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My Top Books of 2013

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2013 was a great year for Christian readers, and today I want to share some of my top picks from the year that is swiftly drawing to a close. Let me offer a few caveats: First, these are almost certainly not the 8 best books of 2013 in any objective sense; rather, they are my favorites, the ones that have remained in my mind and impacted my life since I read them. Second, these are not necessarily books published in 2013, but books I read in 2013. Third, they are in no particular order. And finally, at the request of several readers I am posting this list before the end of the year because some people would like to refer to it as they do their Christmas shopping. Enjoy!

Finally FreeFinally Free by Heath Lambert. I consider pornography the foremost pastoral issue of our time. Finally Free is a very powerful and helpful resource for dealing with it. Lambert sets his sights high, and succeeds well: “In this book, I want to share with you the amazing depth and effect of Christ’s power to eradicate pornography from your life. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone who struggles, I have good news for you: no matter how intense or long-standing the struggle, it is the work of Jesus Christ to set people free from such sin.” Buy it, read it, live it. (my review)

Fierce WomenFierce Women by Kimberly Wagner. Biblical womanhood is a controversial topic among Christians today, and too often the descriptions of what we mean by it turn out to be mere caricatures. What I enjoyed about Wagner’s book is her vision of the women who are not wimpy but fierce. She writes about the beauty of fierceness, the beauty of strong women who use their strength to honor the Lord by honoring their husbands. (my review)

Resisting GossipResisting Gossip by Matthew Mitchell. Considering its power, its prevalence and its destructive nature, too few books have been written on the subject of gossip. Throughout this book Mitchell remains firmly grounded in Scripture and rigidly opposed to easy or moralistic or legalistic solutions. The fact is that gossip has no easy solution—it took the death and resurrection of Jesus to forgive it and it takes continually returning to the death and resurrection of Jesus to overcome it. This is a book that will benefit any reader and any church and I have referred to it often since reading it. (my review)

Meaning of SexWhat Is the Meaning of Sex? by Denny Burk. This book provides a wide-ranging treatment of what the Bible says about sex and sexuality. This is not a guide to a better marriage and certainly not a bedroom how-to. Instead, it is a book that addresses sex in the big picture—the biggest possible picture—by discovering the ultimate purpose for sex and, from there, its many implications. It’s timely, helpful and drenched in Scripture. (my review)

Love Into LightLove Into Light by Peter Hubbard. If pornography is the number one pastoral issue of our day, I would suggest that homosexuality is the number one cultural issue we are facing. We need to be honest and say that Christians have often done very poorly in facing this issue. Thankfully we now have several excellent resources to help guide our thoughts and discussion. I place Love Into Light very near the top of that list. This is a book that will shape the Christian’s thinking, that will apply the gospel, that will be a blessing. It is kind, it is biblical, it is pastoral, and it receives my highest recommendation. (my review)

Not By SightNot By Sight by Jon Bloom. This is a book about walking by faith. It is a fresh look at familiar old stories drawn mostly from the New Testament but occasionally from the Old as well. It is one of those books that snuck up on me, and that blessed me far more than I had expected. I don’t know how to make it sound exciting when I describe it, so suggest you just buy it and give it a read. You’ll be glad you did! It is written in small chapters, so an ideal book to read a few pages at a time. (my review)

DesperateDesperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. If motherhood is so good, so desirable, so obviously the will of God, then why does it have to be so difficult? Why does it feel so unfulfilling? This was Sarah Mae’s question as she faced another day of caring for her children after yet another sleepless night—one of those days where she was just too tired and too worn out to be a mom. This book is a collaboration between Mae and her mentor, Sally Clarkson. It is real and raw. I have no first-hand experience of motherhood, but what I can testify is that the questions Mae poses are the very ones that Aileen and I have discussed so many times. Almost every area of concern and frustration is here, and so too, are compassionate, Bible-based answers. (my review)

Humble OrthodoxyHumble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris. Harris’ desire in this book is to encourage Christians to hold the truth high without putting people down. He calls for Christians to be guided by both truth and love, to be guided in equal measure by orthodoxy and humility, qualities that are complementary, not in opposition to one another. As J.D. Greear says in his foreword, “Getting doctrine right is a matter of life and dead, but holding that doctrine in the right spirit is essential too. A great deal of damage is done by those who hold the truth of Christ with the spirit of Satan.” Amen to that! This is a must-read for anyone who spends significant amounts of time interacting online. It will challenge, rebuke, and encourage. (my review)

Here are a few books I enjoyed that I did not review.

  • The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. A fascinating biography of cancer.
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. This is part one in Morris’ epic trilogy on the life of Roosevelt. I enjoyed every minute of it.
  • The Last Lion: Vision of Glory by William Manchester. This is the first volume of Manchester’s three-volume biography of Winston Churchill. It’s absolutely brilliant.
  • Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss. It’s a little over-done at times, but still a fun read.
  • Quiet by Susan Cain. Here’s one for the introvert in your life.

Finally, here are a couple of “top book” roundups from years gone by: 2012, 2011.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 20)

    A La Carte: How to support the caregivers in your church / What we gain in following Jesus / The way we feel is not necessarily the way it is / The power and danger of habit / The man who introduced American Evangelicals to C.S. Lewis / and more.

  • Do Not Envy the Wicked

    Do You Envy the Wicked?

    It takes a long time for sinful instincts to become pure, for tendencies toward what is evil to be transformed into tendencies toward what is good, lovely, and pleasing to God. The man who quits drugs will still react when he catches a whiff and the woman who gave up alcoholism will still struggle when…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 19)

    A La Carte: The golden rule for hard conversations / Seven reasons you shouldn’t ignore beauty / The early church on entertainment / The uselessness of prayer / A thousand wheels of providence / Impossible, hard, and easy / and more.

  • Our Salvation Through Christ

    This week the blog is sponsored by Moody Publishers and this post is adapted from The Kindness of God by Nate Pickowicz (© 2024). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission. Just like the Old Testament, the New Testament teaches that this wonderful salvation is extended to us as a kindness. Paul opens his letter…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 18)

    A La Carte: The pursuit of (which) happiness? / Don’t hastily choose elders / The evangelistic nature of awe / What you read builds who you are / Till he was strong / A father’s threads of living faith / Logos deals / and more.

  • Lets Hear It For the Second Parents

    Let’s Hear It For the Second Parents

    While today we tend to associate step-parents with divorce, in previous centuries they were almost exclusively associated with death and with either widow- or widowerhood. In an era in which lifespans were shorter and, therefore, a greater number of parents died while their children were still young, there was a distinct and honored role for…