The Top 15 Books I Read in 2020
Written by Pastor DeAngelo
In 2020, I read 65 books (finishing the 65th book on December 31st!). I am a pastor (and now also a student pursuing his Doctor of Ministry), so I will read theology, but I work to read a variety of content. This year, that variety included history, health, sports, biography, psychology, self-help and productivity, fiction, politics and current trends, and even a book written by my father.
Again, if you are getting going or gaining momentum as a reader, I have made it a practice to read three books at a time. I try to keep each group of books somewhat diverse from one another, and I encourage you to try. Some very beneficial books do not make for good reading right before bed (unless you are TRYING to fall asleep!). You might try to read a helpful but more challenging book when you are the most mentally alert and then read something slightly lighter as your bedtime reading. Just a thought.
Here are my top 10 books for 2020…okay, I went ahead and included 15 this year…with a few honorable mentions – I hope you enjoy!
- Gods at War by Kyle Idleman – This was the best book that I read this year. I have recommended it many times, I have gone through part of it with my family, and I am going through it with a friend. I enjoyed reading this book because it was so readable, yet it changed how I view things. God also caused great self-examination into my own heart. “What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?” Get this book and read it!
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer – This book also changed how I viewed things and sincerely has impacted my everyday life. The author’s life had turned into a fast-paced train wreck before he intentionally (out of need) decided to slow things down. The book tells his story and gives very concrete choices that will challenge your thinking and how you approach life. (One footnote, despite being a pastor, the author does mention alcohol a little much for my “taste.”)
- The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Graff – Plane in the Sky is a unique book, telling the story of 9/11/2001 in vivid detail. The book is entirely a compilation of firsthand testimonies about various events connected to that historic day. The author essentially provides no commentary. I found it fascinating, and even better, I found it at the library.
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – Quiet is a New York Times Bestseller composed of studies on the subject of personality, precisely that of the two well-known categories of “extrovert” and “introvert.” Cain herself is an introvert, and this book is a thought-provoking look at the causes behind varying personalities.
- Untangling Emotions: God’s Gift of Emotions by Alasdair Groves and Winston Smith – I have never read a book on the subject of emotions, and this book looks at our emotions through a biblical lens. The book both challenged and clarified my thinking regarding a proper and balanced understanding of our emotions. At times, emotions get a negative rap – they can’t be trusted. They are unreliable…but Untangling Emotions helped me see the positive side of our emotions and how to engage them instead of just trying to shut them off.
- Post Christian: A Contemporary Guide to Thought and Culture by Gene Veith – I had to read this book for a class that I am taking and then write an 8-page review. Let’s be upfront – the title of this book sounds boring and academic. I can assure you – the content of the book is not. It is a fascinating look at current thought and culture trends, including how we got here and why we got where we are. Veith exposes some of the hypocrisy of the pendulum philosophies that are a part of all of our lives. If you think about it, as Veith points out, society has essentially moved on from science as a final frontier (replaced by technology), from the sexual revolution, and from the belief that all religions are equally good, a key point of postmodernism. (Instead, society has shifted to a conviction that all religions are now viewed as equally bad.) As a footnote, Veith’s ultimate conclusion…is that our world…may not be Post Christian after all…as he concludes his work with a message, not of futility, but hope.
- Finding the Right Hills to Die On by Gavin Ortlund – This book has been a bestseller in evangelical circles over the last year, as Ortlund coined the term “theological triage.” Which Bible doctrines are non-negotiable? Which Bible teachings are truths that we can disagree on…and be okay with that? I found this book a helpful exercise in evaluating the various doctrines to which Christians hold.
- Organic Outreach for Ordinary People by Kevin Harney – I believe that most Christians want to share Christ. Where they struggle is how to do it. Because the people who Christians want to share the Gospel with are incredibly diverse, our strategy to do this must be multi-faceted. I found this book helpful with some real-life perspectives. “We evangelize all of the time. Why is it that we can be more enthusiastic about a massage chair or a new restaurant than we are about Jesus?”
- The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss by Dr. Jason Fung – While I do not necessarily agree entirely with all of the author’s conclusions, I found this book very interesting in seeking to understand why we gain weight, why we lose weight, and what exactly goes into that tug of war. Thought written by a doctor (and a knowledgeable one at that), I found Obesity Code to be quite engaging, and I read through it relatively quickly.
- Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science by Drew Dyck – When I started 2020, one of the pursuits that I wanted to grow in was the simple concept of self-control. “From the biblical view, there are only two modes of life available to us: enslavement to sin and life in the Spirit.” Your Future Self tackles the in’s and out’s of self-control, both from a biblical perspective and from an experiential understanding.
- Killing Jesus by Bill O Reilly and Martin Dugard – Some may be surprised to see this book on my list. O’Reilly and Dugard are both professing Catholics who write this story in a fast-moving and engaging manner. Killing Jesus does take some license, but I learned from and enjoyed this telling of the story of Jesus. (As a note, I have read several of the books in the Killing series, and I have enjoyed each one.)
- Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper – Piper wrote this book fairly early on in the “year of the Coronavirus.” Piper provides a comforting perspective that I appreciated as a Christian. “Why should I receive the news of God’s sovereignty over the coronavirus, and over my life, as a sweet teaching? The secret, I said, is knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it. In other words, if we try to rescue God from his sovereignty over suffering, we sacrifice his sovereignty to turn all things for good.”
- Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry Strauss – Ten Caesars is a historical narrative that looks at the period of biblical history through the lens of the Roman Empire and the men who led it as emperor. If you are interested in learning the backstory of figures such as Caesar Augustus, Diocletian, Nero, and Constantine, you may enjoy this book.
- Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin – McLaughlin writes in an understanding manner as she provides a current perspective on both religion as a whole, as well as 12 of the most popular charges against Christianity. Aren’t we better off without religion? Isn’t religion intolerant? Doesn’t the Bible condone slavery? How could a good God allow a world with so much suffering? McLaughlin masterfully works through questions like these. She has given us a gift of a linear, readable book that provides a big picture look at some of Christianity’s most significant criticisms.
- Memoirs of a Sports Official by Robert DeAngelo Sr. – This book has not yet been published, but in it, my father tells his stories of one of his life passions, being an umpire, linesman, and referee. My dad loved to be involved in sports in this way and was a very competent official in several sports. I love you, Dad, I really enjoyed reading your stories, and I hope to see this book on Amazon soon.
- No is a Beautiful Word by Kevin Harney
- Saban: The Making of a Coach by Monte Burke
- College Ministry from Scratch by Chuck Bomar
- Shepherds after my Own Heart by Tim Laniak
- Every Moment Matters: How the World’s Best Coaches Inspire Their Athletes and Build Championship Teams by John O’Sullivan
- Old Paths, New Power by Daniel Henderson
- Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do with Well-Intentioned Dragons by Marshall Shelley
- Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump by John Fea