My 7 favorite books of 2021

Below are my favorite seven books that I read this year. None were published this year and I certainly don’t claim any authority to judge which books were the “best” this year. Of the books I read this year, these were simply my favorites.

7. Grant by Ron Chernow

Better known for his biography on Alexander Hamilton (for very good reasons, given how wonderful the musical is), I actually enjoyed Chernow’s biography on Grant more. Perhaps that is because war can be more gripping than monetary policy.

6. On Writing by Stephen King

Stephen King is (admittedly) an odd figure for a pastor to find help in writing sermons (though his daughter is a Unitarian cleric), but this book was helpful for me to read mid-career after wrestling with why writing is so frustrating for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to young pastors, but if you’re middle-aged, struggle with writer’s block, and can live with King’s occasional profanity, it’s an interesting read.

5. CS Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath

Biographies on CS Lewis are the evangelical equivalent to biographies on Abraham Lincoln for American historians – everyone seems to write one. But I still enjoyed it a great deal, especially with McGrath’s excellent writing style. I especially appreciated McGrath’s willingness to discuss issues in Lewis’ life that those who knew him personally might have found uncomfortable (finances, sex, etc) without shame or excuse. Lewis is a hero for me, and this book somehow humanized him without shaming him.

4. Beyond Racial Gridlock by George Yancey

There have been a number of excellent books written on race in American Christianity in recent years. This isn’t one of them. Yancey’s book is from 2006 and therefore escapes (at least somewhat) being a prisoner of the moment. He’s even-handed, insightful, and non-reactionary. My favorite aspect of the book is Yancey’s attempt to construct a meaningfully Christian approach to race. We read this book together as a Grace staff earlier this year.

3. Created in God’s Image by Anthony Hoekema

This year our elders composed a teaching position on the doctrine of the image of God with this book as our guide. I’m embarrassed to say how little I understood of this topic prior to this year.

2. Parenting by Paul David Tripp

I’ve had this on my nightstand for over a year, but it was a new dads group at Grace that sparked my reading it. It’s excellent, as is so much that Tripp writes.

1. All the British fantasy children’s books in the Christian tradition (Tolkein, Lewis, and Rowling)

Alright, this is a cheat, I admit, as the Rings trilogy, the Narnia chronicles, and the Potter tales compose 17 books. But early in 2021 was a tough time for all of us. Listening to these audiobooks while on walks (in the case of Tolkein and Rowling) and reading Narnia to my son was a helpful respite.


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