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My Favorite Books of 2022
The best theology, history, and literature that I read during 2022.
A little over two decades ago, I was at a book signing that Alistair Begg was doing on the campus of Southern Seminary. Someone asked him what his best advice was for preachers. He said, “Think yourself empty. Read yourself full. Write yourself clear.”
“Read yourself full” has stayed with me all these years, especially in light of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s and Tim Keller’s counsel that the preacher needs to spend more time preparing himself than he does the sermon. Reading challenges me, teaches me, and broadens my horizons so that I see things from perspectives I never have before.
This is my favorite and most difficult post to write each year. It gets harder every year to narrow down my favorite books, but here is my feeble attempt at it. To keep it balanced, I chose five theology books, five history books, and four works of literature. Most of these books were not published this year, but I read them this year.
Here are my favorite books of 2022.
Simply Trinity by Matthew Barrett
Matthew Barrett’s Simply Trinity is an in-depth study of the doctrine of the Trinity written in a readable and accessible style. He wades into many modern debates about the Trinity by going all the way back to the Bible and the historic creeds. He helpfully debunks some popular misunderstands of the Trinity.
While I appreciated the entire book, I found the chapters on the eternal generation of the Son to be especially enlightening. I had struggled to articulate this doctrine for some time and walked away with a much clearer understanding of it.
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
If you want to understand how we got to our current cultural moment, Carl Trueman’s epic walk through the last four hundred years of philosophy, psychology, and literature will enlighten you. Many of the names he discusses may not be familiar to you, but their ideas have become essential elements in the air we breathe. You will never hear the phrases “be true to myself,” “my truth,” or “live authentically” the same way again.
If the size of this book is intimidating, Trueman released a slimmed-down version of this work titled Strange New World.
Keep Your Greek by Constantine Campbell
Reading the Bible in the original languages is a great tool in the arsenal of any preacher. For most of us, we lose our grasp of the languages if we don’t use them. Keep Your Greek explains why we ought to work hard to keep the languages while offering practical suggestions for how we can do it. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to use the languages regularly.
The Person of Christ by Steven Wellum
As you can probably tell, I did a reading project on the Trinity during the first half of this year. Understanding Christ’s human and divine natures is essential to a correct understanding of the Trinity and the proper proclamation of who Christ is. Wellum walks the reader through the basics of who Christ is in this helpful introductory volume.
What Happens When I Die? by Marcus Nodder
We always need a refresher course on the beauty of the hope we have in Christ. Death remains a central fact of life and will until Jesus returns, so we need to remember his victory over death and our resurrection when he returns. This book is part of the Good Book Company’s “Questions Christians Ask” series. It’s under 100 pages and could easily be read in an afternoon.
And There Was Light by Jon Meacham
We don’t suffer from a lack of books on Abraham Lincoln, but Meacham’s new volume makes an outstanding addition to Lincoln scholarship. He spent a good deal of this work focusing on Lincoln’s spiritual convictions, showing how they evolved over the years and how they contributed to his public service. This was a beautiful book, which was made even more enjoyable by listening to Meacham’s Audible narration.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Wilkerson beautifully lays out the painful and difficult decision millions of men and women made to leave the south and move to cities in the north and west during the first half of the 20th century. She focuses on the stories of three men and women who participated in the Great Migration, merging their stories into the greater story of this relentless exodus. I found myself inspired by the bravery of these men and women while angered at the hatred and injustice they endured.
TR: The Last Romantic by H.W. Brands
Here’s a good rule of thumb–if H.W. Brands wrote it, you want to read it. Here he takes one of my favorite historical figures–Teddy Roosevelt–and examines his life through the lens of his Romantic worldview. He shows he the Romantic movement shaped TR’s view of the world and his role in it. It explains so much about his willingness to risk his life and his retreat to nature after his hardships.
The Right by Matthew Continetti
I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to understand how the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan became the party of election denial, white grievance, and conspiracy theory. Continetti walks the reader through the last century of the Conservative movement. From the wilderness years of the New Deal to the Reagan Resurgence, Republican Revolution, and Tea Party movement, he shows what ideals have remained cemented in the movement and what morphed over time.
Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch
The Civil Rights movement is one of the most talked about and least understood eras in American History. We know some of the movement’s big names and events, but we have barely scratched the surface of understanding the incredible sacrifices made by ordinary men and women all over the South in order to force the United States to live up to the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. This is the first of three volumes on America in the King Years. (It’s followed by Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge.) These books are a slow read, but they are worth every second.
Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Neyeri
My goodness. Fifty pages in, I struggled to understand why so many people loved this book. By page 100, I struggled to put it down and go to sleep. Daniel Neyeri was born in Iran, but raised as the son of a first-generation Christian refugee in Oklahoma. From the story of his mother’s sacrifice for her faith and for her family to the travails of a young boy mistreated by his peers, every page of this book drips both sorrow and hope. What a stunning reminder of the pain and the beauty of this world.
Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse
I want to find the people who told me to read P.G. Wodehouse and hug them. Wodehouse was a British author who published novels and short stories from 1905 until his death in the 1970’s. He created memorable characters and placed them in hilarious situations. Wodehouse possessed the ability to craft English sentences unlike anyone I have ever read. He could turn a phrase that took ordinary moments and filled them with life.
The Blandings Castle novels follow Lord Emsworth and the cast of characters who spend their days enjoying his hospitality at Blandings Castle. So far in this series, I have read Something Fresh, Leave it to PSmith, A Pelican at Blandings, Heavy Weather, Blandings Castle, Summer Lightning, Full Moon, Pigs Have Wings and Lord Emsworth and Others, and Service with a Smile. Once I get into a Wodehouse story, I never stop laughing and can’t put it down. (If you have never read Wodehouse, Carry On, Jeeves is a great place to start. It’s a collection of short stories about his two most memorable characters–Bertie Wooster and his resourceful butler Jeeves.)
The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy may be the best American novelist of the last thirty years. From The Road to No Country for Old Men to All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy always paints a beautiful picture of the landscape his characters inhabit. He puts them in impossible situations and through them wrestles with many of life’s most important questions.
The Passenger is set on the Gulf Coast in the 1980s. This work is different from McCarthy’s other works in setting and situation, but it still wrestles with many of the same themes. (I am halfway through the second book he released this year, Stella Maris. It is a book unlike any other I have ever read. I am not sure if that is a good thing yet or not, but McCarthy has created one of his most fascinating characters in this novel.)
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
There’s a reason we keep reading Hemingway decades after his death. For Whom the Bell tolls tells the story of an American working with Spanish insurgents to blow up a bridge during the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway covered the war and paints realistic and sympathetic characters and no one can match his prose. A Farewell to Arms is still my favorite Hemingway novel, but this one is high up the list.
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