Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aaron Armstrong's Top Books for 2011

My Favorite Books of 2011

That season has come around once again, where top ten (or in this case, eleven) lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, and as of this writing, I’ve read 105 books.1 Going through that many books in a year led to some interesting challenges as I considered which were my top picks. 2011’s reading saw a couple of abysmal reads, at least one that was rank heresy, a few “meh” titles, and a surprisingly large amount that ranged from good to great in terms of quality and content. Not all of these have been reviewed here (I’ve included, but all are ones I think merit your attention.

So, without (much) further ado, here are my top books for 2011, which, with the exception of one book, none of these are in any particular order:

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway, 2011). Wilson’s exuberant passion for the gospel is on full display and will leave you further amazed at the grace of God in Christ. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Jesus + Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway, 2011). After reading this book, it’s incredibly encouraging to know that I’m not on crazy pills (how’s that for a teaser for my review?).

Redemption by Mike Wilkerson (Crossway, 2011). This book, offering a biblical foundation for recovery ministry, careful examines the Exodus and shows us how, through it, Jesus frees us from the shame of sin and the futility of idolatry. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb (Crossway, 2011). This book vividly portrays the evil of sexual assault and the tragedy of its effects on its victims, but is equally vivid in detailing the hope that the gospel offers those who suffer. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (Crown, 2011). A captivating glimpse into the complexities of life and international politics in the early days of the Third Reich through the lens of Ambassador William Dodd and his family’s experiences in Germany in the years leading up to World War II.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, 2010). Hillenbrand’s account of former Olympic long-distance runner Louis Zamperini’s experiences during World War II, adjustment to civilian life and conversion to Christianity, is compelling, engaging and beautifully written.

If You Bite and Devour One Another by Alexander Strauch (Lewis & Roth, 2011). Alexander Strauch offers much-needed guidance in handling conflict with grace and wisdom. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Note to Self by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). A gospel-saturated, super-practical and super-helpful book—one that requires a lot of careful reading. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki (Portfolio, 2011). This is a book about influence—how to gain it and how to leverage it. There’s a lot of mixed opinions on this book if you look at Amazon, but what I took away from it was extraordinarily helpful. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax (Moody, 2011). Trevin shows us how ugly the “counterfeit gospels”—pale imitations that fail to help, encourage and save—truly are as he reminds readers of the beauty of the one authentic gospel. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

And my top pick for the year:

Innocent Blood by John Ensor (Cruciform Press, 2011)

Why did this book—a book on abortion—make the cut as the top book of the year? Because, as I wrote in my review, Innocent Blood is and continues to be the most personally convicting and challenging book I’ve read this year. Here’s an excerpt from the review:
If abortion is a gospel issue, we must repent of our desire to keep silent. We must put away our notions that it’s a mere political topic. While it most certainly has political implications, it’s goes much deeper than politics. It’s a question of worldview.
Ensor’s greatest strength in this book is that he doesn’t shy away from this reality. In fact, he is so prophetically forcefully (and I use that term carefully, but deliberately), that we cannot help but be stopped in our tracks. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we are not permitted to sit on the sidelines of this issue, nor can we with biblical support find defense for any other position than being pro-life.
It was a book that I avoided reading initially and much like Redemption and Rid of My Disgrace (another one that was a serious contender for this spot), is not a book that is entirely enjoyable to read but one that is one that you would do well to read.

Just for fun, here are a few of the runners-up:

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