My Ten Favorite Books of 2012

I’ve begun 55 books this year, and I finished 49 of them. (89%). That percentage marks a great success in this year’s goal of picking books I was excited to read in full.

Of the ten books on my 2012 reading list I began eight and finished four, with two more to be finished before this year ends. As the year progressed I became more disillusioned with politics, so I dropped those titles from my list. (You can read my views on government and the President.)

Without further ado, here are my favorite ten from this year’s reading, listed chronologically in the order I read them:

What Every Man WishesWhat Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him by Byron Yawn – This book on Christian manhood paints a compelling picture of godly manhood, redeeming masculinity from cultural assumptions and stereotypes. Byron’s ministry to young men in his church gives life to this book, which feels like a conversation with a father or mentor rather than cracking open a textbook or theological treatise.

NightNight by Elie Wiesel – This was my favorite book of the year, if that’s the right title for a book on the Holocaust. It is one thing to know the historical details of that nightmarish blot on humanity’s history, but to witness one boy’s brutal slog through the death camps gives life to the atrocity. Although this was a brutal book to read, it was a powerful reminder that evil exists powerfully and must be resisted. I hesitated to label this book my favorite because of its age and how many have already read it, but this was my first time to read Night and it had a profound impact on my view of World War II.

Work Matters by Tom Nelson – This book was incredibly helpful in two ways: it helped me develop a more complete theology of work for my own life, and it provided great substance for my own writing on how to honor God at work.

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – This book got one of my few 5-star ratings this year, and I found it encouraging and helpful in two areas of my life. First, it taught me to value and invest in fellowship with other believers, and second, it helped me begin to think about developing a Christian atmosphere for our family. Many of Bonhoeffer’s suggestions for healthy community apply with full force to the home.

Explicit GospelThe Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler – I labeled this my early favorite for book of the year, and in my opinion it was easily the best book released in 2012. Chandler has long been one of my favorite preachers, and his sermons formed the foundation for my faith in college. This book was his first, but it was a great one. Chandler explains the gospel clearly, pointing out both its vertical and its horizontal nature and effects. Pick this book up; it will edify and educate you, whether you’re new to the faith or saved for decades.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – McCarthy’s classic follows a father and son through a post-apocalyptic world as they struggle to survive. That relationship drives the story and made it an emotional read. I’ll also add that McCarthy’s beautiful, vast vocabulary make this book a special treat.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Another classic work that I hadn’t read previously. Golding’s writing was not as pleasant to read as McCarthy’s, and it wasn’t as gritty as Wiesel’s; but this novel fascinated me as a look into human depravity and man in a natural condition. I’m always in favor of familiarity with the classics, but reading this one had the added benefit of provoking my imagination.

Investor's ManifestoThe Investor’s Manifesto by William J. Bernstein – I read a few books on personal finance and investing this year, and this title stood out above the rest. Bernstein consciously wrote this book with an eye toward clarity and accessibility, and his effort shows. This book is a helpful overview of how to invest in stocks and bonds with a focus on low-risk and guaranteed returns. He doesn’t try to sell the reader on get-rich-quick schemes, but he offers suggestions backed by historical analysis to show how to avoid going broke in the market.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling – I haven’t read the seventh book yet (so don’t spoil any secrets for me!), but so far this book has stood out as the best in the series. Rowling’s writing has improved, and her characters have gained plausibility. The plot grabs tighter hold of the imagination, and the danger seems more real than in the prior five books. I’m excited to see how the series finishes, which is far more than I expected at the start of book one.

Honorable Mentions – Although I’ve read many more books, I can’t say that any stood out as fantastic. For that reason, I’ll just give honorable mention to several that were good but not great this year.

You can find a list of all my book reviews here.

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