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Staff picks of the year: what we loved reading in 2018

Joe Henegan | December 6th 2018

You may think the staff of a publishing company that releases 45+ books a year, most of which need to be read, understood and promoted, to have very little appetite for a bit of extra-curricular reading in their leisure time. Well, it appears we can’t help ourselves, and here is what we read and loved in 2018:

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall 
Carl Laferton, Editorial Director

Every now and then, a book completely changes the way you look at the world. This one has done that for me with politics. It describes how geography drives (and in some cases determines) the way governments and leaders approach, interact with, and sometimes attack their neighbours. It is a strangely page-turning kind of book, that I found myself really looking forward to reading. The writing is good, the insights are great. So, it’s my book of the year. Honourable mentions for my ‘non-TGBC Christian book of the year’ to None Like Him (Jen Wilkin)… ‘re-read book’ to Rubicon (Tom Holland)… ‘fun book’ to How to be a Footballer (Peter Crouch).


None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
Jackie Moralee, Editorial and Marketing Administrator

This is a book that lifts your eyes to the Lord and causes you to marvel at his greatness and then to marvel even further that he would set his love on you. It completely resets your perspective, taking your eyes off yourself and fixing them firmly and meditatively on our wonderful God and Father. You get to revel in all that’s great about Him and it brings a wonderful sense of security and calm as you realise how small and dependent you are - and yet so safe and loved. This is a book I will read over and over for the sheer pleasure of it and to drag my rebellious mind back to the truth about the character of my God and his mercy and grace towards me.


Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
Alexa Burstow, Marketing Consultant

Following the deaths of three young people whose parents we are close to, I was desperate to see if I had somehow missed the answer to the question of why God allows evil and suffering. Of course, having read the book I still don’t know the reason for it. But, as Timothy Keller says, we know what the reason can’t be. "It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself. It’s only half an answer to the question ‘Why?’ But its the half we need."


Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Alison Mitchell, Senior Editor

It describes his final journey around Britain before moving his family back to the States. The edition that I own was written in 1995, so part of the charm was remembering what our “small island” was like 20 years ago. I love the way Bryson writes. He never uses obscure terms or convoluted sentences, yet the way he puts words together is supremely clever. He engages your emotions, from sad pathos to laugh-out-loud hilarity. And he succeeds at something we aim for all of our own books, which is that it always feels as if he is walking alongside the reader, enjoying life with them - and never standing over us telling us what to do.


Hope When It Hurts by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell
Ben Earle, Logistics Manager (North America)

As I've journeyed through years of sometimes excruciating physical pain, the book that's meant much to me this year is "Hope When It Hurts." The authors, Kristen and Sarah, have helped me to reorient my perspective on the topic of pain and suffering. It has become evident, lately, that this trial that I'm going through isn't necessarily about me getting through it; rather, it's primarily about God receiving glory in and through it. The Lord has used both Kristen and Sarah to show me that God is more concerned with making me holy than happy. I'm convinced that God is making me holy though this trial He's giving me grace to endure. This brilliant work has pointed me to Scripture where I've found much hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.


Salamis: The Greatest Naval Battle in the Ancient World by Barry Strauss
Richard Roper, Senior Buyer

This book shows how one man, the Athenian leader Themistocles, had the foresight to transform Athens from a land power to a naval power in the few years between the Battle of Marathon in 490BC and the second Persian invasion ten years later. I enjoyed it because was well written, easy to read and brought the distant past into focus by looking at the actions and motivations of real people.  It ties the biblical narrative loosely into ‘real’ world events, strengthening the historicity of our faith and showing how events from the past shape our present day. Can you imagine European civilisation without Aristotelian logic or democratic government? Reading history is not about discovering the past, it’s about understanding today.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Noah Yuval Hariri
Tim Thornborough, Publishing Director

This book by a Jewish academic has rarely been out of the top ten non-fiction best-seller lists since it was published in 2014—and for good reason. It is a sweeping narrative of the development of human thinking, culture, economics, politics and philosophy that is packed with fascinating ideas and insights. At the same time it is tragically and robustly atheistic. But all the more reason for me to read it and ponder what my atheist friends are thinking, and how we might meet this challenge evangelistically and apologetically.


I Married A Soldier by Brenda Hale and Rachel Farmer
Robin Fairbairn, Ministry Development Officer

This book tells the story of how Brenda, a young Northern Irish girl, meets Mark Hale, a British Soldier who is on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland. A story unfolds of romance, marriage, and of how they both come to faith in Christ. What it was like for Brenda living as a military wife and of the tragic death of Captain Mark Hale in Afghanistan. It made me laugh, and weep and even at times be angry as she speaks honestly of her struggles as a young widow.


Tombland by CJ Sansom
Tom Beard, Logistics Manager (UK)

This was a cracking historical fiction tale about a time I don’t know much about, especially the coming of the then new Prayer Book which was so radical. It really helped me appreciate the role of good liturgy.


How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
Joe Henegan, Marketing Manager

This book helpfully dismantles a lot of assumptions we have around thinking. For example, we all know that it’s good to think for yourself, right? Wrong. Thinking independently of other human beings is impossible, and if it were possible it would be undesirable. Thinking is fundamentally social. But what I really love is how he demonstrates that thinking well is not just the preserve of very intelligent people. Even people like me can think well (sometimes). In our increasingly pluralist but partial age, we need a book like this to be confident about what we know and believe, and to engage in public discourse with patience, humility and generosity.


The Ascent by Peter Grant
Sayuri Kato, Customer Services

Peter Grant was a member of the leadership team at the international development charity Tearfund, and in this devotional he draws you closer to God as he invites you to ‘climb a mountain’ with him. It's simple, short and easy to read yet it’s is full of insight and makes you feel you want to come back again and again as it brings a real joy of knowing Him as your personal saviour.

Joe Henegan

Joe is our Marketing Manager. He lives in South London with his wife and two daughters and is a member at River Church Sutton - part of the Newfrontiers network - where he runs a small group and various outreach activities.

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