Seven books for Christmas 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve recommended some good vacation reading here on E2R. Here are six diverse books I have recently enjoyed

The Apostle: A Life of Paul, by John Pollock (2012)

This biography of the apostle of grace is a treasure. It makes the stories of Acts come alive and gives the reader a rich insight into the life of the world’s most famous letter writer. Paul has always been one of my favorite Biblical characters, but after reading Pollock’s biography I feel I know him better than ever. The humanity of the man – his generous heart for others and his irrepressible urge to share the good news of Jesus – shines on every page.

Apart from being good history, The Apostle is also a detailed travelogue. We learn, for instance, why Paul’s boat foundered on the shores of Malta and why he was persecuted in some cities but not others. This is the best biography I have read in 2015.

Eve, by Wm Paul Young (2015)

It’s very simple; if you loved The Shack, you’ll probably enjoy Eve. If you didn’t – if you were not happy with the portrayal of God as a black woman in Young’s 2007 bestseller – then you’re not going to like how he appears in this book. Personally, I think Eve is a tour de force, a masterful piece of writing and story-telling.

What’s it about? Eve is the story of a young, broken woman who washes up on an island between worlds and becomes a witness to the fall of man. I particularly liked the portrayal of the serpent’s treachery. So cunning, so subtle, it reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s classic tale Perelandra. My only gripe with this book – and it’s a small one – was its technological inconsistencies. For instance, the island dwellers possess amazing devices that can transport a person to other worlds, but to haul a shipping container out of the sea was a challenge that required the brute power of beasts.

Outlaw, by Ted Dekker (2013)

The second half of this story is about a man named Stephen who was raised in the New Guinean highlands by an angel. If I hadn’t known that in advance, I might not have got through the brutal first half of the story which recounts the harrowing abduction of Stephen’s mother by tribes of the mysterious Tulim valley.

Outlaw is a mind-blowing “what if” story. What if the love and grace of God came to one of the darkest places on earth?

(Read my review of Dekker’s AD 30 here.)

A Voyage for Madmen, by Peter Nichols (2001)

Earlier this year the boats of the Volvo Ocean Race stopped in our city. Their visit inspired me to read Peter Nichol’s classic tale about the history of this around-the-world race.

It started like this: In 1966 Sir Francis Chichester became the first person to solo circumnavigate the globe. He traveled west to east, via the great capes, and stopped one time in Australia. As a result of his trip nine men independently came up with the same idea: “I’m going to be the first to solo circumnavigate nonstop.”

In the summer of 1968, these nine men set out to win what had become a race. (It was dubbed the Golden Globe and it became the forerunner to today’s Volvo Ocean Race.) But only one made it back. Gale-force winds, boats sinking mid-ocean, incredible loneliness and madness combine to make A Voyage for Mad Men one of the best true-life adventure stories I’ve read.

The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1940)

I read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was a child and I recently read them all again. They’re classics, but the one I most wish they would turn into a movie is The Long Winter. This is the true story of how the pioneering Ingalls family and the town of De Smet nearly starved to death during a harsh South Dakotan winter in 1880-1881.

Picture a town buried in snow with no food, no fuel, and no way in or out. The hero of this story is Laura Ingalls’ future husband Almanzo Wilder. He and a friend risk a trip across the trackless prairie in search of rumored wheat. Will they find it? Will they return before the next blizzard strikes? Well, obviously they did because I just told you she married him. But even knowing the outcome it’s still a great American tale, and one that deserves to be as widely read as Mrs. Ingalls Wilder’s other stories.

Sniper’s Honor, by Stephen Hunter (2014)

I have a confession to make: I hate guns, yet I am a Bob Lee Swagger fan. Who is Bob Lee Swagger? He’s a fictional sniper and total gun nut who stars in a series of books by Stephen Hunter.

Sniper’s Honor is the latest and arguably the best in the series. Much of the story is set in an obscure corner of Ukraine during the final days of World War 2. A beautiful Russian sniper called Ludmilla “Mili” Petrova has been sent to shoot a German general. But everything goes pear-shaped and she disappears from the historical record.

Seventy years later Bob Swagger sets outs with a journalist to uncover what happened to Mili. But powerful people are determined to keep Mili’s story secret and Swagger soon finds himself involved in something far more dangerous than a historical fact-finding trip. A great page turner!

Iggy Peck Architect, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (2007)

My six-year-old son and I read this together last night. Iggy Peck Architect is a rhyming book that was honored as one of TIME’s Top Ten Picture Books of 2007. It’s easy to see why. It’s the story of Ignatius Peck, a boy who was born to build stuff, and how that dream was nearly crushed by his schoolteacher. But everything works out when a calamity helps the teacher to realize that Iggy’s passion is a gift to be nurtured.

This book is ideal if you have creative children aged 5-9.

I know what you’re thinking. “Paul reads Laura Ingalls’ books and Bob Swagger stories and children’s picture books? I don’t see a theme.” The theme is I’ll read anything good.

Anyway, those are my recommendations. What are yours? What books can you recommend for the coming holiday season?


See all of E2R’s book reviews.

15 Comments on Seven books for Christmas 2015

  1. Siddharth Gulatee // December 2, 2015 at 1:25 am // Reply

    My smile grew wider and wider as i read through this post…will sure pick a couple of books suggested by Paul. I like the fact that he shares a warm relationship with his children.

  2. Hey, Paul. Thanks for sharing these. I’ve been wanting to get my great niece and great nephew –my nephew’s kids –something meaningful : ) I like the sound of Iggy Peck Architect :-> I lived in South Dakota for a semester while teaching for the Bureau of Indian Affairs–not far from where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. ironically , where I now live , is where the latter parts of the series were filmed and before that near the location where the other portions of the series were filmed–neither of which has ever seen temps below the upper teens F. :->

  3. Warren (South Carolina, USA) // December 2, 2015 at 5:57 am // Reply

    Thanks for the list.
    I liked very much The Shack, and will definitely check out Eve. Also Outlaw looks great!
    Warren (South Carolina, USA)

  4. Interesting side trivia Rose Wilder,daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder,was a journalist and covered the vietnam war till she passed away in 1968

  5. We read the most of the Larura Ingalls Wilder series aloud to our children back in the nineties. We still tell people how the whole family Mum, Dad, 2 boys and two girls, went to bed shivering every night one winter after our session of reading The Long Winter. Truly a memorable story.

  6. Thank you Paul! I just added a bunch of these to my cart☺.

  7. Awesome. Also The comeback by Louie Giglo is great. Simply Gospel Simply Grace by Bob Christopher is awesome and relaxing with God by Andrew Farley is a keeper.

  8. Nice varied selection. Nice ideas for Christmas prezzies too.

  9. your awesome mate

  10. Any other fictional books which are simple and outlay the gospel?

  11. Dear Paul, thank you for the recommendation. Please I have a question. What do you think and what is your opinion about The Shack from w.p.young? According to my understanding he is in the inclusionistic camp and b.kruger even wrote a “commentary” on The Shack. Would you recommend this book? What are your thoughts about it? There are some very contraversial ways of puting things in it and many not positive reviews in this regard seeing it on the verge of heresy.
    Thank you very much!

  12. Paul, as a fan of adventure/spy, etc. book, I was pleased to see a new author mentioned, Stephen Hunter. Instead of starting with book 9, I decided to go back and start with book 1 that sets the stage. Then I read book two and the subject matter, language, etc., left me in a discouraged space (quenching the Spirit). I didn’t finish. Have you read all the books? Is there someplace in the series where Stephen lightens up more and it is safe to read the books from that place on? Thank you.

  13. The problem with Paul Young’s book “Eve” is that he writes it as fiction but teaches it as actual doctrine. Watching him teach it as such on youtube was one of the most disturbing things I have ever watched a popular author do.
    This is no small matter, the claims he is making about the biblical narrative are just massive and they have a devastating effect on our ability to trust the scriptures.
    Placing the fall of man (and no fall of woman, just a sort of ‘opt out of the garden’ to follow her jerk of a husband) before the forbidden fruit incident completely destroys the biblical narrative of how reality, our free will, men/women, and redemption are understood.
    I read the Shack and did not mind it at all, (perhaps that was due to the heavy influence of Wayne Jacobsen in the writing) but from what I have now heard out of Paul Young’s own mouth I would advise people to be cautious of his writing style and extremely cautious of the bizarre theology that he now holds to.

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