TGC Staff Recommend 2011 Books

End-of-year book lists are fun because they tell us a lot about the list-maker, give us a snapshot of the past year, and remind us of that book we saw in March and couldn’t decide whether or not to pick up. Book lists also tell us that, though the Luddite will never finally win, the written word may yet survive.

So some of The Gospel Coalition staff have compiled a “recommended” list of books published in 2011. These are the books that stuck with us, that will continue to teach us in the coming year and beyond. We’d gladly hand out these books to friends, family, and neighbors. After you read our list, join in the fun and share your own favorite reads among the books published in 2011.














Collin Hansen

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, John Piper (Crossway). You might think racial and ethnic harmony has been exaggerated as a value we ought to pursue in our churches. Piper combats such complacency with all the biblical and theological zeal we’ve come to expect from him. The more you shrug off this book, the more you need it. I also enjoyed interviewing Piper about this book (Can’t Afford to Be Color Blind | Confronting the Racial Sins of Our Fathers).

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, Timothy and Kathy Keller (Dutton). Christian bestseller lists include many books about marriage and relationships. We’d all be in better shape if more of them followed the Kellers’ approach and kept the gospel of Jesus Christ central to their teaching. This is the marriage book I wished I read when single—and wished I could apply more consistently today. Even before you buy the book, take an hour and watch the Kellers address a lot of the trickiest issues surrounding marriage.

Reading Scripture with the Reformers, Timothy George (InterVarsity). The general editor of the Reformation Commentary Series writes a compelling introduction to the life, thought, and times of the Reformers with careful attention to their handling of the Word. George draws on decades of extensive Reformation study to thrill readers by honoring God and these ministers as divine agents of a blessed revival in gospel preaching and Bible study.














Kathleen Nielson

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Tim Keller (Dutton). Seeing The Meaning of Marriage already on the list (as it must be!), I’ll mention another by Keller. Based on a sermon series from the Gospel of Mark, King’s Cross features Keller’s distinct combination of pointing into the Word and speaking that Word artfully into today’s world.

These Last Days: A Christian View of History, ed. by Richard D. Phillips and Gabriel N. E. Fluhrer (P&R). How can we keep reminding ourselves that all our lives and ministry happen in a rapidly moving flow of last days, toward that Day? I recommend this stimulating collection, which grew from the 2010 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology.

Pastors in the Classics: Timeless Lessons on Life and Ministry from World Literature, ed. by Leland Ryken, Rhilip Ryken, and Todd Wilson (Baker). The book does say 2012! But, having it in hand in 2011, I must say that reading the literature here wisely recommended might hugely enliven the minds and hearts not just of many pastors but of all the rest of us!














John Starke


G. K. Chesterton, Ian Ker (Oxford). I didn’t looove this book, but I liked it a lot. Like Chesterton, Ker is a Roman Catholic, so his perspective on Chesterton’s conversion and anti-Calvinism is sympathetic and perhaps over-emphasizes his dependence on Dickens. But Ker does a good job of locating and showing Chesterton’s humor and wit, which is why we love reading and quoting him still today.

Doctrine of the Word of God, John Frame (P&R). John Frame is one of the clearest and deepest thinkers among evangelicals. This is the last contribution to his Lordship project, and it may be the most developed theologically of the four. Frame always seems so fresh, while staying historically evangelical. However, he seems to challenge traditionally confessional conclusions more in this volume. I won’t say his appendix “Something Close to Biblicism” is worth the price of the book, but almost.

Athanasius, Peter Leithart (Baker). I keep saying that in the rapid release of books by Leithart he will publish a bad one. I’ve yet to read one. Athanasius is theologically sophisticated, historically engaged, and up-to-date at all levels. Plus, Leithart is a superb writer.














Andy Naselli

Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God, Sam Crabtree (Crossway). I desperately needed this book. And I already need to read it again. (Here’s an interview with the author.)

Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, Tony Reinke (Crossway). I read a lot of books, but I read them at different levels. I give some books mere minutes. Others get an hour or two. Some draw me in and compel me to stay. After spending just minutes in Reinke’s book, I placed it in the draw-me-in-and-compel-me-to-stay category.

Interpreting the Pauline Epistles. 2nd ed., Thomas Schreiner (Baker). A good book just got better. The most valuable chapter in this book—or at least the one that most strongly influenced me—is “Tracing the Argument” (pp. 97-124). It revolutionized how I read Paul.

  • Michael Plato

    For heavy study, I would also include G.K. Beale’s ‘New Testament Biblical Theology’ and Craig Keener’s magisterial ‘Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts’which is in a massive two volumes and will be the definitive work on the subject. Also, as a quicker but very relevant read, Tim Challies’ ‘The Next Story’ about the digital revolution and how Evangelical Christians should approach new technology.

  • Karl

    For me, “Tempted & Tried” by Dr. Russell Moore was my favorite of 2011! Challenging, engaging and immersed in the Scriptures.

  • Ethan

    Since there are a few biographies on the list, I just finished the Charles Hodge biography by Gutjahr and highly recommend it!

  • Stan McCullars

    My favorite of 2011 was “The World-Tilting Gospel” by Dan Phillips. It is now my first choice for books on the Gospel to give to both unbelievers and believers alike.

  • Steve Martin

    Great suggestions!

    Here’s one. A little unasuming book (could read it all in a couple of hours …or a couple of months if you went to an L.A. City public school, like I did)…

    anyway, it’s ‘Where God Meets Man’ by the late, great, Dr. Gerhard Forde.

    Talk about the gospel on steroids!


    • JP

      Second that.I would like some other authors as well. One can just about guess that most of the authors on these lists will always have the names, Keller, Piper, Macarthur and the like.

  • Brian Maiers

    man you folks need to broaden your reading horizons…could you recommend anything that didn’t come from the conservative reformed camp? I mean, I love Tim Keller as much as the next person, but this list is a bit predictable no?

    • Steve Martin

      I just did make such a recommendation.

      Read Gerhard Forde. You will be hard pressed to find anyone that knows the gospel and it’s accompanying freedom, more than he did.

    • Collin Hansen

      Help us broaden our reading horizons. What books published in 2011 would you recommend that visitors to this website read before they pick up these books?

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  • Michael Plato

    As for books published this year by non-conservative, non-reformed writers, but still might be of interest to TGC readers, I would recommend first Jonathan Kay’s ‘Among the Truthers: A Journey into the growing Conspiracist underground of 9/11 truthers, birthers, Armaggeddonites, vaccine hysterics, Hollywood know-nothings and internet addicts’. The title pretty much encompasses everything about the book, but the real heart of Kay’s thesis is, as one blogger put it: “A conspiracist is not someone who believes that conspiracies exist. Of course they exist. A conspiracist is one who believes that the conspiracies are working and effective, that they have their act together.” A very thoughtful work and challenging as he sees much of Christianity as the product of the conspiracy-hunting mindset as well.
    Another work worth reading is Brooke Gladstone’s “The Influencing Machine”. The book is illustrated much like a graphic novel, which makes it a quicker than normal read, but it presents a very comprehensiive overview of media theory as it has developed over the last century and offers remarkable insights into how we should view the media today. Both of these books are readily available online or at most major bookstores.

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  • Doug Perry

    I’d say any of these books should be included on the list (imo):

    A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by G.K.Beale.

    For Calvinism, by Michael S. Horton.

    Tempted and Tried: The Temptation and Triumph of Christ, by Russell Moore.

    The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight, by Dan Phillips.

    How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek W.H. Thomas.

    Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace, by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington.

    Getting Back into the Race, by Joel Beeke.

    The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies.

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