Favorite Books of 2013

Just one more list before we close out 2013. I’ve already done my 10 Favorite Posts of 2013 and my Favorite Albums of 2013, so now we just need to wrap things up with my favorite books of the year. As usual, I’m not saying that these were the “best” books, just the ones that I particularly enjoyed.


You’ll also notice that a couple of these books were actually published in 2012. That means that were published so late in the year that I couldn’t include them on last year’s list. Rather than exclude them completely, then, they get grandfathered in for this year.

If you love books and know of some particularly good ones that you’d like to recommend in any of these categories, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m always in the market for more books.

Systematic Theology

imagining the kingdomJames K. A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic, 2013)

Smith continues his fascinating series on how human persons are shaped by “cultural liturgies,” in other words, those formative practices that make us who we are. And in this book, he looks more closely at Christian worship as a formative practice. Blending theological anthropology, ecclesiology, theology proper, and pneumatology, this book is well worth a few hours of theological wrestling.

  • Runner Up: Sarah Coakley, God Sexuality and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Biblical Studies

paul and union with christConstantine Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Zondervan, 2012)

Campbell’s study of the “union with Christ” theme in Paul’s letters is exhaustive and insightful. He not only takes the reader through an exegetical study all of the different ways Paul refers to the believer’s union with Christ, but he also considers the theological implications of this theme, modeling a blend of biblical and theological reflection in a way that I hope others will follow.

You can read my full review here.

  • Runner Up: Preston Sprinkle, Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency (IVP Academic, 2013)

Church History and Historical Theology

quest for the trinitySteve Holmes, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History, and Modernity (IVP, 2012)

I could easily have included Holmes’ book in the systematic theology category above, but it really deals more with historical theology, correcting some widespread misconceptions about the “trinitarian revival” of the twentieth century. Taking the reader on a quick but thorough trip through the history of trinitarian reflection, points out several ways in which modern trinitarian theology tends to misread earlier trinitarian theology and, consequently, misses how much it differs in important ways from the conciliar consensus that it hopes to retrieve.

You can read my full review here.

  • Runner Up: Hans Boersma, Embodiment and Virtue in Gregory of Nyssa: An Anagogical Approach (Oxford University Press, 2013)

 Ministry/Christian Living

playing godAndy Crouch, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (IVP, 2013)

Pushing back on the popular idea that power is inherently bad, Andy Crouch argues convincingly that power is a gift that we exercise whenever we engage in any creative act. The question isn’t whether power is good, but what constitutes a good use of power.

  • Runner Up: Jerram Barrs, Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts (Crossway, 2013)


goldfinchDonna Tart, The Goldfinch (Little, Brown, and Company, 2013)

Warning: if you like your fiction sterile, predictable, and tame, this book is definitely not for you. Donna Tart’s narrative takes you through the trauma of loss and the hope of redemption with all of the ugliness and beauty that human life in a broken world so often manifests. So The Goldfinch is often profane and messy, but so is the world. And the book is worth reading for Tart’s beautiful prose alone.

  • Runner Up: Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel (William Morrow, 2013)

Guilty Pleasure

memory of lightRobert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, A Memory of Light (Tor, 2013)

Everyone needs at least a few books that they read just for the fun of it: sheer escapism. And there’s no question that my favorite this year was the final volume in the Wheel of Time series. I think I would have enjoyed it even if it was a terrible book just for the fact that it finally brought that never-ending series to its badly-needed conclusion. But it actually was a fun and fitting end to a long (and I mean really long) journey.

  • Runner Up: Sott Lynch, The Republic of Thieves (Del Rey, 2013)




  1. JimmyG says

    Yeah I hear you. I thought the Wheel of Time would never end. What a slog. As for other books, well I didn’t read as much this year as I should have, but I did manage to read a bunch of David Pawson’s books (recommended by a friend), as well as a few others, including “In the Beginning” by Walt Brown (excellent!), “Tower of Babel” by Bodie Hodge, and Michael Brown’s “Go and sin no more”. Happy New Year!

    Confession: um, well, my guilty pleasure was George Martin’s stuff. Please don’t tell anyone.


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