“Reading well is, in itself, an act of virtue, or excellence, and it is also a habit that cultivates more virtue in return.” -Karen Swallow Prior
Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes, Jr.
Long before we started dating, my boyfriend kept my heart and bookshelves stocked with Susannah Spurgeon books, a practice he continues to this day (all the praise hands). So when he told me someone had finally written a biography on my spiritual hero and that he pre-ordered the book for me, my heart exploded with joy bombs and blissful anticipation. When the book arrived in late September, I could hardly wait to dive in and, let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint.
Biographies are extraordinary gifts for us and this was all I wanted it to be, with the exception of one slight criticism. The author (whose doctoral thesis was on the marriage and spirituality of the Spurgeons—#DREAMS) discussed Susannah and Charles’ suffering and trials in the physical pain and grief, but I would love to have read more of their struggles with sin itself and how she battled specific things with that. Regardless, it was a wonderful book and, though I didn’t think it possible, I love Susie and Charles even more now. What a gift they are to the church and to me personally. Seriously, you need to read all you can by and about them.
“For Susie, it was always the Gospel, always Jesus. Man is at sea, tossed, helpless, and facing certain death. But there is a ‘majestic Man.’ He is not unaware of the hopeless condition of His people. He is watching. He is the Savior who ‘will tread under His feet the waves of that turbulent sea’ and subdue its dangers as He rescues those whom He so graciously redeems. Such was the writing of Susie Spurgeon.” -Ray Rhodes, Jr.
Meet Martin Luther: A Sketch of the Reformer’s Life by Anthony Selvaggio
I listened to this as an audio book and it was an easy, profitable listen. If you want to get an overview of Luther and his background, this is a great start.
Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
Katherine Reay’s fiction is comfort food for my heart and mind. Generously sprinkled with nods toward classic literature, they’re wholesome and sweet stories that help my brain and imagination rest and refuel. I’ve listened to this book before and, with its appreciation for Jane Austen, it’s one of my favorites.
Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Again: biographies are extraordinary gifts for us. I loved this peek into two legends in basketball history and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar read it himself.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
In his commentary on the classic book, Charles Spurgeon said, “Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.”
I’ve yet to meet anyone who read The Pilgrim’s Progress and regretted it. I’ve yet to meet any believer who read it and did not worship God more for having experienced this allegorical treasure. Read it. It’s just so good. (Also, I can’t recommend strongly enough this particular publishing of PP. Crossway did a phenomenal job. It’s visually stunning but the footnotes are worth the price of the book. SO GOOD.)
“Where shall I run to be safe? If I go back to my own country, which is prepared for fire and brimstone, I shall certainly perish. If I can get to the Celestial City, I am sure to be safe. I must go forward. To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will go forward.” -Christian, The Pilgrim’s Progress
Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos
As a fan of history, and war stories in particular, this was a great listen. Timely in nature, it “tells the inspirational story of the U.S. Navy’s most famous aviator duo, Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, and the Marines they fought to defend. A white New Englander from the country-club scene, Tom passed up Harvard to fly fighters for his country. An African American sharecropper’s son from Mississippi, Jesse became the navy’s first black carrier pilot, defending a nation that wouldn’t even serve him in a bar.” These are the stories that need to be written and the stories we need to hear, absorb, and share.
One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World by Tullian Tchividjian
It’s recently surfaced that the chief lie I believe is that God doesn’t love me. It was suggested I research and dive deeply into the love of God and bake my heart and mind in that truth, which is the reason for reading this book, a gift from my brother-in-law.
Because I knew Tchividjian is known to “tinker on the edge of antinomianism,” I was guarded in reading the book, the contents of which directly assault my performance-driven nature, and constantly asked myself if he was being too liberal with grace. However, in the end he clarifies and balances that grace-drenching with a high view of God’s holiness and, therefore, obedience.
The last sentence of the following quote was a massive exposure for my heart:
“We thank God for saving us, for justifying us, and getting us into the kingdom, but then we drift into performance. Now that I’ve been saved, my job is to make sure God doesn’t regret His sacrifice, we think.”
Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russell Moore
Ironically, this book, which has been on my to-read list for years, was the chief book God used to reveal in greater measure that I am, in fact, deeply loved by Him. Using illustrations of children and families (something I can wrap my finite brain cells around), Russell Moore connects readers to the Gospel and the result is a party for your heart, one filled with worship and adoration. This book was so helpful for me, not just because I love adoption, but because it helped me love Jesus more and recognize that He loves—not just tolerates—me too. Staggering. Such a gift. Read this book.
Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha
I highly enjoyed this book. It was insightful, encouraging, fun, and perspective-shifting to see some of the “behind the scenes” of the Luthers’ lives and relationship and to get to know the spunky, forthcoming, strong woman that was Katharina Luther.
12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson
One of my favorite books from 2018. Written by 12 different contributors, each chapter gives a tiny biography of a pastor who makes up the “great cloud of witnesses,” and how they endured certain aspects of suffering. I’m telling you, it is chapstick for a dry heart. I can’t come up with another way to say it. So encouraging and edifying, this is a book God will use to help the hurting soul persevere, come what may. It was a tremendously timely read for my aching heart, and I am so grateful for the Gospel-centered truths and stories here. Read it and be encouraged.