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Enjoying God Blog


2021 may turn out to be the best year for new books in recent (or even distant) memory. As I sat down to compile my list, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the list far exceeds the typical ten best books that I have selected in previous years. And I now know why.

The Covid-19 pandemic! If there is one good thing that came from the pandemic it is that many of us were confined to home for a considerable period of time and had ample opportunity to write more than we otherwise would have. That was certainly true of me. I wrote two books during the 2 ½ months of spring-early summer of 2020. The first was Understanding Spiritual Warfare: A Comprehensive Guide (Zondervan). No, I won’t include it in the best books of 2021, but I’m tempted!

The other book that I wrote during the lockdown will be released by Crossway in January of 2022. It is titled, A Dozen Things God Did With Your Sin (and three things he’ll never do). You will hear more about this after the first of the year. But for now, let me turn our attention to the best books of 2021.

Instead of the normal ten, I’ve identified no fewer than twenty really good reads from the previous year (including a couple from 2020). Because of the increased number, I’m going to devote four or five blog articles to them, culminating with the two that are tied for number one. So, here we go.

(20) Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell, by Jason L. Riley (Basic Books, 304 pages).

If you don’t know who Thomas Sowell is, you should. He is without doubt one of the leading economists of our era. There is a reason why Riley entitled his biography of Sowell, Maverick. Throughout his career, both in higher education and during his time at the Hoover Institute, Sowell was never tempted to follow any particular party line. Although clearly a moral, social, and economic conservative, Sowell never hesitated to criticize those on his side of the fence whose research and analysis he found lacking. Sowell was always driven by the facts. Riley and others describe him as an empiricist, whose primary concern was with the evidence unearthed. He cared little for defending long-standing perspectives if the evidence pointed in another direction. This approach to his research and writing won him as many enemies as it did allies. Said Riley:

“Sowell has shown time and again over the decades that he is his own man, even when it meant ruffling the feathers of ideological allies” (119).

This is not your typical biographical account of a man’s life. Riley provides us with more of an intellectual biography, as he traces the development of Sowell’s thought over the last 60 years. If you are looking for a persuasive broadside against the welfare state and affirmative action, this book is for you.

(19) Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, second edition, by Wayne Grudem (Zondervan, 1586 pages).

Although Grudem’s second edition of his systematic theology was released in 2020, it deserves mention here. And yes, you read that correctly, it is 1586 pages in length! Here is the endorsement I wrote for it:

“How does one improve on a classic? You can’t, say some. But I beg to differ. In this second and expanded edition of Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem has made his classic work even better, more insightful, significantly more detailed, and an even greater resource for the Christian and the local Church. When I’m asked to recommend a good and comprehensive volume on Christian doctrine and practice, I never hesitate. My encouragement is precise and to the point: “Get Grudem!”

Even if you already own a copy of the first edition, you need to get this one. Wayne has given us a monumental treatment of Christian doctrine that will exert a profound influence on the church for generations to come.

(18) John Wimber: His Life and Ministry, by Connie Dawson (The Wimber Project, 301 pages).

John Wimber died in 1997. I attended his memorial service in Anaheim, California, along with my friend, Wayne Grudem (see above). He was a good friend and a tremendous Christian and leader. Connie Dawson’s biography is the first substantial treatment of Wimber’s life and ministry, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. She does an excellent job of describing the many controversies in which John was immersed and is quite accurate in her portrayal of his leadership of the Vineyard movement.

There is, however, one caveat that I must mention. She inadvertently mentions me three or four times in the book, but in each case the person in view is another “Sam.” Contrary to what Dawson writes, I was never on John’s staff in Anaheim, and he never expressed to me a desire to turn over the leadership of the Vineyard to my control. Again, contrary to what Dawson writes, my relationship with John was wonderful right up until the time he passed away.

I have communicated with Dawson about this and she acknowledges the errors made. She has assured me that in subsequent editions of the book, the changes will be made.

But don’t let this deter you from reading this excellent treatment of John’s life. I can’t help but turn back to it again and again to refresh what are undoubtedly fond memories of John and what God accomplished in his life.

(17) Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter, by Timothy Keller (Viking, 243 pages).

As you probably know, Tim is struggling through pancreatic cancer. It is singularly appropriate, in the light of this, that he has written this excellent treatment of how to maintain hope and confidence in one’s future based on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He not only gives us a helpful defense of why we believe the tomb of Jesus is empty, but also derives from it numerous practical lessons that will serve to encourage you in the midst of whatever trials and struggles you happen to face. In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, there could hardly be a more timely book than this.

(16) The Heritage of Anglican Theology, by J. I. Packer (Crossway, 372 pages).

As you may recall, Jim Packer went to be with the Lord on July 17, 2020. The church of Jesus Christ not only lost one of its greatest theologians, but I lost a good friend as well. I was honored to have written Packer on the Christian Life that was published by Crossway. Not long after that book was released, I was sent a short note that Packer had composed on his typewriter (yes, a typewriter; he never made the transition to a computer). It sits in a picture frame on my desk, and reads as follows:

“A Note from Mr. James Packer, Nov. 17, 2015.

Dear Sam,

This is the note I should have written you weeks or maybe months ago to express my admiration for what you made of me for Crossway. In terms of what I recommend, and hope (though fail) to be myself, I think you got me exactly right. So thank you for all your effort.

It seems a very long time since we were in touch. I hope you keep well, as I do, quite amazingly, and are enjoying a fruitful pastorate.

I am slowing down, but have not yet ground to a halt, and hope to get one or two more things done – we shall see.

Advent and Christmas blessings to you, Sam –

In Christ –


Well, one of “things” that Packer completed before his passing was the series of lectures on Anglican history and theology that now comprise this volume. During his time teaching at Regent College in Vancouver, Packer taught a course on Anglican history and theology. As described in the Foreword to this book, “the two sets of recordings of Packer’s lectures (the first delivered in 1996 and the second in 2010) were transcribed” (12). They were then combined and carefully edited and Packer himself “read through the whole manuscript and made some adjustments” (12). This book is the fruit of those endeavors. And we are all the better informed and spiritually nourished because of it.

1 Comment

I assume it was Sam Thompson that Connie Dawson should have referenced in her book about John Wimber.

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