4000 Books 2013

booksThis post simply contains a list of books I read in 2013, with short reviews for each book in the comment section.

My goal is to average one book per week. At this rate, a person can only read about 4000 books in their lifetime. I own way more than this number of books already, which is depressing for me to think about…

I already own more books than I can read.

It certainly makes me choose wisely which books I spend time reading!

If you want to see some of my all-time favorite books, check out the list of the Books Every Christian Should Read.

Here is my count so far of my 4000 books:

Have you read any good books recently?

I welcome review books

Though I am very careful about which books I read, I am always open to reviewing books. If you send me a copy of your book, I will usually read it within one month, and will post reviews in a regular blog post, on Amazon, and as a comment below. If you have a book you would like me to review, contact me through the About Page.

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  1. says

    24. Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem, Edited by Heath Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan

    This book is a collection of essays on the topic of Holy War in the Bible from various perspectives.

    Collections of essays on a topic are usually hit or miss. Some essays are great; others… not so much. This book was no exception. For the sake of the individual authors, I won’t say which essays I didn’t care for, although, since I was looking for specific information for a book I am writing, the fault was probably not with the authors themselves, but with the question I was researching. The essays that held my interest the most were the chapters that provided direction in my research.

    Those chapters were these:
    “Holy War, Divine Action, and the New Atheism” by Robert Stewart
    “The Unholy Notion of Holy War” by Murray Rae

    Regarding the book as a whole, it was for the most part a summary of the most common views and approaches to the difficult issue of Holy War in the Bible. Very little new ground was tilled. This is a theologically “safe” book. It will not raise too many hackles or alarm too many theologians.

    Which means that if you are looking for a decent introduction to the theme of holy war in Scripture, this might be a good place to start.

  2. says

    26. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown

    Every couple years I hear about a “self-help” book that is highly recommended by a lot of my friends and online acquaintances. I really despise self-help psychology books — not because the information is bad, but because I have not read one yet that ever helped with my particular problems — but I usually give the book a try if enough people recommend it to me.

    I am always disappointed.

    This book was par for the course.

    I tried to enjoy it. I really did. Honestly.

    But I just couldn’t get into it.

    I don’t like how these books tell so many stories. I know this is what most people enjoy reading, but I don’t.

    I don’t like how these books talk a lot about how the author went about discovering their “never-before-seen-by-anyone-else” insight into the human condition.

    I don’t like how these books lump most of humanity into a few little categories, and then try to solve the problems of one or more of these categories with a few simple tips and suggestions.

    The thing is that I think Brene is on to something here about how we need to embrace and accept our areas of imperfections, because they make us who we really are, and they are not imperfections at all, but are simply projections on ourselves from what we think other people want us to be. I think she is right. I just wish I could have read the “summarized” version which would fit on half a page.

  3. says

    27. The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective by Terence Fretheim

    It took me a while to get in to this book, and I almost put it down. But around page 40, it really started to get interesting.

    Terence Fretheim aims to show that God is not the transcendent being who sits in heaven watching with detached disinterest all the pain and suffering that goes on in the world. Instead, God, through the act of creation, entered fully into our world and suffers right along with us. As a result, He gets himself into compromising situations, takes the blame for horrible human events, and gets His hands dirty in the tragedies of life.

    This book will challenge the way you think about God, and will also give you insight into how the incarnation of Jesus Christ was not a late development in God’s plan for the world, but was something God has been doing all along.

  4. says

    28. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology by Jurgen Moltmann

    Moltmann is not easy to read, but when he gets on a roll, there is no higher or more lofty theological reading. His insights and understanding of inspirational.

    In this book, he shows that on the cross of Jesus, God is most fully revealed to mankind. Today, we call this “cruciform theology” and Moltmann was a pioneer of this way of thinking about God.

    Reading this book is an act of discipline, or scholastic investigation, and most importantly, an act of worship of the crucified Christ. If you can wade through the tough parts, you will come out the other side with a better understanding of the God revealed in Jesus Christ on the cross.

  5. says

    29. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide edited by Stanley Gundry

    I like these “4 View” books because I feel it is always important to research all sides of an issue, and these books often provide introductory material for the various sides of an issue.

    Having said that, however, I almost never fit into one of the views. It always seems like they leave out my view…. I am not sure why that is….

    Anyway, this book discussed the question of Holy War in the Bible and how to understand it. Specifically, how could the God of the Bible command the indiscriminate slaughter of entire groups of people while Jesus in the New Testament commands us to love and pray for our enemies?

    And while they claim the book holds 4 views, it really only holds 2.

    The two basic views are:

    1. You can’t fit them together. The Old Testament is in error (View 1)

    2. We don’t understand it, and we may not like it, but we have to accept it (Views 2-4)

    The only real difference between views 2-4 is how they arrive at an explanation for why we just need to accept what the Bible says and move on.

    I really wish they would have included the Rabbinical Jewish view on this, since I think it would have provided an interesting alternative view.

    And of course, there is another position as well, which is the one I hold to…. but I won’t bore you with the details here.

    If you want a good summary of some of the positions surrounding this all-important but extremely difficult issue, this is a good book to get you started.

  6. says

    30. The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy by Eric Seibert

    I applaud Eric Seibert on tackling such a tough topic and writing about it in such a gracious and insightful way. By far, the strength of this book is the truth that no matter how we read the violent portions of Scripture, we must not ever read them in a way that allows us to justify our own violence toward others.

    The various reading strategies that Seibert proposes in the book go a long way toward helping Christians view others through the lens of Jesus Christ, so that rather than view them as enemies to be killed, we see them as people for whom Jesus died.

    However, not everyone will be happy with the way Seibert reads and understands the violent portions of Scripture. His basic approach seems to be that the Bible is only inspired and inerrant in that it contains an inspired and inerrant account of what people “thought” about God, but not an inspired an inerrant account of who God truly is.

    He says, “I am convinced it is best to regard the Old Testament’s description of God’s involvement in war as reflective of how people thought about God in a particular historical context — rather than as descriptive of what God actually said and did” (p. 118).

    Personally, I think this way of reading the text is way better than most of the alternatives, and is way better than the most common way of reading the Bible, which depicts God has a blood-thirsty, murderous tyrant intent on killing babies and committing genocide. This traditional view does not fit with Jesus Christ at all.

    But I am not sure that most will be ready to adopt Seibert’s view. I don’t. I think there is a way of reading the Old Testament in light of Jesus Christ on the cross which allows God to get involved in the violence without making Him the direct cause of it. But this review is not about my view…

    Seibert presents a good alternative view which must be considered by all who struggle with the violent portrayals of God in Scripture.

    • Sam says

      Q: How do you know you have too many books

      A: When the guy at the U-Haul place tells you the estimated weight of your books, added to the estimated weight of the rest of your household goods would put any of their trucks over the weight limit, so you need to rent two trucks

      I don’t buy many new books because I have so many. But this sounds like a good one, since the author and I obviously share a similar viewpoint.

      After you series on the violence of God in the Old Testament, might I suggest a companion series on “inerrant”?

      What is your definition of “inerrant”? How does it differ from other definition of “inerrant”? Has the church always believed and taught that the Bible was “inerrant”? If not, when did that idea emerge? What passages in the Bible lend themselves to your belief that the Bible is inerrant? Why do you believe the Bible must be inerrant? Would it have no value if it were not inerrant?

      Is it “inerrant” only in the autographa, or also in the translations? In which translations? What is inerrant – The words, the phrasing, the ideas, the stories? Where does inerrancy end and interpretation begin? Since many people seem to believe that they or their group’s teaching is based on inerrant Scripture and they are teaching “the plain word of Scripture”, how is it that the teachings of various people and groups vary so widely?

      If the ideas and teachings are inerrant, were they inerrant only to the original audience in their cultural context, or also to all future audiences? Since cultural contexts and word meanings change, how is inerrancy maintained? Since the Bible is not a scientific or medical text, and our knowledge in those fields as well as others has increased dramatically since the Bible was written, is what the Bible says in those areas (and perhaps in historical information) also inerrant?

  7. says

    31. Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters by Terence Fretheim

    Do you struggle with why storms and natural disasters occur in this world if God is in charge? Fretheim writes one of the best and most compelling and readable explanations I have found.

    He shows that God set up the creation in a certain way, with certain rules, and certain freedoms given to His creatures, that in some situations, He cannot stop what is going to happen without violating the rules of His own creation.

    Therefore, when bad things happen, God is not to blame.

    I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to understand why bad things happen in this world.

  8. says

    32. Overcoming Evil God’s Way: The Biblical and Historical Case for Nonresistance by Stephen Russell

    I didn’t judge this book by its cover… but by its beard. The author has a picture of himself on the back, and he has a crazy long beard. He looks like a Jewish Rabbi.

    Nothing wrong with that, but I just found it… interesting.

    Anyway, I really struggle with these books on non-resistance to violence, not because I think they are wrong in theory, or because I think that Jesus didn’t show a “third way,” but because I have at various times in life looked evil straight in the eyes, and cannot think of how to overcome evil with non-violence.

    I suppose maybe they would say that in some cases, we must lead evil kill us, just as Jesus did. But is that really the answer? I just cannot accept it for our own lives… at least not yet. If it were just me, it would be one thing, but if evil people were threatening my wife and daughters, I think all my theory about non-violence would go right out the window.

    So, needless to say, I did not find this book compelling. If a book is going to argue for non-violence in the face of evil, it needs to be written by someone who has literally faced people who wanted to kill them, and was able to bring healing and restoration to that situation through non-violence.

    Jesus did this, but I find his example too difficult to follow.

  9. says

    33. Is God to Blame? Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering by Greg Boyd

    Have you gone through pain, suffering, and tragedy in your life?

    Did some well-meaning Christian tell you that God did this to you, though we don’t know why?

    If so, read this book.

    This compelling book show why God did not do these bad things to you. He is not behind your pain and suffering. He loves you, and wants to bring you through these tragedies, and bring something good from them, but He did not inflict this evil upon you.

    We cannot ever move forward in our fellowship with God until we have a proper picture of who God is and what He is like. Boyd challenges us to view God through the crucified Christ, and this book helps point us in that direction.

  10. says

    34. So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman

    This is one of the few books that all Christians should read. Depending on where you are at in your life with Christ, this book will either infuriate you, or will give you the understanding that you are not alone.

    The book is a story about a pastor who ends up leaving his church to follow Jesus in intimate ways he never thought possible.

    Wherever you are at in your Christian journey, if you have the nagging feeling that there must be something more, this is a book you should read which will confirm your suspicions, and give you some inspiration to follow Jesus wherever He leads, even if it is away from “church.”

    Sometimes we have to leave church as we know it so that we can truly become church as Jesus wants it to be.

  11. says

    35. Don’t Blame God! A Biblical Answer to the Problem of Evil, Sin, and Suffering by Mark Graeser, John Lynn, John Schoenheit

    This book fell apart in my hands… literally, the binding was so bad, when I opened the book, all the pages fell out. So I was a little skeptical of the content of the book…. but was pleasantly surprised.

    The authors do not go with the traditional answer to the problem of evil that since God is in control and since God is good, we must call all evil things that happen good, even if they appear bad.

    Their answer is much more in line with my own, and that of Greg Boyd, Terence Fretheim, and others, that God gave true freedom to His creatures, so that when His creatures decide to use that freedom in a way that is against His will, He cannot stop them and still allow true freedom to remain.

    One thing I really appreciated about this book is how they show that God does not “allow” or “permit” evil to happen either. Using this sort of terminology to explain why bad things happen is just another way of saying that God did it.

    All in all, this is a good book, I recommend it.

  12. says

    37. Divine Presence amid Violence by Walter Brueggemann

    Brueggemann seeks to explain the violence of Joshua by stating that the instructions of God to the Israelites to wage war on the Canaanites was a one-time act, and not even really an act, but a warrant or permit for an oppressed community to rise up in their own defense. Brueggemann argues that God really didn’t do anything in the war, and did not actually call the Israelites to wage war on the Canaanites, but only on the weapons and tools of oppression.

    I think Brueggemann is headed in the right direction with his thesis, but has not followed his idea to it’s logical conclusion. Nor did he state his thesis clearly enough.

  13. says

    38. Publishing for Profit by Thomas Woll

    I read this book as part of the process of starting my own publishing company. I think that if I ever expand, this book will be a great resource. As my company is so small right now, most of the information in this book was beyond what I needed. Since many of my books are digital, I did appreciate the chapter on Electronic Publishing and Marketing, but would have appreciated more details on how to market the book and turn site visitors into book buyers.

  14. says

    39. God and World in the Old Testament by Terence Fretheim

    I really enjoy the perspective and insights of Terence Fretheim, and this book was no exception. He has a good grasp of how God works in the world and how to read and understand the Old Testament so that it reveals the God of the Old Testament in a way that looks like Jesus Christ.

    This volume in particular is Fretheim’s sweeping view of how to read the Old Testament in a way that makes the theology of the Old Testament reveal God as a relational being, who seeks to love, care, and provide for His children. Many theologies of God from the Old Testament portray God as distant from the world, or focus primarily on his attributes and characteristics. This book by Fretheim shows that the God of the Old Testament wants to reveal love and concern for us, His creation.

  15. says

    40. The Peaceable Kingdom by Stanley Hauerwas

    I don’t know why I keep trying to read Hauerwas. I just cannot stand his writing. I know he is a world class theologian, but as I read his books, I cannot help thinking, “Just get to your point!” It seems that one of the prerequisites to being a world class theologian is writing books that take forever to say anything worthwhile.

  16. says

    41. Christianity and War by Laurence Vance

    I have been doing a lot of reading on violence and warfare recently, and this book is one I wanted to read, mainly because I so much appreciated Vance’s book on Calvinism. Though Vance has a biting way of writing (don’t we all, at times?), his ideas are worth considering. This book was especially helpful in that it provided great statistics, details, and quotes about how Christians have wrongly supported warfare, and how war is filled with great evil. All who follow Jesus must seriously consider the dangers of supporting warfare.

  17. says

    42. The Prophets by Abraham Heschel

    This is one of the best books on the Prophets I have read. Heschel writes with a prophetic, piercing style about the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures and their message. Based on what I read in this book, it is high time for the people everywhere to reconsider the message of the prophets and how they apply to our times today. A thorough study and application of the prophets will help us see once again the heart and mind of God.

  18. says

    43. Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood

    This book is a great introduction to some of the issues surrounding the gospel, the death of Jesus, and what these mean for our lives and our understanding of God. Having said that, however, it is little more than an introduction. Flood touches on issues that leaves the reader wanting a fuller, deeper, more detailed explanation and defense. But this explanation never comes. As a result, the book ultimately fails to persuade the reader.

    I do think this book is a good introduction to a perspective on Christ, the cross, and the Gospel which most people might not have ever heard (especially the chapter on the Christus Victor view of the atonement) and for that, the book is worth reading.

  19. says

    47. Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port

    I am not really too interested in getting clients, but I do write and want to connect with a reading audience, so I read this book. It contains great information on relationship building, connecting with peers, interacting with customers, and all sorts of other helpful information on marketing, networking, personal branding, building trust, and getting word-of-mouth recommendations. I highly recommend it for any blogger, author, or business owner.

  20. says

    48. The Word of God for the People of God by J. Todd Billings

    I have been doing a lot of reading on the theological interpretation of Scripture. Honestly, most of the books on this topic are incredibly boring. This one is the best have read so far.

    He explains the Theological interpretation of Scripture better than the other books, provides some examples of how to do this with Scripture, and when he does not give an explanation of “how to” do it yourself, explains why such an explanation is impossible (p. 195).

    However, I still have the nagging issue with this book that I had with all the others: Either I have always read and studied the Bible using theological hermeneutics, OR I don’t really understand what it is.

    As I read these books, I find myself thinking, “Uh…. yeah, that’s how I’ve always read and taught Scripture. What’s the big deal?”

    It does help me in one way though. If it is true that I’ve always read and studied Scripture theologically, and if it is true that Bible colleges and seminaries don’t teach or encourage this way of reading Scripture, then this explains why the Bible college/seminary method of Bible study and hermeneutics always felt lifeless and dead to me.

    So I don’t really recommend this book, unless you are writing a paper (or book) on the theological interpretation of Scripture. Then this book is one you must read.

  21. says

    49. Practicing Theological Interpretation by Joel Green

    This book provides a basic “how to” for engaging in the theological interpretation of Scripture. Essentially, it requires understanding Ecclesiology (p. 16-17), understanding Christology (p. 29), understanding the grand narrative of Scripture (p. 21, 30), and then reading Scripture in light of these three areas (p. 41-42).

    Yes, this involves reading the Old Testament texts in light of the church and Jesus Christ.

  22. says

    50. Reading Scripture with the Church by Adam, Fowl, Vanhoozer, and Watson

    This was the first book I ever read on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and it was not a good book to start with. It seems the four contributors assumed that the readers were already familiar with what theological interpretation is, and how to engage in the theological interpretation of Scripture.

    I was familiar with neither, and spent half the book feeling like I was listening in on a conversation between friends as they discussed some event which only they had experienced.

    Since that time (and before I wrote this review), I have read several other books on the topic, and have a better grasp of the subject. But having read those other books, I still don’t think that this book added much to the conversation, so I cannot recommend it.

  23. says

    52. The Fire of God by John Michael Talbot

    I really thought this was going to be a study on the image of fire in Scripture, but it turned out to be more of a study on the symbol of fire in Franciscan theology, applied to various sins and experiences in life.

    I usually like reading Catholic theology (even if I don’t always agree with it), but this book placed too much emphasis on Franciscan thought and theology, and too little emphasis on explaining Scripture.

  24. says

    53. Pilgrim’s Regress by CS Lewis

    In this book, CS Lewis mixes autobiography with the religious/philosophical history of Western culture, and writes about it in the form of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Most of the time, I was quite unclear about the images and symbols Lewis was using in the book, so I was happy to learn that later in life, he regretted the “needless obscurity” with which he wrote this book (p. 200). As a result, I really appreciated the little “summary statements” which are found at the top of each page to explain what is going on. Without these, I would have been hopelessly lost. Lewis said he added these later to compensate for how difficult the plot and images are to follow.

    Of course, not all is negative. Lewis does write with keen insight and clear logic, and shows that much of what modern people chase after in religion, politics, society, and philosophy, is empty and pointless. That alone makes this book worth reading.

  25. says

    54. The Christlike God by John Taylor

    This book traces the evolution of thinking about God through the ages, that is, how people have thought about God over time.

    I struggled somewhat understanding how the chapters fit together, and felt that the book was sort of a collection of individual essays about theological thinking regarding God, rather than a cohesive book. In other words, I struggled to see the advancement of a central argument or common theme.

    In the end, what God says to our carefully constructed theology is to give us Jesus Christ. And what does God say to thoughts about a god who cannot suffer, cannot die, and cannot change? He says the same thing He said to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!”

  26. says

    55. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner

    Never trust a book on suffering and pain from someone who has not experienced great suffering and pain. Since this is so, this book by Harold Kushner can be trusted. He has experienced great personal loss in his own life, and this book came out of his painful experiences.

    While many Christian readers may disagree strongly with his views on evolution (pp. 59, 75), that living eternally is bad (pp. 79-80), and a few other points of theology, in the end, he has the right conclusion.

    1. Bad things just happen. Sometimes there is no reason.
    2. God doesn’t send bad things upon us or cause them.
    3. Given the world that we have, pain and death are sometimes gifts.

    I highly recommend this book, as I think it is one of the best books I have read on this topic.

  27. sethr says


    I think I have more of a Kaleidoscopic view of the atonement with heavy emphasis one way or the other depending on what is needed to be highligted at the moment. When highlighting one aspect keeping in focus the other views so that one doesn’t just see the cross one way. I think of the manifold wisdom of God and how He accomplishes so many things with one act or one direction given.

    Recently I saw a short documentary on youtube with New Tribe Missions. I guess there approach to presenting the gospel is from the Penal Substitute view. I will say though the powerful impact this had on this tribe who virtually all came to Jesus was profound. If you watch this you will be stirred deeply. And that is what leads me to keep in mind this view although in our modern age it is difficult to reconcile a holy God and a loving saviour.

    Check out the documentary here it is called Ee-taow (It is Truth) its about 23 minutes and worth it. There are some interesting nuggets in it. I would be curious as to your thoughts and reflections. http://youtu.be/LxcyiXFc5mc

  28. says

    56. What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible by Jason DeRouchie

    This book purports to be a survey of the Old Testament with an emphasis on how Jesus would have read and understood the Hebrew Scriptures.

    Frankly, it is anything but this. It is the same old Old Testament survey you will get anywhere else, with an emphasis on Calvinism.

    I wrote a longer review here: http://redeeminggod.com/the-bible-jesus-didnt-read/

  29. says

    57. Theological Interpretation of Scripture by Daniel Treier

    I have been reading a lot about theological hermeneutics this year, and this is one of the books I read. Of all the books I read, this one was definitely more of an introduction, and probably should have been the first book I read on this subject. It provides one of the better overviews I have read on the theological interpretation of Scripture.

    Best of all, it gives the 9 “rules” of Theological hermeneutics on page 200. I found these rules helpful as I seek to synthesize and incorporate this hermeneutical practice into my own study of Scripture. Among these rules are the helpful reminders that Scripture records a complex drama, rather than a set of rules and guidelines, and that as we read Scripture in dialogue with those who have gone before us, the goal is for the church to engage in redemptive action in the world.

    If you are looking to learn more about theological interpretation of Scripture, this is the book to start with.

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