The Best of 2013 – My Top Five Non Fiction Books

On Wednesday we kicked of the new year by listing the top five fiction books I read in 2013. Today let’s move on to non-fiction. I read 24 non-fiction books last year and I picked five that stood out as my favorites.

I will admit I struggle a bit reviewing non-fiction.  I feel compelled to offer a much more detailed response to non-fiction for some reason and this results in procrastination and quite frequently to not posting a review at all (see the ill-fated November is Theology Month for an example).

One of my goals for 2014 is to break this habit and simply post my take on the non-fiction I read without feeling compelled to offer an academic type review.

Anywhoo, below are my favorite non-fiction books from 2013 a few of which I have yet to review.

The Reformation: A History by Patrick Collinson

In just a few hundred pages The Reformation: A History explores a fascinating and revolutionary (although some would dispute even that as Collinson notes and discusses) period in the history of the West. A period that still shapes the way we think and speak of Christianity, theology, politics, culture, etc. That it is done with wit and eloquence makes it that much more remarkable. I highly recommend it for those with an interest in religious history or Western Civilization.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by chip & Dan Heath

I listened to this audio book and rally enjoyed it.  It is a great blend of the latest research and great examples to help you understand the ideas.  And the heath brothers make it easy to remember key aspects of their advice with catchy acronyms. Anyone with an interest in how change happens should read this book; it is full of insights and information about human nature, decision-making, and more.  Highly recommend for business and life.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip & Dan Heath

Which led me to listen to this book that is equally great.  I have yet to read a book by the Heath Brothers that wasn’t excellent.  This one  focuses explicitly on decision-making and, like Switch, is applicable to a host of situations ranging from career and financial choices to personal and relationship choices.

How God Became King by N.T. Wright

I am also a big fan of NT Wright and have been reading as much of his prolific output as I can.  This is a great book to get a real flavor of where Wright’s though has led him at a popular level.  It is focused on how Western Christendom has lost track of the original perspective and message of the gospels and instead view them very much through our own cultural, doctrinal and liturgical lenses thereby warping and distorting them in unintended ways. We amplify some themes and ideas while ignoring others and have lost much of the context and history involved. Wright aims to reinvigorate our understanding by helping us see scripture through the lens of the authors and their history and thus to return a more balanced and contextualized understanding.  Challenging and even difficult in some ways for those comfortable with what is labeled as orthodox evangelical theology but important and needed.

Re: Mission: Biblical Mission for a Post-Biblical Church by Andrew Perriman

Andrew Perriman is another of my favorite writers who is both building on Wright and heading in new directions.  He argues for a narrative-historical approach to scripture that, like Wright, helps us understand scripture in its proper context and aims while also coming to grips with where we are today.  Perriman is wrestling with what it means to be a Christian in a postmodern and post-Christendom world. I have really enjoyed his blog and have read a number of his books.  This book is a great primer for those wanting to know more and get a sense of where he is coming from and might be headed.

So there you have it, my top five non-fiction books of 2013. Some theology, history and business/psychology.  An accurate reflection of my eclectic tastes these days.

Anyone want to weigh in with your favorite books from 2013?


Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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