My Top 5 Books of 2018


At the end of the year, I like to go back and look over the list of books I read in the past twelve months. Since 2004, I’ve been keeping a list of the titles of every book I’ve read, reread, or ditched. Here are the five books that meant the most to me in 2018.

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1. The Adventures of Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
I’ve seen the movie “Oliver” and can sing “Consider Yourself” with a British cockney accent, but I hadn’t read Dickens until this past year. The old classics make you work hard, but, oh, the reward. The language is deep and rich and weighty. As usual, the book is better than the movie. (Although I did stop to hum “Food, Glorious Food” on page nine.) Dickens’ style is so unique; the chapter titles were sometimes almost as long as the chapters.

Chapter XXXVI: Is a Very Short One, and May Appear of No Great Importance In its Place, But it Should Be Read Notwithstanding, as a Sequel to the Last, and a Key to One That Will Follow When its Time Arrives

I’m glad I didn’t live in Victorian England, but it was a lovely visit and I’ll definitely return to Dickens in 2019.

2. Recapturing the Wonder, by Mike Cosper
I received this book as a birthday gift in 2017, but didn’t get beyond the first few pages before putting it on the shelf. In December of 2018, I picked it up and wondered what was wrong with me before. This is a gem of a book. I learned a valuable lesson — sometimes a book isn’t ready for me and sometimes I’m not ready for it. Books are patient and don’t mind waiting for the right time.

“Life with God is an invitation into a world where most of what makes sense to you crumbles. It’s far richer than you imagined, far less orderly and sensible, and far more mysterious. Like Job, once you begin to see the wonder of it, you find yourself awestruck and, somehow, satisfied.”

3. Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End, by David Gibson
I read this book in preparation for a Bible study on Solomon. I needed help with Ecclesiastes which is fairly dark and pessimistic. Gibson changed my whole perspective on Solomon’s reflection of his wayward life. This book shakes up the current culture’s view of what it means to live “the good life.” Thinking about death is actually supposed to help us pay attention to our limitations as human beings and embrace life as the wondrous gift it is.

“Life is not about the meaning that you can create for your own life, or the meaning that you can find in the universe by all your work and ambitions. You do not find meaning in life simply by finding a partner or having kids or being rich. You find meaning when you realize that God has given you life in his world and any one of those things as a gift to enjoy.”

4. 24/6, by Matthew Sleeth, MD
I read this book a couple years ago, but revisited it while doing research on the Sabbath. Dr. Sleeth makes a strong case for something called rest and literally prescribes a 24 hour break every week in order to maintain physical, mental and spiritual health.

“In the 24/7 world, we ‘pencil’ friends in on the calendar. These loose commitments frequently fail to materialize. We have the best of intentions, but intentions don’t build relationships. Filling in every Sunday on our calendar with ‘FOR THE LORD’ in permanent ink changes our perspective. Honoring a Sabbath every week makes us more committed and serious about our relationship with the Lord. This is even more crucial today, when things travel as fast as the speed of light. God designed us to spend one day a week at the speed of stop.”

5. Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus, by John Eldredge
This is my gold medal book of the year. I read it in April and I’m still thinking about it. In exploring the personality of Jesus, Eldredge uses words like “fierce”, “scandalous” and “beautiful”. This book helped me step beyond the Sunday-school Jesus that is meek, mild and melancholy. I love the descriptions of Jesus laughing, turning over tables, and grilling fish on the beach for the boys.

“We actually come to think that service for Jesus is friendship with him. That’s like a friend who washes your car and cleans your house but never goes anywhere with you — never comes to dinner, never wants to take a walk. We are meant to love the man himself, know him intimately. First things first. Love Jesus.”

May your reading life in 2019 be especially rich and satisfying!

“There is more treasure in books
than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
Walt Disney

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