What makes a book great? There are all kinds of standards and measures for the writing of books. People have differing opinions. One person’s masterpiece is another person’s meaningless drivel. How do we know what makes a book great?
I have a short list of characteristics that I use in measuring the value of the books I read. The goal of my reading is never entertainment, so factors related to a books value as entertainment won’t be on my list. I almost never read fiction – I have read only three fiction books in the last 28 years. Characteristics that make a book good fiction won’t be here either. So what’s left?
My list of characteristics that make a book good to me are clustered around the usefulness of the information. Included in that is whether or not the information is easy to glean from the book, a kind of writing quality that makes a book a good teacher. Here are the characteristics I use:
- Important Information – is the book on an interesting topic, something that is important enough to read.
- Readable – Some books are harder to read, but the importance outweighs the difficulty. Some of the more difficult to read books contain the most important information.
- Life-changing – is the information in the book important enough, well-presented enough, and relevant to daily living to the point that it is a life-changing read.
With the above list in mind, here is the list of the greatest books I have read in 2019.
- Absolute Surrender, Andrew Murray. A must-read book for anyone serious about their faith in Christ.
- The Crucified Life, A.W. Tozer. Another must-read book, for the same reason.
- Love Not the World, Watchman Nee. The best exposition on the nature of the world in which we live, and why we must be most cautious as we traverse this life.
- The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Watchman Nee. Long title for a short book. This is well-written, and covers a hard subject – the need for our self-life to be broken so the Holy Spirit can live His life through us. Not for the faint of faith, but true and vital for true discipleship.
- The Power of the Blood Covenant, Malcolm Smith. The best explanation of the New Covenant we have in Christ. Ever. Period. Must read. Did I mention that it is the best ever?
- One Second After, William Forstchen. How will the world as we know it end? The sole fiction book I read this year and the first in a dozen years, this story is riveting. And plausible. It unpacks the most likely end of the world as we know it scenario over the course of the first year after.
- God is Closer Than You Think, Juan Carlos Ortiz. This book is the logical follow-up to Ortiz’s “Living With Jesus Today,” and completes the picture of what a daily conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit is like. Both books are intensely practical and immediately actionable. Both books are must reads, if you can find these out-of-print gems.
- God is Closer Than You Think, John Ortberg. Same title, same topic as the book above. While not as easy to follow and put into action as Ortiz on this subject, this is still a great book, filled with practical strategies to realize the nearness of your God the Holy Spirit within you.
- Be Still, My Soul, Elisabeth Elliot. Given to me as a birthday gift, my first E.Elliot book was a winner. Her take on the sovereignty of our God even in the most difficult of times is life-changing. No punches pulled, and no pat answers. Just a great exposition in the idea that “nothing ever happens while God is looking the other way.”
Look for reviews ot these books in future posts. In the meantime, get reading! Remember A.W. Tozer’s great advice: “Read less, but read more of what really matters.”