My Favorite Books for 2022
It is the last week of 2022, and in then this last week of 2022, there are all sorts of things happening, all sorts of retrospectives, where people are remembering the year that we’re just about to complete. There are all sorts of things where people are making these sorts of year-end recommendations of the best movies of 22 and the best books of 22, and the best television series of 22, and all these kinds of things. As we reflect, I want to give you some book recommendations for the best books I read in 2022. I’ll tell you at the start; I’m going to make two recommendations. I’m telling you at the start that I’m doing this a little bit reluctantly. I don’t know that the books that I like are the books that you’re going to like. I certainly don’t think that the books I read are the books that you absolutely need to read. But I do love to read. Reading is one of the things throughout the year that I do most consistently, most regularly. I love to read. I love to share my joy in reading. And so, I want to share a few of the books that meant the most to me in 2022.
How I Read
Before I tell you what those two books were, I want to tell you a little bit about how I read. There are other people who read a lot more than I do. For me, I have as a goal every day to read about 50 pages. I don’t always make that. Some days, I don’t get to read it all. Some days, it’s too busy, I’m too tired, and there are too many things going on, and I don’t read at all. On other days, I’ll read ten pages. Some days, I read 100 pages. But I try I have as a goal to try to read about 50 pages a year. That is something that is enjoyable to me; it doesn’t feel like drudgery. I like to do it. If you can’t imagine reading 50 pages, I’m not telling you, that’s what you got to do. I would love it if you found the same delight in reading that I did. But if you’re reading ten pages a day, you’re going to read a lot actually over the course of the year. I try to read 50 pages, and that gets me to, I don’t know what it is, something like 60 books or something like that, that I try to read a year. It’s not just how much I read about 50 pages with the pressure off. But it’s also what I read. I sort of read in three categories. I read what I have to read for ministry. As a pastor, as an author, as a preacher, there are all sorts of information I need. I’ve got a book on the great love of God coming out in the spring of next year. A lot of the books that I read in 2021 were books about the love of God because I wanted to know as much as I could about that before I wrote about it. As a preacher who has to preach sermons every week, I spent a lot of time reading commentaries, if there are popular and controversial issues out there in Christianity that I need to know about to shepherd my folks. I’m reading about those. So first, I read what I’ve got to read for ministry. Second, I love to read history and biography. Apart from ministry books, it’s probably the case that the books I read most are biography and history because that is something that is interesting to me. I love to know about people and events that have come before me. I almost always learn a lot as I read those books and learn a lot about things that I can apply to ministry to, leadership, to Christian faithfulness. I read ministry books. I read history and biography. And then kind of a third category is I love to read novels for fun. Some of the most fun I have in my life is reading a really good novel that is well-written that is interesting, and engaging. That is funny. I have some of my favorite authors. I have some of my favorite kinds of books. But those are the big three categories that I am reading in throughout the year. You don’t have to do that. You can read what you want. You can read as much as you want. It’s a free country; you have a free will. But for me, I try to read about 50 pages a day, and I try to read in those three categories throughout the year. Now, having said all that, if you are interested, I’m going to give you a couple of recommendations for books that I read this year. Now, if I read, I don’t know how many books I read this year, but if I read, if I read 50 books this year, well, it can be kind of hard to narrow down two out of that I’m not going to tell you all 50 I’m not going to bore you with the top 10. But, maybe if you’re interested in picking up a good book and you don’t know where to start, maybe two recommendations would help you.
Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
The first one is going to be a book that I read for ministry. One of the things that I do every year, one of our little Christmas traditions in the Lambert house and at First Baptist, is every year for Christmas; I give to each one of our pastors at First Baptist the book I read in the year that I judged to be the best book that I read in the year. They don’t have to read it. It’s not a homework assignment. It is a Christmas gift from me to the 22 pastors that I serve with here at First Baptist. So every year, I’m kind of thinking, hey, is this the book that I’d give to the pastors? Is this the book that has helped me the most? And this year, in 2022, the Christmas present that I gave to our pastors as the best, most helpful book I read in the year was a wonderful book called Tell Me the Stories of Jesus: The Explosive Power of Jesus’s Parables. It is a book by Al Mohler. You know Al Mohler as the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as the host of The Briefing, one of the most popular Christian podcasts out there. You might not know him as an author of a book about parables. He’s written a lot of books; I think I’ve read most or all of his books. But my favorite book of his now and the best book I read this year was this book about the parables. I’ve got to tell you, it was wonderful. It was wonderfully well-written and engaging. It was a masterwork of New Testament scholarship. It was a masterwork of theology and understanding Christian doctrine. It was a masterwork of cultural engagement. It was a masterwork of manners and customs. In the times of the Bible, I was amazed as I read this book that so faithfully interprets each of Jesus’s parables and so magically weaves theology and cultural engagement in Christian worldview. I thought it was a true masterwork. I loved reading it. I loved giving it as a gift to the pastors at First Baptist Church, and I love recommending it to you. If you’re into that kind of thing and want to read a book like that and want to grow in your wisdom and understanding of the parables of Jesus, I don’t think you can do better than Al Mohler’s book, Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.
The second book I’m going to recommend, my goodness, out of 50 or 60 books, I’m giving you two. The second book I’m going to recommend is a book that I read that was just pure joy. It was an absolute thrill for me to read. It was, I will tell you, one of the Agatha Christie novels. Now I need to confess to you I am a 43-year-old man, and I have never read an Agatha Christie novel. I had never done it. I don’t know why. One of the amazing things that I learned this year about Agatha Christie is that apart from the Bible and Shakespeare, she is the author that has sold more books than anybody else. The woman has over 1 billion copies of her books in print. When I learned that earlier in the year, I thought, you know what, I have to read some Agatha Christie. If a billion people are reading this, then I want to find out what they’re into. I also read it because I’ll be honest with you, as an author myself, who cannot imagine having a billion copies of my books in print, I wanted to read it as an exercise; what is she doing that makes people want to read her books? So I just decided I’m going to read some Agatha Christie novels this year. In fact, I decided I was going to read an Agatha Christie novel this year, and I think one turned into four or five or six. I am now an Agatha Christie fan. I don’t even know what you’ll think of it when you hear me say that. But I love Agatha Christie novels; there’s a lot I could recommend out of my five or six. I’d be happy to point you to all of them. But I think I’ll tell you what my very favorite is, it’s hard. But I read, actually, over Thanksgiving break a great Agatha Christie novel called Crooked House. It was so good from the beginning page. I mean, on the very first page, she just had me wondering who did this murder. You know, with an Agatha Christie novel, they’re murder mysteries. The whole thing is who done it, and that, by the way, is what I think works about Agatha Christie’s writing. I think it’s why she sold a billion. It’s very clear, accessible, writing with very entertaining characters and a storyline that just keeps you wondering. I think it was the next to last chapter before I finally started having a clue who done it in Crooked House. It is such an entertaining, fascinating read if you’ve got a Saturday afternoon, or a morning, this week in between Christmas and New Year’s when you don’t have anything going on, and you want to grab a cup of coffee and have a muffin, and you’re trying to delay taking the Christmas tree down, and you’re looking for a great excuse to kill some time, I think you’d come up with a lot worse options than reading Crooked House by Agatha Christie.
So here at the end of the year, that’s been 2022. If you’re looking for some books to read in 2023. I think if you want something really serious and helpful and wonderful, Tell Me the Stories of Jesus by Al Mohler, and if you’re looking for a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, Crooked House by Agatha Christie would be a great way to do it. I hope you have a happy new year, and we’ll see on Marked by Grace next year, next week to talk about new things and new issues where the grace of Jesus gets applied to all of life.