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Books of the Year—sort of

As we transition to more timely reporting, here are 12 pages on top books published from April through December, 2016

Jeff Wales

Books of the Year—sort of
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Longtime WORLD members may remember that for the past two decades we’ve published our annual books issue at the end of June, in line with the annual convention of the Christian Booksellers Association. That convention, though, is now the "International Christian Retail Show," and one big bookselling chain, Family Christian, decided last month to close all 240 of its stores.

With other products sometimes drawing more attention than books at the retail show, we’ve decided to move our main books issue to December, when we can honor the calendar year’s top books more quickly. This issue is an intermediate step: In it we praise books that came out during the last nine months of 2016. We’ll have another books issue this December that will offer Books of the Year for 2017.

Since many WORLD members are voracious readers, we also plan to publish at the end of June a special section on Beach Reads—light reading for the summer—and another this fall on heavy reads, particularly books in connection with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

We began honoring a Book of the Year in 2008: Tim Keller’s The Reason for God was our first. Other winners during our first five years of awards were the ESV Study Bible, The Battle by Arthur Brooks, The Triumph of Christianity by Rodney Stark, and two books focusing on Darwinism: Should Christians Embrace Evolution? and God and Evolution.

In 2013 we started having categories and short lists, and year by year we’ve expanded: 10 short-listed books in three categories, then 14 and 16 in four categories. Among the honored books: Melanie Kirkpatrick’s Escape from North Korea, Rosaria Butterfield’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Tim Townsend’s Mission at Nuremberg, William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts, and Bret Stephens’ America in Retreat. Last year’s winners were Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson, Wind Sprints by Joseph Epstein, and In Those Nightmarish Days by Peretz Opoczynski and Josef Zelkowicz.

This year on the pages that follow five WORLD staff writers and five World Journalism Institute graduates review 30 short-listed books from 23 publishers. Six publishers have two or three books: Crossway, Zondervan, InterVarsity, Harper, Picador, and Yale University Press. Eighteen have one book each: P&R, David C. Cook, Princeton University Press, Basic Books, HarperOne, Center Street, Crown, Random House, Oxford University Press, Portfolio, Encounter, Discovery Institute, W.W. Norton, Viking, Knopf, Kensington, Liveright, and Little, Brown.

And the 2016 Books of the Year are:

History/Ideology: Illiberal Reformers by Thomas C. Leonard (Princeton)

Understanding America: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Harper)

Understanding the World: Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz (Crown)

Science, Math, and Worldviews: Undeniable by Douglas Axe (HarperOne)

Accessible Theology: The Life We Never Expected by Andrew and Rachel Wilson (Crossway)

Novels: A short list of five, but no winner

Click on the links above and read on, please…

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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