In 2016 I only read books that were highly recommended by friends. I already shared my top 20 books of 2016 – and I hesitated to share the rest that I read, but there are SO many good books that are worth reading (all of which were recommended by others)! AND I think it’s always helpful to hear which books are probably not worth reading. So…
- 21-30 – I’d highly recommend all these books – thoroughly enjoyed them.
- 31-40 – were good but not remarkable
- 41-51 – I could have done without reading
21. Team of Rivals – well written biography of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Almost brought me to tears when he was (spoiler alert!) killed. How different would our nation be if he could have guided us through reconstruction following the Civil War?
22. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – started slow but ended up really enjoying this HP sequel (full disclosure – Harry Potter is my all time favorite novel/series)
23. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey – reads like a novel. Fascinating story.
24. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – a secular book but great insights for ministry – how do people change
25. The Insanity of God – great stories about the persecuted church. Felt like the writing was sometimes subpar. (embarrassingly-bad sentences like “our taxi was speeding faster than the underground church in China was growing”) Might have been – I really didn’t like the narrator that read the audiobook.
26. The Boys in the Boat – Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – My favorite type of non-fiction – historical biography that reads like a novel. Not just about rowing! Great window into the lives of Americans during the Great Depression and into Germany as the Nazis rose to power.
27. Shadow of the Almighty [only this low because I’ve already read it many times!] – one of my all-time favorite books.
28. Between the World and Me – “written as a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Coates recapitulates the American history of violence against black people and the incommensurate policing of black youth.” Eye opening, much like Hillbilly Elegy, a window into a different world. Would highly recommend reading – to hear (and try to understand) the anger and sadness of a black man in inner city America.
29. Guns, Germs, and Steel – why are some countries rich and some poor? Fascinating if a bit technical and unsatisfying in its answers. The author is far more educated/smart than I’ll ever be but seems a bit reductionistic/deterministic. He essentially says (in very technical terms) that a nations’ fate is determined by its climate and ecological cards its been dealt (how many domesticable animals, what kind of crops will grow, etc). Leaves no room for the role of ideas and beliefs. Reading “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations” right now and finding it far more insightful- looking at why Europeans had a particular joy of discovery/invention. Interestingly, Wealth/Poverty of Nations attributes it mostly to Judeo-Christian beliefs, personal property rights, and a free market.
30. The Fifth Wave – young adult fiction – great plot (part of my quest to keep up with what my daughters are reading!)
31. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – would have enjoyed it more if it were shorter and less detailed! Dumbstruck this book was so popular, especially among secular people. It’s not an easy read. And it’s very theological. By far the best part was the light it shed on how the world’s most Christian country (home of the most influential seminaries, Luther, etc) became Nazi Germany. Unnerving to read it as Trump rose to power (and as the author, Metaxas, vocally supporter Trump!).
32. Being White – Finding Our Place in a Multiethnic World – less helpful than other books I’ve read on racial reconciliation in America. Still worth reading just to hear different viewpoints and continue to process Being White.
33. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century – Alan Hirsch – Addison’s Movements that Change the World is a shorter, more compelling version of this book (and was one of my top 10 books this year).
34. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Keller – not a bad little book. I read it to prep for a sermon. Like everything Keller writes, insightful and worth reading!
35. Beating the College Debt Trap: Getting a Degree Without Going Broke – Alex Chediak – very helpful in understanding solutions for what I think is a critical issue in mobilizing missionaries to go to the world – crippling student loan debt. Very detailed and practical. I read it to prep for a talk to help college students think critically re incurring debt.
36. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ – Piper – helpful as a short devotional to accompany morning Bible reading.
37. Mastery – examines the lives of great historical figures—such as Charles Darwin, Mozart, and Henry Ford—and distills the traits and universal ingredients that made them masters. Not as interesting/helpful as I had hoped!
38. The Last Star – young adult fiction (book 3 of The Fifth Wave)
39. Infinite Sea– young adult fiction (book 2 of The Fifth Wave)
40. A Little History of Philosophy – Very well written. Maybe not the best to listen to on audiobook – hard to take in on all those deep thoughts, audibly. Enjoyed it up until the 1800’s and then philosophy just gets bizarre. Kudos to those of you who can understand it. I sure Kant (see what I did there?).
41. The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World -book’s subtitle is somewhat misleading, in that the Royal Society plays only a small part. Somewhat anti-Christian. Though it is helpful in understanding the sad irony that Newton (who was a DEEPLY devoted follower of Jesus) ushered in modern atheism.
42. Devil in the White City – great writing, as always, from this author. Just didn’t love the story. Pretty dark.
43. Bossypants by Tina Fey – funny. But not amazing.
44. Maze Runner– young adult fiction – good, but not great.
45. Cinder– young adult fiction
46. Scarlet– young adult fiction
47. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power – pretty dry and long. Not sure I understand/know Jefferson any better. I slogged through though.
48. Cress – young adult fiction
49. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English – quite boring- not for laymen; only for serious linguists
50. When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12
51. In the Land of the Blue Burqas – a missionary sharing the love of Christ with women living in Afghanistan – in desperate need of editing!
Last but certainly, not least –
Unranked – The Bible – I mean, of course, it’s #1 every year! 5 stars. Highly recommended reading.
I’m always adding to my Evernote “Books I want to read” list. What should I add to that list?
What books did you enjoy reading in 2016?