As I mentioned in my last post, the end of one year and the beginning of the next is “that time of year” for my annual mention of the some of the best books I read during the prior 12 months. It’s my hope that the books that have impacted me might be picked up by others and used to shape, mold, and even entertain them. My selections aren’t necessarily critically-acclaimed books all published in the last year, but rather, books new and old that are among those I’ve endeavored to tackle during 2019. In fact, one of my selections was first published in 1652! There are others I’ve read this past year which could be included in my list, but since I’ve limited it to a total of ten books there are some very good and helpful books that are being left out. So. . . here we go. . . in no special order. . . here’s a link to the first five that I posted last week, and now my final five to make it 10. . .
At the beginning of 2019, we launched a Facebook-based CPYU Reading/Discussion Group. Over 500 people joined and together we worked through six different books. One of those was Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s best-selling The Coddling Of The American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure. The pair tackles the reality of what’s happening on our college campuses and elsewhere, uncovering what’s behind the epidemic of craziness when it comes to things like trigger warnings and micro-aggressions. They look at the recent spate of campus witch hunts, intimidation, and violence that is keeping people from talking freely about ideas. Along with looking at some prescriptive steps we can collectively take to undermine this dangerous slide, I found great value in what the authors put forth as three great untruths we’ve been led to beleive: that what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, that you should always trust your feelings, and that life is a battle between good and evil people. This is a timely and insightful volume of social commentary that I highly recommend. I read it twice.
Speaking of knowing the times, one of my tried-and-trusted go-to’s for insightful social commentary from a theologically-rich perspective has been Os Guinness. I read anything and everything the man writes. He is one of the most astute social critics of our day. This past year, Guinness released a little volume entitled Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing The Day, Discerning The Times. In the book, Guinness offers a us chance, as he usually does, to step back and see ourselves for what we’ve become. . . the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, when we face ourselves, Guinness invites us out of the dangerous paths we are walking and into a life lived rightly as we discern the times and redeem the day. In a world where adults and kids alike are encouraged to live for themselves in the moment and the moment only, this book reminds us of the need to remember the past while living in the hope of the future. For me, the short section on “generationalism” was pure gold. Guinness shows us how we’ve morphed into a generationally segmented way of living in home, community, and church. . . all to our demise.
A couple of summers ago I hunkered down to complete a research project on the growing epidemic of anxiety and stress among children and teens. This was all part of our ongoing effort here at CPYU to continue to, as Guinness says, discern the times. My research continued with a helpful book from Psychologist Lisa Damour, Under Pressure: Confronting The Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety In Girls. The growing catalog of data on kids and anxiety differentiates between type and occurrence rates from girls to boys. Damour takes us into the world of girls and anxiety through data, research, and anecdote. If you are raising, ministering to, or just the least bit concerned about our girls, give this valuable book a read.
I’ve mentioned many times the need we all have to read dead people. Guinness’s “generationalism” oftentimes leads us to believe that if it’s old, it has to be outdated and irrelevant. What a big mistake it is to think that way! We need to value the written contributions of those who have gone before us. For the Christian, reading the wisdom of our forefathers and foremothers is a necessary exercise. That’s why there’s an entire classification of “dead people” who I am regularly seeking out and reading. . . the Puritans. Yes, you saw that correctly. . . the Puritans. For the past couple of years I’ve been wading through the rich and insightful words of Thomas Brooks in his 1652 book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. I finished the book on the last day of 2019, but I will be going back to it again and again. I fear that most of us never think seriously about the one who is constantly scheming to derail God’s children. A good football team not only practices on offense, but they learn how to play defense. And playing a good defense means that we have to know the offensive schemes of our opponent. Enough said. Not only will this book serve you well as you get to know the enemy and how the enemy works to undo you, but you can use it as a source for some really rich teaching with your students.
Finally, my tenth recommendation from my 2019 reading is Christopher Yuan’s Holy Sexuality And The Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped By God’s Grand Story. Yuan’s compelling personal story and his work on biblical sexuality were first recommended to me during my Youth Culture Matters podcast conversation with Rosaria Butterfield. I’ve continued to hear Butterfield recommend Yuan. Because of Yuan’s own history with sexual brokenness, his insights are not just lofty ruminations committed to paper. Rather, they come out of the blood, sweat, and tears of the battle to submit one’s desires and brokenness to God’s story rather than to the world’s story. Yes, Yuan has had to navigate the difficult waters of same-sex attraction. That’s the case for many of you, I know. But if that’s not your story, don’t write this book off. We are all living with broken sexuality in ways that are most likely encouraged to be embraced and indulged in today’s world. Fact is, we all need to read Christopher Yuan’s explanation of “holy sexuality”. . . which is, “chastity in singleness or faithfulness in marriage.” If you want to get a taste of Yuan’s book, take a listen to my conversation with him (found on the player I’ve embedded below). . .
As you jump into 2020, keep reading. God has given us eyes, hearts, and minds that we must steward to His glory. Reading is a powerful avenue to that end!