Last year, as 2015 came to a sighing close, I caught the fever of making a list and succumbed to the bloated market of list-articles. There are not very many subjects I can make lists about, but reading is one exception. I read 20+ books in 2016, which surprises me really. I barely made it through 12 last year. So to celebrate what I read (and to make another list), here are the top ten best books I’ve read in 2016.
A note before I begin, I tried writing articles reflecting on what I read. I’ll use the titles as links to those posts.
10. Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley*–Though I technically started this last year (and read most of it then, too), I finished it in 2016. I was introduced to this book by a pastor and loved the copy I borrowed so much I went on Amazon and bought one for myself. Shelley takes a fly-by view of church history, giving an honest look at the big events and important people that bring modern Christianity to the point it is at today. He also does it in an engaging, simple way that draws you into the church’s story.
9. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson–I spent some time this year wrestling with the idea of God’s love and this little book helped sort out some of my thoughts on the subject. Short, sweet, and to the point, I’d recommend this work if you’re trying to make sense of God’s love as well.
8. The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens–A quaint novella focusing on the sanctity of the home, Dickens masterfully weaves a story full of sentiment and ends on such a sugary feel-good high note, he almost had me in tears a couple times. It lacks the convicting power of his previous two Christmas stories, but still packs an emotional punch.
7. Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling–I was looking for a good sea-faring yarn in the summer months and this little classic by Kipling hit the spot. He develops his characters well and deftly shows the value of discipline and hardship in a child’s life.
6. The Innocence and Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton–At the close of last year, I picked up two Chesterton books with a Barnes & Noble gift card. One was The Ball and the Cross, the other was this collection of Father Brown mysteries. Both books could be on this list, but as I wanted to limit authors to only one work, I chose Father Brown over the other. These mysteries are enjoyable, occasionally humorous, and always leave you ruminating on some moral/ethical/religious question by the end of them. Chesterton also has a knack for describing a scene like a well-crafted nightmare.
5. The Martian by Andy Weir–Humorous and hopeful, Weir’s book, which could sometimes err on the side of too much tedious information, delivers a gripping story about an astronaut stranded on Mars struggling to survive. The humor of Mark Watney mixed with the stress and tension faced by NASA back on Earth made for an enjoyable summer read. Its commentary on community is also timely.
4. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy–I don’t know what reminded me of the goofy movie adaptation I saw in high school and subsequently prompted me to pick up the book, but I’m glad I did. Mixing romance with 18th century spy thrills, Orczy delivered a gem with the elusive title character. Its themes on treatment of the rich and trust within marriage give you something to chew on when the action concludes.
3. The Jungle Tales of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs–This random buy from a local comic convention led to a surprisingly enjoyable read. Although I also took in Tarzan of the Apes, this little collection of short stories held more charm as you watch the famed Ape Man develop as a human being and separate himself from his beast family.
2. Riders of the Purple Sage/The Rainbow Trail by Zane Grey–Yes, this is technically two books, but they both go together. While Grey’s dialogue is sometimes lacking in quality, his knack for description more than makes up for it, along with two exciting stories of the Old West. Inadvertant themes about patriarchy and ministry burnout also make these novels stand out.
1. DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke–I received a copy of this comic book series after winning a contest on the “Suicide Squadcast” and I absolutely devoured it. The rather complex narrative follows DC’s heroes in the 1950s and ’60s as they struggle to fight for truth and justice in a world growing suspicious and unnerved. The art is beautifully done and the characters are well-written. I never thought I’d care for heroes like Martian Manhunter or Green Lantern, but Cooke managed to endear both to me all the while introducing me to a variety of long-forgotten superhero teams. Of the 20+ books I’ve read this year, The New Frontier takes the top spot.
Worst Read: 1984.
So what do you think? What are some of the books that you enjoyed in 2016?
*I wrote a piece on this book, but it is still forthcoming (perhaps appearing on another blog). I will let you know when it is available. Meanwhile, you can read what I wrote about Getting to Know the Church Fathers.