1. Tied for number one are John Wigger, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Alister Chapman, Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). Both of these books are “thick” history at its best: rich in detail, and conversant with the cultural, theological and ecclesial scenes. I find the lives of both Asbury and Stott, though quite different, deeply awe-inspiring. I was astonished at the way I resonated with the heart-beat of both, though I must stress that I have definite theological differences on the level of secondary issues.
2. Peter J. Morden, ‘Communion with Christ and his people’: The Spirituality of C.H. Spurgeon (Oxford: Regent’s Park College, 2010). I find Spurgeon to be a perennial source of inspiration and delight. And this new study by the Tutor in Church History and Spirituality at Spurgeon’s College tells me of the hidden springs of why I find him to be so: here is the heart of Spurgeon’s ministry displayed in great detail.
3. Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford. A Memoir (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011). I love to read biographies, collections of letters and memoirs. And this was a delight. I had not heard of Carolyn Weber before my good friend and research assistant Ian Clary alerted me to this book. It is the story of the conversion of a feminist literary scholar, who is a fellow Canadian, in one of my favorite cities in all the world. A truly charming read.
4. Then tied for number 4 place are two books by two of my favorite historians: John Lukacs, The Future of History (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2011), a short essay-style book on the future of a variety of things dealings with being an historian—vintage Lukacs. And then Gertrude Himmelfarb, The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England, from Cromwell to Churchill (New York/London: Encounter Books, 2011), also a monograph, on love for the Jewish people. In a very short, and masterly, compass she deals with this history from Cromwell’s Puritan interest in the Jews that culminated in the readmission of the Jews to England—they had been expelled en masse in the Middle Ages—down to Churchill’s philo-Zionism, something quite different from Cromwell’s affection. Also vintage history.
5. Daniel C. Goodwin, Into Deep Waters: Evangelical Spirituality and Maritime Calvinistic Baptist Ministers, 1790–1855 (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010). This is a tremendous study of an overlooked area of Baptist studies. I have spent much time studying the English Calvinistic Baptist scene and also, to some degree, that of the Southern Baptists in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But the Baptist world of the Maritimes is a third important area of Calvinistic Baptist impact that should not be overlooked. Very illuminating.