My Top 21 of 2021

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After the roundup of what I read in 2021, with my apologies again for a dearth of reviews, here are my top 21 books.

21 – Mark (TNTC) by Eckhard Schnabel – an excellent and accessible commentary on Mark which opened up my view of this gospel, and proved an inspiring and joy-bringing read in the run-up to Christmas. I loved it because it pointed me to Jesus repeatedly, and didn’t mince words in interpretation.

20 – The World of the New Testament edited by Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald – a good friend with an NT PhD recommended this as brilliant one stop shop for NT context. He was right. A brilliant compendium of knowledge on a whole bunch of stuff relevant to the study, preaching and reading of New Testament texts.

19 – The Culture of Theology by John Webster – profound, beautifully written theology. We need more people to write and think like Webster.

18 – Write Better by Andrew Le Peau – I love reading, and in order to read things, someone has to write them. In my day job as an editor, this is a book I wish more proposal-authors had read, and that I regularly recommend to people at all stages of the process. A superb book on writing.

17 – Jude and 2 Peter (NCCS) by Andrew Mbuwi – I like this commentary series, and this is an excellent shorter commentary on these two shorter (but vital) New Testament books. Recommended!

16 – Galatians by Craig Keener – Keener is a capable and brilliant exegete – with a genuinely scary reading ability. This doorstop on Galatians is excellent – if overkill for some uses. A significant chunk of it is bibliography!

15 – Prayer and Preaching by Karl Barth – a short book (I think perhaps originally two really short books) on two vital parts of the Christian life. Barth is profound on prayer, and I’d not really given him much thought on preaching before. A great shorter read.

14 – Creation and Fall by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a genuinely brilliant and creative study of Genesis 1-3. For me, a gateway drug back in to Bonnhoeffer, who I’m intending to read more of this year.

13 – New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp – in 2020 I started to use a 365 devotional alongside other devotional reading – this was my 2021 choice. Some quirky moments, but generally excellent and often absolutely spot on what I needed. Enjoyed the lovely leather Crossway edition – because book format matters.

12 – Piercing Leviathan by Eric Ortlund – this is an excellent entry in the NSBT series, and it is also a searing and searching look at Job and his suffering. I’d recommend it – even if you’d normally be wary of more academic style books. Ortlund writes well, wears his (ginormous) knowledge lightly, and opens up the Bible on this vital topic.

11 – Wonderfully Made by John Kleinig – a nicely produced hardback book from Lexham Press which contained a distinctly Lutheran theology of the body. Not perfect, but very, very good, extremely readable, and clear on what he thought about everything he touched on! Recommended.

10 – Silent Cries by Jonny and Joanna Ivey – a beautifully written, painful but vital little book. Whether you or someone you know has suffered baby loss, this is a book worth picking up.

9 – Between the Swastika and the Sickle by James Edwards – a strange but wonderful book, looking at the mysterious life of a New Testament scholar I’d not heard of before. A brilliant blend of academic biography, history, and Cold War thriller. From someone who’s commentary on Mark was the last thing I read by the author!

8 – The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes – a Puritan classic that I might read every year. This is the archetype of ‘deep devotion’, and a stirring little book.

7 – John Stott on Creation Care by Sam Berry and Laura Yoder – The only book on this list I edited – and that because I believe it is truly special. Berry and Yoder trace Stott’s journey from mild ambivalence to thinking that creation care is a key mark of Christian discipleship. Get it in ebook for yourself, or fully recyclable hardback.

6 – The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider – lots of people have raved about this, and they were right. It sounds a strange pitch – a book about how patience was a key part of the Early Church’s growth – but it is meticulously researched, well written, and utterly fascinating. Also quite moving.

5 – Bavinck by James Eglinton – a masterclass in theological biography. Having read Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics in 2020, I wish I’d read this first.

4 – Embodied Hope by Kelly M. Kapic – an excellent short book on suffering that takes lots of things seriously. Kapic is an author I’m keen to read more of.

3 – Reordering Theological Reflection by Helen Collins – an absolutely brilliant book. Well written, iconoclastic in the best way by engaging robustly with the ideas of theological reflection and bringing the Bible into the conversation as authoritative. I loved it because it helped me make sense of some of my issues and concerns about aspects of my own theological education.

2 – Follow Me by John Valentine – this older (2009) book is a beautiful example of the importance of keeping things in print, rather than just hoping they go viral on publication day. Valentine paints an infectiously beautiful picture of following Jesus – and this is a book I will recommend to new Christians who can read, and older Christians who feel weary. Stunning.

Book of the Year – One of Them by Musa Okwonga – some books are designed to take you away from yourself. This is one of those. Okwonga was a black boy at Eton – and that’s perhaps the simplest possible hook for a book. Wonderfully written, deeply careful, and painfully revealing. I reread chunks of it the day after I finished it, and will go back to it again. The kind of small book that makes me think books are worthwhile. Brilliant.

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