This year I read a lot of books, some really great ones…and some not so great ones. Here’s my list and the reviews I gave them. Enjoy!
2018 Book Listing
He Shall Have Dominion (Kenneth Gentry): One of the best books I've ever read. Every Christian needs to read this book and come face to face with these ideas. Not only is the book well-written, thorough, and rhetorically persuasive, but it's also very scripturally sound, exegetically secure, and theologically profound. Eschatology matters, and this eschatology speaks to the truth of God's mission on Earth.
Tongues-Speaking (Kenneth Gentry): This book is an incredibly solid overview of the Biblical view of the spiritual gift of tongues, and I highly recommend it to every Christian who may be confused as to the modern day relevance of the gift.
The Alcatraz Series (Brandon Sanderson): Given that Brandon’s middle grade fantasy series is made up of five rather short novels that make up a larger story and that I read them all back to back, I thought it might make sense to review them as a whole rather than separately. They are also pretty par for me in terms of how much I liked them. Let me just say: Brandon Sanderson is a genius. He gave me such an evocative world in such a short amount of time, and made me fall in love with every character, every story, and every random piece of magic and technology that he threw at me. Highly recommended and incredibly thrilling series.
Legion (Brandon Sanderson): The Legion series is wonderful, and one of Brandon's best non-Cosmere works. An interesting magic system that's never really fully explained but it still delved into in interesting ways, characters that both hurt you and make you want to cheer in the best ways, and a thriller plotline that makes you never want to put the series down. There's also so many interesting little sci-fi elements that make it just a joy to read.
Snapshot (Brandon Sanderson): An incredibly creative and interesting story with a mind-blowing sci-fi concept that was taken in so many cool directions. Great ending.
Legacy: Life Among The Ruins (James Iles): One of the best role-playing games I've read in a while, and the first one since Burning Wheel that has gotten me so excited to tell stories in the setting. Such interesting mechanics that seem to push story along in so many evocative directions.
Generation Ship (Aaron Griffin): An incredibly interesting setting using the Legacy mechanics, and one that makes me really excited to explore.
His Majesty's Dragon (Naomi Novik): Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon is an engaging, intelligent novel, and well-suited for the higher age-ranges of the “young adult” market. Though some of its language and themes make it less desirable for readers more towards middle-grade than young adult, it is nevertheless a valuable book for a young adult in several ways: Its intelligence and creativity, its easy and natural discussion of difficult subjects, and its eye towards strong character development throughout the book.
Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson): This book was phenomenal. So focused and hauntingly beautiful. Succinct yet poetic in every sentence, saying so many things with such little word count. I was blown away by the story of Melinda, and her journey in learning to speak again. It was heart-wrenching and hopeful, and made we want to be stronger.
That You May Prosper (Ray Sutton): A fantastic book on the covenant from a consistent eschatological perspective, That You May Prosper really blew my mind with its clarity, Biblical faithfulness, and intelligence in the way it dug deep to find the patterns that shape the way the Bible was written.
Paradise Restored (David Chilton): I adored this book. So much fun to read. So filled with Biblical hope. So consistent in its argumentation and its exegesis. Highly recommended to both current postmillenials and those who are skeptical about the eschatological system.
The Beast of Revelation (Kenneth Gentry): I just love the way Kenneth Gentry writes. So thorough, so succinct, and so Biblically faithful. If you want to know who the Beast of Revelation is--read this book.
Dominion and Common Grace (Gary North): A really good overview of the doctrine of common grace from the perspective of theonomic postmillenialism. It was insightful, detailed, and well-written, and gave me loads to think about.
The Attributes of God (A.W. Pink): I greatly enjoyed this book. Given that it was the book that starting me on my journey towards the Doctrines of Grace, I owe it so very much, and it was great to return to it to finally finish it. The book systematically and thoroughly exegetes scripture to present to us a picture of the attributes of God.
The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English (Stan Reeves): A lovely summary of a Biblical faith consistent with scripture, all-presented in modern English in a way that is both faithful to the original writing while making it much more comprehensible and clear for a modern audience.
Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes (E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O’Brien): Good look at Western cultural perceptions that might hinder our interpretation of the Bible. Don't agree with all of the conclusions the authors make about interpretation, but they do an admirable job of helping the reader understand the importance of proper historical and linguistic context and providing helpful advice in reading scripture with awareness of our own cultural biases.
Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins): A wonderful book and a good ending to a wonderful series. Though not perfect, and I think lacking in the completion of some of its most important themes, the book is a fantastically written journey into the depravity of humanity, the hopelessness of politics in fixing human nature, and the struggle to choose between fighting fire with fire or being burned.
Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng): A beautiful and haunting depiction of family disfunction and the tragedy that sometimes has to happen for people to come to redemption.
The Only Harmless Great Thing (Brooke Bolander): Hauntingly beautiful, poetic, and sad in all the right ways. Fantastic characters and storytelling? Awesome. Poetic beauty that seems to somehow transcend language at times? Even better. Uplifted elephants? Sign me up.
Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell): This book had such a wonderful, sweet, and oddball romance. Eleanor & Park 4 Life.
Who Is The Holy Spirit? (R.C. Sproul): A fantastic overview of the third person of the Godhead, and incredibly Biblical in its presentation of His role in our lives as Christians.
A Little Book on the Christian Life (John Calvin): I love the way Calvin writes. Not only is it engaging and thoughtful, but it's so passionate and sincere in both its desire to be faithful to God in everything, and its patient care and gentleness. You can definitely tell John Calvin was a pastor, and a good one. The reason I give this book only four stars is the last two chapters. Though the first three were phenomenal in every way, the last two suffered from poor exegesis and a lack of a Biblically consistent eschatology. Calvin was influenced by a pseudo-Gnostic idea of our being "pilgrims on Earth" and desiring to escape the confines of the curse and go to live in heaven. The reason he falls into this error is because he takes verses out of their first century context and tries to apply them to all of human history, in particular, in the way we should treat our lives as Christians here on Earth. Despite this, however, I very much enjoyed the things Calvin had to say.
Can I Lose My Salvation? (R.C. Sproul): Lovely little book on the perseverance of the saints. Overviews a few of the objections but ultimately just gives solid evidence for the Biblical truth of God's faithfulness to us in salvation.
RWBY (Shirow Miwa): This manga was the first volume of a future manga adaptation of the RWBY series. It was a fun romp with the characters from RWBY, going back to the good old days of Season 1. I needed just a little bit more time with these characters, and this manga provided it for me. Thanks Shirow Miwa.
Art for God's Sake (Philip Graham Ryken): A fantastic, short read on a theology of art. There are a few things that I feel like are oversimplifications in the text, but the meat of the book is solid.
Marcelo in the Real World (Francisco X. Stork): I really enjoyed this book--getting to know Marcelo's character and see the world through his eyes, seeing his relationship with Jasmine evolve throughout the story, and watching Marcelo evolve himself into someone who could handle the "real world." Also, I've adopted Marcelo. He's my child now. That is all.
A Tale For The Time Being (Ruth Ozeki): One of the few hopeful depictions of depression in a literary culture filled with glorifications, A Tale For The Time Being is a story of very human people trying their best to keep going on when they feel like there's nothing to live for.
The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman): There were definitely a lot of interesting worldbuilding bits in here, and the plot was solid, even if the atheistic agenda of the author was rather unsubtle.
Looking for Alaska (John Green): This book. I liked this book. I felt emotions at this book. Unfortunately, there were a lot of unnecessary gross things in this book that made it hard to get through. Though it's thoughts on death and the loss of friends are poignant and admirable, it's not a book I would ever recommend to its target audience. Also, the ending left just a bit to be desired. Maybe I just saw it coming too soon, but it fell a little flat for me.
Universal Harvester (John Darnielle): I really enjoyed Universal Harvester. It didn’t take me too long to get into the story, and the initial descriptions of the tapes were haunting and disturbing in all the right ways. I loved the slow build in tension and horror throughout the first half of the novel, and the subtle teasing the narrative does in hinting at the horrible things to come. My favorite moments include when the narrator talks about that “in some versions of this story…” and then has alternate ideas or conjectures about the lives of the people they are writing about. The weird semi-omniscient unreliable narrator is one of my favorite things about this book. I was very interested in finding out the answer to the question of who were the people one the tapes, and who recorded them, as the tension kept building. This book ended up being something very different from what I expected it to be. And where some people would be disappointed by that, I think I really enjoyed it because of that. Instead of degenerating into some cheap horror slasher, we went deeper into the concepts of loss, grief, and purpose and experienced more of the existential horror surrounding those abstracts. I really, really enjoyed that about the book. It began as a story about a small Midwestern American town, and it ended that way as well. It was about the people in the town, the dread of finding a meaning in life, the abject loneliness of loss and grieving a loved one. And I really liked it. One of my favorite parts was the section on the parents of Lisa Sample. The simple beauty and the slow descent into inevitable madness in that section was hauntingly beautiful to read. I loved the reveal at the end, and found myself restructuring everything that had happened previously to fit the new narrative I had discovered. Universal Harvester was a delightful, spooky, and existential read, and I recommend it highly. Darnielle is a beautiful writer, and there are moments of such poetic prose in the book that it makes you just sit back and think about the same phrase over and over again.
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak): I really liked a lot of the things this book did. Its focus on the power of language and books is powerful, and its horrific depictions of life in Nazi Germany are equally so. I loved that Death was the narrator, and though I did have some problems with the novel dragging a bit and some of the content, I do recommend it.
Are These The Last Days? (R.C. Sproul): Baby's first preterism :) A good look at the issues surrounding the Olivet Discourse, and though I wish R.C. Sproul would have followed the line of exegetical evidence further into a more rounded eschatological position, it's still a solid read.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky): I want to love this book. I really do. It has great characters, plot, and themes. Unfortunately, it's also trash. There is just so much juuuunnkk in this book and I couldn't stand reading it sometimes, but this being a book I read for school, I plunged onward. I feel like YA authors put crap like this into books just so they can feel edgy and self-righteous when their book is banned from school libraries.
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline): I could write a whole dissertation on why this isn't a very good book. Not only is the plot almost completely devoid of any try-fail cycles or any sense of tension, the main character is the ultimate exemplification of a wish-fulfillment character. The setting was also much to be desired. While I enjoyed some of the worldbuilding surrounding the video gaming culture itself, the whole thing just really falls flat. Unless you have as an intensely specific knowledge of 80's pop culture as the main character (and the author), pass on this book.
The Aztecs (Roger Smalley): A fun little kid's book about the Aztecs :)
Stone Animals (Kelly Link): So, I wasn’t entirely into the ending of this piece, but the rest of it I adored in a sickly fascinated way. It’s just so wonderfully weird. Full of strangeness and descending into madness. I enjoyed the story much more than I expected to, given the slow beginning. My favorite moments of the story was the continued descent into madness that happened every time a new thing became haunted. Especially when their son became haunted later in the story, it was just so creepily satisfying, narratively. My question is “what happens next???” I really want to know more about the weird surrealistic magic of the setting and what the meaning of it all was, but I feel like I understand why the author ended it the way they did. It was wonderfully surreal, if a little sad to me, to see it ending there.
Lying (Lauren Slater): This was definitely an interesting read. There is a lot of metaphor to follow, but I got a general sense of the ideas the author was trying to convey, so I think I followed it pretty well. I really enjoyed the sad and haunting relationship that the author and her mother work through in the first half of the memoir. The mother is very well-characterized—Slater’s descriptions give us a very good idea of who her mother was like, despite whether or not metaphor is being used to exaggerate even her persona. In the end, I didn’t like this book quite as much as I thought I would originally. The metaphor bobbed and weaved in some unsatisfying directions, and the answers we got towards the end of the novel only served to further confuse me and bewilder any sense of narrative cohesion the memoir had in my mind. The postmodernism at play in this book reminds me far too much of Marcus for me to say I “liked it” at the end of the day. One arc of the memoir that gave me an incredible sadness was the author’s love affair with the writer “Christopher.” It made me really depressed and anxious to see a young woman so blatantly be used sexually by an older man. It was obvious that the woman in that situation was desperately seeking human contact, but in all the wrong ways, and it saddened me to see the mental trauma from that and many of the other directions the memoir took her story. A question I have getting to the end of the memoir is the obvious one: “What is the truth here?” It seems to me like Lauren Slater still probably needs some serious mental support, and I hope that she’s gotten it, and that Lying hasn’t been her only way to reach out for help for the obvious trauma she must have gone through as a young person.
Feed (M.T. Anderson): I would have given this book two stars, I disliked it that much, until I saw the plot twist. The plotting was just good enough to bump it up by one star. Problem is, this book is just propaganda.
The Age of Wire and String (Ben Marcus): This book confused me. So, so very much. And that's just about all I have to say about it.