/ Gentle Reformation

Top Books Read in 2023 from Three Reading Aficionados

Book reviews from Indiana: Greg Enas, Eli Lilly statistician and civic leader in Indianapolis, shares his list of 2023’s best books. David Seibel, head of school at Coram Deo Academy, a classical school in central Indiana, adds some of his favorites. Russ Pulliam, a journalist with Indy Star and World magazine and RPCNA ruling elder in Indianapolis, finishes with his top books from the year.

Greg Enas

Master Slave Husband Wife - An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom | Ilyon Woo

Here is the chilling story of William and Ellen Craft, married slaves who escaped from Georgia to Boston through cunning, bravery, and God’s providence. After coming to England, their home base for worldwide lectures, they return to Georgia to purchase a run-down plantation where they die in ignominy. 

A Fever in the Heartland - the Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America and the Woman Who Stopped Them | Timothy Egan

A heart-wrenching tale based in Indiana sets the impetus for the fruits of repentance for the systems and structures of sin. I loved the individual acts of defiance, including ones by the founders of my favorite Indianapolis delicatessen, Shapiro’s Kosher Foods.  

Come Back, Barbara - A Father’s Pursuit of a Prodigal Daughter | John Miller & Barbara Miller Juliani

A father and daughter go back and forth in this powerful memoir about their lives of redemption. The father, once a teacher near my family home when his daughter was a tiny lass, eventually met my family as he pastored in our church presbytery. 

An American Martyr in Persia: The Epic Life and Tragic Death of Howard Baskerville | Reza Aslan

A riveting story of a young Princeton graduate teaching in the American school in Iran under the Presbyterian missionary society in the early 20th century. After being persecuted by the corrupt Shah in Tehran, he leads a small band of nationalists against a Russian Cossack army, which is trying to starve Tabriz into submission. In the end, he dies for the people he loves. 

A Crazy, Holy Grace - The Healing Power of Pain and Memory | Frederick Buechner

A short but powerful essay from an author who suffered many family tragedies as a young boy. He exhorts the reader to live through pain and heed the Master’s call to enter His joy.  

Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools - An Invitation to the Wonder of Mystery of Prayer | Tyler Staton

A great little book of stories with concluding personal applications. One example: "Prayer stills us, brings us peace, helps us come to terms with what is. Prayer changes the person praying from the inside out.”

Lovecraft Country | Matt Ruff

This best-selling novel follows a black family through upstate New York, Chicago, and the Jim Crow South, showing how they suffer racist violence and intimidation. The recounting of the history is dry in places, but the beginning and short ending are worth the read.  

David Seibel

Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography | Iain Murray

Edwards distinguishes true lasting revival from fleeting counterfeits by contrasting the first flowers of spring (false conversion) with the fruit that blooms later (true conversion). I was repeatedly struck by Edwards’ obedience to God amid heart-wrenching difficulty.

American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion | John D. Wilsey

Wilsey demonstrates how civil religion assigns a messianic character to fallen soldiers and ascribes supernatural authority to symbolic holidays. I did not enthusiastically agree with Wilsey on every point but learned the importance of ordering the love of God before the love of country.

Christianity and Wokeness | Owen Strachan

His title echoes the thesis of Machen in his 1923 book, Christianity and Liberalism. Liberalism, or wokeness, is not on the spectrum of Christianity but is a different religion. While some have accused Strachan of being on a search and destroy mission, I found the book quite edifying towards shepherding people with grace and truth.

Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation | Collin Hansen

In 2022, my favorite book was RC Sproul’s biography by Stephen Nichols, so I was excited to pick up another solid biography. While I did not love all of Keller’s ministry emphases, I can sympathize with the conclusions he drew.

Gospel People | Michael Reeves

This is one of those quick reads that I need to read again. Reeves describes a vision for evangelicalism that has Christ at both the center and the edges. This book was the tonic that restored me to a healthy view of being gospel and Christ-centered.

Russ Pulliam

5 Puritan Women | Jenny-Lyn De Klerk

These short biographies depict women who submitted to Christ and pursued the Christian disciplines of Bible study, prayer, journals, and solitude. Puritans by affiliation, they sought a closer walk with Christ.

The Bold Evangelist: The Life and Ministry of Selina Hastings | Priscilla Wong

Just as Paul used Roman citizenship to advance the gospel, England’s Selina Hastings used her upper-class credentials to boost the 18th century Great Awakening. This solid biography recounts how the Countess of Huntingdon became a gospel patron to George Whitefield and John Wesley as they led thousands to salvation.

Impossible Christianity | Kevin DeYoung 

DeYoung sees the Christian glass as more full than empty. He challenges the average evangelical who focuses too much on the empty part of the glass.

Evangelical Heroes | Joel Beeke & Doug Bond

These short biographies don’t dwell unnecessarily on weaknesses but see true heroism as emerging from a close walk with God.

The Woman Who Wouldn’t Stop Writing | Sarah Allen

A short, solid biography of Hannah More. She was the playwright and journalist for the English Reformation, a movement led by the more famous William Wilberforce.

Peacemaker | William Inboden

If you think Ronald Reagan was a warmonger, challenge your thinking with this well-documented story. However, if you admire Reagan, you will appreciate this research.

Levi Coffin and the Underground Railroad | Charles Ludwig

This biography covers a vital chapter in Indiana history and centers around a businessman and courageous opponent of slavery.