Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reading List 2015

I continued to track what I've been reading throughout the year. I don't remember reading this many books in a single year since Bible college! How can you tell my kids are all out and about as adults now and that I don't have cable? This was also the year Fiona and I made part of our holiday into a used book store tour of 21 book stores! So this year shows a considerable increase in what I've tracked on my blog in past years (here's my 2010 reading list, my 2011 reading list and my 2014 reading list in the order I completed them).

Included in this bunch are three small devotional books that have each been a huge help to me, and it felt the right time to re-read them all; three books on America's Civil War, one being about my favourite general of that war; two books on Antarctica, but more about Ernest Shackleton; and several books (that really rocked my world) about Muslims coming to know Jesus in unprecedented numbers! And when Elisabeth Elliot died this year, I felt inspired to finally read her account of the martyrdom of her husband Jim and four other missionaries, followed by a more current account written by Steve Saint, the son of the pilot Nate Saint, who died in that incident as well. Powerful stories.

Apart from the books listed here, I read my Bible throughout the 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. Most of the postings I add to my blog are a result of my time spent reading God's Word.

  1. The Calvary Road by Roy Hession. Began the year with yet another re-read of a classic book that really helped me to re-calibrate my heart for the coming year. In fact, I don't think it'd be a bad idea for me to read this book at the beginning of every new year! In essence, this book is about personal revival - "the life of the Lord Jesus poured into human hearts" - and about what gets in the way of that. It's certainly something I could always do with more of!
  2. In Shackleton's Footsteps: A Return to the Heart of the Antarctic by Henry Worsley. Years ago I read a gripping account of Shackleton's Endurance expedition in which Ernest Shackleton displayed truly heroic leadership skills as he saved his men from near catastrophe. I thought that Worsley's book might shed more light on Shackleton as Worsley retraced the route that Shackleton took to nearly reach the South Pole in his 1908-09 Nimrod expedition. But apart from some brief descriptions and quotes from Shackleton's journey, the book is mainly about a fairly forgettable effort, which was not entirely "in Shackleton's footsteps", that Worsley made to reach the pole exactly 100 years later. 
  3. Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges. This must be the most thorough and practical and readable book on how a Christian can live a life of growing trust in God ever written! I found it extremely helpful in so many ways that I wonder how soon it'll be before I read it again so that my understanding can grow even more. What wonderful challenges Jerry Bridges provides while also presenting these challenges in such grace-filled, accessible ways.
  4. Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale. I shed tears reading this book. It contains amazing true stories of unprecedented moves of God among Muslims in extremely restricted environments! It has rekindled hope in me that the Gospel both can and will penetrate the Muslim world, as it is already doing through the faithful and extraordinary acts of obedience of many extremely ordinary people.
  5. Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne. Some might wonder why I would read such a book. To begin with, having grown up in America, I've always been fascinated by the stories of the Civil War. But more than that, I have always been fascinated by the legendary reputation of General "Stonewall" Jackson. Not only did Jackson redefine in his day what was possible on a battlefield by his bold and daring tactics, but his deeply heartfelt devotional life with God so encompassed every aspect of his life that I've found myself stirred by his godly example. Perhaps like King David, he was truly a warrior with the heart of a worshipper. This book was excellent in how well it highlighted the mingling of those two traits in him.
  6. Changed into His Likeness by Watchman Nee. I think this is, no doubt, the most penetratingly insightful devotional book I have ever read. It's like Watchman Nee is reading my mail. As he delves into the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Watchman Nee identifies lessons to be learned from each of these men's lives, and gracefully opens the curtain to show us who "the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob" is. And the truths that he highlights felt so extremely relevant to my everyday walk with God. I highly recommend this book. This was my second reading of it in less than three years.
  7. A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You by John Piper. This book contains 50 short devotionals written to turn a reader's heart toward God. I found some to be more pertinent to where I'm at than others. Some seemed like a razor-sharp scalpel, while others simply seemed interesting. But all of them were clearly God-glorifying and encouraging.
  8. They Met at Gettysburg by General Edward J. Stackpole. This book sort of fell into my hands some time ago. I found it in a box of free books and couldn't pass it up. Written by an American general in the 1950's, less than 100 years after the Civil War, I was eager to hear the kind of measured, non-emotive treatment that a military man like Stackpole would provide to as complex a battle as Gettysburg. I was impressed with his balanced approach in terms of the Union/Confederate perspectives to be considered. Though at times awkward in his writing style, I was fascinated by many of his insights into the why's and what for's of the battle.
  9. Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery by David L. Watson and Paul D. Watson. This is a companion book to Miraculous Movements (#4 above), and spells out in detail the methodology used to spur on the movements described in that book. I found it incredibly practical, at times underlining nearly entire pages. My prayer is that I'll be able to put the principles of this book into practice so that I can have a small part to play in reaching people in my city for Jesus. I believe that anyone with a desire to do the same wherever they live would find this book a great help!
  10. The Father Glorified: True Stories of God's Power Through Ordinary People by Patrick Robertson and David Watson. This is another companion book to books #4 and #9 above. I can't seem to get enough of this stuff. Amazing stories of amazing miracles by an amazing God. I find myself wanting to saturate myself in these stories so that my own faith will grow  faith for such stories to be possible in my own interactions with people right here in the city of Winnipeg.
  11. Neighborhood Mapping: How to Make your Church Invaluable to the Community by Dr. John Fuder. Not to be confused with another concept referred to as "spiritual mapping," this book is more about community analysis for the purpose of churches having a meaningful social and spiritual impact on a community. This is a very practical book born out the author's passion for today's churches to be intentional about becoming relevant in the neighbourhoods God has placed them. Although the book is fairly repetitive, it may be that that is what many of us readers need in order for the unconventional message of this book to get through to us!
  12. Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson. This is the third book I've read this year to do with the American Civil War (and the tenth book I've read in my lifetime regarding that war). I can't fully explain why I'm so fascinated with it all, but obviously I'm not alone. Over 50,000 books have been written on the Civil War - more than regarding any other war in American history, which is perhaps justified by the fact that more soldiers died in the Civil War than in all the other wars in which America fought put together. This Pulitzer Prize winning tome does much more than simply indulge a reader with explanations of battles fought, but digs deeply into the social contributors and consequences of the war, which may be why I enjoyed this book so much, and which may be why I'm so fascinated with this piece of history. I find it hard to imagine how anyone can overestimate the social impact that the Civil War had on the history and the shaping of America. The values that the winning side fought for are for the most part my values, and for that reason, I wonder how much my life has been impacted by this war of so long ago. In this regard, I see the Civil War as a hinge that history has swung on, for the betterment of many more people than the number who bravely died fighting in it. That in itself has left me fascinated with the context, the characters and the conflict itself, and has kept me reading on and on.
  13. Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. When I heard the news that Elisabeth Elliot had died, I felt it was time for me to finally read her book that tells the story of the death of her husband Jim and four other men who gave their lives in an attempt to reach a feared and violent tribe in the jungles of Ecuador. It's an inspiring and moving story of five families who were devoted to God and dedicated to doing His will whatever the cost. And while the courage of the men who died provides a gripping narrative, I found the response of the wives to the news of their husbands' deaths to be just as stunning. After receiving the report that the bodies of the men had been found, the wife of Roger Youderian wrote in her journal, "God gave me this verse two days ago, Psalm 48:14, 'For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our Guide even unto death.' As I came face to face with the news of Roj's death, my heart was filled with praise. He was worthy of his home-going." Wow. May I be so trusting in the face of life's difficulties.
  14. True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna by David Roberts. Years ago, I read "Annapurna" - an heroic account of the first ascent of an 8,000 metre peak. Little did I know how much controversy surrounded that climb! In "True Summit" David Roberts is essentially seeking to give credit to where credit is due, as Maurice Herzog, the leader of the French team that summitted Annapurna in 1950, seemed intent on glossing over any negative elements of the expedition in a way that would consistently put himself in the best light possible. Though Roberts does an admirable job of honouring those whom Herzog appeared to minimize, Roberts at times seemed to overstate his case. But certainly an interesting read.
  15. God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation by Joseph Sebarenzi. The dramatic story of a Rwandan man who survived the genocide in Rwanda and then, following his return there, met Jesus Christ in such a meaningful way that God changed the anger in his heart to a powerful sense of forgiveness. Then following this transformation came an unexpected opportunity to fill the third most powerful seat in the Rwandan government, and with it an opportunity to steer the country toward ethnic reconciliation and long-term peace. But politics in Rwanda was not so simple, and Joseph would eventually need to flee for his life again as he stood for truth amidst power-hungry opponents. It is a story that inspires one to aim high whatever the price!
  16. If You Will Ask: Reflections on the Power of Prayer by Oswald Chambers. I was attracted to the simplicity of the title of this book by the author of "My Utmost for His Highest," and I was looking forward to the insights of a man remembered as deeply spiritual man. I wasn't disappointed. This book felt like an intriguing mixture of refreshingly unconventional, frequently insightful, sometimes confusing and immensely practical. Upon finishing it, I felt I should to go back and re-read all the parts I'd underlined before simply placing it back on a shelf. It just felt too helpful a book for me to forget what I had found helpful as I was reading it!
  17. Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions by Timothy Keller. This was the first book I've read by Timothy Keller and I really enjoyed it. He knows how to get you thinking without being too academic (even though he is quite an academic). And he often writes like an apologist who is trying to help people find Jesus, which I appreciate because those apologetic sections of the book showed me insightful ways of presenting Christ to people who don't know Him. That said, I definitely found specific chapters more personally helpful than others, but Keller certainly struck a chord in most chapters, and when he did, it sometimes struck deep and as something that I truly needed to embrace.
  18. Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson across Western North America by Jack Nisbet. This is a book my Dad has read a couple of times because he enjoyed it so much, and this past summer he gave me his copy because he knew I was interested in books about explorers and about travel in remote places. In the days of David Thompson, western North America was indeed remote! When David Thompson first crossed the Rockies in 1801, he was the first to survey and chart the rivers and landmarks west of the Great Divide, and his teams were the first white men that many aboriginal tribes encountered. And though the adventures that such wilderness exploration created made for great reading, it was Thompson's warm and teachable manner with the indigenous peoples of the region that made his travels so engaging.
  19. End of the Spear by Steve Saint. After reading "Through Gates of Splendor" earlier this year (see #13 above), I really wanted to read this subsequent story written by the son of Nate Saint, the pilot who had died along with four other missionaries in the Amazonian jungle in the 1950s. Steve tells a very moving story of how many in the Waodani tribe turned to Christ through the involvement of several family members of the men who were martyred. Even Steve himself grew up among the tribe and learned their language, and much of this book is about his efforts to help the tribe deal with the modern world's encroachment upon their culture and into their lands. Through Steve's winsome stories, I grew very fond of the men who murdered those five missionaries, as Steve makes it abundantly clear how God radically saved and transformed the men who were once his father's killers.
  20. The Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper. For me personally, this is one of the books God put in my life years ago at just the right time for life-changing reasons. And I felt it was time I read it again due to some things God's been addressing in my life. It's my favourite book by John Piper. It's very short (only 84 pages), and that's what makes it so compelling. When one of your favourite authors condenses his thoughts on one of his favourite subjects to a mere 84 pages, it's good to take notice! Because you know he wouldn't want to waste a single word when narrowing down what he wants to say on that subject. The result is concentrated goodness, and compelling reading. I'm so glad to have read it again!
  21. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. It just so happens that I began and ended the year with a book on Shackleton. Though the first one (above) was a bit disappointing, this one was thrilling! It may be fair to say that Shackleton's Endurance expedition is the most glorious and triumphant failure in exploration history! Though the lofty goals of this expedition had to be abandoned after the ship was trapped and destroyed by ice, it is truly amazing that not a life was lost. Apart from the goodness of God, it was Shackleton's amazing leadership made the difference as they escaped one life-threatening hazard after another. I had my appetite whetted when I read Shackleton's own account of the story in his book "South" years ago, but Lansing's version is far more gripping, and he wrote it when some expedition members were still alive to interview.