My Top 5 Books of 2019

2019 is almost over, which means it’s time for the annual round up of the best books I read during the past twelve months:

  1. The Sinfulness of Sin by Ralph Venning
    How dangerous is sin? In his book, Venning delves into Scripture to show the reader how destructive sin is to the individual, to the culture, and to nature. Venning’s vivid imagery displays how vile sin is and points to Christ as the only possible remedy and escape, through faith and repentance. This book is especially poignant for American Christians today who live in a society in which sin isn’t taken seriously–in fact some sins are even celebrated. The Sinfulness of Sin will remind you that sin is the enemy of every human and motivate you to more diligently fight against it in pursuit of the holiness that Christ has called us to.

    Be as willing to die to sin as Christ was to die for sin, and as willing to live to Him as He was to die for you. Be as willing to be His, to serve Him, as that He should be yours to save you. Take Him on His own terms, give up yourself wholly to Him.” -Ralph Venning

  2. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
    Is it better to specialize early, specialize late, or not specialize at all? That is the question that Epstein seeks to answer in Range. Epstein begins the book by debunking the “cult of the head start”–the idea that it is better focus on one skill or a narrow set of skills as early as possible in order to master it. While this does work in some arenas that are based primarily on repetition, pattern recognition, and muscle memory (golf, chess, etc), it doesn’t translate to problem-solving or strategic-thinking fields. Epstein spends the rest of the book sharing research demonstrating the ways in which a more generalized approach to learning translates better to the “knowledge economy” in which we find ourselves today. Exposure to a variety of situations as well as cultivating curiosity in diverse interests tends to translate to better learning, and more importantly, better application of the learning.

    “Breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer. That is, the more contexts in which something is learned, the more the learner creates abstract models, and the less they rely on any particular example.” -David Epstein

  3. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
    I picked up Peterson’s book in an effort to better understand his worldview after I kept hearing his name pop up and after watching some of his videos on YouTube. In 12 Rules for Life, he outlines 12 principles for finding meaning in the midst of chaos. Many of his 12 rules are common sense ideas grounded in Judeo-Christian teaching, but have fallen out of fashion with the recent shift towards relativism and secularism. As society has been uprooted from it’s foundation, it has left many searching for purpose, which according to Peterson, is at the core of many of the societal struggles present today. Peterson doesn’t claim to make any profound observations in his book, but is simply collecting and reiterating ancient wisdom that correlates with human flourishing. What’s intriguing about Peterson to me as a Christian is that he gets so much right and is so close to the biblical understanding of sin and the need for redemption; however, he comes up short of seeing Jesus for who He is, the Bible for what it is, and, as a result, the true antidote for chaos that is found by grace through faith in Christ alone. Regardless, 12 Rules is a fast read full of wisdom for facing challenges and living a purposeful life.

    “You need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then you have positioned yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are secure, but where you are also alert and engaged.” -Jordan Peterson

  4. Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst
    Has your organization started to stray from its founding mission? Over time, many do–either in the pursuit of money or due to a poor succession plan, an eroding culture, or any number of other compromises. One of the often overlooked responsibilities of leadership is to steward the organization’s culture and ensure focus on the mission in the face of growth, time, and pressure. Because of this, Mission Drift is a meaningful read for anyone in leadership.The principles in this book are a gut-check for leaders who must stay vigilant of Mission Drift and set the expectations for those they lead. While the book is geared towards nonprofits, ministries, and churches, the underlying lessons apply to for-profit organizations as well (which would make a great follow up to this book).

    “In its simplest form, Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.” -Peter Greer and Chris Horst

  5. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall
    How does geography impact the political and economic decisions of a nation or people group? Often in more ways than we may think. In Prisoners of Geography, Marshall looks at 10 maps of the world and explains how geography has played a key role in the lives of the people who live there. Some of the examples demonstrate why conflict is so common in certain areas while others explain how geography has helped some kingdoms and countries thrive. This was an interesting read and a good introduction to geopolitics for the layperson.

Honorable Mentions:

For an overview of all the books I’ve read this year, click here.

Reading is an invaluable discipline that will help to make you a more well-rounded person in addition to deepening your knowledge. For those that enjoy reading, I recommend setting up a Goodreads profile (it’s also a great way to keep track of what’s in your library). If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Happy reading!

Have you read any of these books or do have a book that would recommend reading in 2020? Share your recommendations in the Comments below.

BONUS: My Top 5 Books of 2018 || My Top 5 Books of 2017 || My Top 5 Books of 2016 || My Top 5 Books of 2015 || My Top 5 Books of 2014 || My Top 5 Books of 2013

My Top 5 Books of 2015

books2015
With 2015 coming to a close, it’s time for a roundup of the top books I’ve read this year. For an overview of all the books I’ve read this year, just click here. Here are quick reviews of the top 5 books I read in 2015:

  1. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by Jim Hamilton
    Too often, Christians spend so much time studying individual portions of Scripture that they unconsciously neglect to treat the Bible as a book with a central theme. Approaching Scripture from a macro perspective is called biblical theology. In God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Hamilton posits that the theme woven throughout the entire Bible is that God mercifully saves His chosen people through the exercise of His righteous judgment, and in doing so brings glory to Himself. Dr. Hamilton goes book by book through Scripture to demonstrate how it all points to this overarching narrative with the culmination of the narrative being the cross of Christ. The best way to use this book in my opinion is to use this Bible reading plan that will pairs God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement with a daily Scripture reading. By the end of the year, you’ll have read all the way through both, gaining a deeper appreciation for the Bible itself as well as the indescribable creativity and sovereignty of the Author.

    “Without the Bible’s bad news, its good news will have no meaning.” -Jim Hamilton

  2. Real Christianity by William Wilberforce
    It’s amazing how relevant Wilberforce’s book is for Christians today (in fact, one of the marks of a great writer is the timelessness of their work). In Real Christianity, Wilberforce confronts the dangers of cultural Christianity that claims the name of Christ, but fails to actually follow its doctrines, commands, and precepts. He outlines characteristics of nominal Christians and contrasts their lifestyles and beliefs with those of real Christians, who live their lives in pursuit of holiness. As you read this book, you’ll be convicted to examine your own life to see if you have more in common with the nominal Christian Wilberforce describes or the true Christian described in Scripture.

    “Why is it so hard to get people to study the Scriptures? Common sense tells us what revelation commands: ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’–‘Search the Scriptures’–‘Be ready to give to every one a reason of the hope that is in you.’ These are the words of the inspired writers, and these injunctions are confirmed by praising those who obey the admonition. And yet, for all that we have the Bible in our houses, we are ignorant of its contents. No wonder that so many Christians know so little about what Christ actually taught; no wonder that they are so mistaken about the faith that they profess.” -William Wilberforce

  3. Good to Great by Jim Collins
    Good to Great offers a lot of solid advice for building a great organization, regardless of size or profit/nonprofit status. While many of the concepts are broad in scope and may need some adjustment based on your organization and industry, Collins and his team point out some key factors that result in a transition from a mediocre company to a great one. The book emphasizes that lasting change often takes time, hard work, and intentionality to achieve, even if it looks like an overnight transformation from the outside.

    “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” -Jim Collins

  4. How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaffer
    In How Should We Then Live? Schaeffer does an admirable job of showing the progression of Western thought by showing the impact that worldview has on a culture’s philosophy, art, music, and writing. The main objective of the book is to show the necessity of having a Christocentric foundation in order to live a life that has real meaning and purpose. As Western thought has drifted from that foundation, replacing it with other foundations or removing the foundation all together, culture has tended to decline in general. He ends the book by encouraging people, especially Christians, to actively engage the culture to point out worldview inconsistencies and give a strong defense for the viability of a Christian worldview.

    “There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind — what they are in their thought-world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought-world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world.” -Francis Schaeffer

  5. The Sports Gene by David Epstein
    This is an entertaining read for any sports fan. In the Sports Gene, David Epstein travels the world in search of research that shows the factors that set elite athletes apart from the rest of humanity. Along the way, he tackles topics like genetics, training, diet, race, and “nature vs. nurture.” Epstein is honest in the findings he presents and doesn’t shy away from any potential controversy that comes along with some of these more sensitive areas. In the end, Epstein concludes that there is no single “sports gene”, but that athleticism is a complex combination of internal and external factors that contribute to athletic prowess.

Honorable Mentions

I hope that you find these short reviews helpful and that you’ll take the time to read at least one of these books next year. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Happy reading!

Have you read any of these books or do have a book that would recommend reading in 2016? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS: My Top 5 Books of 2013 || My Top 5 Books of 2014

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