Favorites of 2015 (Books, Music, Food, Experiences)



Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Berry's descriptions of the river, living in a small rural town, and farming were beautiful and made me want to ditch everything and move to Port William. His insights into human nature, love, faith, and community are profound.  

Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom by Carl Trueman

Trueman's treatment of Luther is part biography, part major theological themes. It is an engaging summary for those who've appreciated Luther for a long time as well as great introduction for those not as familiar with the Reformer.

Matthew: A Commentary by Frederick Bruner

Some theologians struggle with not just saying why something is true but also why it is good. Bruner is not one of them. His commentary was both helpful, enjoyable and, dare I say at times, even tweetable. 

How Not to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James KA Smith

This book was an absolute game-changer for me as a pastor and helpful for congregants in giving them words for things they'd been feeling or experiencing but been unable to experience. I'd argue that every pastor and Millennial Christian should read Smith's book.

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

Over the last two years I've read a good amount about the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US Military and I think General McCrystal's book is the best summary of the lessons and stakes in regards to leadership. It is military in its context but broad in its implications and applications. If you like Patrick Lencioni you'd definitely like Team of Teams. 

Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal's Pensees by Peter Kreeft

In the same way Smith's book took a huge niche work like Charles Taylor's and made it understandable for the everyman, Kreeft's book brings Blaise Pascal before readers who wouldn't otherwise have read him. Highly recommended.


Carry the Fire by Dustin Kensrue

I'm proud of my friend, Dustin. Carry the Fire is a beautiful, powerful, challenging record. Don't miss his album commentary on YouTube if you want to take your appreciation of the album to another level. In an age of spectacle he is creating art for the human condition. Don't miss it.

Uncomfortable by Andy Mineo

Is it fair to say that Mineo is Lecrae's protege? In my opinion "Love" is the stand-out track but the whole record is solid. 

The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us by Beach Slang

Beach Slang sounds like if Gaslight Anthem was from Gainesville (for you Hot Water Music fans). While it is musically awesome, I'd love to have a beer with James Alex and talk about whats underneath some of his lyrics.

"I'll Show You" by Justin Bieber

Yes, I'm actually putting this on my list. Just give the song a chance. 

Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons

They dropped the banjo, kept the great songs, and were able to do what many other bands aren't able to - break through being defined by a genre or sound.


Dust & Disquiet by Caspian

This record is darker than their previous few but its still my favorite instrumental, post-rock albums this year.


New Restaurants

Than Binh II, Lake Forest

Easily the best pho we've found in Orange County. Try the oxtail pho. It is one of our favorite cheap date night options. [yelp]

Hammerheads, Louisville

Pork belly lettuce & tomato sandwich on Texas toast, BBQ ribs, fried soft shell crab sandwich, and a great beer selection in a dingy basement-like setting make this a must-try in Louisville. Orange County friends, just read the reviews and look at the pics. [yelp]

Baco Mercat, Downtown LA

This came as a recommendation from friends who used to live in DTLA and I daydream about the oxtail baco and caesar brussel sprouts. [yelp]

Hopper & Burr, Santa Ana

True story: I watched a large group come in one day and look at Hopper and Burr's five-item coffee menu. "That's it?", they exclaimed as they walked out on the hunt for a Starbucks. They may have found their way to a larger menu but they missed out on the best coffee in Orange County. [yelp]