Favorite Books (2021 Edition)
Written by Brian Jennings, Posted in Lead Yourself
I read fewer books in 2021 than any other year in the past decade. There were several reasons for that: mental fatigue, multiple teens who like to start conversations when I’m ready to retire to bed with a book, and one book that was heavy and long. And as ridiculous as it sounds, I realized that I needed reading glasses after about 7:00 PM. My reading has really picked up since I splurged for the $3 glasses. Imagine that – being able to see encourages reading!
I do want to continue my tradition of passing along some great books that I read.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
From 1915 to 1970, almost six million US citizens migrated from the brutality, oppression, poverty, and hopelessness of the Jim Crow South to the dreams of a better future in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. The book tells the compelling life stories of three people who made this journey, and it gives a thorough historical account. Wilderson interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
If you’ve wondered why cities are often so racially divided, if you’ve not understood why people of color may carry trauma, or if you’ve never accounted for the stark differences in school systems, neighborhoods, and generational wealth, please read this book. It’s fair, it brings receipts, and it inspires.
This book is long. Some of the stories are very heavy. Stick with it and give yourself time.
Journey to Love by Matt Mikolotas
I first heard of Mikolotas because he’s a fellow NavPress author. I was so thankful to get my hands on this beautiful book. Each chapter can be read in less than ten minutes, helping the reader understand what God’s idea of love looks like. It’s full of insight, Bible teaching, and nuggets worth remembering. Throughout the book, Mikolotas tells the intimate story of caring for a friend with a terminal illness. It leads to a soul-shaking question: “Is it worth it to love someone, even when you know they will soon die?” The definitive answer is, “Yes.”
Urban Legends of the OT by David A. Croteau and Gary Yates
Was the ancient tithe ten percent? Can you know God’s will by putting out the proverbial fleece? If Americans repent will God promise to fix our nation?
Urban legends can creep into our minds accidentally or be pounded in purposefully. Croteau and Yates walk through a number of them with Biblical scholarship and pastoral wisdom.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
I expected this autobiography to be funny and interesting, but I had no idea how insightful and compelling it would be. Noah tells of growing up in South Africa. Because his mom and dad were not of the same race/class/ethnicity, he was literally “born a crime.” As apartheid crumbled and the country tried to learn how to live in freedom, Noah was barely surviving – usually in hilarious circumstances.
I listened to this book. Noah’s reading (especially his impersonation of his mom) is delightful. I learned a lot about South Africa, thought a lot about the lessons he learned along the way, and laughed out loud a lot.
Note: This book’s content and language is not appropriate for kids.
Christian Conviction by Chad Ragsdale
The list of things we could argue about is long. Ragsdale asks an important question: “How should Christians discern what is worth defending?” He boils this down to three categories: things that are essential, things that are important, and things that are just personal preferences.
The book is brief, easy to follow, and useful for teenagers and up. In fact, walking teens through this would be a worthwhile endeavor for any youth leader.
Everyone’s Job by Dane Tyner
Dane is a dear friend. He’s spent much of his adult life helping people restore broken relationships. In his book he shares that, while professional counselors like him have their role, everyone shares responsibility in helping mend relationships. The book is Biblically sound and shares practical ways you can mend fences too.
How to Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby
This book is a practical follow-up to “Color of Compromise,” which lays out the historical foundation. In “How to Fight Racism,” Tisby gets very practical with things you and your church can do. The Elders from our church read this together and were blessed by doing so.
The Book of Secrets and The Book of Answers by Al Tait
I read both of these books to my daughter before bed. They are adventurous, they teach honorable lessons, and they never get so scary that she could not go to bed. Some of the Old English wording can be tricky, so I did some paraphrasing once in a while.
Surviving the Holidays Survival Guide
My neighbor’s wife passed away this summer. As the holidays approached, some trepidation arose. He and I attended our church’s “GriefShare Ministry” class to prepare folks for the daunting holidays without a loved one. The class came with a small, incredibly helpful book. I recommend it for anyone navigating grief through the holidays.
A Pentecostal Guide to Apologetics by Taylor Drake
My podcast partner and good friend, Taylor Drake, has served various Pentecostal institutions through the years. During that time, he’s seen what is beautiful about that moment and what can be strengthened. His desire in this book is help the Pentecostal grow their faith and witness by learning to defend the faith with logic and Scripture while still maintaining their appreciation of the Spirit’s work. You could actually drop “Pentecostal” from the topic and it’s a valuable resource for any Christian. It has a logical sequence which walks the reader through helpful steps, and it adds personal stories to connect your heart.
Taylor Drake and I talk about these books and his favorites on 11/30/2021 Echo Podcast.
What great books did you read this year?