2014 Booklist

I grade books in five categories so that the maximum score is a 10. Each book can get a zero, 1, or 2 according to the grid below. My scores follow the book title in the list below.  Under each title is a summary of the book’s main point in a sentence.


  • Book of the Year: Martin Meredith, The State of Africa
  • Surprise of the Year: Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren
  • Worst of the Year: Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts


0     The book was notable for lacking this category repeatedly.
1     The book dipped into this category at times.
2     The book consistently demonstrated this category.

Non-Fiction Categories:

  • Weight: Did the book ask and answer the most germane questions about an important topic?
  • Research: Did the writer demonstrate a thorough command of the subject?
  • Style: Did the theme, vocabulary, and composition represent an enduring standard?
  • Logic: Did the book model logic in definitions, formatting, and focus?
  • Affections: Was some truth presented powerfully to the affections?

Non-Fiction Books of 2014 (29)

  1. MacArthur, John. Strange Fire. 2013, 331 pages. 10
    Charismaticism is a deep well of theological errors. Filled with good bad examples and Biblical insight.
  2. Boers, Ted. Demons of Poverty. 2012, 188 pages. 7
    An American businessman tries to fight poverty for a decade in Haiti and discovers that their poverty has spiritual causes.
  3. Jones, Doug and Doug Wilson. Angels in the Architecture. 1998, 215 pages. 9
    Comparing the culture of modernity with medievalism, the past provides a better blueprint for an ideal Christian culture than the present.
  4. Beynon, Graham. Isaac Watts. 2013, 196 pages. 8
    Watts labored as a pastor and author for 50 years writing hymns as well as theology, devotion, logic, science, letters, etc. I’ve read 2 of his books and a booklet of poems, but I’d like all his works.
  5. Wilson, Doug. Father Hunger. 2012, 218 pages. 9
    Masculinity comes to maturity in fatherhood. His writing seems effortless with metaphors in nearly every paragraph.
  6. Makujina, John. Measuring the Music. 369 pages. 9
    Makujina starts with mature exegesis and then discusses performer appearance, musical meaning, aesthetics, psychology, and history. Heavily footnoted, saturated with examples. 60 pages of appendices.
  7. Clowney, Ed. Preaching Christ in All of Scripture. 189 pages. 6
    A collection of sermons with a pair of introductory essays. Any element in the text that strongly moves our passions is a signpost to Jesus either positively or negatively.
  8. Wilson, Douglas. A Primer on Worship and Reformation. 72 pages. 7
    Many insights around the major topics stemming from worship, especially preaching.
  9. Mouw, Richard. Abraham Kuyper. 136 pages. 5
    Kuyper tried to apply Christianity to all areas of life, and Mouw tries to use him to support his moderate-liberal views of culture, politics, and economics.
  10. Platt, Richard. As One Devil to Another. 190 pages. 8
    A retelling of Lewis’ Screwtape Letters for a modern audience. Second reading.
  11. Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. 199 pages. 9
    In 6 lengthy lectures, Kuyper identifies Calvinism applied to every area of life as a Christian worldview and the only path for success. Not much Bible; lots of history and philosophy.
  12. Murrow, David. Why Men Hate Going to Church. 248 pages. 3
    Men don’t go to church because it is effeminate these days. His solutions are marinated in pop culture and marketing studies. The Bible is not important to this book.
  13. Helms, Randall. Tolkien’s World. 167 pages. 6
    Tolkien’s Middle Earth is classic and enduring fiction because it is based on a Christian perspective of heroes, history, and creation.
  14. Morecraft, Joe. How God Wants Us to Worship Him. 225 pages. 7
    Christian worship should be restricted to those elements that are in Scripture. Debatable points throughout the book, but plentiful references to Scripture and history.
  15. Murray, Iain. The Life of Arthur Pink. 2004, 350 pages. 8
    Pink was insightful, hardworking, and lonely. The last few chapters were the best.
  16. Kimball, Roger. The Long March. 2000, 326 pages. 8
    The cultural forces unleashed from 1958-1974 represent the greatest causes of decline in societal goodness, truth, and beauty. Conservative Catholic with no Scripture.
  17. Armstrong, John, ed. Understanding Four Views on Baptism. 2007, 222 pages. 7
    The Baptists are right.
  18. Meredith, Martin. The State of Africa. 2006, 752 pages. 10 BOOK OF THE YEAR
    Since independence in the 50’s, Africa’s problems have multiplied in nearly every social, economic, and political sphere. The history implies that the African worldview cannot discover goodness, truth, and beauty.
  19. James, Joel. Expository Studying. 2008, 177. 7
    Good preaching comes from good studying. He also presents a method for sermon preparation that includes two tools for developing a thesis and outline: block diagramming and plural noun summary.
  20. MacArthur, John, et. al. Rediscovering Expository Preaching. 1992, 410. 9
    A score of essays about preaching where the main goal is to teach the Bible. MacArthur’s essays are the best.
  21. Campbell, Iain, ed. Engaging with Keller. 2013, 200 or so. 8
    On 6 key issues Keller’s teaching varies between mushy and dangerous. Convincing. (inerrancy, sin, hermeneutics, hell, evolution, and social ministry)
  22. Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 2006, 321. 5
    A guide for writing about personal interest topics like “people and places” that is overtly and repeatedly modern. Except where it is postmodern.
  23. Schaeffer, Francis. How Then Shall We Live. 1976, 288. 8
    The glory of Western culture springs from its Christian roots though the foundation is greatly weakened today.
  24. Edwards, Brian. God’s Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale. 1976, 170. 10
    “[O]thers in the castle [where Tyndale was held for his trial and execution] confirmed that if Tyndale was not a true Christian, then there was no such thing.”
  25. Corbett, Steve and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts. 2012, 274. 5 WORST OF THE YEAR
    How Christians can reduce poverty around the world without evangelism or making the poor feel too bad about the culture that produced their economic misery.
  26. Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, 1964, 292. 9 SURPRISE OF THE YEAR
    The Anabaptists were Biblical Christians who opposed the “statism” of the Reformers. All of the differences between these two groups stem from their respective definitions of the church.
  27. Smith, Graeme. Triumph in Death. 1987, 128. 9
    The first missionaries to Madagascar were kicked out after 17 years of ministry, but the persecuted believers have stayed strong and even grown.
  28. Wilson, Doug. Black and Tan. 2005, 122. 7
    Southern slavery in the US was not always a sin, nor was it as bad as modern writers say it was.
  29. Swanson, Kevin. The Tattooed Jesus. 2014, 160. 6
    Pop culture isn’t Christian culture.

Fiction Categories:

  • Biblical: Did the author honor Scriptural truth or a Christian worldview even if unwittingly?
  • Creative: Did the author grip the imagination by inventing characters, situations, or other aspects of reality?
  • Style: Did the theme, vocabulary, and composition represent an enduring standard?
  • Credible: Were the characters, plot turns, and relationships believable?
  • Affections: Was some truth presented powerfully to the affections?

Fiction Books of 2014 (6)

  1. Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings. 10
    My seventh reading.
  2. Michener, James. The Covenant. 1980, 1125. 5
    South Africa’s 300-year history fictionally retold from a liberal perspective. An engaging way to learn about history, especially important for us.
  3. Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. 7
    Grace is more powerful and beautiful than law, but since he doesn’t have a Christian perspective, the picture is often skewed. He missed a number of good chances to put down his pen.
  4. Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia. 10
    My sixth reading, I think.
  5. Paton, Alan. Cry, The Beloved Country. 1948, 238. 6
    The blacks of South Africa were degraded, violent, and impoverished in 1948 largely because of the whites’ colonial policies.
  6. Austen, Jane. Persuasion. 8
    Big surprise: Girls really want to get married. And guys want it too. Almost like they were designed for it.

If you made it this far and want the chart that breaks each book’s scoring down per category, I can send it to you.

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