2010’s Top Ten

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

Reading has gone from an acquired taste, to a personal passion. Those who know me, even casually, know that I can’t get enough of books. Because of this, I’m constantly asked two questions when it comes to reading: 1) Why do I read so much; and 2) What am I reading? Let me address both of these in this blog, spending the bulk of my time on the second question.

Why do I read so much? Because I have to as a matter of professional survival, and also because I absolutely enjoy it. Someone once said that preaching can be compared to cutting the grass every week. A sermon (especially a good one) is like a freshly mowed lawn, you can only pause and enjoy it for so long, until it’s time to think about cutting the grass again next week. Preaching week to week is both an incredible joy, and an incredible burden, and I’ve found that reading widely and regularly deepens the well that God can pull from for illustrations, analogies, and other tid-bits to help illumine His timeless truth for His people. Now don’t misunderstand me, if you’ve heard my preaching you know that illustrations and quotes are never substitutes for the meat of the Word, instead they serve as spices and quick dashes of seasoning to flavor the message in such a way that it becomes palatable to the hearers.

Not only does reading help me in my quest for illustrations, but the right kind of reading stretches my mind and thinking, making me a better intellectual steward and student of God’s Word. Preaching is leading. When I preach the Word of God I am leading a people in a certain direction. Leadership necessitates being ahead of the people, and reading helps me with this. One of the most tragic things is to see a preacher/leader whose congregation has outgrown him intellectually (among other areas). This always happens because the preacher has stopped learning and growing and reading. You can always spot a preacher who is not a good steward of his mind. Reading helps me to steward the mind that God has entrusted to me well, that’s why I read. If you have any aspirations of preaching the Word of God, you must, by way of survival, become a slave to books. Spurgeon read six books a week. Wesley was an avid reader who chastised young preachers for not reading. Scholar and preacher, Al Mohler, boasts a personal library of over 40,000 books in which he claims to have read them all. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones could be found high up on the ladder in some secluded England bookstore adding to his collection of books. I’ve never read of a preacher whom God used mightily who was not a reader.

So, what books did I read in 2010 that moved me? Here are my top 10 books of 2010, I recommend them highly:

10. The Great Influenza, John M. Barry

I am a student of history. It’s a love of mine, and I found Barry’s book on the flu pandemic of the early 20th century to be both well written and extremely insightful. Pure enjoyment. I also gleaned some illustrations from it as well, like how something so small can be so devastating (ie, sin).

9. The Case for the Real Jesus, Lee Strobel

Since reading the Case for Christ, I’ve become a huge Lee Strobel fan. I love both his investigative approach as a former journalist, along with the apologetic emphasis of the series. Apologetics tends to be my weakness, so I need to constantly read in this area to learn more, and Strobel is helpful, especially for a novice like myself who needs apologetics served to him in very small portions!

8. The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, Derby Applegate

Every year I make sure to read biographies on preachers. Of course I should, and so should you if you’re a preacher. More than that, you should read on anyone who occupies the same profession you do. Enough of that. Beecher was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), and the son of the great preacher Lyman Beecher. Henry was a wildly successful pastor in Brooklyn, and abolitionist. However, he was a heretic who denied the reality of hell, and was also an adulterer, preying on women in his church. This book is fascinating, boiling on the “tabloidish” during the scandal years. What Beecher’s life illustrates is the connection between heresy and sin in the life of the preacher. Fail to preach truth and you’ll inevitably live in falsehood (See my blog on him for more).

7. Generous Justice, Tim Keller

Not his best book, but nonetheless a great one. In this book on “social justice,” Keller reminds us about the mandate on believers to care for the poor, and the disadvantaged. One of my favorite lines in the book, and I paraphrase, is that the righteous person in the Bible is defined as that person who disadvantages himself personally, for the advantage of others/community. That line still messes with me! There are certain books that as I read them my soul is stirred…warmed. This was one of them.

6. The American Plague, Molly Caldwell Crosby

I read two books this year that deal specifically with Memphis, that I wish I would have read before I got here. This one deals with the plague of yellow fever which devastated my city in the 1870’s, and whose effects can still be felt today. Prior to the plague, Memphis was on a par with Atlanta and Nashville in population and prominence. But when the plague hit, 25,000 out of the 40,000 people left, and 13,000 out of the 15,000 remaining one’s died. Memphis has never recovered. Moving.

5. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas

Surprise, surprise, another biography! And this one didn’t disappoint! We’re all acquainted with the great pastor and theologian who died at the hands of Hitler close to the end of WWII. This biography dives into the ethical dilemma of Bonhoeffer’s life- is it right for a follower of Jesus Christ, to take part in an assassination attempt on the life of its leader? This is what Bonhoeffer does. For more on the plot see the movie Valkyrie. Well written!

4. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

I hardly ever read fiction, but I had heard so much about this book that I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did. Set in Jackson, MS during the 1960’s, this book centers around African American domestics and what they really think of the white families they help. This book is so good that it’s being made into a movie.

3. Hellhound on His Trail, Hampton Sides

I had about five guys from my church tell me about this book, and whenever this happens that’s clearly a sign I need to read it. I could not put it down. This is the second book that centers on Memphis- it deals with the stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr, by James Earl Ray. It reads like a novel, but it’s non fiction. Unbelievable is all I can say.

2. Spiritual-Mindedness, John Owen

Outside of the Bible, this was the most spiritually motivating and heart warming book I read this year. I felt so convicted, and inspired in regards to the stewardship of my mind. This is one of those books that I have to return and read again, something I only do with three other books in my library.

1. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand

Best book I’ve ever read outside of the Bible…nuff said!

  1. Chris Hill says:

    Excellent list and will give me some solid suggestions for 2011. Thanks for sharing!

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