Top Books I Read in 2020
I use Goodreads to help me keep track of my reading, leave brief reviews and get book recommendations. It’s really a fantasist resource.
I set a goal of reading 30 books this past year after reading 43 in 2019. I wanted to be realistic, thinking this would be a very busy year. And yet… pandemic and sabbatical. I rediscovered some books this year which you’ll see below. And I found some news ones that may make my shortlist of all-time favorites. I need a bit more distance from them to decide.
By the end of 2020, I had read 58 books! That is a bit stunning to me. I am a fast reader, but I read every word of a book. I don’t skim. And non-fiction books are usually read with a pen in hand (unless they’re from the library).
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 (well, there’s one that is), but it will occupy you in the quietness of your day/night when people are drifting off and conversations and chats cease.
Here’s the pretty graphic from Goodreads, but keep scrolling for my top 10 books of 2020:
Here’s my top 10 books I read, with 10 being the best:
This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti This was a re-read. This book was all the rage in Christian circles back in the late 1980s. It’s a vivid tale of a small-town pastoring encountering spiritual resistance and controversy, as well as a town embroiled in intrigue and turmoil. I think it’s what C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters would look like as a single storyline. It dramatically depicts the activity of demons and evil operating behind the scenes of this pastor’s attempts to build his church and determine what is going on in Ashton.
A Prophet with Honor by William Martin This biography of Billy Graham is sweeping in its portrayal of the very real man behind the modern world’s best-known evangelist. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was humbled by Martin’s accounts of Graham’s struggles of how to influence culture.
Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund It was one of the most refreshing reads about Jesus and His characters that I’ve read in a long while. It reminded of how simply wonderful it is to read about the Savior. I haven’t enjoyed a book about Jesus (outside the Bible) like that since Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves.
Road to Nowhere by Paul Robertson I could go on and on about Robertson’s writings. Granted, he’s a friend and church member, but after sitting down to read his account of a small two struggling with a major highway being built through it, I fell in love with his prose and characters and promptly purchased his other four books. If you want to “meet” Paul, listen to this episode of Ordinary Celebrity I did with him last fall.
Plague of Corruption by Kent Heckenlively and Judy Mikovits After all the contradictions of COVID mitigation and controversies related to restrictions, I enjoyed reading this account of the seamy and seedy side of science which implicates some major players that have had a lot of limelight in 2020. It reminded that scientists and doctors are still human and bring their own viewpoints to data.
Reforming Journalism by Marvin Olasky I thought this would be a book about “how to reform journalism.” After an insane amount of revealed bias and forced narrative from the MSM over the past several years, such a book is sorely needed. However, Olasky’s book is written as a primer for the would-be Christian journalist. It’s got basic instructions on how to do goodjournalism. It’s last few chapters on the history of journalism and how freedom of the press is a distinctly Christian by-product are fascinating and worth reading.
Desiring God by John Piper I think this is the third time I’ve read it. It was a book I read during my sabbatical (a lot of these were). It continues to stand tall as one of the best and most influential books I’ve ever read. It’s on my top 5 list of recommended books for young believers.
Pastoring Men by Patrick Morley Years ago I was profoundly influenced by his book Man in the Mirror. This book was a huge encouragement to focus on discipling men. Discipleship is the lens through which all ministries of the church should be evaluated. Are you making disciples? I highly recommend this book to all pastors wanting to know how to reach the men in their church. It won’t be done by breakfasts, golf outings and service projects. Include those, but don’t expect them to produce spiritual fruit without intentional discipleship.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis This delightfully uncomfortable collection of letters from a senior demon to his protege helps you see just how insidious the plans and schemes of Satan are (2 Corinthians 2:11, Ephesians 6:11). 2020 brought with it a growing awareness of the activity of evil around us all. This book and This Present Darkness were good reminders that our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).
Fortitude by Dan Cranshaw This sitting Republican Senator and former Navy SEAL has a lot to say about “suck it up, buttercup.” That’s how I would sum up his book. It’s very well-written and boldly confronts the overly-sensitive and easily-offended cancel culture of our day. He not only confronts and speaks truth to how we should re-learn to dialogue, but he also offers good insight into ways citizens can elevate discourse and impact their communities.
I’d really love to hear in the comments about books you read in 2020 that you would recommend. Also, if you decide to read one that I recommend, please let me know!
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs I can’t say enough about this book! It was a re-read, and I’m so thankful I did. It was written back in the 1600s, but it’s as relevant today as ever since contentment is both a gift and mental discipline for the Christian. I highly recommend it!
The Common Rule by Justin Earley The author’s encouragement to adopt a daily rituals in life for the peaceful ordering of your day/week is really helpful. I recommend both the book and the consideration of his “rules” for living, especially his admonition to seek no apps before prayer/scripture.
The Guardians by John Grisham I’ve always enjoyed Grisham’s thrillers, and this one about a death row inmate and the Christian ministry seeking to clear his name is riveting.
Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen It was a helpful and encouraging read. Recommended.
Here are some series that I read:
3 books in C.S. Harris’ series about Sebastian St. Cyr, an unlikely detective in the 1800s: What Remains of Heaven, Where Shadows Dance, and When Maidens Mourn.
Like John Grisham, I enjoy Brad Meltzer’s fiction so much. This wasn’t in a series… but since I read something by him each year: The Book of Lies.
In Michael Scott’s (not the boss of The Office) series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, I read The Necromancer (#4) and The Warlock (#5).
I read the third book in the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn, Transfer of Power (#3).
David Baldacci’s series about John Puller is great as well – The Escape (#1) , The Forgotten (#2) and No Man’s Land (#3).
Books I Stopped Reading:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak I know. I know. How could I? This is supposedly one of the best and most popular books in the last few years. I couldn’t get into it at all. The personification, the plodding writing… just nah.
The Gospel Coalition’s Booklets Series … I drove myself to read through them. I got through several, but finally, I just stopped. Most are drier than corn flakes. I have always felt that if you make theology boring, the writing is not worth reading, because God is infinitely un-boring.
Uncommon Ground by Tim Keller I didn’t stop reading this one simply because it was edited by Keller, but this collection of writing seemed rushed, and overall unhelpful. Color me unimpressed.
How to Be a Perfect Christian by the Babylon Bee Don’t get me wrong. I love the Bee. However, this book was simply stupid. The Bee is best consumed in tweets, not in prose.