Best Books of 2012

As always, my top list of books is not necessarily books that were published and released in 2012, but simply books I read and enjoyed in 2012.  I decided just to do a top 15 this year instead of splitting it up by genre.  So, while I read several good books that I would recommend this year…out of the 60-some books I made it through, here were my favorites (in no particular order):

Elmer Gantry – Sinclair Lewis
If you’re in ministry, stop everything and read this book. Not only is it an entertaining and captivating read, it cuts at the heart of false motivations for ministry and shamelessly slashes the hypocrisy and temptations that leaders face. I would require this of any student pursuing ministry.

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
The depth and complexity with which Dostoevsky is able to pierce the human heart and psyche is always stunning. This is a beautiful novel of paranoia, guilt, and ultimately repentance. Highly recommend!

The Leader’s Journey; Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation – Jim Herrington
This is perhaps the most important book I read this year in regard to pastoral ministry. Written from a family systems therapy perspective, this is a great read about systems, self-differentiation, and establishing a healthy culture. This helped me deal with conflict in a healthy way this year in some amazing ways.

The Bible Made Impossible; Why Biblicism Is Not Truly an Evangelical Reading of Scripture – Christian Smith
While I’ve written a LONG critique of this book here and see flaws in Smith’s argument, I enjoyed the challenge and think his assessment is accurate in many helpful ways.

God Behaving Badly; Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist, and Racist? – David Lamb
Very readable, accessible, and honest book that examines this so-called disparity between the “God of the Old Testament” and Jesus.

The Glorious Ruin; How Suffering Sets You Free – Tullian Tchividijian
This will be a book I recommend for anyone who is experiencing ongoing suffering. I wish I would have had this book a year ago. Wonderful approach to suffering that excludes minimizing or moralizing it.

The End of Sexual Identity – Jenell Williams Paris
A needed and crucial resource for how to speak and think about the complexity of our sexuality.

The Sacred Wilderness of Pastora Ministry – David Rohrer
Written using John the Baptist as a model for ministry, this one really resonated in the same way that Eugene Peterson resonates with me. I was encouraged.

The Truth About Leadership – James Kouzes and Barry Posner
I usually HATE leadership books, but this was is refreshingly simple and encouraging.

The Meaning of Marriage – Tim Keller
While I don’t come from a complemtarian perspective personally, I found a LOT of value and wisdom in the Keller’s take on marriage. This will definitely be a pre-marital/marital counseling book that I use. One of the best books on marriage I have read.

Speaking of Dying; Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death – Fred Craddock, Dale and Joy Goldsmith
Why is the church so able to talk about death, but not about the process of dying? What do we do when we find out that someone is actively dying? We usually don’t do anything. The church is at a loss for how to help someone to die well. This is a good start.

Abba’s Child – Brennan Manning
Chapter 2, The Impostor wrecked me (in a good way). Beautiful. Maybe Manning’s best.

The Road Trip that Changed the World – Mark Sayers
Brilliant critique of our culture’s obsession with the idea of “life as a journey” as influenced by Kerouac (and others) and how that negatively impacts the church.

The Doors of the Sea; Where Was God in the Tsunami? – David Hart Bentley
You would think 100 page book would be quick and easy. Not this one. This one is dense but enlightening. This helps me better understand my ever-increasing distance with Calvinist theology and meticulous providence.

My God and I; a Spiritual Memoir – Lewis Smedes
I love Lewis Smedes. This is a powerful and honest reflection on his life. At one point while reading it, I almost cried on the bus on my way to jury duty and I’m not a crier.


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