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Here’s another installment of my micro book reviews for 2022. In my last post, I shared the books I read for our homeschool. This time around, I’ve collected my 2022 reads on Christian Thought as well as Life Management (and a bonus category Just For Fun).
Christian Books on Theology, Practice, Philosophy, or Education
On Christian Teaching by Augustine This was probably the oldest work I read last year, aside from Plutarch and the Bible. Writing in the fourth century, Augustine lays out some important guidelines and considerations for teaching–with applications for education in general and for the study and teaching of the Scriptures. Augustine’s ordering of loves (ordo amoris) is incredibly edifying, explaining how all earthly loves can and ought to be turned into the stream of love that we have for God most of all. He also addresses some classical education practices and suggests how Christians ought to approach them. I found reading Augustine to be more approachable and edifying than I had anticipated. I can see why his writing has stood the test of time.
Let Me be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot This was a re-read of a beloved book. Elisabeth Elliot is one of my all-time favorite authors. Given the crazy confusion of our time, it was good to be immersed in a book that celebrates being a woman—and being a godly woman at that. Let Me be a Woman is a collection of short chapters written to Elliot’s daughter, making her prose both warm and candid. Here’s a particularly poignant quote about worldly attitudes toward women:
Women’s work, particularly the task assigned by Creation exclusively to women, that of bearing and nurturing children, is regarded not only as of lesser value but even degrading and “animal-like.” This is a hideous distortion of the truth, and an attempt to judge women by the criteria of men, to force them into an alien mold, to rob them of the very gifts that make them what they were meant to be. To subject femininity to the criteria of masculinity is as foolish as it would be to judge meat by the standards of potatoes. Meat would fail every test. For women to assume an esatz [or artificial] masculinity means that they will always lose.Let Me Be a Woman, P. 151
Turns out women also lose when men assume an “esatz” femininity. But I digress…
Christian Reflections (essays) by C. S. Lewis I have to say, Lewis is right up there with Elisabeth Elliot as one of my favorite authors. I bought this book initially for Lewis’ essay on “Historicism,” which I very much enjoyed. I’ve read many of his books: The Chronicles of Narnia (series), The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, The Four Loves, The Abolition of Man, and That Hideous Strength. But this is my first read through a collection of his essays. Lewis has an incredible ability to evaluate the past and see where things are headed in days to come. I don’t always agree with his take on everything (his essay on “Church Music” being a good example), but he sure does make me think. Here are some of my favorite essays from this collection: “The Poison of Subjectivism,” “Historicism,” “The Psalms,” “The Language of Religion,” and “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism.” So many of the problems we see today are the fall-out of ideas that Lewis confronted in his day. I think this makes his writing essential reading. Start with Narnia (at least The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and Mere Christianity, especially if you need to strengthen your reading muscles. But do work your way “further up and further in.” You will be rewarded for doing so.
First Principles: Becoming a Disciple by Geoff Reed My husband and I hosted an outreach Bible study last year using this first book in the First Principles series. We covered the gospel, baptism, and the call to renew our minds in God’s truth, which stands in stark contrast to the ideas and values of the world. It was a great study, digging into one Bible passage for each lesson, as well as offering discussion questions and commentary. One thing that sets this book apart from other Bible studies is the heavy emphasis on both discussion and follow-through. The questions make you think and examine the Scriptures without feeling like an exercise out of an academic textbook. There is ample room for taking your own notes and recording your own questions to bring to discussion. And the sixth and final lesson in the book asks you to look back over the first five lessons to restate what you’ve learned, ground it in the Scriptures, pick a verse or passage to memorize, and set some goal or intention for your life going forward. A lot of studies have little assignments with each lesson and then just plow ahead. This one makes you sit with what you’ve covered a bit more–and challenges you to really apply it before moving on. Because simply gaining academic knowledge of God’s word isn’t what we’re after–we want to respond to it properly, applying it to our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit and in fellowship with other believers who can hold us accountable.
The Essential Means of Grace by Paul Washer I have appreciated the teaching of Paul Washer since my college days, but this is the first book I’ve read by him. It was a short but meaty and refreshing read, covering our relationship to God through the Scriptures, prayer, repentance and confession, and the local church. Highly recommended. Only 71 pages.
Messiah: Prophecies Fulfilled by D. James Kennedy My husband read this to us in December as our Advent devotional. It was a good overview of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. My boys are in 7th and 5th grade, and it was a good fit for our family, though there was a reference to infant baptism, which we do not practice, so we simply and briefly discussed that with our kids. (Links are to a newer version of the book than we own.)
Do More Better by Tim Challies I started 2022 off listening to this audiobook. Challies has some good principles for productivity that were helpful to me, and for a season I tried his process for managing tasks in ToDoist. I fell off of that specific application, but together with the books listed below, I think this has been a help to my focus and life management this past year.
Essentialism by Gregg McKeown This was recommended by a friend last spring and I snagged it on Audible. I wish I had a hard copy, because I think there are some diagrams that would be helpful, especially to review. At any rate, I loved this book. It urges you to really ask the important questions—what matters most? What is most essential? And then it challenges you to live by that. It’s not a Christian book, but it is Christian-friendly.
Effortless by Gregg McKeown This is the follow-up book to Essentialism. I’m not sure “effortless” is really what you get out of it, but the author does help you think through applying the principles of essentialism more thoroughly to your life. It was a good listen (again, audiobook). I will probably revisit both of these books sometime soon—maybe even this year. I think they’ve helped me a lot.
Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith I found this delightful book at an “extras” bookstore on our long drive home from a trip to Florida. Why have I never read a book on decorating before? I’ve been a homemaker for fifteen years, for crying out loud! Anyway, I’m glad I read this and glad to have some principles and guidelines for making décor decisions for my home. Cozy + minimalist is really a great combination, putting people above stuff, but also not putting bare minimalism over people. The author is apparently a Christian, so the decorating advice is well-ordered and not at all about putting on a show or keeping up with the Joneses.
Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel This was a fairly helpful book. As I listened to the audiobook, I kept finding myself wishing that the author would have dealt with the spiritual side of worry/overthinking. Instead all she did was give positive tips and tricks. All of which are helpful, but it’s just not the complete picture, and I had hoped for better from an author who is a professing Christian. Tips and tricks don’t fix my trust-in-God issues. All that to say, this was a profitable listen, but not nearly so much as it could have been. This is a your-best-life-now kind of book, and needs to be balanced by biblical truth.
Ploductivity by Doug Wilson Speaking of biblical truth, there’s a lot of it in this little book (again, for me, audiobook). I was surprised to find a lot of discussion on technology—even a theology of technology. This book was far less about tips and tricks and processes and far more about our assumptions and beliefs about technology, work, etc. A very good read, especially after having finished Don’t Overthink It and finding it wanting in the theological department. That said, I don’t share Doug Wilson’s Presbyterian eschatology, which does come out in the book; but that is a small part of the whole, and it was interesting and edifying to listen to nonetheless.
Just for Fun
The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse This was my second-ever Wodehouse read. I liked The Code of the Woosters better, but this book was fun, too. I read it at the beginning of 2022 and can hardly remember what happened in the story…Bertie gets himself in trouble and Jeeves has to help him out of it, but some of that trouble is caused this time by his even-more-pathetic friend, Bingo. This one is more serial while all of Code of the Woosters unfolds from Bertie’s accidental pinching of a cow creamer. It’s hard to beat a cow creamer for ridiculous and memorable comedy. So if you want to enjoy some good laughs and British humor, you know which one I’d recommend.
That’s a wrap for today! What are your favorite Christian theology or Christian living books?
What books have helped you to manage life well?
I don’t seem to make much space for fun, comedic reading, but I find it refreshing when I do–what about you?
For more Books Read in 2022:
On Marxism and Black Christian Perspective (coming soon!)