Lists of 2020: Books
It’s December, which means that it’s time for “year in review” lists. And the “Best/Top/Favorite Books” lists are some of my favorite. Take a look and add a few titles to your 2021 reading list. 1
I’ll continue to add to the list as the month goes on. In no particular order…
This is simply a list of the books (Christian and non-Christian, but all non-fiction) that I thought were the best in the past year. “Best” doesn’t mean I agreed with everything in them; it means I found these books—all published in 2020 (or the very end of 2019)—a strong combination of thoughtful, useful, interesting, helpful, insightful, and challenging.
Here are 12 books I recently endorsed (nine for 2020, three for 2021):
I should tell it, as Ryan Howard said in proposing to Kelly Kapoor: “I don’t know how I’m gonna feel tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, but I do know that right here, right now, all I can think about is spending the rest of my life with her. Again, that could change.” That’s not a good attitude toward marriage, but it is toward my end-of-the-year lists.
Today I want to offer my picks for the top 10 books of 2020. I have put them in some semblance of order with my first pick at the top and the rest in roughly descending order. In each case I’ve included a short description drawn from my full-length review. I guess you’ll see as you browse through the list that my focus this year was on contemporary issues…
Our picks for the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.
My hope is that my 2020 list of “favorite reads” will provide a few titles that may make their way onto your Christmas wish list or provide some good gift ideas.
Each year our editors, along with dozens of key contributors, review the nominations from Christian publishers using the following fourfold criteria:
- offers gospel-centered argument and application;
- includes faithful and foundational use of Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament;
- fosters spiritual discernment of contemporary trials and trends; and
- encourages efforts to unite and renew the church.
We asked pastors around the world a simple question: what books did you read in 2020 that helped you be a better pastor? We’ve curated their responses below.
Over the past couple of weeks the blogs and sites I read have been humming with list after list of the top books of 2020. It seems that just about every avid reader I follow is eager to share his or her picks for the year that was. I love these lists and especially love comparing them to see which books become the consensus favorites. With that in mind, and based on perhaps 20 or 25 such lists, I analyzed them and narrowed it down to just a few books that received a lot of attention.
In a year with less travel and more reading, the following pages present 25 books accessible by general readers, not just by scholars or specialists. We emphasize books that contribute to understanding big controversies and great divides, including creation-evolution battles in science, racial and religious splits in American society, and times of war and revolution in our past. Here are our 2020 Books of the Year in five categories.
Reflecting back on 2020, it was a hard year in many respects yet publications were not one of them. Faithful authors and faithful publishers delivered a plethora of wonderful volumes this year. As readers, we had much “good company” to accompany us along the way in these odd times and for that we can all be grateful.
The Wednesday Conversation: White Privilege
The guys over at the Wednesday Conversation podcast had a thoughtful and helpful discussion on the topic of White Privilege in today’s episode. From the show notes:
In our conversations about race, the term ‘white privilege’ is being used a lot. Our culture seems to lack a clear consensus about what the phrase actually means, which leads to further polarization. In this episode, we seek to bring some clarity to the confusion by exploring what the Bible has to say about privilege. We also explore the dangers of uncritically adopting this language without careful definition and nuance.
Careful definitions and nuance are sorely lacking in many of today’s conversations about racial justice, both inside and outside the church, on the right and on the left. I’m hopeful that discussions like this one will become more common and that they will help Christians to have more fruitful conversation about racism in the U.S.
Happy Trails, Retro 1951?
With the new year and new decade it’s also time for something new for a handful of the Retro51 team …. retirement. Retro51 as you know it, will be making some changes and going on a sabbatical. What does this mean? We are still trying to figure it out, but there is a potential for new ownership or Retro could come back with a new business plan that we feel will thrive in the ever changing retail market. It is also possible that the Retro51 brand will be retired.
This is a bummer. I love Retro51 pens.
It sounds like there’s a chance that the Retro51 brand will stick around. I hope that’s the case and that any potential new owners steward the brand well.
These are ten of the best dollars I spend in the App Store each year.
Union with Christ, Communion with the Triune God
Rankin Wilbourne, in the final pages of his book Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God:
We have communion with all three persons of the Trinity, each in turn; and each in turn cares for us and ministers to us. This is how union with the cosmic Christ becomes an everyday reality—as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit impress these truths on our hearts and minds even as we labor to be brought near.
We have communion with the love of God the Father. Perhaps you don’t have trouble believing that Jesus loves you, but God the Father remains a shadowy figure, distant and dark. Adding to this distance, sometimes we speak as if Jesus had to die to convince or coerce his Father into loving us, as if the Father were unwilling. But this is a tragic misunderstanding of God’s heart. It is only because God the Father loved us first, while we were yet his enemies, that he was willing to deliver up his only Son for us (Rom. 8: 32). Such is the love of God the Father, with whom we now have communion. What heights of love!
We have communion with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is full of “grace upon grace” (John 1: 16). Jesus, the only child of God by nature, is yet not ashamed to welcome us into his family by adoption through his blood. Our communion with God the Father is made possible by the grace of our Lord Jesus, who is our mediator (1 Tim. 2: 5) and who never grows tired of us or weary of dispensing his grace. What depths of peace!
And we have communion with the Holy Spirit, our comforter and advocate. In the courtroom of our conscience, when the voice of our own heart rises up to condemn us (1 John 3: 20), the Spirit of God bears witness with ours that we are God’s children (Rom. 8: 16) and gives us, beyond what words alone could, certainty of our salvation by pointing us back to our Savior (John 16: 14). The Spirit subjectively assures us of what is objectively true. What blessed assurance!