2020 may have been a year like no other, but that doesn’t mean that some good things didn’t happen. This happened to be a year when I committed to reading books that would help me grow and think. I tried to commit to read 30 minutes a day from my chosen reading stack of developmental, theological, or devotional tomes. (I also read for pleasure each night before bed, fictional titles that were just for fun.)
Now, I’m not the voracious reader that supposedly Tim Keller is (3 books/week), or Spurgeon (6), Rick Warren (7), Don Carson (9), or Albert Mohler (10), but I probably read more this year than I have since my college days when such things were assigned. I’d like to say I kept to the 30-minute goal throughout the year, but it did tail off toward the end of the year, so that I I hit my goal of 24 books early in the 4th quarter and only added 1 more by the end for a total of 25 non-fiction books for my growth and development.
Here’s a little bit about my 2020 reading list.
3 titles from Michael Hyatt. I’ve become a bit of a Hyatt disciple, using his Full Focus Planner and gobbling up new titles as they’re released. I started Free to Focus in 2019 and finished it early in 2020, and this productivity system, along with his planner, has revolutionized my time management and goal-setting. The Vision-Driven Leader and No-Fail Communication were both helpful in my professional life, and we adopted several systems from these books.
Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. This was read as part of my training for becoming an elder. I’ve been a Christian since I was 10, but my greatest growth in the past 10-12 years has been in my understanding of the gospel. This book was part of that. I wish I had learned this 40 years ago.
Does God Control Everything? by RC Sproul. This tiny little book is part of Sproul’s “Crucial Questions” series. Written in his clear, inimitable style. And, yes. Yes, God does control everything.
One-to-One Bible Reading by David R. Helm. From the people who brought us The Trellis and the Vine, this is a handy booklet for getting you started in evangelistic or discipling endeavors of Bible reading.
Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley. What Stanley lacks in theology, he makes up for in practical leadership advice. He’s an effective communicator, and this book is an example of that.
True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer. This is a title I hadn’t read from Schaeffer back in my college days when I was reading a lot from this theologian-philosopher. It’s been awhile since I’d read him, and this was heady stuff but fitting in with what I’ve been learning about the gospel.
The Reformed Faith by Loraine Boettner. According to Goodreads, this was my shortest book. I find it beneficial to regularly remind myself of the doctrines of grace. This book did the trick.
Worship Leaders, We are not Rock Stars by Stephen Miller. As an occasional worship musician, this was a helpful reminder of what we need to be about. I could have used more negative examples, but I’m sure he didn’t want to cast aspersions on other worship leaders.
Mover of Men and Mountains by R.G. LeTourneau. This book was a gift from a customer and as I was already somewhat familiar with LeTourneau, I was happy to read this autobiography. His story goes all the way back to the late 19th century, and it was interesting to see how this engineer and inventor devised ways to move great amounts of earth in his building endeavors. There was also a bit of cringiness as he spoke in glowing terms of how much forest could be cleared in South America and Africa in short periods of time. But, it was a different time with different sensibilities.
Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper. This short book was quickly released in the wake of the onset of the COVID pandemic, almost like those supermarket paperbacks that come out a week after a celebrity dies. This book was somewhat controversial when a head army chaplain secured copies for his subordinates. This was due to Piper’s contention that one of the reasons for the pandemic may have been God’s judgment on sin. However, this book is biblically rich and almost a prophetic word that we need to hear.
The Gospel-Centered Life by Robert Thune and Will Walker. Another book in my journey toward a greater understanding of the gospel, I would recommend this for any small group to tackle.
North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek. This was a gift from a friend. It’s the first-person account of an ultramarathoner who ran the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail in just over 46 days. Nothing in his interesting account has inspired me to try to beat his record.
Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy. When I was prepping to become an elder in my church, I identified the concept of “God’s kingdom” as one that I needed further study on. This was one book that was recommended.
The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits by Tommy Caldwell. I read this after seeing the movie The Dawn Wall. Both tell Tommy’s story of free-climbing the Dawn Wall face of El Capitan. Yosemite is one of my favorite places, and this captures the climbing culture well.
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I worked through this fine collection one prayer at a time in my bedtime ritual. The Puritans had a way with words. Beautiful prayers.
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ by John Piper, others. This book was the transcript from the 2004 Desiring God National Conference, and the content is even more relevant today, particularly the address by Al Mohler on homosexuality. It was rather odd to hear Josh Harris and his “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” spoken of in positive terms, given that he has since disavowed that teaching and eventually gave up the faith. Sad.
The Passionate Preaching of Martyn-Lloyd Jones by Steven Lawson. I love biographies as shown by no less than 5 read this past year. As an ocassional preacher, I was interested in how Lloyd-Jones went about it. It was good to be reminded of the need to align to and preach from the text of Scripture. Funny stories are not necessary.
The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689. I read this also as a part of my bedtime ritual to remind myself of my core beliefs.
Pickin’ Up the Pieces: The Heart and Soul of Country Rock Pioneer Richie Furay by Richie Furay. Richie launched the bands Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band in the 60s and 70s, seeking fame before coming to faith in Jesus Christ. After a successful solo career, he became a Colorado pastor. He’s still alive, still sings both his old catalog and his newer songs.
The Gift of Faith: Discovering the Glory of God in Salvation by Bryan Holstrom. A well-written exposition of the early chapters of Ephesians and other Scriptures, laying out a Reformed understanding of the doctrines of grace.
A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent. I highly recommend this short book! Based on the idea of “preaching the gospel to yourself every day,” it contains short passages that remind us of our standing in the gospel. This was my second time through this book.
The Grace Effect: What Happens When Our Brokenness Collides with God’s Grace by Kyle Idleman. This is an excerpt from a larger book. It’s a comforting message of encouragement in the grace of God.
Deep Discipleship by J.T. English. This book is a call for churches to take seriously the need for creating learning environments (and not just community environments) in their discipleship programs. Much of this book resonated with me in my passion for biblical literacy among God’s people.
There were several other fictional books that I read for pleasure (I finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy – again). I’ve also created a stack for 2021, sure to be added to as I discover and buy new books. I am hoping to hit 40 books this year, all-inclusive of reading for pleasure and reading for development and growth.