It’s that time of year again, so here’s my lists of good books I’m recommend for the coming year, for disciples of Jesus. These are books that I’ve found helpful in 2022. You’ll find a breadth of themes written by authors from a variety of backgrounds.
This is the first of two lists that I produce annually at this time of year. This is my Discipleship List, posted here on my Discipleship Blog: matthewporter.blog. The second list is for leaders, and is posted on my Leadership Blog: churchleaders.blog.
So here we go.
1. Preston Sprinkle: Scandalous Grace
Preston Sprinkle (yes, that’s his name) has updated his well-written book about God’s grace. Having read Sprinkle’s books on transgender matters (‘Embodied’) and gay sexuality (‘People to be Loved’) I was keen to read what he said about grace. This is great for new believers and also the kind of thing you could give to someone thinking about following Jesus, unpacking the radical love of God, seen in Christ.
2. Leah McFall: More>Trust
Subtitled ‘Giving Our Dreams to the Trustworthy One’ Leah McFall tells her story of coming to fame through The Voice in 2013, and how she learned through the ups and downs of the entertainment world to trust God. She writes honestly and with vulnerability, exploring how to trust God through hiddenness, disappointment, risk and reward.
3. Wendell Berry: The World-Ending Fire
Wendell Berry is a novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic and farmer from Kentucky USA. Now in his late 80’s, Berry deeply impacted the late Eugene Peterson and his writing is seen by many as powerful and prophetic. If you’re new to Berry this is a good starter, with it being a collection of essays covering a range of issues. Having spent some time in Kentucky in recent years, I read this book with interest and will certainly be exploring more of his writing in the coming years.
4. Marilynne Robinson, Home
I’m a late starter to Robinson. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for her book Gilead, which I enjoyed before lock-down. This 2009 work entitled Home is a simple and powerful novel about Gloria, and Jack, two grown-up children of a retired and aged minister, who return home. It’s a thoughtful book about families, love, shame, death and faith.
5. Adam Shoals, Against the North
Adam Shoals is described as ‘Canada’s Indiana Jones’. When he ventured into one of the largest unexplored areas of wilderness on the planet he hoped to set foot where no one had ever gone before. What he discovered surprised even him. This is not a Christian book but it is a book about adventure, risk, and becoming an explorer. For followers of Jesus wanting to understand what it is to walk in faith, we need to learn from explorers like Shoals. I picked this up in Canada in September and read it while camping in the Rockies. It was the perfect book for such an incredible setting.
6. Corrie ten Boom: The Hiding Place
I saw the film of this book when I was a boy, but had never read the book so I decided to read it this year. Incredible! Corrie ten Boom’s family sheltered persecuted Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Then a trap brought about the family’s arrest and Corrie and her sister were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. It’s a gripping and courageous story of faith, hope and courageous love, and of finding God’s presence in the darkest of days.
7. Paul E. Miller: A Praying Life
Sam, my wife, read this book three years ago and recommended it to me. I read it this year, and found it such a helpful book on prayer. Miller acknowledges that many followers of Jesus find praying hard, so in this honest book he invites readers to begin a conversation with the Lord and develop a prayerfulness that is trusting and true.
8. Elizabeth Strout: Lucy by the Sea
I’ve become a big fan of Elizabeth Strout. I find her style of writing so easy to read and yet deeply engaging. She understands how people think. All her novels interconnect, although you could just read one on its own and still enjoy it. This is her latest offering describing what Lucy Barton got up to when she moved to the coast at the start of Covid lock-down. It evokes the fragility and uncertainty of the recent past, as well as the possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire.
9. Philip Yancey: What’s So Amazing about Grace
I first read this wonderful book about God’s love twenty years ago. I re-read it last summer (along with Sprinkle’s book) after a powerful dream I had about grace. There’s some translation to do from US culture to the UK, but nevertheless this is still an important book, describing what Yancey calls ‘the most powerful force in the universe and our only hope for love and forgiveness.’
10. The Bible
While I’ve enjoyed all these books, and others too in 2022, the most important book I’ve read this year is the Bible. I read it every day. It feeds my heart and soul. If you want to grow as a missional disciple of Jesus, read this book above all others. And as you read it, let it read you.
Happy Christmas everyone!