The Best Books I Read This Year (2011)

These are my thirteen favorite books I read in 2011:

1. Unbroken / Laura Hillenbrand
This biography of Louie Zamperini was the best book I read in 2011. (Thank you, Russ Andrews, for recommending it to me!) As I read Unbroken I kept asking myself, “Why in the world have I not heard of Zamperini’s story before now?” Unbroken is unforgettable.

2. The Deep Things of God / Fred Sanders
This book helped me see more clearly how deeply Trinitarian the gospel truly is. I’m grateful to Sanders for writing this book and I’m grateful to God for being who He is: one God, three persons, blessed Trinity.

3. The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (NSBT) / Alan Thompson
The majority of the volumes that I’ve read in the New Studies in Biblical Theology Series have been mildly disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. There are some golden books in this series (like this one and this one and this one). But when I picked up this book by an author from Australia that I’d never heard of, I have to admit that my expectations weren’t sky-high. What I discovered, though, was the best book I’ve ever read on the book of Acts. Thompson’s explanation of the kingdom of God in Luke-Acts is glorious.

4. Chosen For Life / Sam Storms
Most books on divine election are fuzzy and argumentative. Chosen For Life is clear and courteous. Storms provides a model for pastors who are seeking to faithfully understand, explain and apply this crucial doctrine.

5. Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices / Thomas Brooks
This was my first time reading a book by the Puritan Thomas Brooks. It won’t be my last. Here is a taste of what you will find in Precious Remedies: “Never let go out of your minds the thoughts of a crucified Christ. Let these be meat and drink unto you; let them be your sweetness and consolation, your honey and your desire, your reading and your meditation, your life, death, and resurrection.”

6. The Christian Faith / Michael Horton
I enjoyed Horton’s new systematic theology. You may not agree with all of his conclusions (I certainly don’t) but you won’t be bored or puzzled because Horton pens delightfully lucid sentences like this one: “What a wondrous thing it is that even though Jesus Christ has been exalted to the throne of God, absent from us in the flesh, we may nevertheless only now be united to Him in a manner far more intimate than the fellowship enjoyed by the disciples with Jesus during His earthly ministry.” (587) Wow.

7. Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian / John Piper
Vintage Piper. I read this book to learn more about race and racism. You get that in Bloodlines. But what you get most of all is the good news of God’s manifold grace in Jesus Christ.

8. A Year With George Herbert / Jim Scott Orrick
Every Sunday evening, after preaching to thousands of people in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Charles Haddon Spurgeon would ask his wife to read to him from the poet George Herbert. This Anglican poet refreshed the weary Spurgeon, who once said “I love George Herbert from my very soul.” You just can’t go wrong with 52 Christ-centered poems by Herbert with Professor Orrick as your guide.

9. In the Garden of Beasts / Erik Larson
Imagine what it would be like if you were the United States ambassador to Germany, living in Berlin during the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime. Or you could just read this book and let Larson tell you this chilling true story.

10. Churchill / Paul Johnson
If you want a wonderful and brief biography then look no further than Johnson’s life of Winston Churchill. The book is brimming with excerpts from Churchill’s speeches. I really liked this one: “We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.” But my favorite Churchill line in the whole book is one he delivered while paying tribute to Royal Air Force fighter pilots: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Read that sentence again. Slowly. The epilogue alone is worth the price of the book.

11. Decision Points / George W. Bush
Few presidential memoirs are page-turners but this one is. I simply couldn’t put this book down. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about what this President did during his two terms in office. This book details why he did what he did and how he arrived at his major decisions. Interesting stuff.

12. All the Pretty Horses / Cormac McCarthy
This was the best novel I read all year. McCarthy is certainly not for everyone but I happen to enjoy his craft. No other author could write a paragraph quite like this one: “Dark and cold and no wind and a thin gray reef beginning along the eastern rim of the world. He walked out on the prairie and stood holding his hat like some supplicant to the darkness over them all and he stood there for a long time. As he turned to go he heard the train. He stopped and waited for it. He could feel it under his feet. It came boring out of the east like some ribald satellite of the coming sun howling and bellowing in the distance and the long light of the headlamp running through the tangled mesquite brakes and creating out of the night the endless fenceline down the dead straight right of way and sucking it back again wire and post mile on mile into the darkness after where the boilersmoke disbanded slowly along the faint new horizon and the sound came lagging and he stood still holding his hat in his hands in the passing groundshudder watching it till it was gone. Then he turned and went back to the house.” That run-on sentence is as long as a train. But it works, doesn’t it?

13. Writing Tools / Roy Peter Clark
I enjoy reading books on writing. Clark gives you 50 short chapters of writing tools instead of writing rules. Thanks to Clark, I will always remember to get the name of the dog.

With the Roark family moving to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, my blogging will probably be more erratic than usual for the next few weeks until we get settled on Capitol Hill.

As always, happy reading and Happy New Year!

–Nick Roark

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Reading, Writing

One response to “The Best Books I Read This Year (2011)

  1. Good line up! And I think you are so lucky to have time to read so many books. I’m reading 1984 at the moment and I don’t think I will get it finished for a long, long time. Happy new year and enjoy your books!

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