2012 Year In Review: Non-Fiction

Top Ten

wages of spin
1. THE WAGES OF SPIN by Dr. Carl Trueman
I predicted back in April that this book would probably be “the best piece of non-fiction I read in 2012.” Turns out I was right. This essay collection is short, sharp, challenging, and frequently hilarious: a prime example of why Trueman is one of my favorite writers. Full review
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2. TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILD by Anthony Esolen
The title is potentially misleading: this is not a book exclusively for parents. Anybody can (and should) read this book, because anybody can (and will) benefit from it. It’s a witty, gritty, and delightfully subversive assault on the Bastions of Modern Educational Theory and Practice, and Esolen’s satiric flair is worthy of Uncle Screwtape himself. Full review
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3. WORDSMITHY by Douglas Wilson
My favorite writing book. Whether you want to write full time, or merely have a passing interest in it – this slim little volume should be on your shelf. It’s just that good. Full review
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4. BLACK HAWK DOWN by Mark Bowden
One of the ugliest, most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Ugly for its depiction of modern warfare; beautiful for its depiction of the men who endured it. A must-read if there ever was one. Full review
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5. JUST DO SOMETHING by Kevin DeYoung
Want to know what the subtitle is? How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Full review
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6. AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH by Neil Postman
A scathing and provocative indictment of a media-drunk society obsessed with being “entertained”. You don’t have to agree with everything Postman says to benefit from this book. His examination of the cultural effects of show-business is fantastic stuff. “Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”
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7. ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT by Stephen King
A raw, engaging, and sometimes painful look at one man’s journey as a writer. After reading it, I had a deeper appreciation for King’s work and what was behind it, and the “tips and tricks” he offers are immensely helpful. Even if you’re not a fan of his novels, you can still learn a lot from this book.
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8. NOTES FROM THE TILT-A-WHIRL by N.D. Wilson
“Wide eyed wonder at God’s spoken world.” Childlike? Yes. Childish? Not on your life. Wilson may write with the whimsy of A.A. Milne, but he has the sharp-edged theological insight of a surgeon’s scalpel. He’ll nick you; more likely than not, he’ll slice you right open. But like every good surgeon, he won’t leave you that way; and when all is said and done, you’ll be glad you went under his knife. Full review
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9. KNOWING GOD by J.I. Packer
“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.” One of those how could I not have read this sooner? type of books. A classic in every sense of the word.
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10. ON WRITING WELL by William Zinsser
Zinsser’s style is warm and honest, his passion for words contagious. Sure, he gets a little cranky now and then (at one point, he calls Ben-Hur “junk”), but it’s clear that he loves writing – and that he wants us to love it, too. Full review

Honorable Mentions

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11. A SERRATED EDGE by Douglas Wilson
If you’re unconvinced that satire can (and should) be used by Christians, read this book. You will be convinced. If you’re tired of all the metaphorical knuckle-rapping, and wish to arm yourself with a scriptural defense of satire, read this book. You will be armed. Full review
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12. MODERN TIMES by Paul Johnson
A massive tome which I massively enjoyed. I was daunted by the length at first (it’s 800 pages), but the fact that it’s authored by Paul Johnson helped me overcome my hesitation. (That, and the fact that I really had no choice in the matter – it was required reading for school.)
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13. LIT! by Tony Reinke
A book for people who love to read, and for people who don’t. For people who read every waking minute, and for people who can’t seem to find the time. For people who read widely, and for people who read not-so-widely. For people who know what to read, when to read, and why to read, and for people who haven’t a clue. Full review
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14. ALL THINGS FOR GOOD by Thomas Watson
A magnificent examination of God’s providence in all aspects of life, written by one of those great Dead White Guys. Need I say more?
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15. WHY WE’RE NOT EMERGENT: BY TWO GUYS WHO SHOULD BE by Kevin DeYoung/Ted Kluck
“You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.” I want to argue that if you haven’t read this book, you really, really should.
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7 thoughts on “2012 Year In Review: Non-Fiction”

  1. I must say a happy thank you, because I bought Lit! and Ten Ways to destroy your child’s imagination. They were VERY good. I am thinking I need to read Why we are not emergent too, having just attempted to review a book by an emergent church member.

  2. You have good taste, as I’ve read and loved half of the top ten. Unfortunately now I feel an uncontrollable urge to go reread those books and read all the others….I do not have time for this…

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