Top Books of 2012

At the close of another year, I wanted to look back at the best books I read in 2012. While it might have been helpful to post this list before Christmas (for those looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life), I’m glad I didn’t, since two of the books on this list I’ve just read in the last week!

It’s difficult for me to assign a rank to these books since I enjoyed them in different ways, so here are this year’s top ten in alphabetical order:

According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, by Graeme Goldsworthy — This is the only one of my seminary books to make the list this year, but that’s one more than I expected. While I enjoyed (to varying degrees) all of my assigned reading, this book on biblical theology stands out as one that I’ll be sure to read again, and one which will appeal to a lot of readers. I wrote a brief review here.

Calico Joe, by John Grisham — This was an MLB All-Star Game-inspired fun read. It is Grisham’s shortest novel (to date), but one of the most purely enjoyable books I’ve read in quite a while. My review is here.

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters, by Albert Mohler — I often read and benefit from books on leadership, but rarely do I actually enjoy reading them. This is easily the best leadership book I’ve read, and one I’ll be turning to again frequently. A more thorough review is forthcoming.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by Paul David Tripp — I know I said I have difficulty ranking books, but if I were a pastor it would be a no-brainer to list this as my #1. As a lay-leader in the church, I have still found much that benefits me, particularly his warnings against the perils of seminary education. Vocational ministry is a dangerous calling, indeed! (I actually still have two chapters to go to finish this one, but I’ll officially review it when I finish.)

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics, by Henry Hazlitt — I usually don’t list re-reads as annual favorites, but this was a more recent (and revised) edition from what I’d read previously, so it counts! There are better books on economics, but if there were one book on the subject I wish everyone would pick up, it would be this one. The subtitle says it all. My review is here.

Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, by James R. Gaines — This dual biography on two of the most fascinating figures in European history is a must-read for musicians, and a strong recommendation for anyone else. Riveting from cover to cover. My review is here.

Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, by Tony Reinke — I loved this book about books from fellow bibliophile Tony Reinke, and you will, too. My review is here.

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World, by N.D. Wilson — This was definitely the most unique book I read this year. Seeing the world through Nate Wilson’s eyes was a joy… it’s a book you “experience” rather than simply “read”. My review is here.

Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, by Ken Robinson — I bought this book based on my appreciation Sir Ken Robsinson’s now-viral lecture on creativity. While the book wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped, this was probably more due to unrealistic expectations than any actual shortcomings in the book. And the parts that were good were really good! Lots here for teachers and parents to learn. Not sure if/when I’ll review this one.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, by John Piper — It’s a helpful intellectual pursuit to occasionally think about thinking, and this book by one of my favorite thinkers is an excellent guide for that process. My review is here.

Here are a few that just missed my top ten:

Well, there’s my list. What were some of your favorite reads this year?

A Glamorous Education

I’m currently enjoying Sir Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative quite a bit. Robinson is one of the world’s leading experts on creativity and education. If you missed it when I posted it a few months ago, be sure to watch his excellent video, Do Schools Kill Creativity?

One of the many things I’ve learned so far reading this book is an etymological lesson on a modern word with origins I would not have guessed… a lesson I now happily pass on to you!

During the Middle Ages, when very few Western Europeans possessed any sort of education at all, the first schools that began appearing were known as schola grammatica — Grammar Schools. These schools focused primarily on teaching grammar, particularly Latin grammar. As a result, students of grammar (or, as it was rendered in Ye Olde English, gramarye or glomerye) became revered by the uneducated masses because of their fancy speech… it almost seemed magical! It is for this reason that the word “glamour” came to refer to things which are found to be fascinating or alluring.

(If you have trouble seeing how the word evolved in this way, simply try saying the word “grammar” in your best theatrical British accent with a trilled /r/ sound)

So grammar = glamour. Neat, huh?


In one chapter, Robinson includes a few IQ tests courtesy of Mensa. I’m usually pretty good at this sort of test, but this one stumped me. If you think you know the answer (no Googling allowed… not that it would help you!), leave it in the comments.

What letter should come next in the sequence?

M Y V S E H M S J R S N U S N E P ?