I got an email from GoodReads the other day, telling me that I’ve read 71 books this year (or 17,823 pages). This got me thinking about the best books I’d read in 2015. I started by trying to make it a ‘top ten’ of some sort, but found that the differences in the books and why I loved them were too vast to feel like any kind of ranking worked. Instead, I’ve simply listed some of my favorites below, sorted by category. Keep in mind that a lot of these could fit in two or more categories, so I did the best I could. I’ve limited this list to non-fiction, for my own ease.
Preston Sprinkle’s Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence
A delve into the biblical arguments for non-violence. Thoroughly researched and convincingly written, Sprinkle does a great job of stating his position while not belittling anyone who stands elsewhere. Easily one of my favorite reads of the year. Also suggested: Brian Zhand’s A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace
Derek Flood’s Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need To Learn To Read The Bible Like Jesus Did
A great read regarding hermeneutics, Flood discusses how we view the Bible through modern lenses, and makes the case for reading it more like Jesus did (while explaining what that means.) He spends a great deal of time on violence in the Bible, arguing against both the tendency to ignore violent passages completely (‘cherry-picking’) and the tendency to celebrate God’s violence (‘violence-loving’), as the subtitle suggests. Also suggested: Peter Enn’s The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It
Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding The Church
Evans’ story (which would also fit nicely in the memoir category) is one that many resonate with, for various reasons. She details her struggles with doubts and finding a place to wrestle with those doubts, all in the accessible manner anyone who’s familiar with Evans’ writing would expect.
N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
Thomas Joiner’s Myths About Suicide
Joiner uses his previous work ‘Why People Die By Suicide’ as the basis for this work, and delves into the many myths and misconceptions around suicidal ideations and actions. Written in a much more accessible way than ‘Why People Die…’ but still backed up with loads of research. I loved this book so much, I publicly stated that if anyone I knew promised to read it, I would buy them a copy. That offer still stands. I wish everyone working in ministry, churches, or any kind of leadership would read this book.
Paul G. Quinnett’s Counseling Suicidal People: A Therapy of Hope
Quinnett uses his decades of experience in counseling to impart some wisdom on how to interact with those considering ending their own life. While the book is mainly written for those in the counseling field (and there are a few sections that are solely applicable to those), the majority of the book is a good read for anyone interacting with those around them struggling. I found myself reading portions aloud to my wife, because I thought there were great insights for her ministry with college students.
Thomas Joiner’s Why People Die By Suicide
Joiner lays out his theory on why people die by suicide. He makes the case that three things are always present in those who complete suicide attempts (two making up much of the reasons behind suicidal desires, and one giving the physical ability to complete such an act.) Backed up with lots of research, which is both a good and bad thing, since it makes it a harder read. You’ll get a basic rundown of the theory in Myths About Suicide, but this one puts the reasoning behind it.
Ta-Nehisi’s Between The World and Me
One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, no synopsis here will do it credit. At a short 152 pages, this book is worth your time.
Kevin Breel’s Boy Meets Depression: or Life Sucks and Then You Live
Breel writes with inspiring honesty about his descent into, and travel back from, Depression. Infused with humor (he is a comedian by trade, after all), he pens a raw and powerful story.
Donald Miller’s Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy
Miller writes with his trademark conversational style, this time tackling our relationships and intimacy. Although I found it emphasizing one person in his life a little much, he makes some good points throughout. Also recommended: Anything else by Donald Miller.
Craig Gross’s Open: What Happens When You Get Real, Get Honest, and Get Accountable
Gross (founder of x3watch) lays out a compelling argument for having honest relationships and people keeping you accountable. He weaves together stories and ideas well, which makes for an easy and enjoyable read.
Note: I’m partway through Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. I’ll likely finish before 2015 ends, but since I’m not done I didn’t feel good including it. From what I’ve read so far, it will make this list easily.
Matthew Paul Turner’s Our Great Big American God: A Short History of our Ever-Growing Deity
If you don’t enjoy things written in a slightly sarcastic tone, don’t read this book. Otherwise, it’s an incredibly fun look at the role God has played in American history, and the role America has played in how we view God. I loved every minute of it. (This could go under Christianity, but is more a fun history book than anything else.)
Jamie Tworkowski’s If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For
Tworkowski’s collection of writings earns a special place on this list, being the only one that could fit into any of these categories. (Some will point out that Christianity is a stretch. While this book certainly doesn’t intend to take any kind of theological stance, I’ve learned as much about loving people from Jamie as I have from anyone else.) This book is the one I was most excited for this year, the one I’ve underlined in the most, and the one I’ve recommended to the most people to read. I’m probably biased, but I love this book. Go read it.