While, once again, I read fewer books this year. I mostly did so because I read large (and often very dense) novels. For me, it’s about quality not quantity. With that said, these are my best books of 2023:
Best Christian Ministry/Theology Book – Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal by Richard Lovelace. I was turned on to Lovelace’s book by a fellow student during my doctoral studies. I finally got to reading it this year. It’s a wonderful study of how spiritual renewal and revival has happened around the world (beginning with the Reformation) and what factors come to the surface in those movements of the Spirit. It was such an instructive and inspirational read that it became the catalyst for a sermon series at CCCC. Highly recommended for pastors and church planters.
Best Christian Life Book – Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? by Timothy Keller. There is rarely a book Keller publishes that isn’t spectacular. Forgive is no exception. His strength is not only clear exegesis of the relevant passages and theology behind why followers of Jesus should be a people of forgiveness, but the appeal he offers to the reader’s heart as to the benefits of being those who forgive others. Forgiveness and faith are fused together because of the gospel, and Keller both broadens and deepens that understanding in this beautiful work. Incredibly practical and straight-forward.
Best Fiction (Classic) – The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I began 2023 on a Russian literature kick because I wanted to read books known for their soul and gravitas, which ultimately became a Dostoevsky kick. Within the first few months of the year, I read Crime and Punishment, Demons, and The Idiot. Of the three masterworks, I would say that The Idiot stood out the most. It is the story of Prince Lev, a pure-hearted soul, and how the world deals with creatures such as him. In short, how does Christian love fare in the modern world of 19th century Russian? Dostoevsky’s book is both a condemnation on our 21st modern context as well as his own. It’s a heartbreakingly wonderful and thought-provoking work.
Best Fiction (Modern) – True Grit by Charles Portis. When it comes to books, though I’m a huge Texas fan, I’m not particularly a Western lover but a literature lover. In other words, I’m not big on Louis L’Amour but Cormac McCarthy or Larry McMurtry. So, when the two come together (e.g., Lonesome Dove, Blood Meridian, Butcher’s Crossing) it’s my happy place. For years I had seen Portis’ work listed as one of the great contributions of literature which dealt with the West. This year I took the plunge and was rewarded with one of the best books I read all year. True Grit is the story of Mattie Ross, a prim and proper girl who seeks revenge for her father’s death by hiring Marshall “Rooter” Cogburn. The dialogue is perfect pitch, the plot moves effortlessly, the settings are well-fitted, and the themes of right, wrong, and even spirituality are deftly woven through each page. True Grit feels like a perfect book – definitely will become one of my favorites.
Best Non-Fiction – Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution by Gilbert M. Joseph and Jürgen Buchenau. Full disclosure, this is the only non-fiction I read this year, but Joseph and Buchenau’s book about the history of Mexico is fascinating if only to get across the point that this is a country that always seems to be in one revolution or another. For those who are interested in how Mexico got to the place it is today, this book is a great source to find the answer…or should I say, the answers.