Of the Making of Many Books . . .

Article by   December 2010

A Baker's Dozen for 2010

It's that time of year when "the best of ... in 2010" gets written. I have been reflecting on some books that I've read this year, all of which rose to the top of pile of "good reads."
In no particular order, I enjoyed the following:

First, two books by our own Carl Trueman, Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative (P & R, 2010) and History and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History (Crossway, 2010).  Both of these books are, in their own way, brilliantly and provocatively written. Few have the courage (substitute another word if necessary) to provoke the conservative Christian Right wing with quite the panache and daring of a Trueman sentence - laden with irony and sprinkled with just about enough truth to ensure recognition of its target. Few will agree with everything Trueman writes in Republocrat; many will agree with little or none. But it deserves to be read and talked about. Perhaps, for me, the most informative book of 2010. Similarly, Histories and Fallacies serves to address several goals all at once: the casual reader of history who thinks that "just give me the facts" ensures an unbiased presentation; the post-graduate researcher needing a brief summary of how historiographical worldviews alters interpretation of history. Trueman's analysis of the Holocaust Denial point of view is nothing short of brilliant. If I find myself in trouble, I want Trueman as an advocate!

I have something of a love for a good Atlas and the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, edited by John D. Currid and David P. Barrett (Crossway, 2010) is superb. For those of us who have become ESV groupies (I admit to being one), the Atlas is an absolute necessity (available as an Ipad download which must be like heaven for Ipad owners like me).

The Theology of B. B. Warfield, by Fred G. Zaspel (Crossway, 2010)
 manages to provide us with a posthumous Systematic Theology from the pen of B. B. Warfield - which is quite an accomplishment seeing that Warfield did not write one! Using an enlightened "cut and paste" method, Warfield's occasional writings have been pieced together into something of a masterpiece. The greatest mind of Old Princeton speaks with a fresh voice. 

Those of us who have had the experience of sitting on a Q & A panel alongside Don Carson know how humbling an experience it is: the man knows everything! A compilation of his essays/articles (complied by Andrew David Naselli) is crucial given the shifting allegiances to inerrancy within conservative circles. Collected Writings on Scripture (Crossway, 2010) is essential reading.

Truckloads of books on John Calvin appeared this year in the wake of the quincentenary
 celebrations of 2009. Without doubt, three rose significantly to the top of the pile: F. Bruce Gordon's Calvin (Yale University Press, 2009), and Paul Helm's Calvin at the Centre (OUP, 2010). Yes, Bruce's volume is a 2009 volume (a paperback edition is due next year), but some did not get around to reading until 2010 and it deserves to be mentioned again. It is, significantly, a theological history and one gets the impression that Bruce understands Calvin at significant points (less so in the discussion of the Supper, perhaps). Helm's volume is, like its partner Calvin's Ideas (OUP, 2002), weighty and profound. 
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Those who read Calvin through a Van Tilian lens will demur, but few have grasped the immensity of Calvin's contribution or commented so significantly on his abiding worth as has Helm. For serious Calvin students, for sure. 

But there's nothing like Calvin himself and we are grateful to The Banner of Truth, and Robert White for the English translation, for Faith Unfeigned containing four of Calvin's sermons (as he put it) "matters most useful for the present time" as well as an exposition of Psalm 87. Having once ploughed through the French accounts of the four sermons (published in 1552) in Supplimenta calviniana), I am relieved to able to read them in this fine translation. No
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 publisher quite manages the "feel" of a Banner book (the weight of paper, the ribbon-edged binding and, in this instance, the dust-jacket reproduction of The Emigration of the Huguenots 1566 by Jan Antoon Neuhuys (so glad the Banner has abandoned the Scottish Tourist Board images). 

Among quick, but important, reads this year were the following: another volume from Kevin de Young, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century 
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Catechism (Moody, 2010), follows in the wake of equally interesting volumes like, Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc., co-authored with Joshua Harris (Moody, 2009), and Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, co-authored with Ted Kluck (Moody, 2009), and Why We are Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, co-authored by David F. Wells (Moody, 2008). De Young manages to make a study of the Heidelberg Catechism appear as exciting as movie night for late teens and kudos to him for doing so. 
Among other volumes of a non-religious variety was Michael Tanner's The Faber Pocket
 Guide to Wagner (Faber and Faber, 2010). True, Tanner wrote a more substantial volume - Wagner (Princeton University Press) in 2002 - but for Wagner neophytes, this is as good a place to start as any. Tanner is a British philosopher who has written widely on Nietzsche and has a firm grasp of Wagner's idiom. 

For relaxation, I have continued to enjoy Bernard Cornwell's historical novels, suffused as they are with some of the most detailed battle scene accounts I know. This year's The Burning 
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Land: A Novel (Harper, 2010). Set in ninth-century Britain, The Burning Land continues the story of Uhtred, the morally and emotionally conflicted Saxon-born, Danish-bred prince who was kidnapped and trained in the arts of war by his captors. [Be warned, this is a book for the mass market and contains some decorative language.]

Sinclair Ferguson's By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me (Reformation Trust, 2010) is a small masterpiece and follows as a sequel to an earlier volume, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007). 
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Perhaps, for me at least, the best book of 2010 was by John Stott - The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of our Calling (IVP, 2010).  He tells us it is his last book. Next year (2011), it will be the fortieth anniversary of my first encounter with Stott's Basic Christianity. Within a few days of reading that book, I was converted from nominal paganism to evangelical 
Christianity. Reading The Radical Disciples brought me to tears: Stott has remained faithful to the core elements of the gospel throughout his life and this book underlines some important and much-needed truths. These days, my prayer is simply to finish the race set before me, but Stott sets a nobler example - to finish well.

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