My Top Twenty of 2020

posted in: Top Reads | 0

Having read almost (but actually not that near) 200 books this year, I figured I could split the difference and have a Top Twenty for 2020. So, in no particular order (and riffing off the Top Ten I did for work) here are my Top Twenty Books of 2020…

  • Probably my favourite book of the year was Thomas C. Oden’s A Change of Heart. This ‘personal and theological memoir’ is fascinating. It’s worth reading if you are a Christian theologian, and I’ll be returning to it and looking out for more of Oden’s work in the future.
  • A particularly surprising book for me (because I didn’t expect to be as enamoured with it!) was Mark Scarlata’s The Abiding Presence: a theological commentary on Exodus. As I noted in my review, it’s simultaneously a really good book, and a really helpful commentary.
  • Lots of people have loved Esau McCaulley’s Reading While Black. I loved it – it is both a fresh book and a deeply traditional book, and I think it has a huge amount to say to white Christians, who should be listening.
  • Esau also runs a podcast, where he interviewed Justin Giboney, author of one of my favourite books of the year, Compassion & Conviction. This relatively American book gives me hope for the future of politics.
  • There are many Ortlund books, but Gavin Ortlund’s Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals is the one for me this year. Simple, helpful and rich, this is a great introduction to theological retrieval.
  • I’ve read a number of devotional books this year – His Testimonies, My Heritage draws together a choir of women of colour to celebrate Psalm 119. It is beautiful, and my heart and mind were fed whilst reading it.
  • Another likely book of the year for me is Julian Hardyman’s Jesus, Lover of My Soul. This is a book about intimacy with Jesus – something we often talk about, but rarely experience or understand. Julian masterfully opens up the Song of Songs and shows us that Jesus desires us. Absolutely brilliant, and in my opinion does what lots of other people thought Gentle and Lowly did.
  • Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution is the shortest but one of the richest books I’ve read this year whilst working on a chapter on atonement. It’s brilliant, and should be widely read.
  • In a year of change, I was proud to have worked on the publication of Healthy Faith and the Coronavirus Crisis. Some of the chapters are generally some of the best things I’ve read this year.
  • Similarly, Jonathan Leeman’s book One Assembly was a timely read that challenged the way I think about church. It turns out my misgivings about multisite, online communion and so on resonate with the words of the New Testament – and so I found this a helpful and thoughtful book.
  • Phil Knox’s debut book Story Bearer is an excellent book about evangelism, that manages to be in my mind both culturally relevant and biblically faithful. I’ve been recommending it all year, and doubt I’ll see another book like this soon (Though I did like Ben Jack’s My Lord and My God).
  • I don’t like being wrong about things, but I was wrong about my initial reaction to Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity. Lot’s of people loved it – which put me off – but it really is very good. Grab a copy, and get a copy for someone you love who doesn’t know Jesus.
  • One of my favourite writers is Kate Bowler – and I read two of her books this year. The most engaging was Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. This is an extraordinary piece of theological investigation, and I think it is a brilliant book.
  • One of the best theological books I read this year was Graham A. Cole’s Engaging with the Holy Spirit. I hope cessationists read it. I hope continuationists read it. This is an excellent short book on the Holy Spirit.
  • Another great theological book was Tim Ward’s Words of Life. This short, fairly readable book is a bit older now, but I found it a compelling and engaging account of the doctrine of Scripture. Recommended.
  • My favourite secular book, by far, was written by a Christian. James Mumford’s Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes is superb, and much needed. Combine it with Compassion & Conviction for a great orientation to a better way of doing politics.
  • Another debut author, Sharon Hastings has written a profound book in Wrestling With My Thoughts. This is a brilliant book about faith and mental health – and I hope and pray will provide help to many for years to come.
  • I loved John Starke’s The Possibility of Prayer – in another year it would probably have been my book of the year – and will also be keeping an eye out for other things he’s written.
  • Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body is a tour de force. Covering a cluster of some of the most contentious issues in our culture and churches, this is a book that made me glad to believe what I believe, and has given me another author to keep an eye out for.
  • Finally, Ephraim Radner’s A Time to Keep was a real highlight. A beautifully written, theologically rich account of mortality and the limits of humanity, this is a book that will be on my list for a future PhD, and something I’ll be referring back to often.

You can find the rest of what I read, and links to some other opinion-based lists, in my 2020 reading roundup, and below you’ll find links to previous reading roundups…

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