For some reason, 2011 seemed to end up being the Year of the Biography for me. Eight of the 15 books below are either biographical or auto-biographical (and there's a ninth if I include Kendall's devotional book on the life of Joseph). I guess that's because when I'm not reading something devotional or theological, I tend to gravitate toward historical books, which are often about people rather than about events.
Apart from all the books listed here, I also read the Bible through each year. I believe the Bible is God's inspired Word to us, and of all the things I read, I see the Bible as what is most essential for me to be feeding on.
Perhaps there's a book listed here that you'd enjoy reading. And please feel free to leave a comment if there's a book you'd like to recommend that I read in 2012. Just please be patient with me, as I've already got a few books on my shelf that are waiting to be read!
- Filling up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper. This book was given to me as a gift, and I'm glad it was. It tells the stories of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson and John Paton, and of the price they paid to bring the Gospel to the nations. Their stories put life in a right perspective. The introduction alone has been enough to get my attention and to challenge any self-pity that's slinking around in my heart!
- Release the Power of Jesus by Bill Johnson. I read this during a week of prayer and fasting at my church. Whatever you might think of Bill Johnson, I find my faith increases as I consider the insights he shares in his books. This particular book addresses the power in recalling and recounting the works of God in our lives, which build faith for God to do even more.
- The Roots Of Endurance by John Piper. Having really enjoyed and having been greatly challenged by another biographical book, Filling up the Afflictions of Christ (see above), I chose this book to be the next book I read while walking the treadmill. That way I get changed in more ways than one while doing my exercise! Piper has done an amazing job in this series, The Swans are not Silent, of summarizing the stories of godly saints that have faithfully gone before us and of making the themes of their lives so applicable to our own.
- Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda. I received this book as an unexpected birthday gift due to a fascination I've long had with T.E. Lawrence's experiences in Arabia. Though I certainly don't personally consider T.E. Lawrence a "hero" (as he seemed a very strange man in many respects), I have appreciated how thoroughly he became enculturated into Arab culture out of a somewhat distorted desire to help them to make a unified nation of themselves. The book was as much about WWI and the formation of the Middle East after WWI as about Lawrence, and I found it very readable and informative.
- Thanking God by R.T. Kendall. My pastor recommended this book to me -- and when your pastor recommends a book to you, well, I figure I'd better read it! In actual fact though, I really wanted to read it. Gratitude has not been a strong suit in my life and I believe I need to grow in it. And in the same way that this book has been a wonderful inspiration to many in this regard, God has used the lessons it contains to stir me to becoming more consistently and deliberately thankful!
- The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott. This book has been described as "a great achievement" and "the work of a lifetime" as it digs deep into the truths of a pivotal moment in history that I'm sure anyone would benefit from understanding more fully. But what excited me most about this book was that John Stott does far more than simply explain doctrine. As he unpacks what was accomplished by Christ's death on the cross, he emphasizes "the heart of the cross" and all it achieved, and what all that can and should mean, right now, in my heart and in my everyday Christian life.
- Mugged by a Moose, edited by Matt Jackson. I was looking in a used bookstore for something light to read during a summer holiday and found this -- 23 short stories written about other people's holidays and travels. Some were funny, some inspiring, and others just made me shrug. But it was interesting to read of some of the crazy adventures some people ended up in.
- Design Basics Index by Jim Krause. My wife Fiona took a chance and bought this for me as a Father's Day gift, and I really liked it! It's written for graphic designers to help with designing compositions and with selecting and appropriately placing components for their projects. Problem is, I'm just a wanna-be graphic designer, and even that's probably an overstatement. But I do like playing with desktop publishing projects and this gave me lots of input on how to do that better.
- Lost Victories: The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson by Bevin Alexander. I picked this up in a used bookstore while I was on summer holidays. I'm fascinated by American Civil War history, and have long admired Stonewall Jackson as an exceptional general who fought in that war. Though this book may give him a little too much credit with a whole lot of would'a, could'a, should'a kind of talk, it still provides a valuable glimpse of a great general.
- The Story of John G. Paton: Thirty Years among South Sea Cannibals by James Paton. John Paton was a nineteenth century missionary to the New Hebrides islands in the South Pacific. His deep trust in God as he repeatedly risked his life, losing loved ones to illness and enduring tremendous hardships for many years in order to bring the hope of the Gospel to a needy people is a highly inspirational read in this comfort-oriented day and age. I found myself getting a bit choked up at parts to do with the eagerness with which some of those island people eventually received the Gospel.
- Six months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a war-torn Village by James Maskalyk. How often does one discover a book in a used bookstore about a Canadian man who recently spent six months serving with an NGO in a dangerous border town between north and south Sudan? I couldn't resist buying it, and found myself quickly drawn into the narrative of his time there. It was quite an intense book. At times painful to read, but always drawing you closer to the people who lived and died in that tiny place so far away. It's not the first book about Sudan that I've read, and I know it won't be the last.
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. I first discovered this book as I was considering going to a conference on prayer at John Piper's church in Minneapolis, and when it turned out that I couldn't attend, I decided to simply buy the book that one of the conference speakers had written. Not only was it recommended on the blog of Desiring God Ministries, but both my wife Fiona and I have found it to be one of the most honest and helpful books we've read on the topic of prayer.
- God Meant it for Good: A Fresh Look at the Life of Joseph by R.T. Kendall. This book really puts life in the right perspective! I think this is R.T. Kendall's best book! The title of this book is what Joseph said to his brothers once they caught up with him in Egypt; a quote I always find it helpful to be reminded of. It's a statement that clearly puts God in charge of what we go through in this life. It expresses the fact that God doesn't just cause everything to work together for good in our lives (Romans 8:28), but that He causes things to happen and then uses them for good! In other words, God didn't just use what happened to Joseph for good, but "meant it" to happen for his good and the good of many others. I believe that's true in all our lives as Christians, and this book truly helped me to find encouragement in that perspective.
- Poverty of Spirit by Johannes Metz. A man who went to be with the Lord some time ago once highly recommended this little book to me. So I bought it, quickly read it, underlining nothing, and then tucked it away on a shelf wondering what the big deal was. Then quite recently, in the midst of sorting through some personal issues, I suddenly remembered this book, found it on my shelf just where I'd left it over 15 years ago, and began to read. I guess I wasn't ready for this book all those years ago, because I felt very challenged by it this time, and I'm grateful God brought me back to it!
- God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir by John Bul Dau. I felt really touched by the DVD of the same title, so when I saw that an auto-biography had been written by the young man who did most of the narrating in that DVD, I was very interested in learning more about what he went through as a Lost Boy. The publisher describes the book as "The Heartbreaking, Inspiring Journey of a Lost Boy of Sudan", and it certainly was! Knowing something of what those Lost Boys went through (from another book about one of them that I've previously read), and knowing that I was living in northern Sudan when John Bul Dau was running for his life in South Sudan, I really appreciated hearing him tell his story.
© 2011 by Ken Peters