Heaven will be an eternity of joy, so it must include an endless enjoyment of delightful books…right? This calms my concern over the limited amount of pages I’ll be able to read this side of glory.
Just think of it—endless excellent books, and perfectly renewed minds to analyze and appreciate them!
Following this musing is my roundup of favorite titles from 2022. This doesn’t necessarily mean they were published in 2022, nor does their mention mean I agree with everything in their pages; instead, this list of favorite books follows the criteria I first used in 2015’s Reading Favorites article:
If one of the main purposes of books is to make the reader think, then these are the ones I’d say made me think most deeply, curiously, and enthusiastically this year. I’ve chosen a first prize and a runner-up for each genre.
Happy reading, friends!
First Prize: Knowing Christ (Mark Jones)
This book had been recommended to me several times (also by my pastor-husband), and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. Pastor and theologian Mark Jones has given us a treasure trove of brief, but robust, meditations on who Jesus is, both in his person and work. In the first chapter Jones asserts, “Of all the human desires that [Jesus] retained as he entered his glorified state in heaven, few exceed his desire to know his people….There is for Christ something lovely, enticing, and satisfying in loving poor, sinful creatures as we are, who have nothing in us to commend ourselves, except that we belong to him.” The whole book is filled with astounding realities like this one.
Runner-Up: Comfort and Holiness from Christ’s Priestly Work (William Bridge)
For a few years now, I’ve been eager to learn more about Jesus’s present heavenly ministry. What is the Son of God doing right now? Bridge seeks to answer this question in a practical way that comforts our weary hearts and motivates us to pursue godly lives here on earth. This is a short Puritan treatise that is both pastoral and helpful.
Biography, Memoir, Culture, & Historical Fiction
First Prize: The God of the Garden: Thoughts on Creation, Culture, and the Kingdom (Andrew Peterson)
Part memoir, part cultural commentary, Peterson’s second nonfiction book is as enjoyable to read as his first (Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making). Weaving the theme of trees throughout, he reflects on childhood, the loss of innocence, and the human need for suffering, growth, and hope. One thing I love about singer-songwriter Peterson is how multitalented he is, and that he has not pigeonholed himself into one craft. (Yes, his beautiful sketches of various trees are also strewn throughout the book.) His creative boldness encourages me.
Runner-Up: Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (Carl R. Truman)
Strange New World is a concise treatment of Truman’s larger tome The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. My husband had given a glowing review to the latter, and I found Strange New World to be equally as engaging. Truman examines how we might have arrived at this cultural moment where taste trumps truth and expressive individualism is king. My favorite chapter was his final appeal to the church, “Strangers in a Strange New World,” with applications about how we might most faithfully, and corporately, live as Christ’s light and truth in our present world.
First Prize: Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering (Kelly M. Kapic)
Much of my story involves chronic pain. Kapic’s Embodied Hope has encouraged me to value, rather than disregard, this earthly tent God has given me, however broken it may be, and to honestly lament pain and suffering, rather than choosing stoicism or naive optimism. Kapic has written a moving meditation on a difficult subject, avoiding trite analyses and cliches and affirming the mystery of suffering under the sovereign hand of our good God. I especially appreciated his encouragements to the church as the body of Christ about how we can help one another process and walk through pain.
Runner-Up: Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (Donald S. Whitney)
A heart-searching and perceptive book, Ten Questions serves as a tool for better knowing our souls. Are we hungry for God, or apathetic toward him? Are we languishing in holiness, or growing? What is our current relationship to God’s word and his church? Do we grieve sin? Whitney poses all these questions and more. I highly recommend this resource as you start a new year of seeking the Lord.
Vocation & Learning
First Prize: Habits of the Household: Practicing the Story of God in Everyday Family Rhythms (Justin Whitmel Earley)
Not only did Earley have me laughing out loud while reading his book (his stories about his four sons are hilarious), he compelled me, through his excellent writing and wisdom, to lean in and listen. I gleaned some practical rhythms that our family now uses, and was encouraged to know that other young families are in the same boat as we are: trying to honor the Lord in this crazy stage of parenting.
Runner-Up: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Cal Newport)
Many people had recommended this book to me, and now it’s my turn to recommend it to you. Though segments and seasons of “deep work” are hard to come by in my current phase of parenting young kids, many of Newport’s principles have still been useful, like social media breaks, concentrated periods of thought about a problem or idea, and disciplining myself to focus on one kind of work at a time. If you want to grow in effectiveness and push against the cultural myth of omnipresence and multi-tasking, Deep Work will help you.
First Prize: A World Lost (Wendell Berry)
This has been “the year of Berry,” as I’ve made my way through an anthology of his short stories and novels (Port William Novels and Stories). I can’t get enough of his writing, which is like a breath of fresh air in a harried, superficial world. A World Lost is the story of nine-year-old Andy Catlett and his family after the murder of his Uncle Andrew. The way Berry processes death and the loss of childhood innocence through the eyes of a young boy is both moving and impressive. He makes me want to be a better writer.
Runner-Up: The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
I finally did it—I finished The Brothers Karamazov after starting it multiple times, only to return it to the bookshelf. For years I was convinced it would be too difficult a book, but the further I read, the more I enjoyed this classic tale of generational sin, religious exploration, and redemption. The Brothers Karamazov tells the story of three brothers and their broken father, all of whom need deliverance and hope, and some of whom will go to extreme lengths to get what they want. I wouldn’t choose this book as your first foray into Dostoevsky (start with Crime and Punishment), but it is well worth reading when you’re ready!