“Of making many books there is no end” (Eccl. 12:12).
Qoheleth’s proverbial warning is a reality for many bibliophiles. The flood of recently published books is generally good news for evangelicals. However, so many helpful books come out that it’s hard to know which to invest in and which new book to read next. (We’ll discretely overlook the pile of previously purchased books accumulating on our shelves.)
The abundance of quality evangelical books became more real to me this year as I’ve stepped into the role of books editor for The Gospel Coalition. I hear about many more books than I did in my previous life. One of the most exciting parts of my job is overseeing TGC’s annual book awards. A big team of book lovers puts in a lot of work behind the scenes. We receive nominations from publishers in 12 categories. Then our editors work together to recommend finalists in each category. A panel of judges carefully reads these finalists before casting their votes.
The books are evaluated for the way they
- offer gospel-centered argument and application;
- include faithful and foundational use of Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament;
- foster spiritual discernment of contemporary trials and trends; and
- encourage efforts to unite and renew the church.
The result is a list of 24 books we recommend as helpful resources for the church and for individual believers. We hope you enjoy and are edified by them.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 TGC Book Awards.
Paul E. Miller, A Praying Church: Becoming a People of Hope in a Discouraging World (Crossway)
It’s no secret that Christians struggle to pray. But churches are increasingly prayerless as well. Discouragement, distraction, and ministry demands all push prayer out of its proper place in our worship, leadership, and fellowship. Miller’s magnificent book stands as a compelling wake-up call. Addressing church leaders in a post-Christian culture filled with discouragement, cynicism, and unbelief, Miller challenges self-sufficiency and rallies leaders to their knees. He pleads with pastors and congregations to “go low, to descend into the hidden room of prayer, to slow down [their] entire ministry and learn how to pray together.”
A Praying Church begins with a gospel grounding for prayer—a theology of the church and the Spirit that clearly shows its readers why corporate prayer is essential. It closes with an abundantly practical section that will help ministry leaders structure both their personal prayer lives and the corporate prayer lives of their churches. Miller’s book will help congregations make prayer the nuclear core of all they do. It will inspire them to more fully depend on the Savior’s presence, not because of crushing guilt but out of grace-fueled desire.
Award of Distinction
Jeremy Writebol, Pastor, Jesus Is Enough: Hope for the Weary, the Burned Out, and the Broken (Lexham)
Jesus’s letters to the churches in Revelation 2–3 aren’t the first place church leaders turn for pastoral encouragement, but Writebol helps us to see they’re a rich and stirring exhortation. The book is theologically stout but wonderfully devotional, biblically tethered but highly applicational. It’s a beautiful and evergreen work of shepherding through writing. As the tide of evangelicalism shifts once again away from interest in the sufficiency of the gospel, this book powerfully urges repentance, return, and recommitment to the good news at the heart of pastoral ministry.
Judges: Paul Gilbert, Jared Kennedy, Brad Wetherell, Jared C. Wilson
Evangelism & Apologetics
Joshua D. Chatraw and Jack Carson, Surprised by Doubt: How Disillusionment Can Invite Us into a Deeper Faith (Brazos)
Some people are abandoning the Christian faith without really evaluating it. They’ve been sold a version of Christianity that seems restrictive and doesn’t tolerate honest questions. Joshua Chatraw and Jack Carson aim to help those leaving the faith consider the historic riches of Christianity. They offer a helpful way of expressing doubt without moving directly to one of the popular landing places for those deconstructing the Christian faith: New Atheism, open spirituality, mythic truth, and optimistic skepticism.
Chatraw and Carson don’t simply eliminate the options; they investigate the historic foundations of the Christian faith. They explore whether Christianity helps explain the world we live in. Surprised by Doubt is a carefully researched but engaging solution to the problem of deconstruction. Its honesty in wrestling with the hard questions of Christianity makes this a safe book to hand to a hardened skeptic or a believer in anguish about his doubts. It answers one of the predominant challenges of the hour and will remain a useful resource for years to come.
Award of Distinction
John Van Sloten, God Speaks Science: What Neurons, Giant Squid, and Supernovae Reveal About Our Creator (Moody)
Depending on who you talk to, the greatest threat to religion is science, or vice versa. People on both sides of the issue describe science and orthodox Christianity as being at war with one another. But what if exploring the world through empirical research was actually a pathway to understanding the One who created and sustains everything? That’s John Van Sloten’s thesis in this engaging book.
Vivid exposition of various scientific ideas will be enough to intrigue the curious, apart from any spiritual value. This book touches on topics like radiation therapy, knees, giant squid, and neuroscience. Van Sloten shows that we take the incredible complexity of God’s creation for granted. The way neurons fire and talk to each other inspires wonder as we consider that these intricate, minute, and mysterious events came from the mind of God.
There’s no “God of the gaps” in this book. Instead, we have a God who’s more clearly known as we fill in the gaps. Each chapter begins with a testimony from a faithful expert in the field in question and concludes with a suggested prayer and an invitation to ponder the wonder of God. God Speaks Science is a reminder that all creation belongs to God, so we delight in knowing more about it.
Judges: Kristie Anderson, Michael Philliber, Anthony Rhone, Andrew Spencer
Public Theology & Current Events
Jim Davis and Michael Graham, The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going, and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back? (Zondervan)
The Great Dechurching provides profound insights into one of the most significant religious shifts in American history: the millions of people across the theological spectrum leaving churches. This comprehensive study delivers data-driven clarity on who exactly is “dechurching,” why they’re leaving, and how we might thoughtfully engage them. It’s a must-read for anyone hoping to understand the real people behind the statistics.
Far from a dry sociological analysis, The Great Dechurching brings the data to life through engaging stories that help readers develop a deeper understanding of the dechurched. Davis and Graham balance rigor with relatability, managing to be both academically sound and pastorally sensitive. Their insights on topics like social media algorithms, mental health, and marriage should spark reflection and conversations in local churches across the country.
Perhaps most importantly, while the scope of dechurching is sobering, this book offers multiple reasons for hope. With thoughtful exhortations for church leaders and practical ideas for reengagement, The Great Dechurching will inspire and equip Christians to faithfully embody the gospel in this cultural moment. The Lord doesn’t give up on bringing those he died for back to himself—and neither should we.
Award of Distinction
Katie J. McCoy, To Be a Woman: The Confusion over Female Identity and How Christians Can Respond (B&H)
This powerful book offers deep wisdom and gospel truth for navigating today’s confusing cultural conversations around gender and identity. Katie J. McCoy confronts the self-focused individualism behind expressive gender identities with the biblical truth that we’re made for self-giving love. To Be a Woman thoughtfully examines the theological, biological, philosophical, social, and relational factors that shape how women and girls understand themselves. With academic rigor yet accessible prose, she traces the roots of modern gender theories back to ancient worldviews that denigrated the body. In contrast, she presents a holistic Christian framework that honors our physical selves as part of being made in God’s image.
Though unafraid to challenge problematic cultural narratives, McCoy’s compassion for those struggling with gender dysphoria shines through. She earnestly attempts to understand real human experiences with nuance and grace, moving well beyond abstract theories. To Be a Woman will equip readers to understand the cultural chaos, speak truth in love, and point people to the One who fashioned male and female in his image. Those who want to gain wisdom for responding to gender confusion in a way that honors God and cares for people should rush to get this book.
Judges: Joe Carter, Hannah Daniel, Dennis Greeson, Jake Meador
Kevin DeYoung, Impossible Christianity: Why Following Jesus Does Not Mean You Have to Change the World, Be an Expert in Everything, Accept Spiritual Failure, and Feel Miserable Pretty Much All the Time (Crossway)
Given the dizzying array of expectations about what it means to be a faithful Christian, it’s easy to feel like a constant spiritual failure. We’re bombarded with messages about what we must be doing and must be concerned about. The implication is that if you aren’t doing X or concerned about Y—and demonstrating so publicly—you’re a hypocrite. But the Bible doesn’t call every Christian to radical involvement in every good cause.
This isn’t a hall pass to apathy—it’s an acknowledgment that we’re finite. With characteristic clarity and verve, DeYoung writes to liberate true believers from burdensome yokes so we might be freed to enjoy the One whose yoke is easy and burden is light (Matt. 11:30). Believe it or not, obeying your Master is possible. Pleasing him is possible. Will you do it perfectly? No. Will you need grace upon grace? Of course. Will it require effort? Yes. But is it possible? Absolutely. Jesus didn’t die and rise so his people would feel like failures all the time. Repenting sinners can live under his smile. In an age of extrabiblical burdens and stifling demands, Impossible Christianity is a breath of fresh air.
Award of Distinction
Jen Wilkin and J. T. English, You Are a Theologian: An Invitation to Know and Love God Well (B&H)
For many Christians, the word “theologian” conjures up images of stuffy libraries and bespectacled sages. Jen Wilkin and J. T. English want to change that. Everybody who bears the name of Jesus, they contend, also bears the title of theologian—a God talker. With wisdom and warmth, they break down the “ologies”—Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and more—for everyday believers. Learn about who God is, how he’s revealed himself, how he views sin, what he’s done to redeem his people, and how he plans to make all things new.
This is a brilliant book for beginners—and for all people who know they’re always beginning in their understanding of God. You Are a Theologian should become a staple resource for church discipleship programs.
Judges: Joshua Chatman, Clarissa Moll, Juan Sánchez, Matt Smethurst
Bible Study & Devotional Literature
Liz Edrington, Anxiety: Finding the Better Story (P&R)
Every day, teens face fearful thoughts: What if I’m awkward? What if I fail? What if I don’t make friends? What if I’m crazy? What if I’m rejected? In this life-giving, clinically sound, and teen-appropriate book, Liz Edrington answers these questions with biblical truth, grounding them over and over in their identity in a God who’s never anxious. Teens will pick up this book out of desperation, and they’ll finish it with a knowledge of God’s redemptive story, an incredible awareness of his presence, and an arsenal of effective tools and biblical thinking to combat their anxiety.
Edrington uses the Old and New Testaments to help teens understand both God’s nature and their own, employing accessible and current language. Teens will learn to couple care for their body’s physical symptoms of anxiety with care for their heart’s symptoms of anxiety. They’ll find a framework to think through this struggle biblically, with their relationship to Christ—not their struggle with anxiety—as their primary identity. Her “anxiety toolkit” gives immediate and practical steps for help in the moment. This devotional is a fabulous resource not only for teens but for anyone struggling with anxiety.
Award of Distinction
Rebecca McLaughlin, Navigating Gospel Truth: A Guide to Faithfully Reading the Accounts of Jesus’s Life (Lifeway)
What if your Bible study didn’t just help you understand a passage of Scripture but equipped you with tools to thoughtfully navigate entire books of the Bible on your own? In Navigating Gospel Truth, Rebecca McLaughlin uses the eye of a scholar to tell us how to read the Gospels instead of focusing primarily on the content of each Gospel. This study is masterfully done, with a variety of engaging elements, relatable examples, and invaluable bite-size commentary throughout. Although the study is focused on the Gospels, McLaughlin artfully weaves in verses from the whole counsel of Scripture.
McLaughlin equips readers to approach various genres of Scripture with wisdom, confidence, and care. As she walks through the Gospels, she acknowledges every elephant in the room and offers readers the courage to stop ignoring them. She answers our questions and even our doubts with grace, validating our curiosity and desire to understand by clearly explaining history and context.
This is a wonderful study for anyone wanting to read and better understand the Gospels, no matter if you’re just beginning to read at a deeper level as a high school or college student or have been reading the Gospels for decades.
Judges: Missie Branch, Christine Gordon, Karen Hodge, Joanna Kimbrel, Abbey Wedgeworth
Missions & the Global Church
Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement from the West: A Biography from Birth to Old Age (Eerdmans)
Everywhere you turn, Western evangelicals are talking about post-Christianity. Some lament; others foment. In such a time as this, we stand to benefit from a global and historical perspective. Though not written to directly address these contemporary concerns, The Missionary Movement from the West by Andrew Walls offers just that, helping us see beyond our short-sighted fears.
As Walls demonstrates, long before the West was won, Christianity “spread across much of Asia and a substantial part of East Africa.” Later, through the influence of the modern missions movement, the Western church contributed significantly to what we now know as “global Christianity.” This latter reality is the focus of his posthumously published work, edited by Brian Stanley. It’s a collection of Walls’s essays and lectures on the history of Western missions.
Following the metaphor of a life cycle, Walls traces the complex development of this movement, including discoveries of uncharted lands, troubling colonialism, vast migrations of people, and the unprecedented advance of Christianity in the non-Western world. Missions history should give the post-Christian West reason for hope. And it should help us as we seek to learn from and partner with our brothers and sisters around the world.
Award of Distinction
Vance Christie, David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist (Christian Focus)
One of the most famous figures in Christian missions history is David Livingstone. This Scottish physician and missionary pioneer took the gospel into the heart of the African interior in the 19th century, documenting its cultural features and discovering natural wonders along the way. His amazing feats made him a hero in Victorian Britain, both in the church and broader society. But in more recent years, his legacy has been questioned and his work criticized.
In this detailed biography, Vance Christie gives a balanced account of Livingstone’s life. Using comprehensive research from numerous original sources, Christie provides a transparent telling of the man and his mission. Readers will no doubt see Livingstone’s flaws, but they also come away with an appreciation of his passion, convictions, accomplishments, and even humor. This in-depth biography is likely to become the standard work on Livingstone for generations to come.
Judges: Elliot Clark, Jenny Manley, Conrad Mbewe, J. D. Payne
Brandon D. Smith (ed.), The Trinity in the Canon: A Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Practical Proposal (B&H Academic)
Christians have long been accused of foisting a theology of the Trinity onto the text of Scripture after its later development in the Christian tradition. Even for Christians who deny such accusations, refuting those claims and recognizing the Trinitarian grammar of the Scripture can seem elusive. The Trinity in the Canon provides a resource for curious Christians, church practitioners, and academics to uncover the theological riches of the Bible and discover that the Trinity was there all along.
The twin strengths of this book are its wide range of contributors—who bring their own excellent insights to their sections—and its systematic treatment of the Bible, leaving no section of Scripture untouched. This approach helps the busy pastor or teacher quickly navigate to a particular chapter and determine how the doctrine of the Trinity is advanced in that portion of the text.
Award of Distinction
Andreas J. Köstenberger and Gregory Goswell, Biblical Theology: A Canonical, Thematic, and Ethical Approach (Crossway)
What themes are drawn out in Zephaniah? How does the order of the biblical books affect our interpretation? What ethics does Malachi set before us? If you’ve ever looked for theological overviews of the books you’re reading or teaching, Biblical Theology offers an informative and rich resource that will help you identify key biblical themes and interconnections between biblical books.
Köstenberger and Goswell engage with the paratext, including the canonical book order and book titles. Although these details aren’t inspired, they influence our interpretation, whether or not we’re conscious of this. Ultimately, Biblical Theology brings the issue of ethics to the foreground. A true biblical theology has to connect the Bible’s grand narrative to the “so what?” of our daily narratives. This reference book—especially with its detailed outline for quick reference to individual books of the Bible—will support the work of serious students, pastors, and teachers alike.
Judges: Paul Jeon, Jared Oliphint, Phil Thompson, Christine Thornton, and Taylor Turkington
History & Biography
Andrew Wilson, Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West (Crossway)
“The past is never dead,” William Faulkner opined. “It’s not even past.” Andrew Wilson’s Remaking the World is a remarkable undertaking, weaving together historical and social analysis across centuries to diagnose and explain how the West became post-Christian, starting at 1776. His explanation of the causes of the contemporary situation in the Western world is varied, nuanced, and persuasive.
Most striking is Wilson’s insistence that as Western societies have rejected Christianity, they haven’t offered anything to replace it, and their anti-Christian alternatives all have a distinctly Christian basis. This enables him to conclude on a hopeful note—the Christian gospel offers a more profound freedom than what the post-Christian West offers, an antidote to self-righteousness and works-righteousness in the form of a genuine gospel of grace, and an ultimate standard of truth in contrast to the meaningless Western attempts to see truth as entirely individual and self-constructed.
Remaking the World is an imaginative work of cultural apologetics that every church leader should grapple with. In what feels like a strange breaking point of Western culture, Wilson’s work helps us make sense of how we arrived at this moment and how we can move forward in faithfulness.
Award of Distinction
Collin Hansen, Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation (Zondervan Reflective)
Collin Hansen offers an unfamiliar perspective on a familiar figure as he traces the spiritual and intellectual development of Tim Keller. Truly understanding Keller requires reading his library, not just his works. Hansen provides a roadmap. It’s a fascinating walk through the major influences on Keller’s life—Kathy Keller, Jonathan Edwards, C. S. Lewis, Ed Clowney, Elisabeth Elliot, Richard Lovelace, Barbara Boyd, and R. C. Sproul, among others.
To read this work is to encounter Keller again, not as a singular figure but as a person in process, molded and formed by the gospel. The work traces Keller’s influences in the areas of family, institutions, and key friendships, but the greatest influence of Keller’s life is the same one who stood at the center of his preaching: Jesus Christ.
Judges: Claude Atcho, Simonetta Carr, Donald Fairbairn, Ivan Mesa, Obbie Todd
John Starke, The Secret Place of Thunder: Trading Our Need to Be Noticed for a Hidden Life with Christ (Zondervan Reflective)
Our contemporary vice isn’t that we let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. It’s that we make sure everyone else is aware of it as well. Like pointing out the air we’re breathing, The Secret Place of Thunder forces readers to contemplate the ways they may perform their holiness in public for the eyes of many rather than in private for the eyes of one.
Whether it’s a photo of your carefully staged morning quiet time, a humble-brag post about what God is teaching you, or simply the desire to be seen at all the right conferences with all the right speakers, we can fall into the trap of pursuing spiritual disciplines for the wrong reasons. As an antidote to the poison of an attention-seeking culture, John Starke offers a deeper and quieter way. He reminds readers that God isn’t found in the limelight but in the secret place of thunder (Ps. 81:7). He invites us to step back from grasping the world’s attention and to rest under the Savior’s tender gaze.
Award of Distinction
Jasmine L. Holmes, Never Cast Out: How the Gospel Puts an End to the Story of Shame (B&H)
Satan loves to lurk in the murky places—sowing confusion around the borders of thought and emotion where the lines of right and wrong aren’t immediately obvious. Shame is one of those shadowy places.
In Never Cast Out, Jasmine Holmes accomplishes a difficult task—she uses the metanarrative of Scripture to present a theology of shame and shine a bright light on Satan and his tactics. Her careful categories surrounding the types of shame and the reasons for shame help readers think through their vague feelings of guilt and offer clarity about what they’re experiencing. In our moment of deconstruction and dechurching, Holmes invites readers to experience a freedom rooted not in leaving the church but in the restorative power of the gospel. Her discussions of shame in the context of parenting also offer help for parenting shame-prone children.
Judges: Matthew Boga, Winfree Brisley, Megan Hill, Elizabeth Woodson
Laura Wifler, Like Me: A Story About Disability and Discovering God’s Image in Every Person (Harvest Kids)
Like Me is a story about disability told with clear-eyed compassion and candor. Focusing on one family on a cold winter day, it teaches the universal truth that every person, regardless of ability or disability, is an image-bearer of God. Through the perspective of an older brother, readers witness the challenges of family life with a disabled child (his little brother tears down his tent and hits him so hard it hurts) and its joys (the same little brother gives the best hugs because “he means them more than anybody [he knows]”). The warm and engaging illustrations will prompt rereadings, reinforcing the message that “it’s a privilege to know another human being, no matter what they look like or how they act.”
Award of Distinction
Alyssa Clements, The Size of Everything: Ginormous Galaxies, Itty-Bitty Quarks, and Me (Tyndale Kids)
The Size of Everything teems with interesting facts about God’s creation, organized in order of size from microscopic to galactic. Did you know that a T-Rex was about the size of a school bus? Or that Jupiter’s red spot is twice as big as our own planet? Although human beings are neither the biggest nor the smallest of God’s creatures, the book explains we hold a unique place in creation as image-bearers of God. Readers who don’t like to experience awe and wonder should stay far away from The Size of Everything.
Judges: Ginger M. Blomberg, Jason Duesing, Betsy Childs Howard, Shar Walker
Arts & Culture
Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt, Redeeming Vision: A Christian Guide to Looking at and Learning from Art (Baker Academic)
Redeeming Vision addresses “believing viewers” with a clear gospel imperative: “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor” in how you learn about and learn from works of art. In this way, the book elucidates and models an inquisitive approach to images that accounts for both their deep influence on us and their ability to help us reach out to our world.
Weichbrodt’s prose is so approachable, her explanations so clear, and her project so well woven that you might not realize how powerfully it could reframe a Christian’s engagement with art. Redeeming Vision equips its reader with tools for looking; expands the reader’s acquaintance with historical, global, and contemporary art; and explores the entanglement of visual culture with social and historical problems. But before and beyond any questions of art appreciation, expanded horizons, and honest reckoning, Weichbrodt proposes a deeply Christian orientation to visual culture—because the gospel changes how we see everything.
Award of Distinction
Jeremy S. Begbie, Abundantly More: The Theological Promise of the Arts in a Reductionist World (Baker Academic)
Already one of the most reliably brilliant voices in contemporary “arts and theology” discourse, Jeremy Begbie’s latest contribution doesn’t disappoint. Even by Begbie’s high standards, Abundantly More raises the bar and pushes the conversation forward in timely, helpful, and theologically rigorous ways. The richly written, scholarly book is partially a scathing indictment of the reductionist, materialist spirit of the age. But mostly it’s a compelling positive argument for how the arts challenge these tendencies and bear powerful witness to the uncontainable, infinite, and beautiful Trinitarian God.
Judges: Melissa Schubert Johnson, Joshua Leventhal, Brett McCracken, Taylor Worley
Matthew T. Martens, Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (Crossway)
Perhaps no word has become more loaded in the American lexicon in recent years than “justice.” It carries a lot of weight—heated emotions, frustrated hopes, and, for some, a Sisyphean weariness. Is achieving justice even possible? Or is our system so broken we need to throw it away and start over?
Yes and no, answers Matthew Martens, who has spent his career in both prosecution and defense. He takes readers inside the system, from the crime to the jury selection to the sentencing. He uses stories and statistics to explain how the system is supposed to work and how it breaks down. The result is a practical, hope-filled approach to a system that’s flawed—but not fatally.
To some extent, all Americans participate in our justice system—from voting to serving on juries. As Christians, we can do this with wisdom, peace, and hope. We can love our neighbors well as we point to the perfect justice of the God who justified us. Martens shows us how.
Award of Distinction
Amy Baik Lee is a stunning writer. Her sentences are well crafted, and she captures what many feel but can’t describe. The result is that Homeward Ache is timeless yet especially relevant to our current cultural restlessness. Lee encourages readers to lean into that dissatisfaction, that God-shaped hole in the heart, that “homeward ache” for a better eternity, and subsequently to live fuller lives in the present. As she carefully explores biblical truths, the beauty of Jesus comes through. Equal parts compelling and comforting, this book is genuinely true, good, and beautiful.
Judges: Amy DiMarcangelo, Jen Oshman, Greg Phelan, Jordan Raynor, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra