I'm not brilliant at New Year resolutions, but each year I aspire to read more widely and deeply as I believe it's a vital spiritual discipline. Here are some of my favourite reads from 2016 and the books I am looking to read in the coming new year. My hope is that this list will inspire you to read more widely and deeply in 2017.
I recognise the nervousness around 'novelty Bibles' – those special editions of the Bible that seem like a gimmick to entice Christians who already own lots of Bibles to spend more money to buy another that they won't actually read. On the other hand, I believe the Bible contains the words of life. So any mechanism that helps people engage with Scripture is life-defining and potentially world changing. Too many Christians read the Bible and miss its implications for life, hope and justice. So this new edition of the NIV called God's Justice Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil, made with a global team of commentators, could be a great help to the Church. I must confess I contributed to the notes on the book of Acts, although I don't get any royalties from the sales so am free to recommend it!
For 2017 I am looking forward to seeing the benefits of the New International Reader's Version of the Bible which, by using bigger print and shorter sentences, seeks to the make the Bible accessible to people who have struggled to read the Bible for themselves. I just received a copy of Matthew's Gospel which has been really well put together with good quality paper, a great typeface and an interesting physical format. If one of your New Year resolutions is to read the Bible from cover to cover, this one may make it a little more achievable.
I am half way through Tom Wright's excellent The Day the Revolution Began and I am enjoying having my heart moved and my mind stretched reflecting on a more joined-up way of thinking about the meaning of the cross of Christ. Wright brings his characteristic provocative scholarship to bear in a more accessible style than his multi-volume Paul and the Faithfulness of God.
In 2017 I'm looking forward to reading Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church by Steve Holmes, Wesley Hill, William Loader and Megan DeFrauza. This is an essential topic for the Church to face up to and I believe the way the Bible is handled in this debate is a vital test case for the future of the Church. If we heed the voice of God to direct, challenge and encourage us through the Scriptures then we have a strong foundation moving forward.
I love the eclecticism of a book of essays that take you into new areas of thought that you might not have come across before. Kevin Vanhoozer is a master essayist and in his book Pictures from a Theological Exhibition he writes thoughtfully on the state of evangelicalism, evangelism, theology and more. I particularly liked the essay on apologetics, which challenges the talking head know-it-all apologist model that has become so dominant in recent times.
I am looking forward to reading Geoffrey Treloar's 12 essays in his new book The Disruption of Evangelicalism. The book examines the state of the evangelical movement during the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. The opening essay alone seems to be worth the price of the volume as it offers an excellent thematic framework to understand some of the polarising elements within the evangelical movement. It also contains Treloar's analysis of evangelical responses to the First World War, which promises to be fascinating.
I have read a lot of apologetics books this year. The one I enjoyed most was Tim Keller's Making Sense of God ,not just because I am a bit of a Keller fan but because he consistently comes up with fresh ways of commending the Christian faith to a sceptical world. Keller has the unusual knack of being able to combine scholarship with accessibility, understanding Scripture, culture and theology as well as being very personable both in real life and in print. This makes his writing warm yet challenging, cutting-edge and still pastorally sensitive.
Next year I'm looking forward to reading Alister McGrath's latest offering, Enriching our Vision of Reality, which continues his current interests in theology and natural science. I am particularly looking forward to hearing his arguments for the 'human quest for intelligibility' as I think this could be an exciting line of argument for Christian faith as we interact with sceptics.
This is not an area I read a lot in but I did enjoy reading Spiritual Friendship by Wesley Hill this year. This explores Hill's experience as a celibate gay Christian and his quest to find fellowship and friendship in church. Hill raises vital questions that the Church must wrestle with, particularly about the 'sexualisation of friendship' which makes life doubly difficult.
In 2017 I am looking forward to reading Mark Yaconelli's latest book, Disappointment, Doubt and other Spiritual Gifts, which promises to help us all to find spiritual practices that will unlock grace in unexpected places.
This year I really enjoyed David Wilkinson's book on prayer and quantum physics, When I Pray, What Does God Do? Professor Wilkinson will definitely stretch your thinking about prayer in a very profound but gentle way. I also have to mention Pete Greig's book Dirty Glory which is full of amazing stories about the 24:7 movement and is sure to inspire your personal prayer life.
For my next book to help my prayer life I am looking forward to reading Love Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life. This is a collection of unpublished letters from Henri Nouwen. Apparently he had an extensive ministry in coaching and encouraging others in their spiritual development – I've scanned a few of the letters already and I am hoping Nouwen's deep spirituality and his investment in personal correspondence will rub off on me as I read.
I love biographies and seeing how people have responded to life, God and our world. He may not be a Christian but John le Carré's brilliant Pigeon Tunnel is a masterpiece. It gives a rich insight into the life of an author who liked to adventure in life as well as in his books. It has laugh-out-loud moments and other sections where you will be moved. There's some strong language at times but you will gain new insight into world of espionage, the characters that inspired his most famous novels and come to understand why Le Carré's novels were not the only adventures in his life. It's not a 'Christian book' but I deliberately vary the books that I read so that I can better understand the world we live in and how we can connect the gospel with it. There are some brilliant stories in this volume that will no doubt make their way into a sermon or article soon.
Next year, I'm looking forward to reading a new short biography of Mother Theresa, The Love that made Saint Teresa by David Scott. I am pretty sure it's not going to be comfortable reading – I'm going to struggle with some of its theology and also be challenged by incredible compassion in the face of world poverty. I find Mother Theresa an incredibly inspiring and provocative woman and I am looking forward to the challenge of her life and words.
I loved reading the insights in The Great and Holy War by Philip Jenkins recently. This book on the First World War was brutal, depressing and yet profound. It shed light on how faith, theology and ideology can too often get confused. It was an eye-opener for me in light of the relationship between the Church and the current political situation both in the US and UK.
For 2017 I am looking forward to reading more about the history of the Japanese Church in Japan's Missing Christians by John Dougill. It provides the historical context for the events depicted in Silence, the novel by Endo which has been turned into a major Hollywood movie directed by Martin Scorsese.
I love to read with my younger children, but recently I've noticed they have been getting on with reading without me. The number one book for my 10-year-old daughter this year was the Lion Comic Book Hero Bible. This is a brilliant retelling of some of the big stories of the Bible in beautiful, full-colour graphic art. I was talking about the virgin birth of Jesus with her the other day and she commented that miraculous births were God's speciality because of the elderly couple that God visited in their tent. She had picked up the story of Abraham and Sarah, processed it and stored it in her mind ready to be applied. That's an investment in a child's spiritual formation that is worth making.
The book she is looking forward to reading in 2017 is the amazing Diary of a Disciple by Gemma Willis. It takes the style of the very popular Tom Gates books she loves so much and translates the Gospel of Luke into the same genre.
It was one of the toughest reads of 2016 despite the impeccable writing because of the very challenging subject matter of Elaine Storkey's Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women. It is a meticulously researched and brilliantly argued exposé of the epidemic of violence that women around the world are facing.
On my list for next year's reading on social justice is The Justice Calling by Bethany Hoang and Kirsteen Johnson. I haven't seen it in a bookshop yet but I have been impressed by Hoang's work with International Justice Mission's Institute of Biblical Justice and believe she has earned the right to speak out a challenge to the Church.
Dr Krish Kandiah is the founding director of Home for Good and also the executive producer of Books for Life. Visit www.booksforlife.uk for more reading inspiration.