I read 102 books in 2022. This is my sixth consecutive year of reading 100 books.
2021: 110 books
2020: 106 books
2019: 105 books
2018: 111 books
2017: 100 books
Many people ask: “How do you read so many books?” Or they ask the more offensive question: “But do you really read all of them?”
Here are my tips for reading more books:
Be Selective in the Books You Read. Nothing slows down reading like a bad book. Thus, you must be selective. I only pick up books that I’m sure I will enjoy or books that I know contain information that will be helpful and useful. I know the topics I will enjoy. I know the authors I will enjoy. I read reviews upon reviews upon reviews. Each week I listen to the New York Times Book Review podcast and number of other book podcasts. I actively seek out book recommendations. It is extremely rare that I ever pick up a book simply because “It looks interesting.”
Build a large “To Be Read” Stack. Deciding which book to read next causes a major bottleneck in your reading totals. You can destroy this bottleneck by building a TBR (To Be Read) pile. In my office I have a large number of stacks that function as my TBR pile. When I finish a book, I merely pull a book from the top. Remember from my first suggestion: These stacks have been curated. I don’t have to “think” but merely grab the next book.
Read A Handful of Books Simultaneously. I have 3 to 5 books going at one time. If I’m really enjoying a book – it gets finished quickly. If I’m not enjoying a book – it gets finished slowly (rarely not at all). Sometimes you’re in a mood for something serious. At other times you’re in a mood for something lighter. Reading a handful of books at one time keeps you from getting bogged down.
Take Books With You Everywhere. This is an ongoing joke in my household. I take books with me every time I get in the car. I mean every. single. time. You’ll be surprised how often you find yourself waiting … a great time for reading a few pages. When I meet people for lunch I’m often waiting for them to arrive. A great time to steal 10 minutes of reading. To read a book a week you only need 3.5 hours a week (average size book for the average reading speed). You can easily gain an hour of reading a week by stealing 10 minutes a day here and there.
On to my favorite books for 2022. I want to stress that these are my favorite books that I read in 2022 (they made have been released in years gone by).
Book of the Year
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
This book was gifted to me by my good friend Amos Humphries. This now makes Amos directly responsible for two books that have won the honor of my favorite book of the year. He also recommended Places In Between by Rory Stewart which won the honor in 2018.
I read Destiny of the Republic in February and was spurred on to read all four of Millard’s book this year (another Millard book makes this list!). She now rests upon my Mt. Rushmore of authors. I will read anything she publishes.
Destiny of the Republic tells the surprisingly neglected story of the assassination of James Garfield and the medical failure which led to his death. It even has a storyline which includes Alexander Graham Bell. Charles Guiteau, raised in a fanatically religious household, grew convinced he was chosen by God for a special purpose. Unsuccessful in life and seeking a political appointment, Guiteau fixated on newly elected President Garfield. When turned down for a position, Guiteau opted for gunning down Garfield on a railway platform in Washington DC. The president survived the gunshot, but did not survive his team of doctors continually placing dirty hands into his wound.
Millard is a master of “slice of life” biographies. Her research is as evident as her literary craftsmanship. Her other books cover President Roosevelt traveling the Amazon, Churchill as a POW in the Boer war, and Burton discovering the source of the Nile.
Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage by Gavin Ortlund
I read this one in May. It is a great call for theological precision and Spirit-filled unity (my wording). When do we divide? What do we divide over? Ortlund provides a basic framework for thinking through the things which matter most. I put emphasis on what matters “most.” Ortlund is not seeking division – but unity.
There is a great need for such a discussion. Not too long ago I was in a deep theological conversation with a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. We stumbled onto the topic of eschatology. I was flabbergasted when my conversation partner forcefully said, “If a person doesn’t believe [his particular view of the end times] then I don’t consider them a Christian!” The more I asked questions, the more forceful his responses. He was fully convinced that a particular end times view was as essential as the deity of Christ.
I’m fully in favor of holding to theological convictions. You must hold to the deity of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the Trinity, authority of Scripture, salvation by grace (just to quickly name a few) in a closed fist. Yet, I do believe some theological positions fall into secondary and tertiary categories. Ortlund provides a helpful conversation guide filled with anecdotes from his own theological journey . It is an even-handed discussion.
Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative by Sam Storms
I mentioned eschatology with the previous book. Here is a book devoted solely to a particular eschatological view. I’m the first to say that my eschatology is “under developed.” I’ve studied the Bible. I’ve researched the views. I’ve read dozens of books and academic articles. Yet, I still can’t state my view (except for a view broad themes) with certainty. In regard to the millennial view – I can’t imagine a more thorough and more accessible volume. For those who hold an amillennial position, this book is helpful. To those who disagree with an amillennial position, this book is helpful.
From the book’s promotional material: “The second coming of Christ is a matter of sharp disagreement amongst Christians. Many hold to premillennialism: that Christ’s return will be followed by 1,000 years before the final judgement, a belief popularised in the popular Left Behind novels. However, premillennialism is not the only option for Christians. In this important new book, Sam Storms provides a biblical rationale for amillennialism; the belief that 1,000 years mentioned in the book of Revelation is symbolic with the emphasis being the King and his Kingdom.”
Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners by Dane Ortlund
Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly, made my list of favorites last year. Here he is again. I read Deeper in January and then read it again in June in preparation for a sermon series on spiritual growth. This is a volume in the Union series. I’ve read all the volumes released thus far. I recommend each one.
Ortlund states the Christian life is defined by growth. Yet, how this happens is often elusive. Deeper offers a structure of biblical teaching on how Christians grow in grace. The book is theological and biblical, but also immensely readable. I’d recommend it to any Christian seeking a book that is able to be read with the enjoyment of a devotional but the enrichment of a theological treaty.
The book is comprised of nine chapters: Jesus, Despair, Union, Embrace, Acquittal, Honesty, Pain, Breathing, Supernautalized. I found the discussion on despair, union, and embrace a powerful explanation of the gospel. I used a bit of that framework in the sermon series I preached on spiritual growth.
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
This is Millard’s second appearance on this list. I read this gem in February. I typically read a shelf full of presidential biographies in a given year. Yet, this was a light year for presidential reading. I can’t put the finger on the reason why. Yet, this book would have risen to the top even if it had dozens and dozens of competitors. This is not your typical presidential biography. In fact, the book is set entirely after Roosevelt left the White House.
Millard tells of Roosevelt’s planned leisurely tour which ended up a harrowing trek through the uncharted Amazonian forest. Roosevelt and his team joined forces with Brazil’s most famous explorer, Candido Rondon, exploring the Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt. Before it was over, the explorers would face deadly rapids, disease, starvation and a murderer within their own ranks.
The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie
I read this doorstop of a book in February. The Life You Save May Be Your Own is is multi-faceted biography of four American Catholics who picked up pens to tell the tale of faith: Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk in Kentucky; Dorothy Day the founder of the Catholic Worker in New York; Flannery O’Connor a literary prodigy in Georgia; Walker Percy a doctor in New Orleans who quit medicine to write fiction and philosophy.
Warning: This will not appeal to everyone. It is a sprawling, interwoven biography of religious writers. It either takes work or a love for the subject to make your way through it. I gobbled it up. It inspired me to finish The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor which I’ve carried around for years. I’m still working on it.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erick Larson
Here’s another book I read in February. Obviously the best reading month of the year. Larson was unknown to me until I was gifted this book by my friend Amos Humphries. He gifted me two books this year and both books made this list! That’s a good friend.
Larson is a gifted storyteller. The Devil in the White City is a history that reads like a Law & Order episode. The books covers the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the serial killer who used the majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who built the “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds which he used as a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and crematorium. If that sounds interesting … the book is better.
Rembrandt is in the Wind: Learning to Love Art Through the Eyes of Faith by Russ Ramsey
I read this in March but recently purchased a new edition released by Rabbit Room Press. It’s a larger size and all pictures are full color. I look forward to a reread.
The book is part art history and part biblical study. The book’s promo material says, “The lives of the artists in this book illustrate the struggle of living in this world and point to the beauty of the redemption available to us in Christ.” That’s enough to grab and keep my attention. Ever since I preached through the images in the rose window of the First Baptist Sulphur Springs (and wrote a book on it which you can find here: Stained-Glass Disciples), I have developed an even deeper love for art. I read a half dozen art books this year. With a pastor’s insight, Ramsey looks into the lives and artwork of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and others. He even includes appendices on “How to Visit an Art Museum” and “How to Look at a Work of Art.” The book is wonderfully executed. Each chapter is self-contained but adds to the whole.
The Biggest Story Bible Storybook by Kevin DeYoung and illustrated by Don Clark
I devoted a previous post to this Bible (see here) when I first received it. In April I spent hours reading the Bible from cover to cover and soaking up the artwork. I’ve returned to particular stories time and time again ever since. I love it. It’s not for all – but I recommend it to all!
The artwork is a stunner. It’s non-traditional but spectacular. You can find a glimpse of the artwork in the link to my previous post. Here’s a sample of the writing. This excerpt comes from the end of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4: “But Jesus wasn’t interested in teaching them about the weather. He wanted them to learn about faith. With Jesus in the boat they had no reason to fear. With Jesus in their corner, they could face the future. No matter the storm, and no matter how much he seems to be sleeping, Jesus will always be with us.”
The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present by Paul McCartney
I read both volumes over a week in October. They are a treasure. As a Beatles fan, Beatles lyrics run through my mind throughout the day. Rocky Raccoon is on constant loop in our kitchen. The Lyrics is a beautiful book – binding, layout, pictures. I spent a week with both volumes. I read every word and stared at each picture. The Beatles fan will love the book. The Beatles fan will also likely be bothered by the amount of Paul McCartney and Wings songs included in the collection. Give us more Beatles! With each song, McCartney gives the backstory. Photographs of original handwritten lyrics and edits are often included, along with promotional and personal photos.
I also recently read Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono. It is also a worthwhile book for music fans. It contains no marks of a ghostwriter. In parts it is beautiful, poetic language and in parts it is long winded ramblings of a man telling his favorite stories. The subtitle of Bono’s work might lead one to believe that this is similar to McCartney’s work – a rundown of the stories behind the songs. That is not the case. Bono uses song titles to introduce a specific scene in his life. This is all Bono.
David’s Crown: Sounding the Psalms by Malcolm Guite
Can a work of poetry wind up on my list of favorite books of the year? You betcha. The poems in this collection are a response to the Bible’s 150 Psalms. It’s a masterpiece. The 150 poems form a crown, a poetic form where interlinking lines connect a sequence. Each ending line of each poem becomes the starting line of the next. It is a style that kept me reading page after page. I wanted to slowly savor the book but I flipped pages at a rapid rate. I eventually set a limit – no more than 10 poems a day.
I read this in September and I’m now a full fledged Guite fan. I’m reading through all his works and I anxiously await releases of Guite’s YouTube videos. He randomly, but frequently, posts videos in his home library discussing his favorite books and poems.