Tag Archives: Book Reviews

My Top 10 Books of 2019

This last year has been a difficult one for me in regards to reading. I have started back to seminary for my MDiv. and have been mostly reading books for school. However, recently I have taken to audio books to so that I can listen to books for pleasure while having to read books for school. That being said, some of these books on my Top 10 list were listened to and some were actually read. None of the books below are new books. Some are decades old and a few are over a century old. I’m slow to the “classic” book scene. So, without further ado:

10. Jackson by Ralph K. Andrist (Audio)
A biography about Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States: Old Hickory.  This was a very quick, introductory type biography that went from his parents’ arrival from Ireland to the Battle of New Orleans to his presidency, the paying off of America’s debt and the Trail of Tears, concluding with (obviously) his death. If you’re an Andrew Jackson fan, this is not the biography for you. However, if you are wondering who the man was and not sure about diving into a longer biography, this is the one for you. It’s not a boring read; at times it’s funny and other times surprisingly captivating.

9. A Bully Father: Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children by Joan Patterson Karr
The actual biography in this book was not at all bad. Joan Paterson Kerr, who wrote the biographical essay (80 pages), did an excellent job writing the highlights of TR’s life. For anyone who isn’t too familiar with the 26th President, but doesn’t want to wade into the waters of a more well-known bio, like Edmund Morris’s trilogy, this would be the one I would recommend. My favorite story she told of the president was when Roosevelt went up into the attic to play with his children and their friends. One young boy turned out the lights and TR banged his head on a board. He chided the children and went down to clean the blood off his forehead. When he returned, he found the boy (Looker) who turned off the lights, stuffed into a trunk with the others sitting on it. Roosevelt could hear the fear from within the trunk and ordered the children off it. “‘Suddenly the lid opened,’ Looker recalled, “and TR looked down into my face. He was quick with his handkerchief, too, wiping my face, and almost as quick to say, “He’s broken out in a sweat! The moth-balls have got into his eyes, and may them water!” This he said, to explain his wiping away the tears which I thought was fine of him,'” (pp 79-80). I think that was fine of him as well.

For a full review, click/tap here.

8. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (Audio)
Who hasn’t read this book before? Me! That’s who. I have heard this book ridiculed or mocked my entire life; I mocked it as well–in ignorance. This book is actually quite simple in its approach to treating people. In some ways, it can seem that Carnegie is advising manipulation, but the goal is simply to make sure everyone gets a win-win situation. What is nice about the book is that after explaining (or even while explaining) a technique, Carnegie gives multiple examples for different aspects of people’s lives (parents, supervisors, friends, etc.). If you’ve never read it, pick up a copy (or listen on audio).

7. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Audio)
Again, I’m late to the game on this. That being said, it is an interesting read. It reads as if you’re listening to someone tell the story in person. It’s as if you’re sitting by a fireplace and listening to a friend who stops and starts and makes sure you’re understanding what he’s saying. It got somewhat annoying at times, but not enough to detract from the story. However, I would say that if you’ve seen the movie (especially the Disney version with Jim Carrey, you’ve essentially read the book).

6. Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution by Myron Magnet (Audio)
This was two books rolled into one. It was a biography of sorts, but for the purpose of telling how Justice Thomas was made into the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court. From his impoverished early years and moving in with his grandfather to his short stint of liberal ideology to his becoming a justice, the reader finds such detail as to understand why Thomas is the way he is. Along with the biography is an explanation of how America has gotten into the liberal/progressive mess it is in, in which the Constitution is all but ignored, and new rights suddenly get found. I heard two interviews with the author and read a speech by him, that pulled me to read (listen actually) to this book. Definitely recommend it.

5. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
The Bible has a lot to say about how Christians are to be growing in their Christian walk. The only way to do it though is through discipline. Disciplining the body is difficult; disciplining the soul is that much harder. Whitney walks the reader through the various ways that a Christian is to be disciplined in order to grow into and maintain a healthy Christian life.

4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Audio)
What a fun book! My favorite part was when Long John Silver and his mutineers were shooting up the cabin on Treasure Island with the Captain, doctor, and Jim Hawkins. My eyes were as wide as saucers wondering what would happen next. I’ve only heard bits and pieces as to what the book was about. I didn’t even know if the treasure was found. All that to say…If you haven’t read this book, pick up a copy and read. It is the quintessential adventure story.

3. Turning Every Day Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins
In seven quick chapters, Scroggins and Wright take us on a journey of evangelism. Because of my wanting to know about how to transition better, I jumped to chapter three (apparently missing that chapter four was titled “Transition to the Gospel”). Chapter three was about “Everyday People and Conversations”. The premise is that if one is having an actual conversation with someone, a problem or unwanted circumstance will eventually come up. That’s the cue to transition to the gospel. “Our conversations are never completely random or altogether open-ended. People are often looking to us to offer meaningful responses,” (p. 52). The only question is: can we give the most meaningful response? With the help of this book, the answer is yes.

For a full review, click/tap here.

2. Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
Don Whitney has done it again. He takes something that seems to bewilder most people and simplifies it and yet enhances it all at the same time. From the first chapter, Whitney understands the struggle that most Christians have with prayer. “We can be talking to the most fascinating person in the universe about the most important things in our lives and be bored to death,” (p. 12). That statement isn’t so much an indictment against those who struggle to find prayer meaningful, but an acknowledgement that something has happened to our understanding of what prayer is. One thing I found humorous about this book is that Don Whitney says the same sentence time and again, and I am sure he did it for effect. If you pick up the book and read it, you’ll understand; I won’t give it away.

For a full review, click/tap here.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (Audio)
This was my favorite book of the year. It is also now my favorite fiction book ever written! Ain’t no way I actually read the 1,000+ pages. That’s what audio books are for. It took 48 hours for this book to be read by a professional actor. If you’ve seen the movie, as good as it was, it is not even close to the book! It’s a completely different story line (almost). The way Alexander Dumas was able to interweave every part of this book was just fascinating to me. Parts that seemed to have nothing to do with the story line suddenly show how important they were twenty chapters (I’m guessing) later. I was not as impressed with The Three Musketeers that I had listened to earlier, so I went into this book with some reservation. I’m glad I took the time to listen all the way through. It was an immensely satisfying book.

Book Review: The Pastor’s Ministry

Pastor Brian Croft of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY and founder of Practical Shepherding wrote a trilogy of books for the pastor.  I read them completely out of order, reading The Pastor’s Soul first (here is my review), then The Pastor’s Family (here is my review), and now finally The Pastor’s Ministry.  The others were good; I gave them both four out of five stars on GoodReads, but this book was stupendous. At only 180 pages, it is probably the most practical of all pastor-help books I have ever read (and I’ve read plenty).  Published by Zondervan in 2015, The Pastor’s Ministry dives into the nitty-gritty details of, well quite frankly, a pastor’s ministry.

Pastor Croft divided the book into three parts (as any good Baptist preacher will do). Part one: foundation; two: focus; three: faithfulness (it’s even alliterated!). Seriously though, I found myself underlining wonderful truths to take away in every chapters.  The first three chapters that make up part one deal with the whys of ministry.  “Pastors are the appointed guardians of God’s truth, and above all else they must hold firm to it, boldly refuting those who come against it and passing it on to the next generation of appointed guardians,” (p. 27).  He reiterated, “If we lose the truth, we have nothing left. But if we guard the truth and make it the lifeblood of our ministry, we labor in the work that the Spirit empowers and through which he breathes life to our souls and the souls of our people,” (p. 36).  Thus, preaching the word and praying for the flock are the foundation to any ministry.

By the time we get to the second part, the author has pressed upon the reader the importance of doing ministry correctly and faithfully.  The question is how does one do the ministry of the pastorate?  This is where things got good; as I said this is the most practical of all pastor-help books.  Parts two and three deal with the hows of ministry.  How are we to set an example? How should a pastor act and what should he do when visiting the sick? How can he comfort those who have lost loved ones?  And my personal favorite: how to care for widows.  In fact, this one chapter was so helpful, it gave me an overwhelming desire to read his book on this very same subject. Again, these are practical guides that are given and so he deals with spending time, sending notes, giving gifts, etc.  “Ministering grace to a widow with a gift is about more than just the gift; it is also about the message you communicate by giving the gift. . . .Such gifts can powerfully remind a widow that she is not forgotten,” (p. 123).

Part three is still a continuation of how, but in a different scope. These are the hows of spiritual guidance.  How and why should one confront sin? How does encouraging the weaker sheep help them, the pastor, and the flock? “Compassion is most clearly displayed in our care in those moments when we are frustrated and ready to give up–but then we don’t. We press on. We try again. We speak the same encouraging words we’ve spoken many times before in the anticipation that the Spirit of God will one day allow them to stick,” (p. 155). And of course at last–because it is so important–how to find the next generation of appointed guardians?

I truly believe that any Bible College and Seminary should at very minimum use this trilogy as supplementary books for their pastoral students.  These books, if read and heeded, will save young (and old) pastors much heartache and a few headaches as well.  I wish these had been written earlier, but I am so happy to have them now.  One book reviewer on GoodReads gave this book two stars, claiming it was basic and what was written in these pages could and should be learned by shadowing a pastor. Perhaps so, but not everyone has the ability to shadow a pastor. That’s why we have books. Face to face teaching is best, but when that is not possible due to time, distance, or ability, a book like The Pastor’s Ministry is a good substitute.