My top ten books of 2013

Books 2013 the-wheel-of-time-icon3

I’ve always been a lover of reading, but 2013 took it to a new height for me. I made a concerted effort to begin reading more books, to take more notes during them and to make that a priority over watching TV in my down time.

Though I managed to do a bit of that too…particularly watching Dr Who.

This list is not a list of books that came out in 2013 – probably few of them did. Just a list of the best ones that I read.

Anyway, my top ten books of 2013.

The Ones That Didn’t Quite Make It
The Road Trip That Changed The World – Mark Sayers
The Best Kept Secret Of Christian Mission – John Dickson
Deep & Wide – Andy Stanley

Books 2013 Chesterton - Orthodoxy cover

10. Orthodoxy – GK Chesterton
Chesterton’s classic interpretation of Christian belief highlights his dry, cutting wit and his vibrant, brilliant mind. Chesterton set out to describe exactly what he did NOT believe in, then to explain why, then to explain what exactly he does believe in. He slices away at philosophical meanderings of the time, such as those by HG Wells, bit by bit to the point that you begin to feel for Wells and co. One that is worthy of going back to again and again.

It costs all of $0.98 at the Kindle store, so no excuses. 🙂

Memorable quote:
“And it seemed to me that existence was itself so very eccentric a legacy that I could not complain of not understanding the limitations of the vision when I did not understand the vision they limited.”

Books 2013 Lewis biography

9. CS Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet – Alister McGrath

I was very excited to read a biography of one of my favourite theologians, as written by another of my favourite theologians. My high hopes were somewhat disappointed by the slightly dry and academic tone of the book, but McGrath provides the closest thing to a truly theological and objective view on Lewis’ life and works that has been published so far. Certainly a must-read for Lewis buffs.

Memorable quote:
“The reading of old books enables us to avoid becoming passive captives of the Spirit of the Age by keeping “the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds”.”

Books 2013 Life Together

8. Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Not really intended as a published book originally, Bonhoeffer’s Life Together began as a set of rules/guide book for students living at his illegal Finkenwalde seminary. Bonhoeffer laid out guidelines for community that in the 75 or so years since, have remained important thoughts for Christian community today.

Anyone looking at looser varieties of church rather than the traditional Sunday church – or simply ‘church’ in its true sense as the body of Christ – would do well to study this fully. Just don’t pick and choose the bits you like… I don’t think Bonhoeffer would care for that.

Memorable quote:
“Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ. On this presupposition rests everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians.”


Books 2013 You Lost Me

7. You Lost Me – David Kinnaman

I was expecting very little from a book I’d collected as a free eBook but Kinnaman, using research from the Barna group does an excellent job assessing young adult culture in the church. Great for young adults and those involved in young adult ministries as Kinnaman unapologetically skewers preconceived stereotypes of young adults and attempts to offer some solutions.

Memorable quote:
“They (young adults) sense that the established church has internalized many of “Babylon’s” values of consumerism, hyperindividualism, and moral compromise instead of living in-but-not-of as kingdom exiles.”

Sidebar – I also read Mark McCrindle’s excellent The ABC of XYZ this year. However, I follow his publications and had read most of it before. For anyone interested in Australian cultural statistical analysis, McCrindle is your guy.


Books 2013 Too Busy Not To Pray
6. Too Busy Not To Pray – Bill Hybels

This book revolutionised how I use prayer as a regular activity. In true Hybels style – in true successful mega church style, I guess – it is full of useful structure and strategy, held together with appropriate use of scripture. The particular thing I took out of it for personal application was the acronym of ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. This is a wonderful and useful form of prayer that helps filter out some of the unnecessary ‘junk’ we bring to God, reminds us of the correct created order and helps us with our theology of the cross and our gratitude for His grace. Both complex and simple.

Memorable quote:
“The heart and soul of the Christian life is learning to hear God’s voice and then developing the courage to do what he asks us to do.”


Books 2013 Lord of the Rings

5. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (re-read)

Any fantasy lover, but particularly any Christian fantasy lover! should read The Lord of the Rings at least once every few years. A masterpiece of writing, storytelling and Christian allegory, Tolkien’s magnificent opus becomes richer and deeper with every reading. There’s unquestionably a LOTR blog in me somewhere, but for now let me simply say that Tolkien’s writing of fantastical Christian allegory embarrasses Lewis. Absolutely leaves him in the dust. And I love Lewis. A must-read for all…human beings.

Memorable quote:
“Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not”.

Books 2013 Fierce Conversations

4. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott

Scott has written a magnificent, now-classic book about the necessity for firm, honest conversations in our lives. Within one week of reading it I had executed a small, but useful clear conversation that changed a direction in my workplace. Scott has managed to write a book that promotes clarity, honesty and integrity within our relationships. Recommended for all.

Memorable quote:
“If you are open, vulnerable, disclosing, more likely than not it will be reciprocated and walls will come down.”

Books 2013 Road To Missional

3. The Road To Missional – Michael Frost

Frost here explains missional thinking in action in a way that not only encourages and clarifies missiology as the central expression of Christian faith and life, but doesn’t arrogantly divide ‘missional’ and ‘attractional’ as bluntly as many, less well-written authors have done so. Frost instead tries to realign our central calling – to announce the rule and reign of God through Jesus – and use that to direct the focus of our mission in all areas of life. A fantastic missiological book.

Memorable quote: 
“When we understand what it is to be truly missional – incarnated deeply within a local host community – we will find that evangelism is best done slowly, deliberately, in the context of a loving community. It takes time and multiple engagements. It requires the unbeliever to observe our lifestyle, see our demonstrations of the reign of God, test our values, enjoy our hospitality. And it must occur as a communal activity, not only as a solo venture.”

Books 2013 Tipping Point

2. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point is a fascinating book and one that I had been dying to read for a long time. Essentially, Gladwell talks about the idea of ‘social epidemics’ – that there are particular kinds of people that can help tip an idea from ‘good’ to ‘great’ (to paraphrase Jim Collins). Gladwell uses a number of examples, such as crime in New York City in the 90’s and the renewed popularity of Hush Puppies, to show how these have happened in the past.

There’s something compelling about the way Gladwell has written this and the way he emphasises that it isn’t one person with a series of traits, but one person with one trait, perhaps even several people with several different unique traits, can change the world. It buys into the idea that we are all capable of changing the world – a truly powerful idea! A must read.

Memorable quote:
“There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it.”


1. A Memory Of Light – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

I truly can’t imagine a tougher position to be in as an author than to try and complete one of the greatest and most-loved fantasy series of all-time. But that was the job bequeathed to Brandon Sanderson upon Robert Jordan contracting cancer. Sanderson worked with Jordan, then posthumously with Jordan’s wife Harriet, to finish off the phenomenal Wheel of Time series. Sanderson took a series that had become somewhat plodding and breathed fresh life into it, starting with the brilliant The Gthering Storm in ??? , continuing with Towers of Midnight in 2011 and finally finishing it off with A Memory Of Light in early 2013. The entire book is effectively a battle – both in terms of the action taking place and in what Sanderson had to achieve. But he did it with aplomb, somehow providing a fairly satisfying ending for the story of Rand Al’Thor and co – definitely no mean feat.

For that, and for the sheer joy of the read, A Memory Of Light is my 2013 book of the year.

Memorable quote:
“Yes, I’m alive,” Mat said. “I’m usually pretty good at staying alive. I’ve only failed one time that I can remember, and it hardly counts.”


Books 2013 Bible

BONUS: The Bible

I promise I won’t do this every year, but over the last two years I’ve followed the Arrow Bible reading plan, which saw me read the Old Testament once (Psalms twice) and the New Testament twice over a two year period. It’s nice to be able to definitively say that I’ve read the whole Bible – particularly as a pastor! – but even better is the wealth of wisdom and knowledge in those pages. The pages of scripture contained in the Bible are second to none, and it’s indisputable that no other book taught me more in 2013. Nothing compares to the gospel of Jesus Christ as explored through the New Testament and God’s wonderful map of the Old Testament that leads us there.

What about your favourite books in 2013? Any suggestions?

I’m kicking things off with Surprised By Hope (Tom Wright) and Solar (Ian McEwan), as well as the second half of my two-year quest to finish off War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy).


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