Here are my top
10 9 books. I went with 9 because I mention a bunch of other books that were also my favorite within my brief summaries.
1. Dominion by Tom Holland – This is my favorite book of the year, and also the final book I finished this year. Holland has been one of my favorite, must-read, historians through his work on ancient Sparta, Rome and the rise of Christendom. This one tells a 2,500 year story which demonstrates how Christianity brought a revolution that shaped our entire culture. Holland argues that so much the post-Christian west takes for granted, such as secularism, universal human rights, sexual orientation as a nature and religion as a sphere within the culture are all rooted in Christianity. Its a brilliant book.
2. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson – The third book in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive is fantastic. I’ve read lots of great fantasy this year. A few were rereads (Lord of the Rings, the first few books of the Wheel of Time) while others were series new to me (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Scot Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards) and while I enjoyed many of them, Sanderson’s was my favorite.
3. That All Shall Be Saved by David Bentley Hart – Hart has been one of my favorite theologians for a while. This book is his defense of the hope that all people will ultimately be brought into union with God through Jesus (universal reconciliation). Its not a scholarly book but more a series of reflections. That said, if you want a scholarly book defending the idea, I have to give honorable mention to Ilaria Ramelli and Robin Parry’s two volume history of universal salvation titled A Larger Hope. Those books show that while it is a minority view throughout history, it has surprisingly strong supporters. Hart tends to be a bit in-your-face in his writing, so I would also recommend Brad Jersak’s Her Gates Shall Never Be Shut. Jersak’s is probably the best book if you’re totally new to the idea. Finally, if you like Hart, I read two books of his essays this year and both were brilliant: The Hidden and the Manifest and A Splendid Wickedness.
4. The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby – This is a disturbing, but important, book that tells the history of how Churches in America have been complicit in racism. Along similar lines, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo is a book that is less history and more how this still shows itself today.
5. On the Difficulties of the Church Fathers by Maximus the Confessor – I have been enriched in my thinking and spiritual life by reading through the works of the church fathers. This one was my favorite this year, but I also read writings from Isaac the Syrian, Evagrius Ponticus, Pseudo-Dionysius and Gregory of Nyssa.
6. The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianof – Haidt is a psychologist whose book The Righteous Mind is one of my favorites. This one provides a window into the mindset of Generation Z (iGen) in light of increasing campus protests, calls for safety and the general apparent craziness that has swept our culture in the last couple years.
7. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans – Evans sadly died last spring and this book, her last, is both brilliant and sad. It is brilliant because she is a wonderful writer whose meditations resonate with so many people (including me). It also is sad because I can only imagine the sorts of books she would have written had she been given more time.
8. Becoming by Michelle Obama – Not much to say about this other than its a good memoir about her life, meeting Barak, being first lady and such.
9. Hamilton by Ron Chernow – I got to see Hamilton the musical this year, and it was amazing. Chernow’s book, which inspired the musical, is also pretty great.
Like I said, I am going with 9 instead of 10 since I mentioned other books that would make the list already under my top three. With listing favorite books there are always more!