Here’s a quick list of my top 10 books of 2021 (plus a few). I’ve reviewed all of them but one, and it’s one I couldn’t resist adding. Here are few books you can spend your Christmas dollars on. Click the pictures to go to Amazon or the publisher’s website, or one of my links to read the review.
Reflect by Thaddeus Williams
Thaddeus Williams shows how we become what we worship, and how the only way to become anything worthwhile is to worship the only One who is worthy. Williams draws in stories and facts from history, poets, philosophers, and theologians. He weaves in good illustrations to carry along his point, and points us to the One who is better all along the way.
Bearing God’s Name by Carmen Joy Imes
This was one of the most enjoyable books I read this year (which may explain why it is near the top). Carmen Joy Imes shows how the command of not taking the Lord’s name in vain has less to do with using his name inappropriately and more to do with representation. God’s people represent God in every action and in every word. Imes shows how this works throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament. Imes focuses on the importance of Sinai (yes, for Christians). Too many Old Testament introductions are snoozefests. But guess what? This book was fun to read. Throughout the book Imes tells personal stories, cracks jokes, and aims to apply Scripture to your heart. This is for the person in the pew wondering what we should do with the Old Testament.
Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey
This is the only book on the list I haven’t reviewed. But honestly, I think we’ve read this to our son at least fifteen times this year, one chapter a day at breakfast. This book retells John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress for children through ten illustrated chapters. It has been his favorite book this year by far. It has been the cause of endless imaginative play against dragons (which is usually me). Children learn that the Christian life isn’t easy after one comes to faith, but they will learn that Jesus is worth the cost.
Part Two has just been released (maybe it will make next year’s list). Check out Lithos Kids on Facebook.
The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter
This was another book I couldn’t stop talking about to Mari. Sandra Richter writes, “The Bible, in all its parts, is intended to communicate to humanity the realities of redemption” (15). Richter’s goal is to clean out the church’s dysfunctional closet—the one full of the Old Testament’s stories, people, and facts—and show how the Bible hangs together. In that (and in many other areas), she succeeds.
Exodus Old and New (ESBT) by L. Michael Morales
I love reading books by Michael Morales. He skillfully shows the depths of Scripture by showing how so much of it is connected. The world is separated from God, living in exile, the realm of death. What we need is an exodus. God made himself known in the first exodus to the world through his plagues, the defeat of the Egyptians, and the rescue of Israel. Yet he spreads his name out even farther through the exodus—the death and resurrection—of Jesus, who saves us from our sins.
God Dwells Among Us (ESBT) by G. K. Beale & Mitchell Kim
This is a toned-down version of G. K. Beale’s beefy The Temple and the Church’s Mission. It has plenty enough content from Beale’s original volume to connect the dots between the testaments while applying the text for you to know why any of this matters at all. The authors skillfully draw out the riches of the OT, and then show how it fills the NT with meaning. It is important to see that believers are God’s true temple, but it is even more important to see the foundation for that from the Old Testament itself.
The goal of this book “is to strengthen biblical conviction for sacrificial mission. When we are motivated to mission through occasional experiences or isolated Bible verses, the springs of such motivation can run dry in the face of costly challenges. Persevering missions demands full-orbed conviction that is born out of careful and prayerful study of God’s Word” (3). This book, a mere 153 pages, will reward you richly.
The Ten Commandments (Christian Essentials) by Peter Leithart
I really enjoy reading Peter Leithart. In this book on the Ten Commandments, he shows how the Ten Commandments are for us Christians today. He shows that neither God’s law nor the commandments were a burden as some may think. Instead they reveal “Yahweh’s character. Like Proverbs, they’re a Father-son talk. The ten new-creative words are designed to form Israel into an image of his Father” (4–5). As he notes, “The Ten Words are a character portrait of Jesus, the Son of God” (6). They point us to God’s good and gracious character that he shows us ultimately in Jesus. We can look to Jesus for the ideal and receive his forgiveness when we fail. Leithart helps us see how the gospel shines an even greater light on the Ten Words and how they apply to all areas of our life.
Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes by Randolph Richards and Richard James
The Scriptures were written within a collectivist world and from collectivist perspectives. That is easy to forget, ignore, or simply not know about for individualists. If we don’t know how these groups lived and thought, we will misread pivotal points of Scripture and miss key elements. This book will help you see the wider panorama of Scripture as it fills in the details we so often glide right over in our reading.
The Wonderful Works of God by Herman Bavinck
This is a systematic theology that is for the church. Bavinck wrote this book in 1909 with an array of people in mind—those going to university, working at the factory, the shop, or the office. Bavinck points you to God and his infinite wisdom and grace and the love he bestows on his people as seen in the death and resurrection of Christ poured out through his Spirit upon us.
Evangelical Theology (2nd ed.) by Michael Bird
A bit longer and a bit easier to read than the above book, Michael Bird revised and updated his Systematic Theology from 2013, with all the wit and candor from before. He’s easy and fun to read, his conclusions are supported with biblical and historical exegesis, and I think he’s right about the Trinity.
Somehow I reviewed 40+ books this year and there were many good contenders, but there has to be a cap somewhere. If you pick up any of these books, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.