Before I look back at the year that was and the reading that accompanied it, let me look forward to some reading I’m planning for 2018. If you haven’t heard about Corporis Preparatory Reading (CPR) yet, let me give you a brief summary.
CPR is our attempt, at West London Alliance, at accomplishing two things: first, we endeavour to do some heart work—keeping and guarding our hearts—by reading; second, we want to prepare ourselves for Corporis 2018—our annual conference co-hosted by Crossroads Alliance Church.
We believe reading theologically solid and Christ-focused books is “heart work” because through it we can grow in our knowledge and understanding of God and his gospel. So CPR is an attempt to achieve those two goals through reading. And since Jared C. Wilson is our main speaker at the conference, ther reading plans we have created contain books he has written: The Story of Everything, Gospel Wakefulness, and The Imperfect Disciple.
Consider joining us by following the reading plans here: Corporis Preparatory Reading.
Now, let’s get retrospective as we look at A Year of Reading: 2017. First, here is a list of books I read over the past year:
- The ESV Bible
- The Works of John Flavel: Volume 6 by John Flavel
- Planting for the Gospel by Graham Beynon
- None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
- Suffering and Singing by John Hindley
- Intentional by Paul Williams
- Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves
- Guidance and the Voice of God by Philip Jensen and Tony Payne
- Fearless Faith by Jonathan Stephen
- Unbreakable by Andrew Wilson
- The Works of John Flavel: Volume 5 by John Flavel
- The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves
- Judges for You by Tim Keller
- Judges: Such a Great Salvation by Dale Ralph Davis
- Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper
- What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever
- Who Is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert
- The Works of John Flavel: Volume 3 by John Flavel
- What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
- The Letters of Samuel Rutherford edited by Frank E. Gaebelein
- Different by Design by Carrie Sandom
- Multiplying Churches edited by Steve Timmis
- Samuel Rutherford: Proclaimer of Immanuel’s Love By Andrew Thompson
- The Works of John Flavel: Volume 2 by John Flavel
- Transgender by Vaugh Roberts
- Women, Sermons and the Bible edited by Peter G Bolt and Tony Payne
- Slogging Along the Paths of Righteousness by Dale Ralph Davis
- The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson
- Fierce Convictions by Karen Prior
- A Peculiar Glory by John Piper
- The Works of John Flavel: Volume 1 by John Flavel
- Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Ray Ortlund
- On Knowing Christ by Jonathan Edwards
For me, this total number of books is lower than it has been in past years. I attribute that to two things: positively, reading through The Works of John Flavel—a 6-volume set with each volume containing around 600 pages—was a bit arduous at times and consumed much of my reading time; negatively, I probably spent too much time on social media and Netflix. I do not begrudge the work of reading Flavel, but I hope to remedy the wasting of time in front of screens.
The best book I read in 2017 was John Piper’s Reading the Bible Supernaturally. Each year I intentionally re-read a book from the past year and in 2018 I will read this book again. Not only does the premise of the book legitimize it as worthy of rereading, it also is a great introduction (or review in my case) to the theology and thinking of John Piper. According to the dustcover, “John Piper aims to show us how god works through his written Word when we pursue the natural act of reading the Bible…in the seemingly ordinary act of reading the Bible, something miraculous happens…”. I would encourage all of you to read this one.
Some other excellent books from this past year are: None Like Him by Jen Wilkin, The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, Transgender by Vaugh Roberts, and my 2017 re-read The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. Also, an excellent set of small books were those from Union Publishing and 10ofThose who describe these books as a series of short, friendly theological books. They include Suffering and Singing by John Hindley, Intentional by Paul Williams, Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves, Fearless Faith by Jonathan Stephen, and Unbreakable by Andrew Wilson.
Finally, I have a few things to say about reading through The Works of John Flavel. I do not regret for one moment setting the goal of reading through the writings of this 17th century, Puritan, English Presbyterian clergyman. In fact, it was the most profitable aspect of my year of reading.
Reading all his “stuff” in one year had some benefits, the most important I believe is getting a sense of what Flavel was really and truly about. Assuming he wrote most about what was most important to him, reading all his writings in a (relatively) short period of time helps one see the significant topics.
Here, in my opinion, are some of the things Flavel was passionate about. He was passionate about God’s sovereignty in all things; in suffering, in salvation, in simple day-to-day experiences. Flavel, throughout the six volume set, expounded a God who was in control of everything and reigning with authority. Flavel was also very Christ-focused and gospel-centered. It seems in everything he wrote he would draw the reader’s gaze from the topic at hand back to Christ and his work of redemption. Far from trivial or inconsequential, Flavel’s sermons, books, and treatises were about what mattered: life, death, suffering, salvation, judgment, God. And in tackling the great topics of theology and life, Flavel continually spoke to the mind and to the heart. These were things that were never less than intellectual, but always more than just theological facts to be accumulated. For Flavel, the affections mattered. I will remember this endeavour fondly, and I’m certain its benefits, though not necessarily obvious, will profit me for years to come. I plan to read the complete works of John Newton, Lord willing, in 2019.
Having considered retrospectively the books that I engaged with this past year, let me finish this post with some plans for reading in 2018. The number of total books read this year past, being lower than usual, has allowed my “To Read” list to grow. I intend to tackle that pile of books with a vengeance. As mentioned, I will re-read Piper’s book and read several books by Jared Wilson as we look forward to him speaking at Corporis 2018. Every year I read at least one book specifically on the atonement and this year I will read The Death of Christ by James Denney as well as re-read the Cross of Christ by John Stott. I also plan to read several books on divorce and remarriage.
I’d love to hear what you read this past year, or what you plan to read this coming year. Let me know in the comments!