2020: A Year in Reading

2020 threw us plenty of curveballs. It certainly threw me plenty. But at the start of the year, I set out to read more — both of the Bible and of books in general. While I didn’t read as much as I’d wished, I read more than in recent years. Here’s a list of the books I read with a brief description. I share these in case any of these books sound interesting to you.

Nonfiction

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making
by Andrew Peterson (B&H, 2019)

Andrew Peterson is a gifted musician. In this brief book he takes us into his own creative process, exploring the role of community and mystery in the artistic endeavor.

Reading for Preaching: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists
by Cornelius Plantinga (Eerdmans, 2013)

Plantinga urges preachers to read widely and consume a healthy dose of good writing — for the sake of the preaching, and for the sake of their own souls.

Racing to the Finish: My Story
by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Ryan McGee (Thomas Nelson, 2018)

Full disclosure: I’m an avid racing fan. But I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. Dale Jr. is one of racing’s biggest stars, but he pulls back the curtain on his struggles overcoming multiple concussions. His words were a tremendous encouragement to me as I recovered from my own pains and injuries.

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books
by Karen Swallow Prior (Brazos Press, 2018)

Prior interacts with multiple classic pieces of literature, highlighting key themes and how they resonate (or not) with the Christian faith. I came away with a greater desire to read broadly — which, I think, was one of her goals.

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
by Lesslie Newbigin (Eerdmans, 1989)

I’ve long wanted to read Lesslie Newbigin. This year, I finally took the plunge. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society is my favorite Christian theology book I’ve read in years. He explores how the church can maintain a missionary posture, and what that looks like in modern culture.

The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission
by Lesslie Newbigin (Eerdmans, 1995)

I couldn’t read just one book by Newbigin. So I read another. This book develops a theology of mission, and serves as a foundational text for understanding how and why the church exists “on mission.”

The Practice of the Presence of God
by Brother Lawrence

What can an ancient monk teach us about prayer? Much, evidently. Brother Lawrence wove prayer into every part of his life and every moment of his day — even work. We all have much to learn from this faithful saint.

The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need
by Deepak Reju and Jeremy Pierre (Crossway, 2015)

Full confession: I’m supposed to write a full book review on this one. (To my editor who’s still waiting, I’m very, very sorry.) But it will be an easy book review to write, because Reju and Pierre offer a short, simple introductory book on biblical counseling. It was a delight.

Four Views on Creation, Evolution and Intelligent Design
by Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Deborah Haarsma, and Stephen C. Meyer (Zondervan, 2017)

This book was a helpful refresher as I prepared to teach on Genesis 1-2. Balanced and careful.

The Bedford Boys: One American Town’s Ultimate D-day Sacrifice
by Alex Kershaw (Da Capo Press, 2004)

I knew the gist of what happened on D-Day. But this book brings the soldiers’ sacrifices to light in a whole new way with a look at Bedford, VA’s tremendous loss. I come away with a greater appreciation for these and all soldiers’ sacrifice.

Fiction

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, 2007)

What can I say? It’s a wonderful piece of fiction with surprisingly clear Christ themes. There’s a reason these books have sold millions of copies.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis (1950)

I decided to re-read this classic to the kids. It’s every bit as delightful as I remember. (My kids enjoyed it, too.)

The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde (1894)

I was in this play in high school, but I’d forgotten how funny this play is. The wit drips off the page.

A Long Way from Chicago (1998), A Year Down Yonder (2000) A Season of Gifts (2009)
by Richard Peck
(Puffin Books)

This trilogy from Richard Peck is criminally underrated. The main character, Grandma Dowdel, is among the most memorable in all of young adult literature.

Fair Weather
by Richard Peck (Puffin Books, 2003)

This novel, while not as memorable as the Grandma Dowdel trilogy, still offered a few laughs. I also learned much about the World’s Columbian Exposition, a tremendously influential fair located in Chicago in 1893.

Out of the Silent Planet
by C.S. Lewis (1938)

Most people know of Lewis’ fantasy books (The Chronicles of Narnia), but few know of his science fiction trilogy. Lewis’ exploration of space is less an adventure book, and more of a work of theology and philosophy. He causes us to wonder: If there were intelligent life elsewhere, how would they relate to God? And what would they think of us?

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens (1843)

I read this book aloud to my 7-year-old, and I was astounded at how much he understood. This book is a classic for a reason, and it’s one of my favorite reads each Christmas.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
by Barbara Robinson (1971)

I’d forgotten how hilarious — and beautiful — this little book is. Robinson’s narrative helps us understand the Christmas story with fresh eyes and hearts.

James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl (1961)

This book was decidely… strange. Talking insects? A giant peach? Cloud men? Dahl lets his imagination fly. But upon re-reading this book in light of the Harry Potter books, I can only imagine that J.K. Rowling’s sensibilities (and character names) were influenced by Lewis and Dahl. Could “James Henry Trotter” be inspiration for “Harry James Potter”?

Commentaries

I read several commentaries in 2020 — on the book of Acts, Genesis, Isaiah and more. Here are the ones I completed:

  • Exalting Jesus in Acts by Tony Merida (Holman Refernce, 2017)
  • Exploring Acts by John Phillips (Kregel, 2001)
  • The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2014)
  • The Undoing of Death by Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans, 2005)
  • The Gospel of Genesis: Studies in Protology and Eschatology by Warren Gage (Wipf and Stock, 2001)
  • Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (Volume 1) by James Montgomery Boice (Baker, 2006)

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