December 26, 2013

Six favorite books from 2013

by Kyle Dunham

Avid readers expectantly await this time of year. Not the tinsel, trees, or trimmings allure them but the books, particularly lists of top books from the previous year. What follows is my modest contribution to the ubiquitous lists of the books for 2013.

I invite you to share your thoughts, to add other titles I grossly overlooked, and, moreover, to join me in reading good books. After all, a book in hand is worth a stack in the library:

1. Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Tyndale). This book was my favorite summer read. McGrath superbly chronicles the life and thought of the imaginative and prolific writer and apologist. An often-marginalized Oxford don who predicted he’d be forgotten a few short years after his death, Lewis has garnered only increasing attention and praise in the twenty-first century. McGrath’s biography is a wonderful entrée into Lewis’s world.



2. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, eds., From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (Crossway). A compendium of top-notch scholars contributed a series of essays which will likely prove a definitive treatment of definite atonement or particular redemption. Serious students of theology from across the spectrum would do well to interact thoughtfully with this book.


3. Thomas Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments(Baker). It’s been said that biblical theology is an old man’s game. Professor Schreiner, while still quite in his prime, has written an important contribution to the field. Schreiner’s doxological approach to Scripture shines throughout this sweeping overview of the biblical canon. As he succinctly summarizes: “Scripture unfolds the story of the kingdom, and God’s glory is the reason for the story” (xiii, emphasis his).


4. Matthew Barrett and Ardel B. Caneday, eds., Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan). Although this title is not a likely candidate for many best book lists, I’ve included it due to the earnest discussion it addresses. The recent national Evangelical Theological Society meeting witnessed a packed room of eager listeners gathered to hear the four primary authors (Lamoureux, Walton, Collins, and Barrick) present arguments for and against the historicity of a personal Adam as well as for an old-earth vis-à-vis young-earth position (the session even garnered national media attention from the likes of The Economist). This book is a helpful introduction to an intense debate that’s not going away anytime soon.


5. Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945 (Henry Holt). This worthy conclusion to Atkinson’s panoramic trilogy on World War II is the best account I’ve read of the D-Day invasion and its aftermath en route to Allied victory in the European theater. Atkinson provides a wealth of detail in his lively prose, including poignant vignettes of combat heroes such as Audie Murphy. Avid historians of World War II will revel in this book.



6. John Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Knopf). As both a musician and a historian, Gardiner is well-suited to write this stimulating biography of the brilliant musician, offering a window into the man and his music. Readers interested in Bach and in the Baroque era will find a rich repository of detail and insight in this remarkable book.


If winter is truly the summertime of the soul, I hope a few of these books may provide you some warmth in the coming months. Tollelege!

Kyle Dunham

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Kyle is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Virginia Beach Theological Seminary.
  • GinaRD

    Thank you for the review of the Bach biography — that looks very interesting!

    Frankly, I found McGrath’s book a disappointment. There were some significant errors and lapses in judgment.

  • Darrell Post

    Kyle, thanks for this list. One of my favorite 2013 books is Strange Fire. I finished reading it a few weeks ago, and found that it was hard to put down. I didn’t see the claim others made (see Tom Schreiner review), that MacArthur painted with two broad a brush or that he went after only the low-hanging fruit. He routinely said “some charismatics’, ‘many charismatics’ and so on. Then in the final chapter he went after the supposedly ‘high-hanging fruit’ by calling out the enablers who have given scholarly cover for the vast amount of foolishness that goes on. Considering the world has half a billion people who in one way or another are involved in the charismatic movement, this is an important book for everyone to read.

  • Patrick Driscoll

    Thanks for the list, Kyle. Since I’m hooked on Baroque, the book on Bach could be my next purchase. I hope all is well with the Dunham family. It was a pleasure to get to know you, Judy and the girls through children’s ministries while you were at Grace. Blessings in Christ. Pat Driscoll

    • kyledunham

      Thanks, Patrick. We have many fond memories of working with you in the children’s ministry. I trust you’re well.

  • For Pastors, elders and those who spire to be I think Tripp’s Dangerous Calling was the book of the year (Even though technically it came out in 2012).