Twenty (Favorite) Books in 2020

 

It’s been a terrible year. The worst ever. Yet I read more this year than I ever have before. Scripture, good books and comforting songs became my lifeline. Without Jesus, I am not sure I would have made it through.

It was a terrible year, but God has been so kind. His love for me has not failed.

I just reread my journal entry from January 1, 2020. I wrote this…

The start of a new journal. A new day. A new year. A new decade.

The significance of this moment is not lost on me. The newness of it all floods me with joy. I needed this newness. Desperately! 2019 was not the best year. In fact, it was downright awful.

Oh, I had such high hopes for 2020, but God had other plans. Dave has had funerals for twelve people over the course of these two years, one of those being for my precious Mama. We have had five people whom we love dearly contemplate suicide and we have grieved with friends who were personally gutted by this kind of loss. We have had church issues that have broken our hearts. We have watched families and churches and our country and our world be ripped apart by COVID and political storms. We have mourned the racial divide and the shocking lack of love and compassion.

But there has been light in the midst of all of the darkness. My kids are thriving! My Mom is no longer suffering! And reading kept my eyes off of situations around me and encouraged me to keep my eyes firmly fixed on Christ.

So without further ado, here is my list of my Top Twenty Books in 2020…

  1. “Dawn of Wonder” by Jonathan Renshaw

Most of the books on this list are non-fiction, but this book now tops my list of favorite fiction books. It is a long book, but if you enjoy epic tales, don’t miss this one!

Nessa implored Aedan to stay on good terms with Harriet. Her frequent appeals for him to be accommodating revealed that she saw the discord well enough, but tried to mend it on Aedans’s side rather than where it originated. Without realizing it, she was repeating the fault she had so recently lamented. Too fearful to intervene and hold back the tormenter, she was pleading with the victim to be more submissive. It was a solution that would resolve the conflict while entrenching the problem. Aedan didn’t have the words to understand, but he could feel the wrongness of it.” (page 151)

2. “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson

This book is an encouragement to step out in faith and pursue the passions God has given you. It was one of my Christmas gifts last year and it inspired so much of my reading and my focus this year.

All you really have is your willingness to fail, coupled with the mountain of evidence that the Maker has never left or forsaken you.

3. “Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings” by Diana Pavlac Glyer

Referenced by Peterson in “Adorning the Dark”, “Bandersnatch” was the next book I knew I wanted to read. It is long and sometimes dry, but I found it to be a fascinating and inspiring read. It spurred me on to seek out a friend who would keep me on track with writing. Meeting up with this friend has been one of the highlights of 2020 for me!

Go out of your way to cultivate a conversation with people who share your interests but see things from a very different point of view. Learn to listen generously, especially when you disagree.

4. “Treasures of the Snow” by Patricia St. John

When I was in third grade, my teacher read this book aloud to our class and my young heart was stirred with a deeper love for Jesus. I was reminded of it when a missionary visited our church and referenced it. I read it to my kids and rejoiced as they also resonated with this beautiful story.

Perfect love. It means love that goes on doing until there isn’t any more to be done, and that goes on suffering until it can’t suffer any more. That’s why, when Jesus hung on the cross, He said, ‘It is finished.’ There wasn’t one sin left that couldn’t be forgiven, not one sinner who couldn’t be saved, because He had died. He had loved perfectly.

5. “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy” by Mark Vroegop

My pastor husband shared this book with many grieving church members and one day he came home with a copy for me. It is an incredibly beautiful book on lament. That might sound like an odd description, but the beauty is found in the integral relationship between lament and healing. I learned to lament this year and read more Psalms than I can even mention.

Finding an explanation or a quick solution for grief, while an admirable goal, can circumvent the opportunity afforded in lament- to give a person permission to wrestle with sorrow instead of rushing to end it. Walking through sorrow without understanding and embracing the God-given song of lament can stunt the grieving process.

6. “Hannah Coulter” by Wendell Berry

Last spring, my teens were in a high school literature class and this book was part of their reading list. I read it aloud to them and I am so glad I did. There was one day when I cried as I read to them. Hannah was an older woman at this point in my reading and her three adult children had moved far away and didn’t have any interest in the farm where they had grown up. The heroine reminisced about their childhood and wished that she had encouraged them to have a deeper love and connection to their home. It had a deep impact on all of us as I read. I pray that as my teens pursue the future God is preparing for them that they will remain relationally close to Dave and I.

7. “A Path Through Suffering” by Elisabeth Elliot

I read this book before the severe storms of 2020 set in and I am so glad I did. One of the things I have discovered in walking through this particularly dark season is that God has used my past study and books like this one to prepare me for difficulty and to strengthen my heart. My faith did not waver and for this I am eternally grateful!

Open hands should characterize the soul’s attitude toward God- open to receive what he wants to give, open to give back what He wants to take. Acceptance of the will of God means relinquishment of our own. If our hands are full of our own plans, there isn’t room to receive His.

8. “When to Walk Away” By Gary Thomas

This book was recommended by one of my mentors and was an encouragement to me during a time when I felt like I was going crazy.

Virtually every good work is eventually besieged by toxic attacks. The more important the work, the more you can expect attacks. Thus, to complete your work, you have to learn how to recognize, disarm, or step aside from such attacks.

9. “Critical Spirit: Confronting the Heart of a Critic” by June Hunt

This was a short practical book that contrasted a critical spirit with caring for others. The author uses the book of Job to demonstrate the difference. This has resulted in a personal study of Job.

Wrong Belief: My sense of significance is increased when I point out the wrongs of others. That fact that I believe ‘I am right’ justifies my criticism of others.

Right Belief: When I am critical of others, I am actually exposing my own sin. Because Christ lives in me, continually extending His mercy toward me, I will reflect his compassion by caring about the needs of others rather than by criticizing them.

10. “Get Out of Your Head” by Jennie Allen

I read this book while I was on vacation and it was so good to have the time to work through it. It’s another practical resource that has helped me tremendously.

When we allow our thoughts to spin out of control with worry and fear, either consciously or unconsciously, we try to elbow our way into the all-knowing role that only God can play. We forget that it’s actually good news that He is in control and we are not.

As I was writing this post and it got longer and longer, I realized that my original intention of sharing twenty books was not going to work for one post. So this is Part 1 and I will share Part 2 at another time. If you are looking for some good books to read, I hope that this list will give you some options that you may not have considered.

I wish you many opportunities to get lost in a good book over the coming weeks. 2020 is almost over and this is worth celebrating!

 

 

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