Books / Reading / Reviews / December 24, 2012

My Top Books of 2012

I’m seemingly a day late and a dollar short on this post considering most other “year in review” book posts have been out there for weeks. But hey, I was still reading. This is a list of my favorite reads of 2012, not my favorite books released in 2012. Some are old, some are new, and about all they have in common is that I read them in the past 12 months. They are listed in no particular order. Hope you enjoy this. Happy Christmas Eve.

The Meaning of Marriageby Tim and Kathy Keller

Simply the best book on marriage I have ever read. The Kellers offer a strong defense of marriage in an even handed, balanced, and rationally biblical way. They avoid sounding overly traditional in a way that would undermine their message while also avoiding giving an inch on any biblical points. The most under-rated aspect of the book is its value for single people who are considering marriage, discouraged by the office of marriage, or disinterested in marriage altogether. Simply a phenomenal book.

On the Shoulders of Hobbitsby Lou Markos 

If you are a fan of Tolkien or Lewis, this book well-worth your time. It is an exploration of the values communicated through those authors’s works, but even more so how virtue is communicated through story in general. As a lover of stories, I resonated with this in the same way I did Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories and Lewis’s On Stories. Markos offers a delightful and insightful exploration of great truth in great stories. 

A Praying Lifeby Paul Miller

Miller managed to raise my estimation of prayer while helping me see it as more accessible  This book is deeply personal which makes the theology in it matter so much more. It is not propositional statements and lessons but a genuine narrative of what a praying life is like. It is not mere tips and tactics but a portrait of true connection to God. This was probably the most important book for me to have read this year. 

The Myth of Certaintyby Daniel Taylor

Taylor is a writer, not just a purveyor of truth. He handles truth in a way that resonates and captivates rather than just communicating. This book is a wonderful look at the  questions Christians ask, or ought to be asking, about faith and certainty. Taylor defends faith powerfully even as he undermines certainty. It is a comforting read for those of us who are not content with pat answers but aren’t sure of the real ones all the time. It is a shake-up for the blase, falsely content Christian who has never had the courage or impetus to question any beliefs. In all, Taylor has helped me to think better, believe better, and hopefully write better too. 

Unbrokenby Laura Hillenbrand

Sadly, many amazing non-fiction accounts are undermined by boring writing. Not so the story of Louie Zamperini. Hillenbrand magnificently recounts his story of survival on the high seas and in prison camps and then his rescue from the camps and the rescue of his soul. Zamperini’s irrepressible spirit oozes from the pages and lifts the reader even as he encounters horrific circumstances. This book is a the right combination of character, story, and author.

Gates of Fireby Stephen Pressfield

Stephen Pressfield is a prolific novelist, and I’m not even sure if this is one of his best books. But I loved it. He writes historical fiction with a strong sense of place and circumstance through the unique perspective of his characters. This book is the story of the battle of Thermopylae from the perspective of a servant of the Spartans. It is detailed and rich in description without being cumbersome. And it is exciting. He writes the battle scenes with grim power. I think the highest honor I could give this novel is to say that after reading it I wish I had been one of the 300 defending the gates of fire. 

When Helping Hurtsby Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

Not many books can rightly be called “paradigm shifting”, but this one is. The very premise is a challenging one – do our efforts to help the poor really help, or are they harmful? Corbett and Fikkert lay out a compelling case that everyone is in poverty. Maybe it’s relational poverty with God or others or maybe it’s financial poverty, but everyone is poor. They proceed to map out what it looks like to truly restore the poor, including ourselves. It is a powerful book which I deem essential for any pastor or ministry leader as well as anyone with a mind or heart to help the poor.

The Hunger Games Trilogyby Suzanne Collins

Congrats, you get a 3-for-1 just for making it to the end! This trilogy makes the list on the merit of being the most fun. I found myself sucked into these stories and carried along like no other books I read this year. They are truly gripping, even thrilling. The characters were just the right blend of sympathetic and dastardly. The action was more than exciting. But it was the setting that made these books stand out. From the grim grit of District 12 to the Romanesque splendor and empty pomp of The Capital, the landscape provides a beautiful background on which the story develops. These were eminently enjoyable books.


Jan 21, 2013

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Jan 21, 2013

Great list 🙂
I have a question, what are some of your all time favorite books that you would recommend owning a hard copy? I’m looking to invest in some new books. Thanks!!

    Jan 23, 2013


    That’s a tough question. I have a hard time nailing down my all time favorites because I rarely re-read books. But here is a quick stab at it.

    FICTION: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter series, Peace Like a River, To Kill a Mockingbird

    CHRISTIAN: Anything by Tim Keller, Anything by Daniel Taylor, Anything by C.S. Lewis.

    GENERAL: Switch or Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, Patrick Lencioni’s leadership fables (especially The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting)

    I am sure there are others too, but that’s a starting point.

Jan 23, 2013

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Jan 23, 2013

Thank you so much!! I will look into these. Hey, you didn’t mention your father! 🙂 He is one of my favorite authors!

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