Top 10 Books of 2020

In 2020 I read many books by people who have different views than I have, I read several books on CRT and Liberation Theology as well as some written by Progressive Theologians. I found it interesting to see the world as they see it. I also found it strengthen my resolve to fight for clarity in my thoughts and charity in my interactions with those with whom I disagree. As a result, my reading list was a bit more eclectic than most years. As I look forward to 2021 I do so with a mixture of excitement and sadness as I will be finishing my Seminary degrees. I don’t know if I disliked a book that was assigned to me and will miss the rigor of reading with a deadline. I am excited however to read what I want when I want. I plan on rereading some of my favorite books I read in obtaining my degree as well as much more fiction and hope to write a devotional for pre-teens before the year is out. That being said here are my top ten books for 2020.


The Trellis and the Vine
This book has been on my reading list for a while but had not had the time to get to it. It was required for school so I read it in November. Such a timely book for any pastor to read. If ever we needed the message and strategy of connection over programs it’s now. It ends with an eerie question of what we would do if we had to lead through a pandemic.

Imagine this… As we write, the first worrying signs of a swine-flu pandemic are making headlines around the world. Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned by the government for reasons of public health and safety. And let’s say that due to some catastrophic combination of local circumstances, this ban had to remain in place for 18 months. How would your congregation of 120 members continue to function—with no regular church gatherings of any kind, and no home groups (except for groups of three)? If you were the pastor, what would you do?

ColinMarshall & Tony Payne


If that quote doesn’t make you want to read this book nothing will.


Live not by lies
Such a timely book. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by what Rod calls “soft totalitarianism” Live Not By Lies teaches American Christians a method for resistance:
    SEE: Acknowledge the reality of the situation.
    JUDGE: Assess reality in the light of what we as Christians know to be true.
    ACT: Take action to protect truth.
The most powerful weapon we have against the secularism of our age is seeing the truth and speaking the truth. Every Christian should read this book.


Atomic Habits
I haven’t read a ton of leadership books over the past few years but this one was recommended by everyone. I read it and was suprised by the simplicity and practical application of what Clear argues for. Also he likes baseball.


Christ Centered Preaching
I have read several books on expository preaching this one is one of the best in terms of explaining the importance of expository sermons as well as the practical examples that walk you through the process of doing so. I read this for a class Dr. Chapell taught at my Seminary. He is an equally gifted communicator and writer.


On Reading Well
One of my Master’s Degrees is in Christian and Classical Thought. My professors reinforced to us over and over again the importance of reading the great conversation in light of the Gospel because every little story we write points to the great story written for us. Dr. Prior highlights a classical work and the corresponding virtue it exemplifies. The result of her work is a more thoughtful reading of books, many of which were written by Christians, that was written with the desire to empower and inform a more virtuous public. Dr. Prior’s explanation of Flannery O’Connor was particularly helpful to me personally as I have read most of O’Connor’s work and missed most of the beauty within them because I was so taken back by the violence and tragedy I missed the redemptive nature of her stories.


Valley of Vision
I have used Valley of Vision to aid my daily times of prayer devotional for a couple of years. Going through this book slowly to meditate and processes its content fully. I found so many of these prayers directing my thoughts and strengthening my faith like few books I have ever read.

‘When used slowly, for meditation and prayer, these pages have often been used by God’s Spirit to kindle my dry heart.’ ——MARK DEVER

I can’t agree with Mark more. I encourage you to add this to your personal time of devotion. There is something so helpful and challenging about reading the prayers of others.


Scripture as Communication
Such a fantastic book. Dr. Brown addresses both of the extremes of Biblical interpretation. In our modern culture, the Bible is looked at as a set of rules to live by or stories to inspire. A prominent pastor in a recent book said that the Old Testament is for inspiration. Brown’s argument that the Bible is communication changes how we read, interpret, and interact with scripture. It is a much-needed vantage point in the present hermetical landscape of the evangelical church.



Deep Work
This is the second book by Newport I’ve read. He is very clear and extremely practical. I have been putting his simple yet profound ideas to the test and have experienced excellent results. We as a society are more distracted than ever we must fight for focus. I used to brag about how many things we can do at once. No longer. I join Newport in striving to do one thing at a time really really well.


Persuasion
Persuasion is a story of love and loss and patient endurance. In her excellent summary of the book which was my inspiration to read it in full Karen Swallow Prior says “The essence of patience is the willingness to endure suffering.” Patience is a lost virtue in our instant secular culture. We put it off till later so we can have it now. The result of this type of living is moral and spiritual bankruptcy. The story was a story of love that lost because of obedience to authority and refined and rekindled because of divine providence. It was my first Jane Austen novel and definitely not my last.

Patience is a virtue, not in overlooking wrong, but in refusing to do wrong in overcoming wrong.

Karen Swallow Prior



Black Rednecks & White Liberals
This year I read several books on race I found Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers and if you avoid the liberation theology at the end Cone’s work on lynching. The least helpful was White Fragility. Over the course of the past several months, I saw this title encouraged by several pastors. Pastor, please don’t do that. Out of all those titles, the reason I chose Thomas Sowell is that he addresses the topic of race in a way that is straightforward and hopeful. To say that being white makes you a racist and there is nothing you can do about it is not the answer to the real problem of racism. Sowell is thoughtful, hopeful, and clear. He is also African American as opposed to DiAngelo who is white. No matter where you fall on the political landscape it is helpful to understand issues of race and how to work toward speaking against real racism in our world today. I believe that Sowell’s work is a great asset in understanding the history of race and helpful solutions for today.

Here are the other books I read this year.

  1. Growth Groups by Colin Marshall
  2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  3. Missions by Andy Johnson
  4. Canoeing The Mountains by Tod Bolsinger
  5. The Science of Missions by J.H. Bavanick
  6. White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
  7. Center Church by Tim Keller
  8. Letters to a Young Pastor by Eugene Peterson
  9. I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
  10. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey
  11. The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
  12. Suffering and Joy by Henri Nouwen
  13. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  14. Leadership for the Time of a Pandemic by Tod Bolsinger
  15. Confronting Old Testament Controversies by Tremper Longman
  16. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by William Webb
  17. The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett
  18. The Bible Tells Me So…. by Peter Enns
  19. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
  20. George MacDonald by C.S. Lewis
  21. Evolution and the Fall by James K.A. Smith
  22. In the Year of Our Lord 1943 by Alan Jacobs
  23. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell
  24. American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson
  25. Resilient by Valerie Bell and Matt Markins
  26. Christ-Centered Sermons by Bryan Chapell
  27. A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
  28. Uncommon Ground by Timothy Keller
  29. Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson
  30. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  31. Reading the Bible With Heart and Mind by Tremper Longman
  32. Lethal Agent by Vince Flynn
  33. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
  34. A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert Stein
  35. Hermeneutics by Henry Virkler
  36. Color of Compromise by Jamar Tisby
  37. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson
  38. The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges
  39. A Theory of Everything by Alister McGrath
  40. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
  41. Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson
  42. Red War by Vince Flynn

Five Audiobooks You Have to Read Instead of the Physical Books

I love the way a physical book feels the way a book smells when you have a physical book in their hand. There are few things better than a great book. I agree with Lewis who said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” As much as I enjoy a physical book there are some books that are just easier to read and resource on the kindle. Likewise, there are some books that you have to listen to on audio because they are just that good. I would go so far as to say that you really should listen to these audiobooks rather than read the physical copy.

Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi – This book is the powerful recounting of the story of a Muslim looking for Allah and seeking truth and God in his mercy broke into his world and revealed himself to Nabeel in supernatural ways. The narration of the Book was by Nabeel himself it was a powerful story of conversion but why you should listen rather than read is hearing the emotion in Nabeel’s voice as he recounts the cost of following Christ as someone who grew up in a Muslim home. The cost was his family but the price was worth it. Such a powerful book you must listen to rather than read.

The Four Loves – By C.S. Lewis – Why would you not read a physical book by C.S. Lewis and listen to the audio instead? Well, when it’s the only recording of Lewis reading his own book. It’s, s to hear the voice of Lewis. A rare treat that you will thank me for later. Skip the book and go for the audio.



The Complete Chronicles of Narnia: The Classic BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation – I am a huge fan of all things Narnia. I have read all seven books several times. If you are looking to dip your toe in for the first time or if you have young kids you want to introduce to Narnia the BBC Dramatized version is the one for you.



David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell – There is something about an author reading their own book they do a much better job conveying what they wrote but also the intangible emotions they felt when they wrote what they wrote. David and Goliath was a powerful book about the power of underdogs. In this book, Gladwell is at his best. I rarely cry reading books. The end of this book was one of the exceptions. Powerful. Much more power by audio than by the book.


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This is a classic that is a must read. The audio recording was done by Sissy Spacek and was excellent and engaging. People often argue what is better the book or the movie I say neither the audio book was better.


My Ten Favorite Books of 2017

This year I wasn’t sure how many books I would be able to read other than the books I had to read for Seminary. So to maximize my time I tried to remove time killers like I Netflix and the increasingly painful to watch cable news. I went with my strategy of having a physical book, an audiobook and a kindle book I am always reading at the same time. This year I read more old books than I have ever before. Some of that was for school part of that was because I believe that the crazier things get in the evangelical world the more we are going to need the voices of those who have been there and done that already. What orthodox believers need to comfort themselves with is not politics but the reality there is no new heresy, there is no new theologically liberal idea that someone hasn’t thought of already. You don’t know this unless you read old books. Like every year I encourage you to pick up an old book.

So here are my 10 favorite books for 2017

Parenting by Paul David Tripp

I haven’t read a parenting book in a while so when this one came out I jumped on it. Sandra and I actually have been using this for a small group we are doing with some friends. Tripp’s opening salvo states that parenting is primarily about confession. The whole book is framed around the idea that we need God’s help as much as our kids. Such a crucial read for every parent. We are going to be using it again this spring for our next small group.

A Practical Guide to Culture by Kunkle and Stonestreet 

Raising kids in today’s world doesn’t happen by parents hoping for the best, it happens because of relentless effort and relentless trust. We trust God but we also have to put in the effort to help our kids not just know the Bible but to allow the Bible to frame their thinking. Lewis says it brilliantly this way “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This is one of those books it helps you see everything through the lens of the gospel over the lens of your gut instinct which is always wrong. If you have children anywhere near middle school buy this book.

What Every Boy and Girl Need to Know

I love books and am always looking for books for myself as well as my wife and kids. One of the books that has caught my eye over the years is the The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls. They are fantastic full of practical helps, historical facts and fun games and activities. They are heaps of fun to pick up and read wherever as each chapter is self contained and you can read them in any order you want. It’s a brilliant concept and a fun read. The one thing you notice for a book that teaches kids the nostalgic arts of marbles and tea time, is the almost total absence of religion.

Recently I stumbled on a book called The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith. Something I am always looking for as a Pastor of Families and as a father is resources to help disciple kids. This book is laid out similar to the Dangerous and Daring books for kids. How it is different is its focus is around theology, church history, practical how-to’s and fun things to-do.

One of the things that concerns me for my own kids and for the kids I pastor is overwhelming influences in their lives that teach them good but not ultimate things. I am concerned about what my kids are being discipled into. I am not so sure that one hour a week is enough for kids to gain their footing in the truths of the world or see the beauty of the gospel. We need more resources that are practically useful and theologically deep. Not an easy combo by any stretch but one Champ Thornton accomplishes in his Radical Book for Kids. He does an excellent job of making complex ideas accessible.

My Top 8 Books of 2015

I enjoyed so many of the books I read last year to narrow the list down 8 is a challenge indeed. But if had to recommend only 8 books out of the books I read last year these would be it. Each one challenged me personally in unique ways. Each of them is well worth the time it would take you to read them. Enjoy.

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True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
Francis Schaeffer is amazing. I only regret I never stumbled upon him sooner. He is best known for How Shall I Then Live also an excellent read but True Spirituality has to be my favorite book by Schaeffer to date. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from a book that is a must-read for any Christian.

In our culture, we are often told that we should not say no to our children. Indeed, in our society repression is often correlated with evil. We have a society that holds itself back from nothing, except perhaps to gain something more in a different area.

There is one difference between the practice of justification and sanctification. As justification deals with our guilt, and sanctification  deals with the problem of the power of sin in our lives as Christians, justification is once for all, and the Christian life is moment by moment

When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God, or I have ceased to be submissive to him.

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The Republic by Plato

A sad reality of the state of our school systems is we no longer teach our kids classically. They are not taught how to think but increasingly through programs like no child left behind and common core are taught what to think. I was never forced to read the classics in school and that is to my detriment.  The Republic should be mandatory for every student before they graduate. The Republic created categories in my mind that didn’t previously exist. It’s treatment of education and politics make it a must read for any person who wants to be a productive member of society. The Republic was an excellent book. It is definitely one of those books you read more than one time.

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Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcy

Nancy Pearcy has a gift that is definitely needed in our world today. Her ability to describe and articulate what a true biblical worldview should be is amazing. I highly recommend Finding Truth and Total Truth. For any High School senior going to College this fall these books are more than a good idea they are essential.

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Preaching by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller is my favorite preacher so a book by him on preaching for me was a rare treat. To see how he thinks and where he is coming from as he communicates is amazing. I have read several books on preaching. Keller’s book is by far the best I have read, he is practical, spiritual and overall helpful. If you communicate to any size group his stuff on preaching to the heart is gold.

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A Free People’s Suicide by Os Guinness

Os Guinness is becoming one of my favorite authors. His insight and classical background give him such depth in everything he says. A Free People’s Suicide is a thoughtful critic of the American experiment from the outside in. Guinness has a genuine love of America without being blinded to her weaknesses. He is approaching the topic of America’s freedom and responsibility as an outsider so he equally implicates Republicans and Democrats alike. Really balanced and very convicting. Great book

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Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower

Loved this book by Jack Klumpenhower. It was much needed among the growing number of books for youth pastors and kids pastors. He does an excellent job of explaining the need for gospel-centered teaching and then explains how we can do that more faithful in the classroom. I bought a copy for everyone who preaches to our kids or youth.

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John Newton: From disgrace to amazing grace by Jonathan Aitken

This was a lengthy treatment of the life of John Newton. A fantastic Biography that did not gloss over the awful life that Christ redeemed. The things Newton faced were staggering. I found this biography so informative and at the same time life-giving. It challenged me to love and trust Christ more. I left with a greater appreciation of the Amazing Grace that saved a wretch like John Newton and especially me.

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The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson

I like Jared’s writing style he doesn’t pull any punches and he isn’t afraid to say things that I am still afraid to say. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his book.

How we “do church” shapes the way people see God and his Son and his ways in the world

It is a customary mantra of ministry that healthy things grow. And yet sometimes healthy things shrink. This is certainly true of our bodies, when we’re eating right and exercising. I mean, the formula doesn’t always work in every circumstance. “Healthy things grow” sounds right. But cancer grows

But the only thing of value the church has to offer is the gospel. I believe that one result of the emerging Experience Economy will be a longing for authenticity. To the extent that the church stages worldly experiences, it will lose its effectiveness.

What was your favorite book of 2015?