The Best Books I Read in 2023
Christians are known as “people of the book” because of their commitment to the Bible. One of the first things missionaries did when they reached a new culture was teach people to read.
While reading the Bible is our priority, anyone who has read it knows that the biblical writers read things other than the Scriptures. They read the literature of their time.
If we want to grow in our faith, if we want to be educated, if we want to understand human nature, if we want to do our jobs with excellence, if we want to be better friends, spouses, or parents, if we want to love God with our minds… we need to read.
You might read quickly or slowly, you might prefer novels or theology, you might have lots of time to read or only a little bit each week. That’s fine. We don’t need to do everything the same way. The only thing we all need to do is read something beneficial.
Reading is personal, so I don’t suggest these are the best books of all time or that my favorites will necessarily be yours. But maybe one of the books I enjoyed will spark your interest. Feel free to share your list of favorites with me.
Here are the rest of the best books I read in 2023 (in no particular order). Select a category from the list below to jump down to the topic of book you’re most interested in reading, or you can scroll to see all my favorites.
Bible and Theology
Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity by Brian Rosner
“Who am I?” Culture says that to figure out our identity we must look within ourselves. The Bible gives a different answer. Our identity is determined by God, and we discover who we are when we look up to him not within ourselves.
Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World by E. Randolph Richards
Most Christians don’t realize how much their culture affects the way they read the Bible. The highly individualized American culture is vastly different from the collectivist cultural context of the. Richards helps strip away our individualistic assumptions and, in the process, makes the Bible come to life.
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is by N. T. Wright
There’s probably nothing more important than understanding Jesus’s person and purpose. N. T. Wright is an expert guide because he’s able to explain difficult ideas in simple, clear prose. This book pairs well with Wright’s Simply Jesus. Both are well worth your time.
The Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin's Missionary Ecclesiology by Michael Goheen
The very uninteresting title hides a terribly interesting book. Newbigin spent decades as a church leader in India before returning to the U.K. Coming back to his home country after a long absence, he was able to see the weaknesses of western Christianity through the eyes of a missionary.
Revelation for the Rest of Us: A Prophetic Call to Follow Jesus as a Dissident Disciple by Scot McKnight and Cody Matchett
If you’re scared of Revelation but still want to learn more, this book is for you. This is a non-sensationalized look at one of the most controversial books in the New Testament. Based on the best scholarship, it explains all the imagery (dragons, lambs, beasts, oh my!) in a way the average person can understand.
Suffering Wisely and Well: The Grief of Job and the Grace of God by Eric Ortlund
I came across this book while teaching a class on the Bible’s wisdom literature. If you’re in pain or have just questions about suffering, you’ll benefit from a careful examination of the issue through the lens of Job.
If you don’t like to have your beliefs challenged, if you don’t want anyone to mess with your favorite verses, don’t read this book! N. T. Wright walks through Romans 8 verse by verse and, in the process, reinterprets the entire book. His explanation of Romans 8 makes far more sense to me than what I’d been taught for years.
Living With Other Creatures by Richard Bauckham
The book lays out a biblical case for caring for all of creation, whether it’s the earth or the animals. The author is one of the best New Testament scholars in the world and you’ll never regret reading anything he writes.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
Warning: I’m a sucker for character development. To me, characters mean more than the plot. The good thing is that this book has both. Plus, you learn a little something about octopi.
The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel by Michael Faber
A unique combination of sci-fi, love story, and a missionary’s ministry. Heads up that the opening chapter contains an intense love scene between a married couple.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
Who’s in for some historical fiction? You’ve heard a lot about C. S. Lewis’s public life. This is a great window into his personal life.
An award-winning journalist with the BBC, the author issues a devastating critique of ideology masquerading as psychology. It’s not a coincidence that the announcement that Tavistock, the world’s largest pediatric gender clinic, would close just months before this book was available to the public.
The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes by Nancy Pearcey
It’s undeniable that something is wrong with men. They are falling behind in almost every measurable category, ranging from economic prosperity to friendships to deaths of despair. This book stands out because it not only explains the current problem but also how we arrived at this point.
Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America by Russell Moore
Something is terribly wrong in pockets of evangelicalism. Scandals, Christian Nationalism, covering up abuse, leadership failures, and political tribalism have become far too common. Moore calls the church to put the gospel over politics and integrity over influence.
The Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right but how should Christians think about it? How does the Bible talk about it? This book addresses all the most difficult questions with grace and truth. It’s my new go-to book that I’ll be recommending to those seeking answers.
The beginning of this book reminds me of mine and Patrick’s book Truth Over Tribe. After part one, Guzman gives lots of practical tips for having healthy political conversations with people from the other side of the aisle. Bonus: lots of good stories.
The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going, and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back? by Jim Davis, Michael Graham, and Ryan Burge
For American Christians, this might be the most important book published this year. The authors take a deep dive into the data to show that 45 million Americans have left the church in the past 25 years. While you probably find that discouraging, all hope isn’t lost. Many want to return. Understanding who they are and why they left will equip you to build redemptive relationships.
It seems intuitively obvious that, in the vast majority of cases, it’s far better that kids be raised by two parents than one. If you care about inequality, if you care about childhood poverty, if you care about giving kids the best chance to succeed, you need to care about family structure.
Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryll WuDunn
Kristof, a New York Times columnist, visits his hometown in rural Oregon to find his former high school classmates are facing joblessness, drugs, single parenthood, and obesity. What can be done to help the working class?
Christian Nationalism is getting its fifteen minutes of fame in the media. In this book, Whitehead tries to define the term, explain what’s wrong with it, and offer a Christian alternative.
Too often, when Christians are confronted by an antagonistic culture, they retreat and go silent. Natasha Crain offers an alternative: Christians can understand the culture and be equipped to give persuasive answers.
King: A Life by Jonathan Eig
I’ve read a few King biographies, but this is the best. Eig had access to more people and more documents than other biographers, allowing him to tell the most accurate story of Dr. King’s life. I listened to this on Audible and the reader was fantastic.
All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir by Beth Moore
The author is well known among evangelicals as a Bible teacher and author. This time, she transparently shares her own story, complete with all her weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Moore reads the audiobook. Hearing her story in her voice is powerful.
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir by Matthew Perry
An honest, heartbreaking story of a very public struggle with addiction. The author is as likeable as the character he played on Friends, Chandler Bing. I recommend the audiobook.
Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar
The story of the Duggars as told by one of the kids on the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting. A good reminder that things aren’t always as they seem.
American Prometheus by Kai Bird
The book behind the movie Oppenheimer. It made me reconsider whether it was morally right for the United States to drop the bomb on Japan to end WW2.
You can read my review of this book on The Gospel Coalition.
This book isn’t for everyone. But there’s something about the dark side of human nature that I find interesting or scary or something. Anyway, this is dark. You’ve been warned.
The author was instrumental in Eleven Madison Park becoming the number one ranked restaurant in the world. A must-read for any business or organization. Filled with phenomenal stories.
The Anxious Organization: Why Smart Companies Do Dumb Things by Jeffery Miller
I need to reread this book because it has so much good stuff in it that there’s no way I could get it all the first time through. If you’re tired of excuses, blame shifting, complaining, and office politics, read this book.
The most common unhelpful advice given to new graduates is to follow their passion. That cliched piece of advice sets people up first for confusion when they don’t know what they’re passionate about and then disappointment when they aren’t satisfied by following their passion. Newport gives them a more helpful alternative.
Human beings don’t behave rationally. Housel tells 19 stories about money and, more importantly, about human nature.
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