My Top Three Reads for 2021!

My Top Three Reads for 2021!

Greetings all!

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a year, then you’ll know that each year around January, I briefly go over the three best books I’ve read in 2021. Now, these might not be top books of the year as a whole, but they are the best of what I read in that twelve-month period.

According to my Goodreads profile, I read at least 44 books in 2021. I have to say at least because I read a ton of manga, and not all of it is registered in Goodreads. I also read a few books more than once, which counts in my opinion. Now I get that manga are short, but it sure feels good to have a high number on the page. In my defense, I read relentlessly. But I read the Bible mostly, and that’s not the sort of book you read in a day. Then there is my love of epic fantasy, which isn’t as long or demanding as the Bible, but those books are thick!

So today I looked at my Goodreads page and put in a lot of thought. To be honest, it wasn’t very hard to identify the top three, but it was very difficult to rank those in an order I thought I could stand behind. Still, I did my best! Here’s my list.

#3 Demon Slayer by Koytoharu Gotouge: I’ve rewatched Dragonball and started watching Baruto again. I’ve rewatched some episodes of Bleach, and it hasn’t been that long since I finished Naruto for the second time. I believe this, and you can @me all you want: Demon Slayer is the best manga ever.

Why number three? I’ll explain more in future numbers, but it’s not because it isn’t a good story. The characters are so charming, sympathetic, and proactive. The action is awesome. The plot is complete AND concise (key point for the “best manga ever” argument). You can find my review for Volume 23 right here.

#2 Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by C.H. Spurgeon: This is where things get a little hard to explain. So there are great, amazing stories. Stories you might read again and again, but not every day. Two of my top three reads were books I’d read more than once (including this one.) When I last reviewed this book, I felt bad because it was hard to focus. Then I realized something, I just love this book because it’s like a series of little pick-me-ups. I listen to it when I need help falling asleep. I listen to it when I don’t know what other Christian books to read next. This is the sort of book one keeps on a nightstand and picks up when he needs to be picked up. I came very close to putting this as number one for that reason. So because I couldn’t figure out where to put it, I put it here in the middle. For those of you who are Christian, I really think you should try this out. It’s a great book for perspective, encouragement, rebuke, conviction, and hope. Sure, the Bible is the best source for all of those things, but hearing Spurgeon speak about Psalms and Proverbs is pretty darn good, and a tad bit less overwhelming.

#1 Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson: I promise you that every year I read this book, it will likely be my favorite book. Believe it or not, this is the first time it appears on any of my lists since I started back in 2016, but that’s because there was another Stormlight book on the list, and I felt like it would be cheating to put two on a yearly list. Also, it takes me a long time to get through all the books in that series. There may be a rival or two (for instance, I intent to read the entire Wheel of Time saga here in a while (got a few Sanderson and Dresden books to get through first). Here is the most recent review or reaction I posted about it. I think this book is still the standard by which the Stormlight Archives will be measured. This is where all the best of each character is on display, and while I hold out hope that Book 5 will surpass it, I acknowledge that it has some big shoes to fill.

So that’s my list. Do you have one for the year? Let me know in the comments below. If it’s a post, I’d be happy to reblog it and share it for you. Until then . . .

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by Charles Spurgeon

Book Review: Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by Charles Spurgeon

Devotions from Psalms and Proverbs by Charles Spurgeon is a series of devotionals connected to various Psalms and Proverbs. I know that’s obvious given the title, but I need to set up where I’m going.

Most of my “reading” these days is via audiobook. This was no different. With other books that are non-fiction or even fiction, there’s a plot to hold to. At the very least, there are lessons to follow and things to learn. I’m not saying this isn’t true of this book, what I’m trying to convey first is I failed miserably at reading this book. I have several excuses. Luckily, I own it and intend to read it again once I get a few other books read.

However, I will say that I don’t think this is the kind of book you just read. While I certainly struggled with focus while this was on my phone, there are other things that added to this struggle. The one I want to mention is that a lot of what is in this book is so thought provoking and contemplative, that I’d find myself praying or thinking along a different track. By the time I realized I wasn’t paying attention anymore, I was already well into the next devotional.

Naturally, I’d skip back and try to listen again. Spurgeon would say something else, and my mind would fly off on a different track. I’m not actually sure how “bad” that is. A part of me feels that this book is meant to be mulled over and considered. I think one is supposed to listen and try to apply what is being said.

This image was taken from the Christian Hall of Fame of Canton Baptist Temple website in an attempt to represent Spurgeon. This caption is a credit to where the image came from but does not necessarily endorse the site or its teaching as I haven’t studied their site much.

This means the problem is that I was trying to read this like any other book rather than let it be the reflective tool it is. This book takes a single passage and expands on it and basks in it. I loved that, but I’ve since realized that if an author is contemplating or reflecting, the reader will want to do the same.

I want to listen to this again and pause when I want to think about something. I want to listen again and focus on one portion at a time. I want to take that time to think on and apply what’s being said. I just have to do that.

This book is packed with several tidbits that sent my mind off. I just want to take the time to give it due attention. Still if you’re looking for a book you can sink your teeth into, this fits the bill.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Following Christ by Charles Spurgeon

Book Review: Following Christ by Charles Spurgeon

Following Christ by Charles Spurgeon is a book centered on what it means to follow Christ. It starts with the basic principle, and then it moves on to more applicable things like evangelism and serving the body.

This cover image was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I took three things from this book that I’d like to share with you:

Following Christ is, in one respect, honestly as simple as trying to imitate Christ. Do the things you think Christ would do. Don’t do the things you don’t think he’d do. This isn’t meant to imply people should walk around trying to heal the sick (unless they’re doctors) or raise the dead. Instead, it means the temperament and behavior of Christ. For non-fiction, I love it when authors are blunt, and Spurgeon leaves no room for interpretation. This portion of the book was every bit as convicting as it was inspiring. I think even the most devote Christian finds himself acting in ways that are contrary to Christ. The difference is that a Christian regrets his sins and works to return to the right path. This book simply states the obvious in a manner that doesn’t condone sinful behavior. It doesn’t lash out at sinners or sin. Instead, it simply shows that when you do sin, you’re not acting like Christ.

The tricker part for me (and a reason I intend to read this again in a while) is the parts talking about serving the body and evangelizing. On one hand, you have that fervor all evangelists should have. In this regard, I am currently a coward. This book convicts me to be bold. This blog allows me a degree of separation that makes me comfortable, but the idea is to make yourself uncomfortable. Yes, I’d love to see the whole world embrace Christianity. Other posts I’ve made offer my reasons, and you can read those thoughts if you wish. But in person, I’m not very bold, and I want to be. That doesn’t mean I’m going to run through my office at work shouting, “Christ is king!” But pray God grants me boldness in this respect.

This image was taken from the Christian Hall of Fame of Canton Baptist Temple website in an attempt to represent Spurgeon. This caption is a credit to where the image came from but does not necessarily endorse the site or its teaching as I haven’t studied their site much.

The final thing this talks about is something I’ve been pondering for a year now. How do I serve? In my wildest dreams (I do have them). I see myself building a school that runs from Pre-K to high school. I want to build a school where the graduates leave with a diploma and a scholarship for whatever occupational trade school or (state) college they prefer. Again, these are my wildest dreams. I dream of building churches based on Biblical expository teaching. I want to fully fund a missionary journey. I want to do all of these things, but I can’t have someone over for dinner and talk about scripture. Again, I pray for boldness. But in this case, I’m talking about serving the body. This part of the book was freeing in a way. One doesn’t need to head a ministry or be a deacon to serve. Instead, all one has to do is ask, “How can I help?” and mean it. All one needs to do is look for a person in need and help them. I think I’ve been so caught up in overt methods of service rather than just looking for ways to serve. This book speaks to that issue. I’m not saying I wanted to be a “shining star” in my church. I was just looking for, I guess the term would be, measurable ways to serve. Now, I feel a little easier just looking for ways to do so. I need that other COVID shot before I can do much of anything, but once I get vaccinated, I’m happy being that guy who just looks for a thing that needs doing.

Spurgeon is such a compelling, charismatic figure. Just reading his books makes me wish I could sit down and have a beverage with him. Reading his books gives me the same feeling as reading something from Lewis. So I’m looking forward to reading another book from him (which I’ve already downloaded).

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: How to Read the Bible by Charles Spurgeon

Book Review: How to Read the Bible by Charles Spurgeon
The cover image for this title was taken from its Audible buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

In this case, I need to provide some context. Spurgeon is an often quoted pastor in my church. I’d been meaning ot read some of his work, so I scanned Audible until I found something by him I was especially interested in. Then I got in the car the next day and hit play, only to find out it was a transcript of a 40-minute sermon.

I’m not in any way against sermons. I actually love them. The issue is I was looking for a deep-dive, Biblically driven book, and I inattentively found this instead. So I’d advise anyone considering works by Spurgeon to pay close attention to what they find just to be sure it’s what they’re looking for in the moment.

The other thing that saddened me a bit was where I wanted more of a how, Spurgeon invested most of his sermon to the question of, “What mindset should one have while reading.”

This image was taken from the Christian Hall of Fame of Canton Baptist Temple website in an attempt to represent Spurgeon. This caption is a credit to where the image came from but does not necessarily endorse the site or its teaching as I haven’t studied their site much.

That’s a very important question to address. While I believe that even scanning the words of the page the way one reads a newspaper is of value, if one wishes to study the Bible, that individual must come to it with a desire to be taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

This sermon is a powerful motivating tool for those who either may need some guidance as to the mindset one should have while reading the Bible and the value that mindset gives a reader. I think I (vaguely) remember one tidbit, but I struggle to recall it specifically because it was already on my list of things to try.

I’ve since picked up another (actual) book by Spurgeon to study his perspective more deeply, and I’m enjoying it thus far.

What I did appreciate was the chance to listen to a sermon and hear a perspective from a man my church (as well as others) deeply respects (an inference I make by how often he’s quoted in my own pastor’s sermons). As nice as that was, I’m much more excited to dig a little more deeply into his theology and teaching than a single sermon can possibly account for.

Thanks for reading,

Matt