John Starke issued a challenge last week:
No pressure! But Starke has a point: in a particularly trying year, it would certainly help to be pointed to good books and posts.
Here, more or less in descending order, are the best new books I’ve read this year (with Amazon affiliate links).
1. Gentle and Lowly: Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund
We all need this book to be reminded of Christ’s heart for us. This book may rank as one of the most important books that will come out this decade. Inspired by Puritans and full of Scriptural insight, this book will nourish and encourage you.
2. What Church Can Be: What Church Can Be: An Optimistic Vision with Blueprints by Matthew Kruse
An experienced pastor applies Paul’s address to the Ephesians elders in the context of an ordinary local church. It’s funny and wise. This book will make you laugh, challenge you, and encourage you in your role within Christ’s church. (Read my full review.)
3. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson
I can’t imagine living in London during the Blitz. Larson tells the story of Churchill’s leadership during this fraught time, with a huge cast of supporting characters. Riveting and inspiring.
4. The Minister’s Wife: A Memoir of Faith, Doubt, Friendship, Loneliness, Forgiveness, and More by Karen Stiller
Karen is a gifted writer, and her memoir The Minister’s Wife is honest and funny. I don’t know how she did it, but reading this book made me love the church, in all its grittiness, even more. (Read my full review.)
5. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage by Gavin Ortlund
You may be familiar with the concept of theological triage. Ortlund helps us think through how to apply this concept in our ministries. Ortlund is always insightful, and the topic couldn’t be more timely.
6. Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg
I love reading about habits, and I’m a fan of Fogg’s work. Fogg demystifies the process of building habits. His insights will help anyone in every area of life, including our spiritual disciplines.
7. Rethink Your Self: The Power of Looking Up Before Looking In by Trevin Wax
Culture tells us to look within to find meaning. Wax shows us why this approach doesn’t work, and points us to a better, more biblical way. Clear and worth passing out. (Read my full review.)
8. Writing for Life and Ministry: A Practical Guide to the Writing Process for Teachers and Preachers by Brandon O’Brien
O’Brien knows that many pastors want to write, but don’t know where to start. This book demystifies the writing process, and provides clear direction on how to get started. Short and helpful.
9. Echo Island by Jared Wilson
Echo Island is a young adult fantasy novel, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. I admire Wilson’s ability to write. The story is engaging, and some of the latter chapters are beautiful and profound.
A Few Others
I haven’t yet read Carl Trueman’s book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, but from what I’ve heard I’m confident it belongs on the list of the top books from this year.
Other great books I read in 2020, but that were published earlier: