Cover Story

Seven more fat years

2014 Books Issue | 160 reading recommendations, 2007–2014

Issue: "2014 Books Issue," June 28, 2014

In 2007, WORLD’s books issue included an annotated list of the top 100 books I had reviewed during seven fat years for publishing. Those familiar with Joseph’s saga in Genesis knew the question to ask: Would seven lean years come next? Happily, no: While some Christian publishers now controlled by secular publishers have seen a decline in quality, good books still run the gauntlet and gain readers.

The following pages include 140 of the best books (out of about 800 I’ve reviewed during that period), mostly by reading them during my hour a day on the treadmill, and the names of 20 novelists worth checking out. This time I’ve organized them in eight categories. Three sets of 20 books each are on friction-filled subjects: Christianity vs. atheism, Darwinism, and Islam. Then come four broader sets—history, biography, current events, and poverty-fighting—followed by the list of fiction writers. I’ve asterisked several that made our Book of the Year short list and receive more coverage in the Books of the Year article.

Christianity vs. atheism

Standing for Christ against atheism: James Anderson’s What’s Your Worldview?* allows readers to identify their own theological leanings. Gregory Koukl’s Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions shows how to deal with self-destructive philosophical arguments (pointing out, for example, that the statement “There are no absolutes” is an absolute). Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science, edited by William Dembski and Michael Licona, offers brief, handy apologetic essays.

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Looking for good responses to criticisms of the Bible? Jeffrey Russell’s Exposing Myths About Christianity answers 145 viral lies and legends such as, “The New Testament was composed long after the death of Jesus.” Donald Johnson’s How to Talk to a Skeptic* helps us compare the reasonability of stories about the universe. Christopher Wright’s The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith will help Christians flummoxed by events such as Joshua’s invasion of Canaan.

Those who exalt our own reason should read John Wilkinson’s No Argument for God: Going Beyond Reason in Conversations About Faith. Mitch Stokes’ A Shot of Faith (to the Head) vigorously and rightly criticizes evidentialism by showing that facts of any kind assume a certain faith. Anthony Selvaggio’s 7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind provides succinct critiques from a Christian perspective of ideologies such as egalitarianism, consumerism, and relativism. Richard Sherlock’s Nature’s End: The Theological Meaning of the New Genetics lays out the limitations of natural law and rationalistic apologetics.

If we ourselves are prideful, William Farley’s Gospel-Powered Humility shows how essential it is to accept God’s wisdom over our own. Barbara Duguid’s Extravagant Grace* shows (as its subtitle states) God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness. Darrow Miller’s LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day effectively unites truth and practical application. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts beautifully emphasizes the importance of thankfulness.

Going deeper: Ellis Potter’s 3 Theories of Everything is a brief, brilliant look at the three basic theological choices before us—Monism, Dualism, and Trinitarianism. Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil explodes the atheistic claim that the existence of evil negates the Christian proclamation of God’s total sovereignty and total goodness. Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith readably and delightfully shows how the Trinity is the basis for love and true communication.

I’ll conclude this section with three books from the New York pastor who has helped to change the thinking of many young Manhattan sophisticates. Tim Keller’s The Reason for God provides such a solid defense of Christian belief in an age of skepticism that it was WORLD’s 2008 Book of the Year. Keller’s The Prodigal God shows how the Father saves both younger brothers and elder brothers, while Counterfeit Gods is a pastoral look at the idols—money, power, sex, moral excellence—we come to worship if we turn good things into ultimate things. 

Darwinism

Atheism’s scientific veneer gives it intellectual standing, and that’s why discussing origins is so important. Starting with Charles Darwin himself, Paul Johnson’s Darwin: Portrait of a Genius is a useful short biography, and David Herbert’s Charles Darwin’s Religious Views: From Creationist to Evolutionist serves up fascinating detail. Nickell John Romjue’s I, Charles Darwin imagines Darwin returning to earth to be confounded by the DNA revolution and the complexity of cells. Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design* tie together the discoveries that suggest Darwinism is scientifically outmoded.

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