My Favorite Reads of 2020
When I was a kid, finding me without my nose buried in a book was nigh impossible. I consumed books like other people breathe air, immersing myself in abridged classics that introduced me to Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many others. I also read the Hardy Boys, the Sugar Creek Gang, and tons of Choose Your Own Adventure Books.
In my teens, I graduated to more adult fare, reading horror by Stephen King and Dean Koontz and crime novels from Elmore Leonard, Charles Willeford, and Andrew Vachss. I read other stuff too, but those were some of my favorites.
But over the years, I drifted, not reading as much as I used to. However, this year I made a definitive decision to get back into reading, eschewing television, video games, and my smart phone in favor of books. I set up a Goodreads account to track my reading (follow me here!), and now at the end of 2020, I’ve finished 43 books and hope to extend that number next year. So here are my five favorite books I read this year. Some are new, released this year, and some are older, but they’re all excellent and I highly recommend them.
So without further ado, here they are in no particular order:
1. Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson
This is a treatise on the creative process with touches of memoir from Peterson’s life. He is just as thoughtful and relational here as he is in his music. If you are a creative person, an artist, an author, a sculptor, a songwriter, even a knitter, this book will be a tremendous encouragement for you.
2. The American Puritans by Dustin Benge & Nate Pickowicz
New England in the 21st century is a spiritual wasteland. Churches have strayed from the authority of Scripture and embraced secular philosophy, meaning the church has no real ability to affect the culture. This is the opposite of centuries ago, when the Puritans came to America to escape religious persecution, bringing their zeal for God’s glory with them. Benge and Pickowicz give us short biographies of nine Puritan figures, from Pilgrim leader William Bradford to poet Anne Bradstreet to unjustly maligned pastor Cotton Mather. These easily digestible chunks of history make for fascinating reading and inspired me to pray for our nation, that we would return to a time when people believed Scripture carried weight and trusted in God’s sovereignty.
3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman ranks among the greats of fantasy writers, and his wondrous skill is on full display in this novella, told completely from the perspective of a small boy. This book manages an impressive balancing act, maintaining a childlike innocence while carrying an underlying dread through the narrative. I’ve loved everything I’ve read from Gaiman, but this ranks as one of my favorites from him.
4. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
A young man with a severe facial deformity starts a mail-in role-playing game to supplement his disability income. Two of the players take the game too seriously, and the young man has to deal with the fallout of their actions. This sounds like a plot line, but it actually isn’t. It’s just something our hero talks about in this character study by Darnielle, lead singer and songwriter for the Mountain Goats. The prose is spectacular, literary and deep, yet wholly accessible. It really stays with you. I finished it two weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about it.
5. Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund
This book is subtitled: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. Drawing on Matthew 11:29 as well as many Puritan writings, Ortlund makes the case that the love of Christ for us is immutable, and that thinking otherwise undermines our ability to truly rest in Him. This book will help you plumb the depths of Christ’s love so that you can bask in the glorious riches of His affection. Every Christian should read it.