Here’s some highlights from the year that was.
The Night Village by West Australian author Zoe Deleuil was a terrific slow burner about a difficult London house guest. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante kicked off my journey into the quartet of Neopolitan novels. King Lear on Audible was excellent, and a good spur to think through succession planning. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go for strong 1990s vibes; Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë brought some Gothic gloom to the winter reading programme. And C. S. Lewis’s foray into science fiction, The Ransom Trilogy, is basically on repeat at the moment. Prescient.
Apologetics and Evangelism
Glen Scrivener’s The Air We Breath was the evangelistic highlight of 2022. A gripping account of the way in which Christianity gave rise to many of the values we hold dear. Sam Chan’s How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being That Guy) is an excellent guide to effective evangelism in the 2020s.
Self-Help and Leadership
Small Preaching: 25 Little Things You Can Do Now to Make You a Better Preacher by Jonathan T. Pennington is exactly what it says on the tin. One of those books you can’t believe hasn’t already been written. Very helpful. Steve Cuss’s Managing Leadership Anxiety and Arthur Brooks’s From Strength to Strength: Finding Success and Happiness in the Second Half of Life were both excellent, even if a bit of a giveaway as to the psychological state of the person reading them. Radical Candor by Kim Scott was an excellent, if bracing, call to build open and honest feedback cultures in workplaces. Transforming Education: Reimagining Learning, Pedagogy and Curriculum, by Miranda Jefferson and Michael Anderson is an energetic re-think of education with application beyond schools.
Small Preaching: 25 Little Things You Can Do Now to Make You a Better Preacher
Jonathan T. Pennington
It’s not often that we hear the virtues of the small. Our culture teaches that bigger is better—and that includes church ministry and preaching, too. But what if rather than swinging for the fences, preachers focused on improving their sermons through small habits, practices, and exercises? What if smaller is better?
In a world where “small” isn’t always celebrated, Jonathan T. Pennington provides Small Preaching, a short book of simple tips that can have revolutionary effects over time. Pennington offers preachers 25 words of wisdom that will help shape their preaching for the better.
Shakespeare, by Bill Bryson was fun. A Bigger Picture, Malcolm Turnbull’s autobiography was, like Obama’s several autobiographical writings, a book in which the author’s delight in the subject matter was palpable. Peter Alexander’s biography of Australia poet Les Murray was masterful and engrossing.
What Adults Don’t Know about Architecture and What Adults Don’t Know About Art are both great books you should happily put into the hands of any upper primary school or early high school students you know. At Home by Bill Bryson for vintage Bryson.
Jane Tooher and Graham Benyon’s book Embracing Complementarianism fills a significant gap in getting that particular theology to land in the actual circumstances of church life. Chris Watkin’s Biblical Critical Theory is magnificent. Stuart Piggin’s biography of Sydney archbishop Harry Goodhew: Godly Radical, Dynamic Anglican was fascinating. Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson mixed sound pastoral advice with unhinged exegesis of Jonah. Oliver O’Donovan’s Desire of the Nations is getting a second run, with my comprehension rates now reaching a pleasing 8-11%. Karl Barth’s Evangelical Theology was a winner for reading with our church staff team. For Shame: Rediscovering the Virtues of a Maligned Emotion by Gregg Ten Elshof was probably this year’s Most Valued Player. Insightful and philosophically sure-footed.