January 04, 2019

My Top 10 Books of 2018

I like to read. I love to read. But very rarely am I happy with the amount of time I have to read. Many people are in the same boat, so it's always fun to give my suggestions based on the previous year's reading.

I don't track what all I read in a year, given that I pick up and put down so many books. Sometimes I'm purposely dipping into a section of a longer book, or re-reading a section from an old favorite. And I start countless books and stop-either to begin again later, or to never pick them back up.

This Top 10 list comes with caveats. Obviously it is limited to the books I finished in 2018, of which there were only 28. Second, I'm not including re-reads in the Top 10, otherwise The Great Divorce would likely be the top book. Also, I'm only allowing each author one Top 10 appearance, though Tim Chester and Sherman Alexie probably deserve to appear multiple times. And finally, I'm not counting in any of this the books my wife reads to our family at night, otherwise Anne of Green Gables would be making an appearance. Montgomery is hilarious.


1. Tim Chester, A Meal With Jesus
This book was simply fantastic, and is underlined, dog-eared, and marginally noted to near destruction. Both my wife and I devoured it. (The pun wasn't intended, but it was fitting.) Do you want to be challenged to look at food and your home in ways that are more focused on the gospel and radically self-giving love? This will give you theological footing, and ideas where to get started.


2. Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well
Prior engages the classical virtues and their role in our lives via a discussion of great literature and the role it can play in forming said virtues within us. The entire book is worth reading. However, if you're on the fence, pick it up and read the chapter on Kindness. It's worth the price of the volume.


3. Sherman Alexie, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
Sadly, Sherman Alexie has become better know this year as the one of the many famous men being called out in the #MeToo movement. Be that as it may, he remains one of the most powerful writers I have ever read, and this memoir about himself, his late mother, and their relationship is as powerful as anything he's written. For my more uptight readers, you might want to pass him over due to explicit content. But if you want to think deeply about the complex relationships in your own life, this book will stir you to do so.


4. Steven Rinella, Meat Eater
Don't overlook this if you aren't a hunter. Rinella is a man with a great gift for the keyboard. You'll think though the outdoors and the human interaction with nature from a lens which you likely haven't before, regardless of your background. And if you like a good hunting story, there are plenty of those here, too.


5. P.G. Wodehouse, Leave it to Jeeves
Do you like to laugh? Read Wodehouse. Do you want to laugh so hard your sides feel like splitting open? Read Leave it to Jeeves.


6. Charles Mann, 1491
Here is a long and sprawling book which covers aspects of history, anthropology, and lots of interesting fights recorded in a readable and journalistic style. Mann introduces readers to ideas about the pre-Columbian Western hemisphere, its peoples and climate, that a least for me were fairly unfamiliar. It did what a good book ought to do-left me wanting to know more on the subject.



7. Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych
A burning satire of the sort of life so many of us live. This was my first foray into the Russians, and was certainly rewarding enough to encourage me to pursue further adventures in their novels.



8. Jesse Mecham, You Need a Budget
Of all the books I read this past year, this might be the one which has had the most real-life impact for me. I grew up in home where money was not so much handled as waved at as it flew through the checking account. I have spent the past 10 years or so roughly repeating this cycle in my own life with various cycles of debt thrown in for good measure. I've read plenty of Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett. But Mecham gave me a system that made sense to me and made me feel like budgeting was not only imperative, but achievable. I now have money in my bank account. This book is to thank for that.


9. J.D. Payne, Apostolic Church Planting
I've read a few books on church and church panting this year. Payne's is not wholly unique, but it is refreshingly biblical. In brief fashion, he lays out what he sees as the central tenants of church planting in the New Testament. His central insight is this: new churches should be formed from new believers. As we began our own church planting journey, I was convinced on an intellectual level that he is right. That has since moved to conviction that this is not only descriptively true, but prescriptively as well.



10. Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism
Are you a Christian who feels a nagging sense that you ought to be more open and bold with your faith? Do you feel at the same time that dropping a Romans road in the middle of most of your conversations could be a relationship killer? Newman argues (and shows, so many examples!) a better way. What if you actually just took an interest in people, asked questions so that you could get to know them, and then were honest in your relationship and shared where you were coming from, too? What if you learned to ask questions that opened up conversations instead of shutting them down? A helpful book.


Honorable Mention:
- George Orwell, 1984
- Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult (Read it!)
- Sherman Alexie, The Business of Fancydancing
- C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
- Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church (I was torn about whether this or Meal with Jesus would be the Top 10 nod)
- Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word (Good for guys too!)


Other books I finished this year.
- Luther Standing Bear, Stories of the Sioux
- Karl Wetter, Poems Along the Trail
- Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's Garden of Verses
- C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (the 4th time I've read it; a top 2 Lewis book for me)
- John Stott, The Radical Disciple
- Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church
- Aubrey Malphus, The Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting
- Shakespeare, Hamlet
- Geronimo with S. M. Barrett, Geronimo's Story of His Life
- Stephen Mansfield, Mansfield's Book of Manly Men
- Ernest Loosely, When The Church Was Very Young
- Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life


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I love Jesus, my wife, and my kids. Writing and teaching are two things I have a passion for. Gardening and fishing are cool, too. I blog @ willdole.com, you can reach me @ contact@willdole.com