Ten Best Books of 2011

Posted on December 14, 2011


I am an avid reader. I firmly believe in the importance of lifelong learning, and a key way I learn is through reading. I try to read around 40-50 books per year, which is a little less than 1 book per week. As you will see below, my reading selection is normally skewed towards history, biography, fiction, and ministry selections.

This year, I decided to share the top 10 books/series that I read this past year. Hopefully this list will introduce you to a new book and will inspire you to read it.

Note: these are the top books I have read in the past calendar year; several of them came out before 2011.

Top 10 Books Read in 2011:

UnbrokenUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This not only tops the list for 2011, but is one of the best books I have ever read. It is the inspiring true story of Louie Zamperini, a WWII vet who was shot down over the Pacific, survived 47 days adrift in the ocean, only to be captured and spend the entire war in a Japanese POW camp. The story is filled with grace, mercy, perseverance, and redemption.

Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

An amazing book that describes the life of Mosab Youself, whose father is a leader in the Hamas terrorist group. In the book, Mosab describes his hatred for Israel, his stunning conversion to Christianity, and his covert actions on behalf of Israel. In another year, this would have been the best book I read that year. A truly great book that I recommend to everyone I see.

RadicalRadical by David Platt

In Radical, Platt throws a hand grenade into the comfortable chairs/pews of American Christianity. He challenges the reader to embrace Christianity in their whole life, to actively seek out ministry opportunities, and to be faithful stewards of what God has placed in their care. A very challenging (in a good way) book.

Bible and Sword by Barbara Tuchman

In Bible and Sword, Tuchman looks at several thousand years history of the Holy Lands. This narratives looks at events through two filters: the Bible (the history of religious movements in the Holy Land) and the Sword (the battles and wars to control the Holy Land). A remarkable book that provides some insight as to the roots and background behind the present day struggle in the Middle East.

1776 by David McCullough

I know, this book was hot several years ago. However, I just got around to reading it this past year, and it was well worth it. Author David McCullough weaves an amazing narrative of the Revolutionary War events that took place in 1776, with a focus on the battles for Boston and Brooklyn/Manhattan. This book provides a needed perspective of how unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War was for the Americans, especially at the end of the year 1776.

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

My wife and I were introduced to this series by one of my students; he said it was a great series that I wouldn’t be able to put it down. He was right – I read all three books in 3 days! Set in post-apocalyptic North America, the books tell the tale of Katniss Everdeen, a teenager mature beyond her years who is forced to fight for her life and the lives of her loved ones. This series comments on a host of issues: war, rebellion, young adulthood, and even our culture’s fascination with reality entertainment. Youth workers need to read this book, and then plan on taking students to see the movie when it comes out in March.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have not read these books before this year. After I had read them, however, I was pleased that they exceeded my expectations. Wonderful characters set in a wonderful place, the books made me feel like I was in Middle Earth even more so than Peter Jackson’s epic movies.

King’s Cross by Tim Keller

Tim Keller walks through the Gospel of Mark in this great book. In it, he focuses on the Christ’s identity as King and the purpose of the Cross. A must-read for anyone preparing to teach/preach on Mark.

Bloody Crimes by James L. Swanson

This book follows two disjoined narratives that take place in the month after the end of the Civil War (April 1865): the hunt for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the funeral train for American President Abraham Lincoln. I did not know much about Jefferson Davis, so I enjoyed learning about his history – especially his actions after Richmond fell. Even more remarkable was the entire “death pageant” for Abraham Lincoln. Swanson provides incredible details as to how people reacted to this American martyr – from his autopsy to the thousands of people who waited along the railroad tracks to get a glimpse of the funeral train. I used to think that Lincoln’s story ended at Ford’s Theater with his assassination; thanks to this book, I know that the country’s funeral pageant lasted weeks.

The President is a Sick Man by Matthew Algeo

A remarkable book on the clandestine operation to remove a tumor from President Grover Cleveland – while he was still in office! This would be an incredibly riveting story if it were just a movie, yet it really happened. A quick yet engrossing read.

Honorable Mentions:

Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer

Would be on the Top 10 had I finished it. I only made it through the Introduction so far, and it is amazing!

God is Not One by Stephen Prothero

A great book on some of the most influential religions in the world. This was extremely helpful as I prepped for a lesson series on World Religions.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

A very good book on the visionary founder of Apple. To me the book seemed slightly weighed in favor of Steve, especially in describing his last 5-10 years.

Gospel by J.D. Greear

A timely work that emphasized the supremacy and importance of the Gospel, especially for longtime Christians. It challenged me to preach the Gospel to myself daily.

Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

A well written rebuttal to Bell’s Love Wins. I really appreciated Chan’s honesty with the topic; several times he stressed his struggle with believing in hell and eternal punishment.

In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson

A riveting historical account of the US Ambassador to Germany (William E. Dodd) in 1933, during a crucial period of global history. Through Dodd’s eyes, Larson provides an insider’s glimpse at Hitler’s Germany at it’s infancy.

Question: What is one book that rocked your world in 2011?

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