50 Reads from Good to Great from 2014

 For some years now, my friend Pastor Mickey Schneider has accused me of posting the “Best Fifty Books of the Year.”  Rather than trying to refute the charge, for I may have done such a thing in the past, I have decided to post “50 Reads from Good to Great from 2014.”  Thankfully, reading, writing, teaching, and book scouting are all part of my vocation(s) as well as my hobby.  It is a labor of love, mostly.  It is a ministry and encouragement to others, hopefully.  It is an inspiration to students, intentionally.  It is an obsession, certainly.

Soon to come will be the “Top Ten Books I Read in 2014,” but this listing is broader.  All these books were good and helpful in some sense.  I could list a few dozen more, but will have to limit myself.  Many are books I have used for classes and have read before.  They were all either worth rereading or re-using.  Commentary and commendations will be limited.  Many have been referenced in past blogs.


1. N-Word of the Narcissus by Joseph Conrad
Ruben Alvarado “sanitized” the title and other places where the “N-word” appears in this classic in order to get the book and its content back on the reading list.  A worthy read.

2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Greater than ever, with a bigger whale than ever. 5th or 6th reading.

3. The Unvanquished by William Faulkner.  This is my introductory book for teaching Faulkner and Reconstruction.  Read it 10 times or more.

4. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.  Re-read this while my students read A Farewell to Arms.  

5. Hie to the Hunters by Jesse Stuart
Consistently loved by my junior high students and repeatedly loved by the teacher.

6. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
While the class read The Great Gatsby, I read this book for the first time. So much of it seems like a very thin romance novel and coming-of-age story of a flighty but handsome young man.

7. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
A fun read and a book that opened up the world of spy thrillers in literature and for me personally.

8. The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams
Interesting at many points. I am glad that I have now read this classic work, but I need more interaction to understand its importance.

9. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
4th reading, and this book just keeps getting better.

10. The Analects of Confucius, translated by Burton Watson
A really beneficial read while I was teaching World Civilizations. An incredible amount of proverbial common grace wisdom.

11. The Good Shepherd by Gunnar Gunnarson
A calm and gentle tale of a Icelandic shepherd during the Advent season.


12. Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason Meyer
Good book, but one either needs to study such a book more carefully by taking notes or read it with others people of like interest. The bulk of the book is a survey of the role of stewards of the Word as found in 10 different paradigms or models in the Bible.

13. A Little Book for New Theologians by Kelly Kapic
A good short book on getting a good balance in the study of theology.

14. Christian Philosophy: A Systematic and Narrative Introduction by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen
An introduction to Christian philosophy, with a good coverage of modern Christian philosphers from Dooyeweerd to Plantinga to Charles Taylor.

15. Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview by Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew
By the same authors as the book above.  One of many I have read on Christian Worldview thinking, and a book worth studying. Lots of good history.

16. The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn                                                                                                           I read this in one day, but need to take the message to heart.

17. What is Reformed Theology? by R. C. Sproul
Good survey and introduction for Christians at all levels in approaching that great and formidable theology called “Reformed.”

18. Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung
I read this book twice in 2014.  A good survey of the authority and reliability of the Bible.

19. Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace by Iain Murray
A good collection of essays that supplement the incredible two volume biography of Lloyd-Jones that Murray wrote some years back.

20. Twilight of a Great Civilization: The Drift Toward Neo-Paganism by Carl F. H. Henry
This collection of essays came from the 1980s. Henry was not a good stylist, but was deep and brilliant.

21. Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by R. C. Sproul
In the future, this will be my textbook for any beginning theology class. Basic and typical of much of Sproul’s writing, and so, very good.

22. Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 1 by John Frame
Good essays on a variety of theological and Christian topics by a man I esteem highly.

23. A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor
A short and powerful look into the spiritual life of a young Flannery O’Connor.

24. Love Walked Amongst Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus by Paul E. Miller
An extremely good and convicting read along with Miller’s outstanding book A Praying Life.

25. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable in Permanence by John Piper
For most of the chapters, I only read from this book on Sunday mornings.

26. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism by Carl F. H. Henry
Gregory Alan Thornbury highly recommends it in his defining study of Henry. The messages were given many years ago, but are still relevant.

History, Biography, Politics, and Economics

27. The Civil War by Paul Johnson
This book is excerpted from Johnson’s History of the United States and his book Heroes. While overly fulsome in his praise of Lincoln, Johnson is always a good, fun read.

28. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore by James Patterson
Overly fact-and-social history filled account. I would prefer more narrative history. There is lots of good content here, and for me, lots of remembrances. This is a volume in the Oxford History of the U. S.

29. Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley and the Conservative Movement by Richard Brookhiser
Good, anecdotal account of the heyday of conservative trials and triumphs in the 1970s-1990s. Brookhiser was designated by Buckley as his heir, and then he wasn’t .

30. A Higher Call by Adam Makos
“An incredible true story of combat and chivalry in the war-torn skies of World War II.”

31. The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
Just like their book on Billy Graham, this is a really fun and informative read. Truman and Hoover worked well together. Johnson and Nixon were both conniving. Carter is irritating; Ford short-sighted. The Bushes and Clinton are an amazing team.

32. The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus
This is an extremely good study of economics from a Christian, conservative, and free market viewpoint. I need to teach this book.

33. The American Indian: A Standing Indictment Against Christianity and Statism in America by R. J. Rushdoony
This collection of essays and thoughts by Rushdoony is a really useful book. Indispensable for a history teacher.

34. Collision 2012 Obama VS. Romney and the Future of Elections in America by Dan Balz
I should have known that this would be a depressing read. Too many “what if’s” in my mind and too much disappointment at the lost opportunities. Some helpful discussion of how technologies and methods have changed in politics. Dan Balz, however, is no Theodore White.

35. The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief by George M. Marsden
A really good survey of the ideas of the 1950s. That section of the book is better than Marsden’s application of how the nostalgia of the 1950s impacted the rise of the religious right.

36. Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Mecham
A good study of a complicated man.

37. Politics Reformed: The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant Theology by Glenn A. Moots
This book is weighty, doctoral, and challenging. But, this is a good survey and analysis of the impact of the Reformers and their thinking on issues relating to political covenants.

38. The River was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow by Brian Steel Wills.  Good study of a great general and a complicated man in relation to a controversial event in his life (which could describe his entire life).

Modern Fiction

39. Home by Marilyn Robinson
A sequel to Gilead and a prequel to Lila. Slow, relational, sad at many points, this book gives a beautiful picture of the love families have, even when the love and the loved are highly flawed.

40. The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
Having visited Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, this book made sense. It is rough , raw, and edgy, but the overall story was powerful.

41. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
At least 250 pages too long. This book could possibly be placed among “Classics” or “History,” “Philosophy,” or “Economics,” or “Politics.” Worht the slog.

Literary Studies

42. Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South by Paul Harvey
This unusual scholarly book informed, provoked, amused, confused, and enlightened me all along the way. This book covers lots of Southern history, culture, and literature.

43. Why Read Moby Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick
A delightful and fun book that made me want to read Moby Dick again…and again.

44. The Wister Trace: Assaying Classic Western Fiction by Loren D. Estleman
A fun book, but a bit tedious following descriptions of all types of westerns.

45. God and Charles Dickens: Recovering the Christian Voice of a Classic Author by Charles Colledge
A thorougly great and convincing study of Dickens.

Practical Christian Living

46. Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
Hits home; right on target; a good and convicting study.

47. Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst
Vital reading for leaders in Christians organizations.

48. A Small Cup of Light: A Drink in the Desert by Ben Palpant
This book may have been the best book I read last year, but I am going to give it another shot this year.  Incredibly pertinent to me.

49. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman
Acclaimed by many, recommended by George Grant. Good, but I have read very little about management of time and self-help. I feel like I only picked up a very few points, but that might be a good starting place.

50. Systematic Theology by John Frame.  I have not yet dug deep enough into this really big and weighty (in every sense of the word) study.  This is systematic theology tightly woven into the Scriptures.  Note that I have placed it in “Practical Christian Living.”

My dream room.


One thought on “50 Reads from Good to Great from 2014

  1. Thanks, Ben – many for me to consider reading for this year, particularly the Paul Miller and the Joseph Conrad, and the Christian Philosophy Introduction.

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