Top 12 Books of 2021

It’s that time of year again. If you are anything like me, you spend the month of December scouring various “Best-of” lists as you build out your reading list for the next year.

A couple of disclaimers about this year’s Top 12 Books:

This list is made up of books that I read in 2021. Many of these books were not released in 2021, though some were. It also must be said that entry on this list does not mean I endorse every view expressed in these books. All books on this list I consider helpful and enjoyed reading immensely.

So, in no particular order, here is the Develop to Deploy Top 12 Books of 2021

The Wisdom Pyramid, Brett McCraken

What are we putting into our souls and how does it affect us? These are the kinds of questions I wrestled with throughout Brett McCraken’s excellent book The Wisdom Pyramid”. McCraken takes the Food Pyramid (90’s kids) and encourages his readers to build out a healthy diet of soul food in our daily lives. A really good book for a small group to read through together. Gospel-centered. Thoughtful. Well written.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Full disclosure. Until Christmas 2020 I had never seen nor read anything LOTR. Ok, I’m late to the party, but I am completely hooked. What else is there to say about Tolkien’s masterpiece? It is simply spellbinding. Let me recommend the new one-volume, illustrated edition of Lord of the Rings released this Fall. It may be a bit pricey, but it is a must-have for all LOTR fans. Let’s all pray Amazon doesn’t ruin everything in 2022…

He Descended to the Dead”, Matthew Emerson

A book on Holy Saturday? Sign me up. Seriously, I tend to read anything I can get my hands on when it comes to evangelical takes on the Apostles Creed and this book did not disappoint. Emerson is a gifted scholar and this book is full of helpful theological insights on a classically controversial theological issue: The descent. It is also readable and accessible for laymen. Highly recommended.

Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman

Few books affected me as deeply as “Four Thousand Weeks”. Oliver Burkeman is an exceptionally skilled writer and this is the most profound work of his young career. Burkeman’s take on productivity? Embrace your finitude. This book challenges the way we think about life. But it for the chapter entitled: Becoming a Better Procrastinator. That chapter alone is worth the cost of the book. I finished reading this book about 3 months ago and I still think about it regularly. Some (not many, only a few) books are like that.

Deep Discipleship, J.T. English

J.T. English’s book Deep Discipleship offers a robust argument for the necessity of theological education spaces in the local church. In an era where things like “Sunday School” are increasingly out of style, replaced with community groups and other smaller expressions of community, English capably argues that without the classroom, it is impossible to create deep disciples of Jesus who love the Word and know the Word. Our Council of Elders at HighView Church (shameless plug), where I pastor is currently reading through the book together and it has created a healthy discussion about how disciples are formed.

The New Creation and the Storyline of Scripture, Frank Thielman

I have thoroughly loved every book I have read in the Short Studies in Biblical Theology Series, and this book was no different. Thielman skillfully walks us through the narrative of Scripture, showing us traces of the New Creation motif throughout. The book is theologically robust but extremely easy to read. A great choice for a bible study or small group in 2022.

American Nations, Colin Woodard

Are you struggling to understand how Americans became so divided? In his excellent book, American Nations, Colin Woodard tells us: American has always been divided. When Woodard sticks to historical documentation and investigation this book soars. (Though there is some “national biases” on display at times) When, towards the end of the book, he begins to provide political commentary on the current points of division in our country, the book quickly goes off the rails. Still, problems aside, this is an important book.

Keeping the Heart, John Flavel

I try to read one or two Puritan works each year and this year I decided to take the recommendation of a close friend and dive headlong into this beautiful book by John Flavel. Like all Purtinical literature I have ever read, it is dense and not always an easy read, nevertheless, it is a soul-piercing, convicting, encouraging work. It is also short. But let me encourage you: don’t rush through this one. Take your time and sit at the feet of this Puritan Legend. It will be the absolute best $9.99 you spend in 2022.

The Plurality Principle, Dave Harvey

A Biblical leadership structure is essential for the health of any local church. Dave Harvey’s excellent book, makes the argument that the most biblically faithful, and practically effective church leadership structure is rooted in a plurality of elders working together to shepherd their flock. As a pastor whose church is led by a plurality of elders, I found myself “amen-ing” Harvey page after page. If you are a church planter or church revitalizer consider reading this book with a handful of leaders in your church.

Lead, Paul David Tripp

Paul Tripp is always worth reading. His book Dangerous Calling from a few years back affected me deeply as I was beginning my tenure as a pastor in a local church. So, when I heard he was releasing a book on leadership I was excited to grab a copy. I was not disappointed. Lead is a book about how “leadership communities” in local churches go off the rails. But it is also a book about the beauty of Gospel-centered leadership communities and why the church needs them so much in these days. A must-read for every church leader.

God and the Transgender Debate, Andrew T. Walker

Immensely helpful. Biblical. Charitable, kind, but never compromising, Andrew Walker’s book on a biblical view of transgenderism is an important read for Christians today. The closing chapter of difficult questions/answers is worth the price of the book. Every church should add this to its list of recommended resources.

The Leadership Formula, Juan Sanchez

An excellent resource for churches who are looking to raise up spiritual leaders. Though the title includes the word “formula” in it, the book is proposing anything but a formulaic, programmatic approach to leadership development in the local church. Sanchez tells us what we should be looking for in future Elders and how to develop and nurture them. As a church planter entering year 9 in 2022, this is a book I wish I had read 10 years ago. Wise. Edifying. Pastoral. One of the better leadership books for pastors available.

Happy reading.

Chad Williams

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