Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some Favorite Reads in 2011

So many books, so little time… But here are a few of my favorites that I read in 2011, in no particular order.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  I thank God for Francis. He has an infectious faith and a committed spirit and this book truly inspires and delivers. I asked each one of my kids to read it this year.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. What a great, gripping read. Even if you don’t enjoy the sport of running, you’ll be caught up in this tremendous, true tale. And if you’ve ever wondered why those funny looking toe shoes became so popular, this book is the main reason why.

A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. Just about every Christian should read this contemporary classic about facing life losses. Jerry lost his wife, mother and daughter in a single car accident. His reflections are mature, pastoral, and immensely helpful.

 Marriage Matters by Winston Smith.  I’ve read many marriage books. This is among the best. Winston trends toward the Sacred Marriage approach—exploring the soul-transforming aspects of the marriage relationship.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  An almost impossibly great book. As a writer, I don’t think I’ve come across any contemporary author who writes with such skill, who displays such amazing capacity for research, who plays the English language like a master musician plays the violin, and who manufactures a gripping narrative far better than any screenwriter working today. Though her output has been relatively sparse, Hillenbrand is quite possibly the finest contemporary writer working today.

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright. Even if you have issues with Wright’s work on justification, please don’t avoid this masterpiece on sanctification. It’s brilliant.

The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees by Nicole Johnson.  A very short, but very powerful, inspirational giftbook for women. Women, if you feel taken for granted, this book will prop you right back up.

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll.  Of course I’ve got to read a lot of marriage books. Though this one will certainly be controversial when it is released in a few weeks, I believe it’s a bold statement and an important book. You and I might draw different lines than Mark and Grace do (which is what, sadly, the controversy will be about), but this is a thoroughly biblical, challenging, and shockingly honest portrayal of Christian marriage.  It took a lot of guts for Mark and Grace to write this book and I think it can spawn many productive conversations and thoughts.

The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ by Alphonsus Liguori.  Can you make room for an insightful though often ignored, Roman Catholic writer on spirituality? This is a profound spiritual read. As an Evangelical, I’m sometimes amazed how Liguori can give one of the best presentations of the Gospel I’ve ever read, and then end the chapter with a shout out to Mary… If you can get past that, there is so much to benefit from here.                                                      

The Great Omission by Dallas Willard
Dallas remains one of my favorite contemporary writers working on spiritual formation. This is such a good book, even though it’s cobbled together from various articles and speeches. If Willard takes the time to write it, it’s worth it for all the rest of us to take the time to read it.

And, for those of you who noticed I didn’t have a new book published in 2010, I hope you did notice that there were four Gary Thomas book releases in 2011 and one new curriculum.  They were:

Thirsting for God   This is a completely rewritten and updated version of my first book, Seeking the Face of God. I just about doubled the number of classics that I drew upon when the book was first published in 1994, threw out some of the more obscure sounding quotes, packed it full of newer material and quotes and hopefully produced a book that will pick up where Seeking left off. If you want a primer to become familiar with the Christian classics and an introduction to Christian spirituality through the perspective of the greatest writers of the past 2,000 years, this book just might be the one you’re looking for.

Sacred Marriage Gift Edition  So many people were giving out Sacred Marriage as a wedding gift but wanting something more substantial (a hardback instead of a paperback) that Zondervan put together this special gift edition with a wedding appropriate cover, and added Devotions for Sacred Marriage to the end—two books in one. We sell out of these every time we bring them to an event. Not only is it more economical to get the “two for one” deal, but people just love the packaging and they love the thought of giving this material to others for a wedding or anniversary gift.

Sacred Parenting DVD Curriculum  Finally—7 years after the book came out—we’ve got a curriculum for small groups to study the concepts of how God can use parenting to shape a parent’s soul. This isn’t a how-to look at parenting; instead, it explores how soul-forming the journey of parenting is for the parent. People appreciate the fresh approach and we’ve been encouraged by the comments received so far. There’s a participant’s guide that will take you through the 6 video sessions.

Simply Sacred
Zondervan went through my previous 12 solo books, pulled some of the most impactful excerpts, and put 366 of them together (we’ve got leap year covered!) for your daily inspiration. These are short entries—a page each—and are rather varied in theme, given that they’re pulled from so many different works.

Every Body Matters
My first completely new book in a couple years, Every Body Matters examines the connection between physical and spiritual discipline, what it means to honor God with our bodies, how we should view our bodies as instruments of spiritual service rather than ornaments, and offers a (I hope) compelling call for Christians to take body-care more seriously. Secular books tackle this subject with all the wrong, me-centered motivations—primarily, to look and feel better. EBM provides spiritual motivation: our bodies are not our own, they were bought with a price and so we’re called to honor God with our bodies.  “Seeking first the Kingdom of God” includes surrendering the kingdom of our physical bodies.


  1. Thanks for the list, Gary. I look forward to reading through some of your suggestions. I am just about to crack open Every Body Matters and can't wait to dive in. So thankful for how the Lord is using you in writing books and providing resources.

  2. Our small group is going to read Seeking the Face of God this fall. Is there a study guide for the book...or at least a set of guiding questions for the chapters?