2020 has been a rough year. But it did allow for more reading time. And, man aren’t you glad there is an abundance of remarkable books out there to be read!
Here are my favorites from this year, in no particular order. . .
I heard for years how good this book was and I wasn’t disappointed. Probably one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. Agassi is honest. Agassi is real. Agassi is, well, open. There is much that captured my attention. Perhaps the most, however, was how much a father influences the internal being of his/her child. You do not need to be a tennis fan to enjoy this book. His story gripped my mind and emotions from start to finish.
Slow Medicine: The Way to Healing by Victoria Sweet
This book was mentioned in passing in an interview I listened to between Gordon MacDonald and Carey Nieuwhof. MacDonald spoke of it in such a way that intrigued me to purchase and read. I am glad I did. Sweet, a medical professional, writes to show how – through a personal event – medicine has become restricted to screens and computers. Though appreciative of the modern advances of medicine, Sweet argues for the importance of doctors, nurses, medical personnel, etc. to take time to look each patient in the eye. In other words, though technology is critical for medical care, nothing replaces taking time to pay attention to each individual person. To say this book challenged me pastorally is a massive understatement.
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett Graff
I downloaded this book on my Audible app prior to vacation this summer. I listened each morning as I exercised (read: walk several miles). Even though it was 4,000 degrees outside, I did NOT want to stop walking. I could not stop listening! It is sad, yet riveting. Horrific, yet fascinating. Graff did his research and wrote this account so that we would never-ever forget the events that transpired that horrible day. He leaves no stone unturned, and through meticulous and hundreds of interviews, takes the reader (listener) through the events of that ominous day. With 2021 being the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, I recommend purchasing the book and – through the lens of those who were there – relive the moments that many of us remember so well.
Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and Mystery in the Making by Andrew Peterson
For years, I have enjoyed (loved!) Peterson’s music. I approached his book a bit apprehensively, simply because I know of few musicians who write both books and music well. I learned Peterson is one who can. His somewhat autobiographical approach is inviting. His counsel for artists (musicians, writers, preachers, teachers, etc.) is biblically wise. I appreciated most Peterson’s willingness to be real and challenge the reader to never take lightly the calling God has placed on his/her life. Perhaps more than any other this year, Adorning the Dark pushed me to do more writing, and to do so creatively.
Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self by Chuck DeGroat
Anyone who knows me knows that I am big proponent of counseling. All of us need it – if not all the time, at least most of the time. Wholeheartedness is like meeting with a professional, Jesus-loving counselor, at your own pace. Though this shouldn’t take the place of personal counseling – DeGroat has an amazing gift of opening your soul and helping the reader deal with our Father who desires our wholeness. If you are looking for a book to help with specific, or general, areas of healing – and do so in a slow, deliberate, and devotional way – I recommend this book.
Oh. My. Goodness. Confession time: I approached this book thinking I would be able to point fingers at many church leaders I have been around throughout my life. I came away humbled, broken, and hopeful. Using years of experience with church leaders and church members, DeGroat reveals a much needed toxic topic that begs for discussion and open dialogue. He helps the reader discern their own narcissistic tendencies by way of the enneagram. Even if you are not a fan of the enneagram, I recommend this book. If you are church leader, please get this book and read it slowly. If you are a long-time church member, please get this book and read it slowly. If you are new to the church, pray that your leaders will get this book and read it slowly. It is a hard, but necessary read for those in the local church.
Eugene Peterson. Devotional thoughts from his writings and sermons from the four Gospels. Need I say more? Looking for a devotional read in 2021? You just found it.
Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations between Father and Son by Eugene (and Eric) Peterson
I SO enjoyed reading this book! Eric Peterson (one of Eugene’s sons who is a pastor) put this together for the world. They are letters Eugene wrote to his son. They aren’t just letters from a father to a son, but wise pastoral counsel that any church leader can benefit from. Eric allows us “behind the curtain” so to speak on how a pastor-father counseled, advised, and loved his pastor-son. Reading the love Eugene had for his son and the way he challenged/encouraged him as he led a local congregation was both rich and sweet. A must read for any pastor.
Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann by Walter Brueggemann (edited by Edwin Searcy)
I had heard of Walter Brueggemann prior to 2020. I had read a bit of his stuff here and there. But for some reason, I dove in during my sabbatical. Boy am I glad I did! His writings are not only immense, but so good! This work is a book of prayers he wrote and prayed throughout various seasons of life and ministry. If your prayer life needs a jolt and/or you simply need a book to help you become a better pray-er, I recommend letting Brueggemann open your heart and mind to God with a freshness of Scripture your soul needs.
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund
Beyond a doubt, my favorite read of 2020. Ortlund’s book may have jumped into my top-five all time, life-impacting books (outside the Bible). What makes this work so helpful (for me) is the way God gifted Ortlund to peal back layers of Christ’s heart. Scripture truths are brought to bear on the reader that have been in the Bible the whole time. But, for me, I had not taken time to truly notice or focus on. If you are curious about what drives Jesus; or if you simply want a deeper dive into the way Jesus is wired as the God-man, get this book and let it blow your mind and heart.
What books did you enjoy reading in 2020? What are you most looking forward to reading in 2021?