5 Books You Should Read, 6 You Should Know About, 20 Worth a Look and 4 to Avoid

Here’s the full list of books I read in 2014, those highly recommended, some worth a look (because I wrote jacket endorsements for them – any more proof of quality needed?), and some I couldn’t finish. Read any of these too? What did you think? And what are you reading now that others should know about? Do tell.

Particularly Recommended

Lila coverLila: a Novel by Marilynne Robinson. If this book doesn’t win the Pulitzer Prize there should be riots in the streets. A compelling story of a woman on the fringes of society learning how to trust, love, and be loved through the care of a minister named John Aames. Elegant in every sentence, with a brilliant unraveling of the tale, Robinson gives us the inner machinations of Lila Doll as she muses on life, faith and existence. Only a writer of Robinson’s calibre can incorporate snippets of the Book of Ezekiel in such an intriguing and unforced way, or a write of Lila’s time in a brothel without seediness or innuendo to leave you feeling only grief. I’ll read this again soon. Writers, this is how to write. (Listen to my interview with Marilynne Robinson for insights into her writing life)

The Sacred JourneyThe Sacred Journey by Frederick Beuchner. I’m very much the fan of Buechner’s memoirs and this is probably the best he’s written (see a couple more below). Lyrical and quotable, he recounts the pivotal experience of his life – the suicide of his father when he was 10 – and how grace has woven that tragedy into something new. Buchener’s description of the book’s aim is helpful for anyone writing memoir: ‘What I propose to do now is to try and listen to my as a whole, or at least to certain key moments of the first half of my life thus far, for whatever meaning, of holiness, of God, there may be in it to hear. My assumption is that the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.’

Irresistible RevolutionThe Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Not a new book of course, but so valuable. I’ve been exploring the theme of love over the last couple of years and read this in conjunction with theologian DA Carson’s small book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. It was a helpful exercise. Some of the small theological matters Claiborne gets wrong in this book Carson corrects in his, but what Claiborne and his friends at Philadelphia’s Simple Way community get right is what matters most – actually loving people in action. A challenging read to love society’s ‘least, last and lost.’ You can hear my interview with Shane Claiborne here.

McKnight Sermon on the MountThe Sermon on the Mount (commentary) by Scot McKnight. For a little brain food. As I’ll explain in the coming months here on the blog, I believe everyone should read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7) at least monthly. This is a good commentary that weaves the Sermon into the whole biblical story, taking into account recent scholarship while keeping practical application a high priority. I’ve read this in conjunction with John Stott’s classic book on the Sermon, and Dallas Willard’s left-field exploration in The Divine Conspiracy.


A Vacation with the LordA Vacation with the Lord by Thomas Green. Not a new book and not easily available either. Your best bet is second-hand. But Green takes a user-friendly approach to The Spiritual Exercises by St Ignatius and weaves them into a retreat guide for exploring God’s calling. Valuable if you can find a copy.





Books I Endorsed

I’ve had the privilege of writing jacket endorsements and commendations for several excellent books recently. These titles are all worth your time.

Paradoxology by Krish Kandiah

The Taste of Many Mountains by Bruce Wydick

Citizen by Rob Peabody

Digging for Diamonds by Cathy Madavan

Beyond the Myth of Self-Esteem by John Smith

Called by Ryan Pemberton

Also Read in 2014

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford (second reading)

Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer (second reading)

How to Find Your Mission in Life by Richard Bolles

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Telling Secrets by Frederick Beuchner

Now and Then by Frederick Buechner

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Testament by John Grisham

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen

Home by Marilynne Robinson

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by DA Carson

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

The Spiritual Exercises by St Ignatius (free ebook or hardcopy)

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

Landscapes of Prayer by Margaret Silf

Restoring the Woven Cord by Michael Mitton

Calling’s Way by Mark Richardson (free ebook)

Started but not Finished

Anam Cara by John O’Donohue (some wisdom here but too ephemeral in places)

The Lovely Bones by Alex Sebold (not what I was looking for)

The Famished Road by Ben Okri (just a little too weird)

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho (directions on how to contact a demon were the final straw)


Question: What are you reading that others should know about? Tell me now

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  • Clare Alice

    I’m currently reading and loving Switch On Your Brain by Dr Caroline Leaf.
    It’s A profound scientific insight into neuroplasticity : that awesome design feature of our brain which enables us to ‘rewire’ our thinking and overcome all kinds of mental struggles and restore peace , healthy thinking and joy. Dr Leaf asserts that God designed us , neurologically and biologically, to be happy and mentally healthy, and that when we get off track , there is a sure path back … via Renewing the mind, thinking healthy thoughts, etc, which changes the very structure and makeup of our brains. She shows how modern science is beginning to support biblical truths via the microscope… She’s kind of Joyce Meyer in a lab coat .
    And she includes a simple daily thought-exercise process (“brain detox plan”) that she used in clinical practice for years to help profoundly troubled patients have immense breakthrough.
    I love books that show science backing up Gods word, and I’m so encouraged as I read it to know I can have breakthrough in my thinking too.
    Recommended for anyone who wants to improve their thinking , particularly if you feel like you can’t: YOU CAN!
    Sorry for the long review Sheridan 🙂
    Also loved your book list and keen to get hold of a few of them !

    • That sounds like a great book, Clare. Will be keen to hear your thoughts when you’ve finished it.

  • Amy Robinson

    You’ve inspired me to start making a list of all the books I read in 2015. Don’t think I’ve done that since I was about seven years old! Just finished The Labyrinth Year by fellow ACW writer Mari Howard, so that will be first on my list. I have an enormous pile of want-to-reads to get through, and you have just added to it!

    • How was the Labyrinth Year, Amy? Yes, make a list too – I’d love to know what you’re reading.

      • The Labyrinth Year was a good story. It was a sequel to her first book which I read a couple of years ago. She’s very good at driving a plot, though I find her written style quite hard going.

  • Anna Kathryn Hardin

    I try to update my reading on Goodreads. Looking back over that list, I can recommend several books: Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, The Meaning of Marriage and Generous Justice by Tim Keller (really, any of his books). Also enjoyed All Over But the Shoutin’ and the rest of Rick Bragg’s books and Bird by Bird and many of Anne Lamott’s books (some are better than others). Love Thomas Cahill’s books on the contributions of different cultures. Sarah Thebarge’s The Invisible Girls (met her at a Don Miller conference), and of course, anything by Don Miller. As you can see, I particularly love history/biography and memoirs, such as Resurrection Year!

    • Ah, we’re hovering in very similar orbits, Anna. A great list there. Bird by Bird is excellent. What was David and Goliath like in the end?

      • Anna Kathryn Hardin

        Loved it. It and Outliers are his best.

  • I read Peter Fitzsimmons ‘Gallipoli’ recently and have just started ‘Mawson’. Am loving his style of historical research blended into story. Also read David and Goliath by Gladwell and found it fascinating in light of all the sermons I’ve read. Gave an angle I’ve never thought of which I’ve found helpful in both my personal and work life!

    • I appreciated The Tipping Point and have Outliers on the shelf. Will need to take a look at David and Goliath one day.

      • Outliers was my favourite. Got so much out of it!

  • Lisa Cherrett

    Interesting that you didn’t finish Anam Cara. I’m considering not finishing it, too – for much the same reasons. It feels like it skips too lightly from one thought to another. I’ve just started ‘Imagination First’ by Eric Liu, recommended by Kate Bruce at MediaLit. It’s good so far!