Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Reading Highlights

Time for end of year reading highlights.  This year I discovered LibriVox so I also listened to quite a few audio books, which I’ve also included.

Here is a list of ten enjoyable 2016 reads, in no particular order:

1.    B. S. Poh, A Garden Enclosed:  A historical study of the form of church government practiced by the Particular Baptists in the 17th and 18th centuries (Good News Enterprise, 2013): 330 pp.

I picked up a copy of this book while in Malaysia in 2015.  It is a scholarly study of early Particular Baptist ecclesiology that argues for the Independency model.  I wrote a review for the RBT and have an extended article version of the review coming out in the Puritan Reformed Journal (January, 2017).

2.      Thomas Boston, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State (1720; Banner of Truth, 1964, 2002):  506 pp.

I finished up reading this classic Scottish work of devotion and doctrine early in the year. One of the fruits of reading and study was an abridgement of a portion of the work as a tract on assurance, Am I Really A Christian?

3.       T H. L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography (Westminster Press, 1975): 190 pp.

I found Parker’s work on Calvin to be very stimulating.  Parker is one of the rare scholars who has studied Calvin as a text critic. Reading this work also led me to read portions of his books on Calvin’s NT commentaries and on Calvin as a preacher.  These were all helpful in doing the paper at Houston Baptist University in February 2016 on “John Calvin and Text Criticism.”  An article version of this paper will appear in Puritan Reformed Journal (July, 2017).

4.     David Laird Dungan, A History of the Synoptic Problem:  The Canon, the Text, the Composition, and the Interpretation of the Gospels (Doubleday, 1999): 526 pp.

Finally got around to reading this work this year.  Dungan is an advocate for Matthean priority.  Of note here is how he connects the rise of the theory of Markan priority with the corresponding rise of modern text and canon criticism.  This has become a new area of interest for me.

5.     D. W. Robertson, trans., St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine (Liberal Arts Press, 1958): 169 pp.

This is Augustine’s classic handbook on Biblical interpretation and instruction to Christian teachers.  Still helpful generations later.

6.      Joseph Epstein, Essays in Biography (Axios Press, 2012): 603 pp.; and A Literary Education and Other Essays (Axios Press, 2014): 537 pp.

Epstein is my favorite essayists.  If you get started reading his essays, they are hard to put down.  Once you finish one, you want to read the next.  Both learned and accessible.  Dry, hilarious, skewering political correctness.  I got into reading a lot of essays this year (see later items in the list).  I am learning how to be a better reader, writer, and clearer communicator by reading Epstein.

7.       George Orwell, A Collection of Essays (Harvest, 1981): 316 pp.

In these essays, Orwell discusses everything from British imperialism to literary criticism (Dickens, Kipling, etc.) to writing.  What can a Christian learn from reading a secular socialist?  See my blog post.  I was inspired to re-read Animal Farm and have 1984 on my hope-to-re-read list for 2017.

8.     Richard Chase, Ed., The Jack Tales:  Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachians Collected and Retold by Richard Chase (Houghton Mifflin, 1943): 202 pp.

I grew up hearing “Jack Tales” as bedtime stories on visits with my grandmother in Western North Carolina.  We read this book aloud after supper and family devotions this year, and my younger boys were enthralled.

9.     Nicholas P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark:  a New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Pickwick Publications, 2014): 378 pp.

I made a lot of references to this work in my 2016 Word Magazine podcasts (maybe to the point of overkill?).  This scholarly work offers the best and most recent defense of the traditional ending of Mark.  It should be read by any pastor who is planning to preach through the second Gospel before he handles the ending.

10.  Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

I read or listened to a lot more fiction than usual this year.  Re-connecting to my inner English major.  I listened to Twain’s classic works via LibriVox, after reading them years ago.  My adult ear picked up on Twain’s antipathy not only towards Christianity, in general, but against Calvinism, in particular.  Twain’s depiction of the “King” and the “Duke” duping the naive frontier revival crowd in Huckleberry Finn is particularly vicious.  Also struck by the novels’ moral ambiguity.  Tom is more of a jerk than a loveable scamp.  I gained more admiration, however, for the moral development of Huck.  Also intrigued by the question, still debated, of Twain’s views on race and slavery.

More 2016 reading highlights and honorable mentions:

Biblical Studies:

F. F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations: The History of Israel from the Exodus to the Fall of the Second Temple, Revised Ed. (Intervarsity Press, 1997): 258 pp.; Harry Y. Gamble, The New Testament Canon: It’s Making and Meaning (Fortress Press, 1985): 95 pp.; J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Eerdmans, 1964): 160 pp.; James Barr, Fundamentalism (Westminster Press, 1977, 1978): 379 pp.; Gordon H. Clark, God’s Hammer:  The Bible and Its Critics (Trinity Foundation, 1982): 225 pp.; Peter Barnes, Both Sides Now: Ecclesiastes and the Human Condition (Banner of Truth, 2004): 104 pp.; Charles Merril Smith & James W. Bennet, How the Bible Was Built (Eerdmans, 2005): 97 pp.; James Orr, Revelation and Inspiration (Scribner’s, 1910): 224 pp.; James F. Walvoord, Ed., Inspiration and Interpretation (Eerdmans, 1957): 280 pp.

Church History, Theology, Pastoral:

Poh Boon Sing, Independency:  The Biblical Form of Church Government (Good News Enterprise, 1997): 61 pp.; Joel R. Beeke, How Should Men Lead Their Families? (Reformation Heritage, 2014): 29 pp.; Peter Garnsey, Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine (Cambridge, 1996): 269 pp.; J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? (Eerdmans, 1925, 1962): 263 pp.; John D. Currid, Calvin and the Biblical Languages (Christian Focus, 2006): 106 pp.; T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture (1940; Harvest, 1968): 77 pp.; Etienne Gilson, God and Philosophy (Yale, 1941, 1955): 147 pp.; Will D. Campbell, Soul Among Lions: Musings of a Bootleg Preacher (Westminster/John Know Press, 1999): 63 pp.; D. A. Carson, Jesus the Son of God: A Christological title often overlooked, sometimes misunderstood, and currently disputed (Intervarsity Press, 2012): 117 pp.


David Horowitz, Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey (Free Press, 1997): 468 pp.; Gerald and Loretta Houseman, A Mind With Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau (Trumpeter Books, 2006): 148 pp.; Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (McClelland & Stewart, 1996): 233 pp.

Fiction and Poetry:

Douglas Wilson, Persuasions: A Dream of Reason Meeting Unbelief (Canon Press, 1989): 95 pp.; Will Willimon, Incorporation (Cascade Books, 2012): 255 pp.; Garrison Keilor, Ed., Good Poems (Viking, 2002): 476 pp.; Robert Bly, Selected Poems (Harper & Row, 1986): 213 pp.; Joanna Trollope, Next of Kin (Black Swan, 1996): 315 pp.; Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief (1932; Little, Brown, and Co., 1977): 312 pp.; Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Heinemann ed., 1958): 148 pp.; Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness (1902; Penguin reprint, 1994): 111 pp.; George Eliot, Silas Marner (1881): via LibriVox; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852): via LibriVox; Wendell Berry, Clearing (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974, 1975, 1977): 52 pp.; Mary Shelly, Frankenstein (1818): via LibriVox.

History, Politics, Philosophy, Essays, etc.:

Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades (Harper One, 2009): 276 pp.; James P. Gills and Ronald Nash, Government is Too Big and Its Costing You (St. Luke’s, 1996): 59 pp.; Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative (1960; Regnery reprint, 1990); 117 pp.; Naci Keskin, Ephesus (Keskin, 1997): 64 pp.; Richard Osborne, Philosophy for Beginners (Writers and Readers, 1992); 184 pp.; G. A. Cohen, Why Not Socialism? (Princeton, 2009): 83 pp.; Ancius Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. H. R. James (1897): via LibriVox; Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. George Long (1862): via LibriVox; Christopher Hitchens, Mortality (Twelve, 2012): 128 pp.; Christopher Hitchens, And Yet…Essays (Simon and Schuster, 2015): 339 pp.

For reading reviews from past years, look here:


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