This is a list of the books I read in 2016. All the reviews were written in 2016 and are archived on this site in (roughly) the order I read them in.

Book Reviews 2016
October 10, 20192016This is my 5th time reading through this book, which I’ve done faithfully for the last 5 years since I became a Christian. I reviewed it in 2014 here and last year here. Each year I read it, I glean something new and refreshing. The first chapter is entitled “The Centrality of the Cross” and I think it is such an important message to constantly return to the purpose and message of the cross year after year which is why I will continue to read the Cross of Christ. It really has become my most favorite book. I think this year was particularly intriguing in my yearly run through because I did something I haven’t done in earlier years: I took notes. In my note taking, I like to highlight particularly important passages that I cross reference with a key that is in front of the book. In my note taking, I recorded almost 80 entries of important or remember-worthy details that made it into my key. Sometimes I feel as if the entire book could be highlighted because of the gravity and weightiness of the message. The book is broken down into 4 parts: Approaching the Cross, The Heart of the Cross, The Achievement of the Cross, and Living Under the Cross. I mentioned last year that this last section really gripped me because when we understand the cross, we cannot help but be moved to live it out in our lives. This year, the section “The Heart of the Cross” again became my most favorite section. Stott deals with the problem of forgiveness, satisfaction for sin, and the self-substitution of God in this section. Among my most favorite parts is the two part dichotomy of the sacrifice of Jesus by Anselm of Canterbury; “There is no-one… who can make this satisfaction except God himself… But no one ought to make it except man; otherwise man does not make satisfaction… it is necessary that one who is God-man should make it… It is needful that the very same Person who is to make this satisfaction be perfect God and perfect man, since no one can do it except one who is truly God, and no one ought to do it except one who is truly man.” The self satisfaction of God is still a truth about the cross that fascinates me today and, in my opinion, is an idea that plumbs the depth of the cross. I love this book. I think you should read it. If you want to be challenged to a greater understanding of the cross, then this is the book for you. If you have questions about the cross, then you should read this book. Just do yourself a favor and read it. [...]
January 14, 20202016Greg Harris is a name that I’ve continually come back to for his incredible books. Earlier this year, I read the phenomenal book, “The Cup and the Glory” by Harris. The “Darkness and the Glory” I read last year and I thought it was brilliant. I wanted to revisit this book to glean some of the things I had missed the first time around. The subtitle of the book explains the premise of this book: the journey of Jesus from the garden of Gethsemane to his ascension into heaven. So the book starts with Jesus in the garden and the weight of the task he was about to take on. Harris details not only the dread of Jesus in going to the cross, but the spiritual battle that was occurring in the unseen realm prior to his crucifixion. He moves to the cross and the “darkness.” One of the most interesting narratives of the book is what happened to Jesus when He died. This has mystified theologians since the early church. The early church believed that Jesus went to hell to pay for the sins of man. But this is a contested belief, even today. Harris unpacks this subject at the heart of his book. Jesus’ message to the thief on the cross, that he will be with him in paradise, gives some clue to where Jesus was during the three days. This has been argued more fervently in recent years. However, there is a problem with this: Jesus was in paradise but not with God, as John 20:17 makes clear. He has not ascended to the father yet. So this paradise must be something else. Harris explains some other clues that the Bible gives us, most practically in 1st and 2nd Peter. 1 Peter 3 19-20 says, “ went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah…” To understand this, Harris goes back to the garden. The prophecy in Genesis 3 is the first look at what will happen to Jesus: “He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” This foretells of Satan’s demise and is made clear that it will occur through human offspring. Satan, wanting to prevent God’s word from happening, decides to infect the bloodline of humans with another agent: angels. Cue Genesis 6:2 – “…the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.” To pollute the bloodline would ultimately mean that this prophecy could never come true. God saw this evil plan and the flood on the earth was in part a response to it. God preserved the “promised seed” through Noah. Now these spirits must have been bound up and put into prison. And Jesus visits them during the three days after his death. Why though? Peter wrote this letter as an encouragement to the Church. Does this seem strange? It doesn’t when seen through this context. Jesus “ministered” to these spirits not to save them, but to proclaim that He had triumphed over evil. The early Christian church went through persecution that was at times unbearable. What Peter communicates then, is that in the end, Jesus wins. He will someday triumph over all evil. Every knee will someday bow and every tongue will someday confess that He is Lord. Just a little longer we have to wait on this earth to see this grand day. This is a really awesome book. I loved re-reading it and gleaning nuances of details that I had missed. I highly recommend it. [...]
January 14, 20202016This book has to be one of the greatest on this subject ever written. Ryle is a genius at communicating and grandly espousing this complicated but necessary topic. Holiness literally means “to separate.” Therefore, the holiness of God is His separateness. He is unlike anything in the universe. So this has different implications: God cannot be compared to anything in the physical universe because he is intuitively outside of anything we understand. He is separate. But it also tells us something of what God desires of us as His children. Throughout the Bible, there are commands to be unlike the world. Such analogies as “salt and light” in Matthew 6 come to mind. So just as God is separate, so we too are to be separate from the world in the sense that we run counter to it. This is not only in our behaviors and actions, but also in the moral sense. Holiness is not merely to act of following a certain pattern for your life (a separateness that defines “salt and light”), but it also entails a certain abstaining from actions that have moral implications. As God does nothing that is outside of His character, and if He is holy and righteous, this means He does no wrong. A Christian strives to be holy in the sense that he does nothing that would be inconsistent with what God prescribes for His children; that is summed up in the quintessential phrase, “Be holy as my heavenly father is holy,” said by Jesus in Matthew 5. So we too as Christians have an obligation to strive for this goal. And it’s not easy. But Ryle makes it clear that being a Christian isn’t easy. He says it is akin to swimming upstream. You fight and fight the current pulling you downward. Sometimes you get tired and let the waters take you. But then you go right back to swimming as hard as you can to maintain your current (no pun intended) direction. This book also challenged some of my thinking on this subject. In my (perhaps previous) view, holiness is something that can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit. We can only conquer sin when we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. It would be as if you woke up one morning promising yourself not to sin in a certain area of your life; inevitably, you would fall because your thinking is preoccupied with not falling. Resting in the Holy Spirit to take control and exercise those things in Galatians 5 then, is the way to conquer sin. Ryle challenges this idea. Instead, he says both extremes are needed in the life of the Christian. We need to fight against sin; we need to swim against this current pulling us. But at the same time, we need prayer and the work of the Spirit in our lives to conquer sin. It is not done in a vacuum of just letting the Holy Spirit “magically” work out sin in our lives. It is a constant struggle. This book is a fantastic read. I highly recommend it for Christians who want to know more about this complicated topic. [...]
January 14, 20202016This rather short book is packed with a ton of information regarding the Southern reasons for secession. Dr. Dew recounts many of the same kinds of stories that we seemed to be faced with in the introduction. For example, on the citizenship test for becoming a United States Citizen, a question is asked “Why was the Civil War fought?” The answer could realistically be either because of “states rights” or over slavery. Dr. Dew seeks to understand the reasons for secession better in this book; he wants to give clarity that the Southern states did not secede over states rights, as Southern revisionist historians in the 19th century suggested and that became mainstream as Southerns attempted to assuage their guilt over the war, but over the nasty topic of slavery. Dr. Dew demonstrates this quite skillfully in looking at a little studied piece of history in the Southern Commissioners. After Abraham Lincoln was elected President, South Carolina seceded soon after. They gathered up prominent statesmen to take their case to other Southern states to secede just as South Carolina did. The Southern Commissioners took the message of disunity to Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and other states. They talked most often in front of the states leading members including the governor and the legislature’s assembled body. Dew says, “From December 1860 to April 1861, they carried the gospel of disunion to the far corners of the South” (Dew, 18). What ensues is a book full of the highlights of the commissioners reports. These are public documents of their speeches, and they are candid in their explanations. There were a number of reasons for Southerns to be alarmed at the abolition of slavery and these arguments are heard in the speeches. For one, they believed that freeing of the slaves might cause an uprising amongst them, killing the slave owners and their families. They also thought that the freeing of slaves would decimate their economic progress. But at the core of it, they would be considered just plain racist in our day. They believed that white supremacy would be quashed if slaves were free. So they took to preserving their way of life by separating from the very same people who threatened them. I think the title of this book is so brilliant: the Apostles of Disunion. That’s essentially what the commissioners were. Dr. Dew says, “And by helping us to understand the ‘why’ of secession, these apostles of disunion have gone a long way toward answering that all-important question, ‘The Civil War was fought over what important issue?’” (Dew, 21). And Dr. Dew makes a convincing argument: if indeed these commissioners were making the abolition of slavery an apologetic to get other Southern states on board with secession, then it would put the argument that the states seceded on the issue of state’s rights on precarious ground. But alas, I believe we will continue to fight against this notion because in our time, it’s just not an issue that we would like to rehash. We are comfortable with the idea of state’s rights which is put in a much better light than white supremacy. Uncovering these documents and looking into what these men actually said is almost frightening and goes a long ways in explaining the fall out of the complete abolition of slavery and the systematic racism that ensued in the South for decades to come. We are still feeling the reverberations of such arguments today in one way or another. So this is an important book and an important topic that we will continue to explore. [...]
October 10, 20192016I went to see The Big Short earlier this year and it was pretty interesting movie. That made me want to read the book (once I heard it was based off a book) and here we are. The book traces the 2007-2009 financial crisis/recession. The reasons for it and how some people made a boat load of money off of the misfortune of big time Wall Street executives. So let’s begin.. After the 2001 terrorist attacks on Wall Street, the U.S. economy went into a recession. It was pulled out a year or so later and the housing market started to boom. How you say? Well, in that same time period, people started really wanting to own their own house for obvious reasons. The housing market is typically very strong so this is, in most instances, a safe place for your money. A house you buy will incur equity and you can sell it usually for more than you bought it. For a host of other reasons, the housing market shot up. And the people who were buying houses were the kind of people that really shouldn’t have been buying them. A strawberry picker who made 14,000 a year in California, for example, bought a house for 700,000. The mortgage these kind of people took out to buy a house seemed to be at a fixed interest. That is, the mortgage was suppose to stay at a fixed interest rate through the life of the loan. What nobody told these people, was that after a couple of years, the interest would begin to rise. So when you have someone who has more risk of defaulting on their mortgage takes out a mortgage, these are called subprime mortgages. It means that they have a greater chance of defaulting during the life of the loan. What people in the housing market started to do was mass produce these mortgages. These mortgages then were wrapped up in a bond. The bonds were interlaced with good and bad sub-prime mortgages so the rating agencies would give the bond a double B or a triple A rating, meaning they were good investments. All of these kinds of bonds were then wrapped up again in what is called a CDO (Consolidated Debt Obligation). That would get a rating too. It turns out that the ratings agencies were corrupt too: they didn’t accurately rate the bonds making them seem like they were all ok to invest in. That’s what makes this whole affair even more sinister: people gave mortgages to people who shouldn’t have had them, who in turn made a ton of money by selling bonds, who in turn were given a seal of approval from the ratings agencies that they were a worthy investment. That is the definition of irresponsibility. Why did they do all this? Well first of all, it made people rich. Really, really rich. Especially traders on Wall Street. It also helped the economy because building companies started to build lots and lots of houses to live up to the demand of all the new home mortgages that were being shelled out. In 2005, a small time hedge fund manager named Mike Burry was looking through these subprime mortgages and came to a realization: the whole system is going to fail. Because the interest rates weren’t fixed, in a couple of years, the people who thought their interest rate was fixed were going to default on their mortgages because they wouldn’t be able to pay for it. He predicted that in 2007, the housing market would collapse. So he came up with a brilliant plan: he would short the bonds. What this means is simple: when someone invests in a bond, you are experiencing risk because the bonds might fail. So what if you took out insurance to make sure that if the bonds did go bad (which would only require a 7% default rate), you’d be able to cash in your insurance policy? This had never been done before but Mike Burry got his wish and bought shorts on subprime mortgages. Because the housing market is typically a worthy investment, everyone thought that Burry was crazy to buy shorts. He would have to pay the interest to keep the shorts and that was just more money in the pockets of greedy investment banks. This created a cascade effect of people who saw the same thing. Vinny Daniel, Steve Eisman, etc. all bought shorts on subprime mortgage bonds. And that’s what really made this story interesting: you see a coherent narrative behind all of this jargon so it’s not just an explanation of what happened. What eventually did end up happening is the market crashed and these guys who were smart enough to buy insurance, or shorts, became filthy rich. What are some things that I noticed that the book doesn’t really cover as much is the theme of greed. The “good guys” in this story are the Mike Burry’s and the Steve Eisman’s. But were they really all that good? The housing market was full of people who wanted a lot of money and wanted it quick. Even in the fallout of the financial crisis where the average American away from Wall Street, hardly involved in the process, suffered the most. People lost their jobs, people went through hard times. And yet we are to look up to the Mike Burry’s and Steve Eisman’s as if they are saints to be applauded for taking from the rich. That doesn’t make much sense to me. If they were really that noble, why didn’t they try to stop this from happening? That was the central question that was running through my mind throughout this whole story. Mike Burry predicted this in 2005. Was there nothing he could do to stop the machine? Is he really any better than the Wall Street Execs whose bank failed? These are important questions before we proceed to canonize Mike Burry and Steve Eisman, arguably the hero’s of this story. Nonetheless, Michael Lewis does a spectacular job in writing this book and I look forward to reading more by him. [...]

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate

I Dare You Not to Bore Me With the Bible

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible

God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God Of Scripture And The Christian Faith

Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Toole (2016)

The Cross of Christ (2016)

How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (2016)

The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ

PsychoBabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology–and the Biblical Alternative

Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Liar’s Poker

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron

Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee – A Look Inside North Korea

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (2016)

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Final Seconds

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

1776

The Cup and the Glory: Lessons on Suffering and the Glory of God

Western Civilization II

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down

Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture

Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba, and the Mafia, 1933 to 1966

Microeconomics

Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity

The Romanovs: 1613-1918

Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar

Philosophy in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic

Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History

In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire

The Oxford History of the French Revolution

Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford

Napoleon

The Whig Interpretation of History

Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War

The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats

Augustine of Hippo: A Life

Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction

Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past

This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War

1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution

Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill

A Little History of Philosophy

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land

Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good

Vietnam

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Holiness

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

The Darkness and the Glory: His Cup and the Glory from Gethsemane to the Ascension (2016)

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2016)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2016)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2016)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2016)

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

Site Footer