strengths is just as important as overcoming your weaknesses. The book lists 34 strengths, describes each of them, and lists action steps to help you capitalize on those strengths. There is also a single-use online assessment that will identify your top five strengths. Since this assessment considerably inflates the price of the book (and you can probably identify them yourself), I recommend purchasing a copy with an already-used survey code.
- This Passing Fog (Amy Pentimone) – My sister Amy is a great writer, and this is her first book. Filled with short stories and poems, it presents an artistic and thoughtful approach to life. I had the pleasure of reading a proof copy since the book is not yet available for purchase. In the meantime, check out her website at ArtOfThisLife.Wordpress.com. It is filled with her other writings, and she will keep you updated on when the book becomes available.
- We Die Alone (David Howarth & Stephen Ambrose) – What happens when a single Norwegian freedom fighter finds himself trapped in Nazi territory north of the Arctic circle, on the run for his life? This book describes the fascinating and almost unbelievable account of a true story. Sometimes nonfiction is more astonishing and unbelievable than fiction. This is perhaps the most thrilling adventure book I have ever read.
- Missions in the Third Millennium (Stan Guthrie) – This is an outdated book, but it still provides useful information for anyone interested in missions. Organized into four sections (the home arena, the strategic arena, the overseas church arena, and global culture), the book lists out 21 trends in missions. It covers such topics as mission agencies, women in missions, the 10/40 window, prayer as mission, and religious persecution. While the figures are somewhat outdated, the trends remain current, and the overview is both balanced and insightful.
- Congo: The Epic History of a People (David van Reybrouck) – This is the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – a failed nation-state that has been plunged in war or despotism for most of its history. Beginning with the vicious reign of Leopold of Belgium to the more recent ‘African World War’ that claimed between 2.7-5.4 million lives, the Congo has suffered tremendously while the rest of the world virtually ignores the situation. This book is a fascinating read, combining both history and oral accounts.
- Storm of Steel (Ernst Junger) – There are few accounts of soldiers from the First World War. Junger’s account as a storm trooper in the trenches of the western front provides a powerful and poignant view of the war from an interesting perspective. Most surprisingly, Junger did not view the war as a terrible catastrophe for humanity – he rather views it as cleansing of the moral world, a great challenge to counteract the growing sloth and indifference of civilization. While he describes the war and its horrors clearly, his nationalistic, pro-war sentiment makes this a less popular account, since it contradicts the standard view of the conflict as purely evil.
- A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (John Gill) – While I have not finished this book (my goal for this year is simply the first section of this book), I still find it useful. It is good to be reminded of theology as a system: this trains the mind to think theologically and logically. John Gill was not only one of the greatest Baptist theologians, he was also one of the primary influences in the ministry of Charles Spurgeon. His writing is detailed and challenging, but still clear and logical.
- Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (Michael Hyatt) – Everything that Michael Hyatt publishes seems to be worth looking at. Platform is no different – it is the definitive to guide to increasing and using your ‘platform’ to spread your message. This is an essential book for bloggers, writers, pastors, business leaders, and anyone else who wishes to spread their message.
- The Basics of Biblical Hebrew (Pratico and Van Pelt) – I can’t tell you how many books I have purchased in my effort to learn Biblical Hebrew. Finally I came across this book, which explains what it needs to and clearly works through all the essential concepts. I highly recommend it as a textbook, especially for those who are studying on their own.
- Losing the War (Lee Sandlin) – Technically this is not a book but a very long essay. Sandlin’s summary of World War II is superbly written, poignant, and fascinating. You can read it in a few hours, and it also functions as an example of a very well-written essay.
- Unbeatable Mind (Mark Divine) – I have a sort of love-hate relationship with this book. On the positive side, I am incredibly grateful that someone has finally described the mindset of Navy SEALS. The information this book contains is practical and applicable to any one – as the subtitle says, it tells you how to ‘forge resiliency and mental toughness to succeed at an elite level.’ Rather than deal with vague generalities, this book provides practical applications. Negatively, this book is poorly written, sometimes lacks useful explanation, and was certainly not written by a Christian.
- The Bible or the Axe (William Levi) – South Sudan, one of the newest nations of the world, was once oppressed by the Muslim dictatorship of Sudan. William Levi’s autobiography describes the challenges and persecutions that many of our fellow Christians face throughout the world. I’ve had the pleasure to meet Mr. Levi several times, and appreciate his ministry to South Sudan, Operation Nehemiah Missions.
- Hero of Hacksaw Ridge (Booton Herndon) – You may have heard of Hacksaw Ridge as a new WWII movie about a conscientious objector who gallantly saved scores of lives during the vicious battle of Okinawa. While I haven’t watched the movie (I am told that it is incredibly violent), this short book explains how a medic who refused to touch a gun received the Medal of Honor. While the narrative is interesting, the book is written from a strongly Seventh-Day Adventist view – one that I stoutly disagree with. Much of the book describes Adventist views, but never did I pick up any description of the Gospel.
- Baghdad ER: 15 Minutes (Todd Baker) – A friend at work gave me this book, the recollections of a US army doctor stationed in Baghdad. While I found some of it interesting, I readily admit that this is not a book that most people will value. It is often tedious, filled with technical medical descriptions, and no discernable plotline. It did remind me of the thrill of ER work, but I disliked some of the language and the rather condescending attitude of the author.