Some books I read in 2022.
A few comments on a few of the books I finished last year.
It’s been a few years since I put together one of these lists. And since everyone else is doing it, I guess I’ll do it, too. I’m not afraid of the occasional bandwagon — although, my list will pale in comparison to some of those I’ve perused recently. I’ve seen some that tallied over 100 books in a single year, which seems rather insane. But, I suppose, if your schedule allows for such a thing, then, by all means! This drastically shorter list is composed of only ten books which I not only completed this past year but also feel keen on commending to you. Each of these entries I would strongly advocate to take up space on your bookshelf. Also, just so you’re aware, this list has been tabulated alphabetically (by last name), and is, therefore, not meant to understood as a “ranking.” I’ll add a comment or two about each title to whet your appetite.
Christopher Ash’s Trusting God in the Darkness.
There’s a reason why explorations on faith and suffering are among the most popular bookstore items. The ubiquity of suffering and sorrow to the human condition make grasping and understanding the reason for it all among the most coveted carrots after which we all strain. The frustrating part, though, is the simple fact that suffering and sorrow don’t always (if ever) have neat and tidy reasons or explanations that the likes of you and me can comprehend. Very often, the grief of life remains unsolvable. Enter Christopher Ash’s Trusting God in the Darkness: A Guide to Understanding the Book of Job, which is a condensation of his larger commentary on the book of Job. This a very readable, entry-level overview of Job that will certainly invite deep, rich study.
Abraham Booth’s The Death of Legal Hope Life of Evangelical Obedience.
When one thinks of distinguishing between God’s law and God’s gospel, more than likely, one expects the delivery of such a message to come from a Lutheran pastor or scholar. Be that as it may, 18th century Baptist minister and writer Abraham Booth once composed an articulation of law/gospel theology from a distinctly baptistic perspective, entitled, The Death of Legal Hope Life of Evangelical Obedience, and it remains an undiscovered doctrinal treasure. Booth’s aim, among other things, is to thoroughly expound Galatians 2:19, which says, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.” In so doing, he shows how Christ ends the law for those who believe, freeing them to live to God. Any disciple would do well to peruse this one.
Dale Ralph Davis’s 1 Kings & 2 Kings Commentaries.
I wasn’t originally planning on adding any commentaries to this list only because there are so many I’ve read and referenced throughout the year. But I’ll gladly make an exception for anything that Dale Ralph Davis writes. His commentaries on 1 Kings and 2 Kings are among the best Old Testament commentaries I’ve ever read, as he brings his trenchant insight and quick wit to some of the most challenging texts in the biblical canon. The result is the Scripture come alive. Davis’s penetrating exegesis is by no means just for the pastoral professional. (Although, I referenced them extensively when I preached through these books.) These two volumes are both engaging and accessible to any disciple of Christ, making them invaluable pieces of theological faith-building and -broadening. My advice is to grab anything and everything Davis pens.
W. H. T. Dau’s Luther Examined and Reexamined.
I reviewed this one back in March, so I won’t rehash everything here. Needless to say, Dau’s project to examine and re-examine the Catholic broadsides hurled at Luther the reformer and his robust theology should not go unnoticed. Especially since there are many similar pitfalls into which evangelicalism has slid. The passionate invective and stubborn insistence for faith alone, which typifies so much of what Luther accomplished, constitutes much of what the modern church needs to retrieve. Dau’s work seeks to give an honest perspective on Luther the reformer, scholar, rabble-rouser, and man, as he sorts through every cranny of conflict to reveal the Protestant spirit that still lives on to this day, and why that’s a necessary thing.
Gerhard Forde’s Justification by Faith.
There are few writers who possess the theological assertiveness of Lutheran scholar Gerhard Forde. His brief work, Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life, endures as a powder-keg volume that’s loaded with incendiary grace. As is often the case, the bare new justification in Christ is couched with provisos and qualifiers, the likes of which castrate the gospel itself. What Forde does, here, is make quick work of the notion that we can have anything to do with our right standing before God, as he explains that the only reason we’re standing at all is because he made us alive. Otherwise, we’re dead. The freeness of the gospel is the point. Corpses couldn’t do anything with good news that required their input.
Kelly M. Kapic’s Embodied Hope.
Another book on suffering that is both theological and timely is Kelly Kapic’s Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering, which seeks to look at the pains and hurts and troubles of life through the distinctly hopeful lens of God’s gospel. Kapic’s own story of suffering is woven through a dynamic range of discussions personal and communal suffering, and how each one’s experiences are meant to illuminate the suffering God who suffers in solidarity alongside sufferers like you and me. For any pain, acute or chronic, the gospel announces that God himself has become embodied for the express purpose of acquainting himself with our pain, and taking it away for good.
C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed.
One of my favorite reads from last year was one of the last books I finished — that being, C. S. Lewis’s brief exploration of sorrow and suffering in A Grief Observed. This book originates from Lewis’s own journal entries in the wake of losing his beloved wife, Helen Joy. What ensues is a book that is brimming with Lewis’s enduring charm, but also with a rare sense of surprising vulnerability and gut-wrenching honesty. He seems to say what we often feel but are, perhaps, too afraid to express. The briefness of the pages do not, in the slightest, diminish the weightiness of the subject, as each exudes the harrowing heartache with which we are all too familiar: losing a loved one. What you’ll find in A Grief Observed is not only the validation of your troubling sorrow but also a vivid glimpse at the God who meets you there.
Dane Ortlund’s Suprised by Jesus.
A “surprising” read this past year was certainly Dane Ortlund’s Surprised by Jesus: Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels, which, as the title suggests, is a book that’s been compiled from a series lessons on the four New Testament Gospels. To say that Ortlund’s writing has been transformative for me, of late, would be quite an understatement. This continues in Surprise by Jesus, as he mines each of the Gospels for their christological riches, explaining how each presents a unique perspective on the vicarious life and death of the Christ of God. This book is incredibly insightful and readable, and makes for an indispensable resource in anyone’s library.
Carl Trueman’s Reformation.
It is a grave mistake to presume that the need for reformation theology and stubbornness is long since past. Modernity is ripe for another sweeping gospel-centered church movement — and I’m not talking about a movement of cage-stage conferences and platforming preachers. I’m talking about the kind that sweeps the church off its feet with the uncanny news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Such is what theologian and historian Carl R. Trueman advocates for in his collected lectures, entitled, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. These sermons are just what the church needs right now, as they place front-and-center the primacy of Christ alone in all that the church says and does. That, I believe, is the most crucial need in the church of the future: a prevailing stress on proclaiming all things Jesus.
Dave Zahl’s Low Anthropology.
To be honest, I’m saving the majority of my thoughts on my friend Dave Zahl’s newest book, Low Anthropology, for a review on which I’m putting the finishing touches. Suffice to say, though, this book is trenchant and intuitive and thought-provoking, replete with Dave’s particular candor and bent for grace. His previous effort, Seculosity, was, for me, a ground-breaking read. His most recent endeavor builds upon that effort to great success.
Those are just a few of the books I finished this year. There are several other commentaries I could add, but what were some of your favorites? Have you made a list of books you’d like to read in 2023? Lord willing, this list will be more full come this time next year. Whatever you’re reading, may you find great grace and encouragement along the way.
Grace and peace.
That's a great list. I have been wanting a new Forde, my previous experiences with him are Where God Meets Man, on the dangers of 'climbing' theology and Theology is for Proclaiming, a book even better than its title, and a huge watershed for me in terms of bringing the Mighty Acts of God directly to needy people, so thanks for recommending Justification by Faith.
I'd like to say something about A Grief Observed, but even thinking about it is like a blow to the gut. Imagining being deprived of my wife in the way that Lewis was, of their suffering together after finding such an unlooked for love late in life, and then being left and the feelings of guilt over being unable to comfort her son and my memory of his journals is still so vivid although it's been probably 8 or 10 years since I read it. A must for anyone who counsels the grieving.
Anyway thanks so much for the list.
*edited because I am dumb
Pastor Brad. I’m an old man and an avid reader. I appreciate your recommendations but want to offer the perspective of 78 years. Two truths now dominate my heart and thoughts, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” “To whom will I have regard, to him who is humble, contrite and who trembles at my word.” I have laid aside books - preferring instead The Book.