It’s that time again where books of the year lists are flooding the internet. I’ve done this for about 5-6 years now and find it a joy to look back on how certain books shaped me. In a year for the record books (COVID, Political polarization, etc.), I am especially thankful for the books I read this year. No matter what genre I was reading, it seemed like every book was timely and beneficial.
If you haven’t read my books of the year lists before, quick warning: These are not books limited to being released in 2020 and I am not saying the books below are the best books of 2020 (although some should make that list). The books listed below are my favorite of 2020. I hope this list serves you well and encourages more reading in 2021. Enjoy!
Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers
In 2015 I read Thomas Goodwin’s The Heart of Christ. That book changed me forever. Dane Ortlund has taken Goodwin’s and many other Puritan’s heartwarming theology of Christ’s heart for his people and made it accessible. What is so shocking about Gentle and Lowly is the wonder and awe that abounds, but even more so, the reality that most readers find themselves asking, “Why have I not heard this more?” I read this book 3 times this year and cannot express the deep comfort and joy it brought to me.
Runner-ups: Remember Death: The Surprising Hope to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough; Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage by Gavin Ortlund.
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners
Ray Ortlund is somewhat known for being a pastor to pastors. Over the years, his books and sermons have been a great comfort to me. He is like that father you know loves you, will say the tough stuff you need to hear, but then gently walk along with you into the presence of Christ. His commentary on Isaiah is no different. Every chapter takes you into the meaning of Isaiah’s Gospel, as well as delivers a climax that finds it’s glorious point in the person and work of Christ. Ortlund delivers the warmth and conviction you’d expect from someone whose been in the presence of Christ (Isa. 6:1-7).
Runner-ups: The Prophecy of Isaiah by J. Alec Motyer.
Michael Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible
This category is the toughest for me because hermeneutics is what I enjoy reading the most. It was a really tough call but Heiser takes the top of my list because he made me really work through some passages. Now, I do not agree with all his conclusions but I highly enjoyed this book and learned so much. What this book primarily did was raise questions and curiosity again. I highly recommend reading this alongside your Bible and with a few trusted people.
Runner-ups: “He Descended to the Dead” An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday by Matthew Y. Emerson; Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation: Ancient Wisdom for Current Controversy by Gavin Ortlund; Who is God?: Key Moments of Biblical Revelation by Richard Bauckham.
Arshay Cooper, A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team
What an incredible story! To read the story of Arshay and his upbringing in inner-city Chicago invites you into a seemingly hopeless story. Yet, through the transformation of Arshay’s mom, God’s grace through the service of others, Arshay’s story and life are nothing short of the explosive power of God’s grace. Read this and then read it with someone else.
Runner-ups: The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William Manchester and Paul Reid; The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.
Andrew Peterson, The Wingfeather Saga
This 3 book series was hands down my favorite reading of 2020. Peterson’s ability to write fiction is a gift that infuses love, ethics, brokenness, and redemption. It may have been the realities of 2020 but I found this series to be a most timely escape. Yet, what I found was more of a lesson on wonder and awe; an equipping in family care and courage; an empowering to be weak and depend on Christ’s strength (2 Cor. 12:9). I really can’t sum up the importance this series had on my life and I hope to apply even a sliver of it. I don’t care how old you are or how much you think you don’t need fiction, this book leaves no person unchanged.
Runner-ups: Harry Potter by J.K Rowling (I may write a separate review of this series eventually. It is a fantastic series and not one bit overrated); The Ascendance Series by Jennifer A. Nielsen; Echo Island by Jared C. Wilson.
Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander
Blaber has applied his Delta Force training to everyday leadership. This book helped me remember that a lot of my own military training is useful, especially in pastoral ministry. He takes some of his most memorable stories of leading others and helps readers take a look at their life and lead in a more confident and other-centered way to accomplish the mission.
Dan Allender, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
This is one of those books that was sitting on my shelf for a while. I knew it would be helpful in counseling others but I also wasn’t ready to deal with some of my own past. This book made me angry, sad, hopeful, etc. To not read it without those emotions seems disingenuous. Allender helped me look at my own past, be honest, and be ready to walk with others. Great resource.
Runner-ups: The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Curt Thompson.
I would love to hear about some of your favorite books from 2020 as well. I hope this list serves you well.