Learning my lines . . .
. . . discovering what it means to follow Jesus, seeing my story swept up into his . . .

My Best Reads of 2010. . . .

Derek says it’s time for me to register my annual list of Top Ten Reads from the last year. It’s a difficult task to say the least. I always set out to read nothing but what I think will be good, helpful, and challenging books. That means I’m fairly discriminating before I even pick a book up, which results in having read numerous good books and very few duds. . . which then leads me to the difficult job of narrowing things down. Not all the books I read in 2010 were published in 2010. Consequently, you might see a book I’ve just read, that you read several years ago.

My criteria for choosing the following 10 titles was easy: choose books that make an impact on me in some significant way. As in years past, my Top Ten Titles aren’t listed in any particular order. I have, however, opted to do something new this time around. I’ve come up with some general categories and chosen my “winner” for each. Here goes. . .


My first category is Youth Ministry. Hey, this is what I’ve been doing for the last thirty-some years and I spend lots of great time with youth workers. The number of youth ministry books that come across my desk over the course of 12 months is too many to count . . . and too many to read. This last year one stood way above the rest. . . Wayne Rice’s Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again). Wayne is one of the co-founders of Youth Specialities, an organization that more or less shaped youth ministry starting in the late 1960s. What’s great about this book is that Wayne doesn’t look back over his years in ministry in order to give himself a sustained pat on the back. Rather, this is a humble assessment of what he (we) have done right and done wrong along the way. And, from his vantage-point as a wise and seasoned youth ministry sage, Wayne offers suggestions on how to move forward with theological integrity and the wisdom that comes from lessons learned. Read it and you’ll even learn some funny and not-so-funny things about the early history of Youth Specialties!


Category #2 is what I’m calling Pressing Issues. These are books that address topics of controversy in the church. This year, it’s a thoughtful and theologically-sound book about being the church and doing church by Jim Belcher, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional. This book’s created quite a buzz since it came out in 2009, and rightly so. Belcher stands back to responsibly assess the approaches of those standing on either side of the ecclesiological rift, pointing out strengths and weaknesses in each, while offering a third way that is steeped in being faithful to the Scriptures. . . rather than “sexy.” This is one that was worth reading a first time, and will be read again a second time. All of us should be wrestling with this book.


Next is a category simply labeled Theology. The book I’m choosing is one that sat on my “books to read” shelf for a long, long time. I should have read it sooner, but then again, I read it at just the right time. Randy Alcorn’s Heaven is one I’ve heard people rave about for years. I’m usually suspicious of books written by Christians about Heaven. . . which I know sounds very, very strange. There’s usually far too much sentimentality and speculation. But when I saw that Albert Wolters is a fan of this book, that really caught my eye. Alcorn looks at all the Biblical data on Heaven. Give it a read and you’ll quickly see that many of our beliefs about the afterlife are absolutely ridiculous. The timing was right for me as I finished the book a few days before having a serious bicycle accident that landed me in the hospital. . . a place where you can’t help but think about Heaven. This should be required reading for all Christians.


Category #4 is Good Christian Reading. These are the books that have a real good shot of landing on the list of best-sellers at the local Christian bookstore, but probably won’t. . . because they aren’t Amish fiction. They’re books written for a more general audience that might be placed on the shelf labeled “Christian Living.” One of my friends and favorite writers takes the prize this year. Dick Staub’s About You: Fully Human Fully Alive offers a winsome and thoughtful peek into who we are as human beings and how to take our place in the world. I love Dick’s culturally-savvy style of writing, and even for someone who’s been a Christ-follower for a long time, this is a book that will challenge and encourage. It’s also a great book to hand on to seekers, skeptics, and even the disinterested.


Moving right along. . .the next category is labeled A Writer I Will Always Read. These are the books that are worth reading and can’t be missed simply because they are written by thoughtful thinkers you can trust. Sadly, the winner in this category this year is the final book that will ever come from the pen of the great theologian John Stott. His book, The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of our Calling, is a farewell address to the church. Stott addresses what it means to be a follower of Jesus – something far-too-often misunderstood and forgotten in today’s church – along with a look at eight specific areas where we tend to forget to live as Christians. The chapters on nonconformity and death are worth the price of this little treasure.


Category #6 – Parenting. My work with CPYU puts me in touch with thousands of parents a year. Every one of us (I’m a parent too) is looking for sound guidance and direction on how to parent Christianly in today’s rapidly changing and confusing world. I got really excited when I read an article on “The Myth of the Perfect Parent” in Christianity Today magazine several months ago. It was awesome, encouraging, freeing, and Biblically-sound. I had never heard of the article’s writer, Leslie Leyland Fields. I discovered that the article was adapted from her book Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us In Worry and Guilt. I’m not a big fan of Christian parenting books. They’re usually too simple and full of unrealistic promises. Not this one – I’m a fan! Now, I tell parents everywhere I go that this is one of my favorite parenting books.


At #7 is a book in a category I’m labeling My Theme. I blogged several days ago about how I’m choosing a yearly theme for my reading. This year, I’m planning on reading lots of books about Jesus, the Scriptures, and the call to justice. I got a head start in December with Timothy Keller’s Generous Justice. It’s a succinct treatment of what the Scriptures say about who we are to be as God’s redemptive agents of justice to the poor, the orphan, the widow, and anyone who has need. Keller is a master at taking readers deep into the Scriptures, then explaining the application of God’s Word to our lives. This is one to read, re-read, and teach.


Category #8 is Biography. I love reading memoirs and biographies. I always try to have one going from this category. This last year I finally got into David Ritz’s biography of singer Marvin Gaye, Divided Soul. Gaye’s music has always grabbed me. I count “What’s Goin On” as one of my favorite songs of all time. Marvin Gaye was a complicated and conflicted man who desperately sought to please God, but continually battled all kinds of personal demons related to his choices, his relationships, and his past. Critics have said that this book is one of the best music bios ever. I agree. Now, when I listen to Marvin Gaye, I’m able to process his music through the filter of knowing much much more about the man.


At #9 is a Novel. This year’s winner was the second novel from writer Richard Doster, an acquaintance who also edits ByFaith magazine. I didn’t choose Dick’s book Crossing The Lines because he’s a friend. In fact, I was more cautious about listing this book for that very reason. But this little historical novel about racial tensions in the 1950s south grabbed me from the get-go. Doster masterfully tells the story of race relations, faith, and the difficult issues related to both during those tumultuous times in a first-person account that is gripping. I loved it.

Finally – and I apologize (not really) – I have to include as my last category a topic known simply as Baseball. I love the game and I’ve been reading books about it since I was a kid. This year I read a few baseball books. But the hands-down winner is Jason Turbow and Michael Duca’s The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime.
In my house, the newer baseball fans will often ask questions about what’s happening on the field, what they’re talking about, and why they did that. This book not only explains the crazy stuff that happens on and off the field, but the “rules” that guide that behavior. Stories from baseball’s rich history bring the game and these sometimes ridiculous “rules” to life. At times, I was really laughing. At other times, I was shaking my head in disbelief. Good stuff.

So there you have it. My little list. What’s on your list of good reading from 2010?

15 Responses

  1. Walt, I sincerely write this with the utmost respect for you and your work. If I didn’t truly admire and respect you and all that you do, I would never take the time to write all of this. But it needs to be said. Catching up on your back posts I came upon the Rhueling’s comment of you deleting their prior posted comment concerning the heartbreaking loss of their gay son. I then went back and discovered that you deleted my comment also. Two people opened up their hearts to you and you had the audacity to pour, not rub, salt into their gaping wounds. How could you Walt?

    Your response to that bigoted woman concerning the “Day of Silence” was so welcomed and heartwarming to me, the Rhuelings, and so many of your other followers. Remember all the positive comments you received? You have a far greater number of gay followers than you realize. Trust me on that.

    Religion is the overwhelming driving force behind gay hatred. It is so misleading and deplorable to pontificate on sexual orientation while totaling ignoring the sins that Christ strongly condemned. Let’s look at the facts:

    ADULTERY-any divorced person marrying another, or any another marrying a divorced person, commitith adultery (absent the reason for divorce being fornication) Mark10: 9-12, Matthew 19:7-9. Adultery is such an egregious sin in God’s eye that He chose to make it one of His Ten Commandments. That’s how wrong it is. Yet our Protestant Church allows millions of divorced and remarried people to not feel the slightest bit of condemnation or guilt over their blatant disregard for one of the sacred Commandments. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are committing adultery?

    WEALTH-the accumulation of wealth is so wrong that Christ literally condemns rich people to Hell on three different occasions with His camel and eye of the needle analogy. There is no other way you can reasonably interpret that if you divide the afterlife into Heaven and Hell. Yet again the Church never broaches this condemnation, which is so relevant to an overwhelming number of Christians. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are guilty of being wealthy? My, how convenient to pick and choose which biblical verses get ignored. Somewhere Walt, deep down in your heart, you know this to be true and wrong.

    I challenge anyone to find Christ’s condemnation of sexual orientation as compelling to that of committing adultery or accumulating wealth.

    I am not looking for an apology, for in your mind deleting our comments was the right thing to do. But the least you could, and should do, is to give an explanation as to why you deleted our comments. Is gayness that evil and disgusting that it cannot even be mentioned? Do you really believe that Jesus would have deleted them? What about Mark Labberton, would he have?

    Finally, the deletion of the Rhueling’s comment was especially appalling, after they so opened up and shared their personal tragedy in hope of saving others of their experience. How could you Walt, could you at least answer that? Please.

  2. I just received notice that my original comment was too long to be posted in entirety. I will re-comment in two parts.

  3. Walt, I sincerely write this with the utmost respect for you and your work, but it needs to be said. If I didn’t truly admire and respect you and all that you do, I would never take the time to write all of this. Catching up on your back posts I came upon the Rhueling’s comment of you deleting their prior posted comment concerning the heartbreaking loss of their gay son. I then went back and discovered that you deleted my comment also. Two people opened up their hearts to you and you had the audacity to pour, not rub, salt into their gaping wounds. How could you Walt?

    Your response to that bigoted woman concerning the “Day of Silence” was so welcomed and heartwarming to me, the Rhuelings, and so many of your other followers. Remember all the positive comments you received? You have a far higher number of gay followers than you realize. Trust me on that.

    (Due to this comment’s length, the remainder of this writing is published in the next comment)

  4. (continued from above)

    Religion is the overwhelming driving force behind gay hatred. It is so misleading and deplorable to pontificate on sexual orientation while totaling ignoring the sins that Christ strongly condemned. Let’s look at the facts:
    ADULTERY-any divorced person marrying another, or any another marrying a divorced person, commitith adultery (absent the reason for divorce being fornication) Mark10: 9-12, Matthew 19:7-9. Adultery is such an egregious sin in God’s eye that He chose to make it one of His Ten Commandments. That’s how wrong it is. Yet our Protestant Church allows millions of divorced and remarried people to not feel the slightest bit of condemnation or guilt over their blatant disregard for one of the sacred Commandments. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are committing adultery?
    WEALTH-the accumulation of wealth is so wrong that Christ literally condemns rich people to Hell on three different occasions with His camel and eye of the needle analogy. There is no other way you can reasonably interpret that if you divide the afterlife into Heaven and Hell. Yet again the Church never broaches this condemnation, which is so relevant to an overwhelming number of Christians. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are guilty of being wealthy? My, how convenient to pick and choose which biblical verses get ignored. Somewhere Walt, deep down in your heart, you know this to be true and wrong.

    I challenge anyone to find Christ’s condemnation of sexual orientation as compelling to that of committing adultery or accumulating wealth.

    I am not looking for an apology, for in your mind deleting our comments was the right thing to do. But the least you could, and should do, is to give an explanation as to why you deleted our comments. Is gayness that evil and disgusting that it cannot even be mentioned? Do you really believe that Jesus would have deleted them? What about Mark Labberton, would he have?

    Finally, the deletion of the Rhueling’s comment was especially appalling, after they so opened up and shared their personal tragedy in hope of saving others of their experience. How could you Walt, could you at least answer that? Please.

  5. (continued from above)

    Walt, I sincerely write this with the utmost respect for you and your work, but it needs to be said. If I didn’t truly admire and respect you and all that you do, I would never take the time to write all of this. Catching up on your back posts I came upon the Rhueling’s comment of you deleting their prior posted comment concerning the heartbreaking loss of their gay son. I then went back and discovered that you deleted my comment also. Two people opened up their hearts to you and you had the audacity to pour, not rub, salt into their gaping wounds. How could you Walt?

    Your response to that bigoted woman concerning the “Day of Silence” was so welcomed and heartwarming to me, the Rhuelings, and so many of your other followers. Remember all the positive comments you received? You have a far higher number of gay followers than you realize. Trust me on that.

    Religion is the overwhelming driving force behind gay hatred. It is so misleading and deplorable to pontificate on sexual orientation while totaling ignoring the sins that Christ strongly condemned. Let’s look at the facts:

    ADULTERY-any divorced person marrying another, or any another marrying a divorced person, commitith adultery (absent the reason for divorce being fornication) Mark10: 9-12, Matthew 19:7-9. Adultery is such an egregious sin in God’s eye that He chose to make it one of His Ten Commandments. That’s how wrong it is. Yet our Protestant Church allows millions of divorced and remarried people to not feel the slightest bit of condemnation or guilt over their blatant disregard for one of the sacred Commandments. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are committing adultery?

    WEALTH-the accumulation of wealth is so wrong that Christ literally condemns rich people to Hell on three different occasions with His camel and eye of the needle analogy. There is no other way you can reasonably interpret that if you divide the afterlife into Heaven and Hell. Yet again the Church never broaches this condemnation, which is so relevant to an overwhelming number of Christians. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are guilty of being wealthy? My, how convenient to pick and choose which biblical verses get ignored. Somewhere Walt, deep down in your heart, you know this to be true and wrong.

    (continued in next comment)

  6. (continued from above comment)

    Religion is the overwhelming driving force behind gay hatred. It is so misleading and deplorable to pontificate on sexual orientation while totaling ignoring the sins that Christ strongly condemned. Let’s look at the facts:

    ADULTERY-any divorced person marrying another, or any another marrying a divorced person, commitith adultery (absent the reason for divorce being fornication) Mark10: 9-12, Matthew 19:7-9. Adultery is such an egregious sin in God’s eye that He chose to make it one of His Ten Commandments. That’s how wrong it is. Yet our Protestant Church allows millions of divorced and remarried people to not feel the slightest bit of condemnation or guilt over their blatant disregard for one of the sacred Commandments. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are committing adultery?

    WEALTH-the accumulation of wealth is so wrong that Christ literally condemns rich people to Hell on three different occasions with His camel and eye of the needle analogy. There is no other way you can reasonably interpret that if you divide the afterlife into Heaven and Hell. Yet again the Church never broaches this condemnation, which is so relevant to an overwhelming number of Christians. Why this discrepancy? Too many members and church leaders are guilty of being wealthy? My, how convenient to pick and choose which biblical verses get ignored. Somewhere Walt, deep down in your heart, you know this to be true and wrong.

    (continued in next comment)

  7. (continued from above comment)

    I challenge anyone to find Christ’s condemnation of sexual orientation as compelling to that of committing adultery or accumulating wealth.

    I am not looking for an apology, for in your mind deleting our comments was the right thing to do. But the least you could, and should do, is to give an explanation as to why you deleted our comments. Is gayness that evil and disgusting that it cannot even be mentioned? Do you really believe that Jesus would have deleted them? What about Mark Labberton, would he have?

    Finally, the deletion of the Rhueling’s comment was especially appalling, after they so opened up and shared their personal tragedy in hope of saving others of their experience. How could you Walt, could you at least answer that? Please.

  8. Jacob – thanks for your comment. Sadly, I have no idea where the original comments your referencing are at this point. . . so it’s difficult, if not impossible, to answer your “why” question in terms of why I deleted them. Let me say a couple of things that may be helpful. First, over the years I have only deleted a handful of comments. I can count them on one hand. I have deleted comments only because they are posted in the wrong place (people trying to carry on an argument that should be posted under the appropriate post, onto subsequent posts that have nothing to do with the original discussion). Second, I have never censored anyone’s views. . . although some have accused me of doing that. I will delete or not allow a post due to the fact that sometimes people will make a personal attack on another person, rather than focusing on the issue at hand. Still, I realize that all of us have different ideas of what constitutes censorship and what constitutes a personal attack. I’m simply trying to keep good, thoughtful, and grace-filled discussion going here. . . . recognizing that people will sometimes disagree sharply. So. . . because my memory is failing me here I’m going to pass on two things. . . First, please post comments under the original post you’re referring to. And second, I would love to see the comments you’re referring to. Could you try to repost them in the appropriate place. I will see them that way.

    I vaguely remember telling people that I had to start screening and approving all comments because of some comments that were posted that were innappropriate. I didn’t want to do that, but had to.

    Thanks for being understanding.

  9. Due to the length of my following apology it must be submitted in several parts. Also, I must have erred in my attempt to divide my initial comment into several parts, as the next two parts were not received. I will make another attempt to submit the remainder of my original comment, after my apology.

    Walt, I am so, so, so, sorry. I feel so bad for accusing and upsetting you so. I was wrong. My sincere apology. Let me explain my error. In reading the Ruehling’s comment on Oct.18 2010, stating that you deleted their comment on “The Day of Silence” post of March 24,2010, I mistakenly thought that I had also posted a comment on that post. In going back to that post to see if my comment was also deleted I did not see it, erroneously thinking that you had deleted both of our comments regarding the gay issue.

    Herein lies the mix-up. I posted my comment in your then current April 14,2010 post even though it had nothing to do with the content of that post. I posted it there believing that if I went back and posted it in the appropriate “Day of Silence”, post, March 24,2010, that it was too long ago and that nobody would see it. The Ruehlings made the reasonable and understandable mistake of believing that their comment in response to my comment on the “Day of Silence” would have been submitted on the appropriate post of the “Day of Silence”. It wasn’t. They most probably forgot that they responded to my inappropriately placed post when they went back looking for their comment on this subject.

  10. (continued from my initial comment. I will try to get this all on one comment, if not, then two.)

    Religion is the overwhelming driving force behind gay hatred. It is so misleading and deplorable to pontificate on sexual orientation while totaling ignoring the sins that Christ strongly condemned. Let’s look at the facts of just two:

    ADULTERY-any divorced person marrying another, or any another marrying a divorced person, commitith adultery (absent the reason for divorce being fornication) Mark10: 9-12, Matthew 19:7-9. Adultery is such an egregious sin in God’s eye that He chose to make it one of His Ten Commandments. That’s how wrong it is. Yet our Protestant Church allows millions of divorced and remarried people to not feel the slightest bit of condemnation or guilt over their blatant disregard for one of the sacred Commandments. Why this discrepancy? Are too many members and church leaders committing adultery?

    WEALTH-the accumulation of wealth is so wrong that Christ literally condemns rich people to Hell on THREE different occasions with His camel and eye of the needle analogy. There is no other way you can reasonably interpret that if you divide the afterlife into Heaven and Hell. Yet again the Church never broaches this condemnation, which is so relevant to an overwhelming number of Christians. Why this discrepancy? Are too many members and church leaders guilty of being wealthy? My, how convenient to pick and choose which biblical verses get ignored.

    I challenge anyone to find Christ’s condemnation of sexual orientation as compelling to that of committing adultery or accumulating wealth. The End.

  11. Walt, as if you haven’t already said enough kind things about my book, in the words of Ronald Reagan “there you go again.” Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m honored to get a mention with all the other authors and great books you’ve recommended. I’ll check some of them out. I read Alcorn’s “Heaven” a few years ago and it really changed my thinking on what heaven will be like. It’s a great read.

  12. Walt, thanks to your recommendation, one of the best books I’ve eveeeeerrrrrrr read, is “The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor:Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus”, by Mark Labberton. It’s making for great discussion in our youth group. It’s my year’s #1.

    The concepts in this book I’m definitely NOT confused about. Thank you.

  13. My favorite book for 2010 is “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins. His scientific incontrovertible evidence for evolution makes it impossible for the open-minded, logical and reasonable person to reject it.

    The belief in evolution could coincide of course, with the belief that God created the world via evolution. If we take the 7 day and 6,000,-10,000 years ago creation literally, then we must concurrently assert that the overwhelmingly approved scientific method of radiocarbon dating is invalid – which is the moral equivalent of believing that many scientific methods, such as the scientific method of determining the earth revolves around the sun, to be invalid.

  14. walt, youth today face life questions that are special to them they need reliable answers there when they need answers from one whospeaks on their age level. not easy but our free SPREAD THE WORD TALK WITH THE LORD program inspires youth to talk daily. our free blog posts free for YM sermon/discussion themes. plus get your free copy of our song lyrics g. hubbard p.o. box 2232 ponte vedra fl 32004 http://talkwiththelord.blogspot.com/

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