Best books of 2020

I know.  This is late.  I had good intentions.  But I just didn’t get it done. (I might have been reading another book instead.)

So a few weeks into the new year, here are some of the best books I read last year. As I did last year, I will categorize them around some general themes — theology, spiritual life, history/biography, and fiction.  Given that I put together a list of the best books I read in the first half of last year, I will confine this list to the best books of the last half of last year.

I have also compiled lists for a few other years (regrettably, I have not made these lists consistently).  Here are a few that I found particularly helpful and enjoyable last year.

Theological books:

  • Reforming Joy, Tim Chester.  The book is helpful in explaining the Reformation and then relating it both to the contemporary church and demonstrating the roots of the Reformation in Galatians.
  • God’s Glory Alone, David Vandrunen.  This book sat on my Kindle shelf for several years before I read it last year. It is an excellent treatment of an essential truth.
  • Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter, Thomas Schreiner.  An important book on an essential topic.  Schreiner is an outstanding Greek scholar, but he writes this book so that it is accessible to any reader.
  • With All Your Heart, A. Craig Troxel.  A much-anticipated book, Troxel effectively explains the nature of the heart and how to change so that your heart is one that follows Christ.
  • When the Stars Disappear, Mark Talbot.  I first listened to Talbot speak on the topic of suffering about 10 years ago, and he mentioned he was working on this book (which now apparently is a series of books on suffering); I have been looking for this book since then.  It did not disappoint.  If you are suffering, or you know someone who is suffering, or if you think you might suffer someday in the future (and you will), then this book is for you.
  • Do Miracles Happen Today? Tim Chester.  This is a clear, concise treatment of a controversial topic.  Chester is becoming a favorite writer of mine.  The “Questions Christians Ask” series in which this title appears is generally quite helpful.  The books are usually about 100 pages and biblically astute.

Spiritual life books:

  • Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund. Not only was this the best book I read last year, it might be the best book I have read in 10 years.  This is a must read for every believer.
  • Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? Sam Allberry.  This is not the first book Allberry has written on sexuality; I have found all of them helpful.
  • Stay Salt, Rebecca Manley Pippert.  I need help in evangelizing and I need to be reminded of the joy of evangelism, so I read books on evangelism regularly.  This was one of the more helpful ones I read last year.
  • Uneclipsing the Son, Rick Holland.  I read this book in anticipation of Rick being our men’s conference speaker in February (sign up here); while written about 10 years ago, it speaks well to the struggles so many in Christendom are having with fear and anxiety in 2020-21.  His premise is that so many struggle in their spiritual lives because the light of Christ has become eclipsed with too many temporal pleasures and pressures — and then he helps us remove those eclipsing impediments.

Historical and biographical books:

  • The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper.  There are seven biographies from Piper’s pen; I’ve read and appreciated all of them.  This is probably my favorite of all of them, and this year I discovered that several of the Piper biographies in “The Swans Shall Not be Silent” series are available for free to subscribers of Audible through its Plus Catalogue. In addition to this one, I also re-read and enjoyed The Roots of Endurance.
  • Sandhills Boy, Elmer Kelton.  A book by Kelton about Kelton (it’s an autobiography).  Kelton is one of my favorite writers; it was enjoyable reading about the influences that made him what he was as a writer.
  • The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America, Joe Posnanski.  I have both the Kindle and audio versions of this book.  It’s a delightful journey between a writer and one of the greatest ballplayers from the Negro Leagues. One of the top secular books I read last year.
  • Inside Baseball, Tom Verducci.  Another book that sat on my shelf for a while; I savored each essay over a long period of time.  If you like baseball, you’ll enjoy the insights of this excellent writer.
  • The Longest Winter, Alex Kershaw.  This is the second book I’ve read by Kershaw (I also read The Bedford Boys earlier last year).  He is an excellent writer and a thorough historian.

Fiction (because periodically, I just like a good story):

  • The Colors of All the Cattle, Alexander McCall Smith.  Who doesn’t enjoy the subtle and wise philosophizing of Mma Ramotswe?  The theology isn’t always biblical, but the stories speak to the nature of mankind and are gentle and delightful.  The audio book reader is particularly enjoyable.
  • O, Pioneers!  Willa Cather.  My wife and daughter got me reading Cather a few years ago.  This is another of her excellent works.
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.  This is a classic book (not just a movie), and I read it in December every few years. (Many free versions of the book are available for Kindle.)
  • Buffalo Wagons, Elmer Kelton.  I read a book about Kelton, and another one by Kelton.  It was a good cowboy book year.  (I admit that one reason I chose to read this particular book is because it was one of the last Kelton books I hadn’t read that was narrated by George Guidall.  He is my favorite book reader; when he reads Kelton’s works, it just doesn’t get much better.)

So that’s the “best of” list.  I read more books, but that’s the best of what I read. Maybe you will find something you also like and are helped by from this list.

And now it’s time to pick up another book to see if it makes the list for 2021.

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