At the beginning of each year, I enjoy posting a reflection of all the books I had read and reviewed over the previous years. These “Top Reads” post have been among one of my favorites to do. Now that 2020 has come to a conclusion, I thought I would review those annual posts and collect the best of the best list.
What is striking to me is that many of the books listed below (and on the next post) were not my favorite reads of a given year, yet as the years passed, the influence of these books increased. Regardless, the following is not in any particular order and will take two posts to cover all of them.
Hillybilly Elegy by JD Vance (Review)
The best book in understanding the rural south in general and white Trump supporters in particular is this memoir by J. D. Vance. Vance provides personal insight into rural, white America – their trials, travails, and struggles. Vance lived it in both eastern Kentucky and Ohio.
This book sat on my “to read” list for far too long. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Read it now.
Beowulf by Doug Wilson (Review)
My favorite story in the history of mankind is Beowulf. Doug Wilson offers a new rendering emphasizing the phonetic sounds of the poem. Yet the real richness of the volume is the essays at the end especially his argument that Beowulf is a shrewd apologetic for the Christian faith. I think he’s right.
Sexual Morality in a Christless World by Matthew Rueger (Review)
In case you just crawled out from behind a rock, we live in a sex-obsessed, Christless culture. In this book, Matthew Rueger explores the world of the New Testament and shows that Christianity can survive and even thrive in such a sex-obsessed, Christless world. We should not fear the world we are entering. We ought to be people of faith passionate about the gospel. Rueger offers one of the best books on sexual ethics I have ever read.
This book was recommended to me by a group of ministry partners. It is both frightening and hopeful. Dickerson offers a real sociological take on evangelicalism in America. That’s the frightening part. He then walks the reader through where we go from here. That’s the hopeful part. This is a convicting book, but one that every pastor, Christian leader, and believer ought to consider. tole lege!
Onward by Russell Moore (Review)
The best and most important political book I’ve read is Russell Moore’s Onward. Moore, who heads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, provides Christians with an understanding of politics and political engagement with the gospel at the center for the 21st century. Any believer serious about the gospel and how it informs our view of public policy should give this a read.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (Review)
This is a classic work written during the Reagan administration. I read it in college and returned to it during the 2016 presidential election. Postman has penned a prophetic volume especially if one applies his warnings to the world of digital and social media.
American Crucifixion by Alex Beam (Review)
There is perhaps no more unique religious figure in American history than Joseph Smith. This work focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on his death/murder. The author includes numerous historical insights that are key to understanding Mormons in general and Smith in particular. His chapter on the genesis of polygamy among the first generation LDS is worth the price of the book.
What Every Pastor Should Know by McIntosh and Arn (Review)
The best ministry book I’ve read is What Every pastor Should Know: Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn. The insight they offer is incredibly insightful and goes beyond entry-level basics of pastoral ministry (like how to perform a funeral, etc.).
We Become What We Worship by GK Beale (Review)
Beale presents a biblical theology that pierces the heart. His thesis is simple, yet profound: “At the core of our beings, we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.” (16)
Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” by Corey Olsen (Review)
One of my favorite novelists of all time is JRR Tolkien. In his book Exploring J. R. R. Tolien’s The Hobbit, the Tolkien Professor, Dr. Corey Olsen shows the beauty and power of the narrative and story. One is not a true fan of The Hobbit until they have read Olsen’s work on the subject.