Books of the Year 2019 image

Books of the Year 2019

I had a number of reading surprises this year. Several books which I expected to be great turned out to be only OK; some books I expected to be OK turned out to be great. (The life of Olaudah Equiano is a good example of the latter: an extraordinary autobiography, travelogue, critique of slavery and history of the late eighteenth century all in one.) Then there were the ones which I had been told would be great, and did not disappoint. Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier is profound. Anna Karenina is astonishing. Eleanor Oliphant was just as delightful, The Road to Somewhere just as insightful and The Spy and the Traitor just as gripping as I had been led to believe. Bruner's commentary on Matthew had been recommended to me by several people, and I spent the best part of six months in it, falling in love with Matthew, and more importantly Jesus, all over again.

But for all that competition, calling the book of the year was actually quite easy. People will be reading, rereading, quoting and arguing about Tom Holland's Dominion for years to come.

Top Ten Recent Books

David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: The New Tribes Shaping British Politics. If you read this remarkable analysis of the political landscape in Britain today, you’ll be seeing Somewheres and Anywheres everywhere.

Amanda Ripley, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—And Why. What makes some people cope so much better in disasters than others? A fascinating survey of the various explanations.

Ben Macintyre, The Spy and the Traitor. This Cold War (true) spy story is the most gripping thriller I have read in years. Unputdownable.

Sam Allberry, Seven Myths About Singleness. A wonderfully pastoral, theological, wise and winsome discussion of singleness, and what all single (and especially married!) people should know about it.

Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew (two volumes). I spent six months in my devotional times in Bruner’s marvellous theological commentary, and on finishing it immediately bought his commentary on John. Fantastic.

Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion. The pitch here is simple: it’s the best new apologetics book since The Reason for God.

John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Rise & Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000. I read several great books of global history this year (honourable mention to Richard Evans’s The Pursuit of Power), but this was the best. A brightly written and sweeping survey.

Tom Holland, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. Book of the year. If you won’t take it from me, or from Joel’s excellent review, take it from the Sunday Times.

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’m a couple of years late to the party on this, but this is a wonderful novel: quirky, moving, funny and charming.

William Dalrymple, The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company. A remarkable story, remarkably well told by a remarkable historian.

Top Ten Old Books

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
W. H. Auden, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio
Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents
George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
Euripides, Medea
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
G. K. Chesterton, The Thing

The Rest

John Frame, Nature’s Case for God: A Brief Biblical Argument
Daniel Darling, The Dignity Revolution
Flannery O’Connor, Parker’s Back
Aeschylus, Agamemnon
Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers
Aeschylus, The Eumenides
Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ
*Peter Leithart, A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1&2 Samuel
Robert Alter, The David Story
David Cannadine, Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906
James Jordan, Judges: A Theological and Practical Commentary
Hesiod, Works and Days
*C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
James Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World
Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation
Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination
*C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Gustaf Aulén, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement
Glenn Packiam, Blessed, Broken, Given: How Your Story Becomes Sacred in the Hands of Jesus
*C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
Matt Smethurst, Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word
Peter Thiel, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875-1914
Kathryn Tanner, Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul
Umberto Eco, Chronicles of a Liquid Society
*C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy
Anthony Bradley, Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America
Camille Paglia, Provocations
Jackie Hill Perry, Gay Girl Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been
*Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr Fox
Richard Evans, The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914
Christian Smith, Atheist Overreach: What Atheism Can’t Deliver
Wendell Berry, Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
Matt Chandler and friends, Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (and its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well
Glen Scrivener, The Gift: What If Christmas Gave You What You’ve Always Wanted?
George Orwell, Seeing Things As They Are: Selected Journalism and Other Writings
George Guthrie, 2 Corinthians
Stephen Nichols and Ned Bustard, Bible History ABCs: God’s Story from A to Z
R. O. Kwon, The Incendiaries
*C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
Daniel Strange, Plugged In: Connecting Your Faith With What You Watch, Read and Play
David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life
William Venderbloemen and Warren Bird, Next: Pastoral Succession That Works
Tertullian, On the Shows
Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
Chris Arnade, Dignity: Seeking Respect In Back Row America
Kevin Vanhoozer, Hearers & Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine
David Edgerton, The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: A Twentieth Century History
Bruno Maçães, The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order
Euripides, Hecuba
Michelle Obama, Becoming
C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers
George Yancey, One Body One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches
Joshua Chatraw and Karen Swallow Prior, Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues
Thomas Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the Christian Seedbed of Western Christianity
Henri Nouwen, With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life
Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism
Mark Sayers, Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence and Creating in a Cultural Storm
John Starke, The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World
Graham Greene, Stamboul Train
Wendy Alsup, Companions in Suffering
Katia Adams, Equal: What the Bible Says About Women, Men, and Authority
Jen Pollock Michel, Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of And in an Either-Or World
Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, The Serial Killer
John Frame, We Are All Philosophers: A Christian Introduction to Seven Fundamental Questions
Jake Meador, In Search of the Common Good: Christian Living in a Fractured World
Sam Allberry, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?
John Parker and Richard Rathbone, African History: A Very Short Introduction
Wesley Hill, The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Praying to Our Father
*C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Jonathan Gibson, The Moon is Always Round
Adam Sisman, The Professor and the Parson: A Story of Desire, Deceit and Defrocking
Gavin Ortlund, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity
Peter Leithart, 1&2 Chronicles
Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath

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