Top Books I Read in 2019
I useGoodreads to help me keep track of my reading, leave brief reviews and get book recommendations. It’s really a fantasist resource.
I set a low goal of reading 25 books this past year after reading 38 in 2018. I wanted to be realistic in light of this past year of highs and lows. And yet... I just kept reading and reading. By the end of 2019, I had read 43 books! I hope you'll consider some of my recommendations for your next book. If you need a soulmate, a book can make a good companion. It's not perfect, but it will occupy you in the quietness of your day/night.
Here's the pretty graphic from Goodreads, but keep scrolling for my top 10 books.
Here's my top 10 books I read, with 10 being the best:
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou I'd heard a bit about the crazy fall of famed female CEO Elizabeth Holmes. She bilked investors and misled the press, politicians and the world as she created a company worth billions on nothing but lies. This story of how she did it is simply disturbing for all the unanswered questions.
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley I am enamored by the Byzantine Empire and its final days. Having been to Istanbul twice now (and hoping to go back), I devoured this historical account of the final days of the famed city's home to Christianity.
Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Butterfield Her writing style is wonderful. She is masterful with word choice. This book follows up on how she left lesbianism, trusted Jesus as her Savior and began to embrace the teachings of scripture. "My feelings fell with the fall,” she said, and this book unpacks the war between feelings and truth. It ends with a powerful chapter about Christian hospitality. See my full review here.
What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Mark Perman Our church began reading this book together last year. It's fantastic. It's a gospel-centered approach to productivity with the significant caveat that Christian productivity is intended not only to organize your life but to bless others and glorify God. Filled with biblical truth and practical help, you won't regret reading this one and putting principles into practice.
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton I read (and hated) Eric Metaxas' biography on Martin Luther. Luther's life was too big to not find a better book about him. This oldie but goodie (1955) was a captivating read.
John Adams by David McCollough My dad had insisted I read this book on America's second President for years. I kept putting it off. He was right. It's fascinating and left me wanting to read more. How do you follow George Washington? In addition, his battles with the press for fairness and how slanted their reporting/writing was against Adams was a stunning echo of today's media war with President Trump.
Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters by Philip Ryken I know. You're thinking, "Of course a preacher would list a Bible commentary as a top book..." But honest, it's wonderful. Ecclesiastes is a book I've read but have not meditated deeply on. Ryken's analysis and teaching about the book made me want to take it very slowly and read it and the corresponding verses in Ecclesiastes in a devotional fashion. It's an excellent book for skeptics and for seekers. It helps you see that this biblical book that repeats "all is vanity" several times really doesn't "airbrush" life. Instead, it points to the importance of trusting God in the middle of life's unanswered questions and unfulfilled longings.
The Frozen Hours: A Novel of the Korean War by Jeff Shaara This was another recommendation from my dad. I'd never read anything on the Korean War, and Shaara's book was both fascinating and horrifying. I had no idea what our soldiers went through in Korea and how questionable General MacArthur's leadership actually was.
CSB Christ Chronologicalby Holman Bible Publishers Essentially this book is simply the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I saw it advertised in christianbook.com. It is amazing. It lays out the gospels side by side, colored by book, in chronological order. I used it devotionally from January-June. I can't recommend enough how beneficial it was to read the gospels in a parallel fashion like this. See my full review.
The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan. "I found my reading slowing down as I realized this was a book for me. I nurtured by soul on this book and its reminders from scripture. I didn’t want to plow through it and began taking each chapter as a moment of restful awakening." I said that in my review of this book. This encouragement to savor Sabbath in your life is my top book I read in 2019, and I hope you make it one of your reads in 2020!
I'd really love to hear in the comments about books you read in 2020 that you might recommend. Also, if you decide to read one that I recommend, please let me know!
All That's Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson. I loved her first book Humble Roots, so I was eager to read this. It is good. I was not disappointed. Her introductory chapters (1-3) were fantastic. Then she unpacks each part of Philippians 4:8-9. That's when the book bogged down a bit. However, there are great nuggets throughout. Her chapter on "what is commendable" is fantastic and has powerful application to our modern information-overloaded culture, especially as we relate to social media. See my full review here.
The Reckoning by John Grisham. I don't know that I've read a book by Grisham that has disappointed though I've stayed away from his non legal-thrillers books. This book tells the tale of vet who murders a preacher in cold blood (eek) and doesn't reveal the "why" until the end of the book.
Here are some series that I read:
2 books in C.S. Harris' series about Sebastian St. Cyr, an unlikely detective in the 1800s: Why Mermaids Sing (#3) and Where Serpents Sleep (#4).
I finished reading the Harry Potter series with the last book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Like John Grisham, I enjoy Brad Meltzer's fiction so much. This year I readThe House of SecretsandThe Escape Artist.
In Michael Scott's (not the boss of The Office) series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas FlamelI read The Alchemyst (#1),The Magician (#2), andThe Sorceress (#3).
I read the second book in the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn, Kill Shot.
Books I Stopped Reading:
The Mountains Are Calling: Making the Climb for a Clearer View of God and Ourselvesby Jarrett Stephens. This book is by a graduate of my alma mater OBU, but it just didn't meet expectations. The premise of how God works and speaks from the mountains in scripture (Moriah, Sinai, Carmel, etc.) was interesting. I started with high hopes and then .. it just felt relatively .. mild to me. I can’t describe it any other way. It was just “ok.” There are too many great books waiting to be read to spend more time pushing myself through an “ok” book.