10 Books for 2021By Tony Caffey
January 18, 2021
At my core, I am an expository preacher. I have spent the last thirteen years preaching through books of the Bible. But I have also found value in a well-placed, well-timed topical sermon or series. Topical sermons are actually harder to prepare, but I’ve seen them bear fruit in our church. “Topical” might not be the right adjective for these messages. They are more precisely a biblical and theological analysis of a certain cultural theme (e.g. marriage, family, gender, race, abortion, marijuana) or a cultural church value (e.g. loyalty, contentment, discipleship, urgency, intentionality).
For whatever reason, I find it best to schedule a topical sermon series at the beginning of the year in my sermon calendar. I often try to marry the series with a list of books that I want to read. The beginning of the year tends to be a good time for me to catch up on reading since I’ve usually gotten behind during football season.
Like most pastors, I have a reading list of books I want to read. This list often changes as new books are added and other books are pushed back on the priority list. Below are ten books that, Lord-willing, I plan to read in 2021 and incorporate into a series of topical sermons.
1. Primal Screams by Mary Eberstadt
I became aware of this book after listening to a fascinating interview of Eberstadt by John Stonestreet as part of the Breakpoint podcast. I’ve known for some time that the breakdown of the family is having serious effects on our culture. I’m interested in working through the data and the arguments that Eberstadt marshals in this book.
2. Love thy Body by Nancy Pearcey
I became intrigued by this book a few years ago after reading about it in a Gospel Coalition article. It’s been one of the books at the top of my priority list for a while, but I haven’t quite gotten to it. Now’s the time to read it when so much of the gender identity and gender fluidity debates have become anti-biology and neo-gnostic.
3. Live not by Lies by Rod Dreher
Few books in 2020 have created as much buzz as this book. Rod Dreher has become an effective critic of our contemporary culture. Is he prophetic or is he an alarmist? Probably a little of both. I want to find out for myself by reading this book. If nothing else, I want to use the title of this book for a sermon topic on the importance of truth. (Note: “Live not by lies” as a slogan originated with an essay by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. See the conversation Dreher has with Al Mohler on his “Thinking in Public” podcast).
4. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
This book is second only to Live not by Lies in terms of 2020 buzz. Al Mohler said the following to Carl Trueman about it: “This is a really outstanding book…I think you’ve written a book that is going to be referenced for a very long time.” Nuff said, as far as I’m concerned.
5. The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray
Douglas Murray is a British author and public intellectual that I respect a great deal. He is not a Christian, so I appreciate his outsider perspectives on faith, Christianity, history, and the madness of the modern world. His writing is comparable to Jordan Peterson, but I find Murray to be easier to follow and more insightful than Peterson. His interview with the retired Australian politician and political commentator, John Anderson, is fascinating.
6) Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson
I have admired Benjamin Watson for a while both on and off the football field. I admire his courageous statements and his biblical commitment. This is a book about race at a much needed time. I agree with Kevin DeYoung who wrote recently “We Must Find a Better Way to Talk About Race.” Perhaps Watson will help us find that “better way.”
7. One Race One Blood by Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware
This is a second book on “race” that I plan to read. Based upon the year that we had in 2020, I think two books on this list are warranted. I’ve often wondered why black and white Americans don’t write more books together on this topic. Maybe it’s for the same reason that they don’t typically worship at the same churches together. I became interested in this book many years ago after listening to a lecture on this topic by Ken Ham. I appreciate much about Ken Ham’s ministry, even though at times I find his tactics excessively polemical. But I admire how directly he and Ware are addressing this topic. I have thought for many years that the only way forward with race relations in America is to go back to the beginning and back to the imago Dei of Genesis 1:27. I want to see what Ware and Ham have to say about that in this book.
8. I Still Do by Dave Harvey
I try to read a book on marriage every year. Since my wife and I just celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary, this is the book I want to read this year. Also, my church full of “young marrieds” ten years ago has progressed to being a church full of “not-so-young” marrieds. I guess it’s true that the church often reflects the life-stage of the pastor. Whatever the case, this book seemed apropos.
9. Tactics by Gregory Koukl
Tactics is another book that has been on my list for several years. I’ve been wondering lately if my ways of influencing and persuading others in my preaching are outdated. Am I using modernist tactics for persuading a postmodern world? After reading Tim Keller’s book on Preaching a while back, I had to honestly answer that question, “yes.” I’m hoping to get better at this by reading Koukl’s book.
10. Lead by Paul David Tripp
Paul Tripp wrote a book on leadership in 2020, and I want to read it. That about sums it up.
Each of these books can benefit a pastor or ministry leader for a number of different reasons. It has been said that the only things that will change about you in ten years is “the places you go, the people you meet, and the books you read”. If that’s true, then we all should have an answer when we get asked: “What are you reading in 2021?”
More great resources: