2020 Reading List

Well, lots has been said about the two thousand and twentieth year of our Lord, so I won’t add anything to that black hole of disruption and still-unfolding trauma. What I will say is that is that I read less last year. A while back I made it a yearly goal to read at least as many books as I had the year before and with the exception of 2018, I’ve been relatively successful. Over the past 12 months I’ve been more sleep deprived and heavy hearted than I have at any other year of my life – mostly because of the birth of our second child, Teddy. Then, add on the additional craziness and it makes for ample excuses not to achieve my goal, which based on 2019 would have put me at 30 books. This year I got about half way there. Even still, as I look back on some of 2020s literary travels, I’m grateful for what I was able to read.

So below is a list of books I read last year. This list is mostly just for my own recording and reflection as a way to stack the odds a little bit more in the “not gonna forget” column of content I’ve consumed (I’m getting more and more forgetful). For an explanation/intro from past years, click here. Also, I used to link each title to Amazon, but I guess they’re sort of the evil empire now, so I’ll just link bookshop.org as an online stores that supports local bookshops.

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
This was my favorite book of the year. When Breath is a moving memoir of a very spiritually minded brain surgeon who’s confronted with his own mortality. With all the dying and grief happening in our world, this book was a beautiful and needed work that helped me tremendously.

Spineless Porcupine, SAY Yang
My friend wrote a book! This one is a fictional story of a porcupine who’s different, but learns to see the uniqueness as a gift instead of a curse. You should go buy it.

After Evangelicalism, David Gushee
Dr. David Gushee is a renowned theologian who became affirming in his theology. This book is an exploration his vision for the future of the American/evangelical church.

Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian, Paul F Knitter
This was a fun exploration of Knitters own journey and how the resonance between these two great spiritual traditions ended up affirming his identification as a Jesus-follower. I so appreciate interfaith reflections that are constructive and humble. So good.

Time and Despondency, Nicole Roccas
I stumbled upon Professor Roccas while doing some reflection on the nature of time. This book fit 2020 as well as anything else on this list and helped me rethink my relationship to time, something all of us are doing whether we like it or not this year.

The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk
This is a very significant and helpful introduction to trauma recovery. I think we’re all going through some sort of trauma this year- and after our church went through a particular event I picked this one up. This is a book anyone in the helping professions (and really anyone who works with people or is a person) should probably consider core curriculum.

Native, Kaitlin B Curtice
This was a timely and reflection on the intersection of Christianity/spirituality and indigenous identity. Essentially the author explores their own journey and faith as person of indigenous ancestry and the ways those forces play out in our ability to connect to the Divine.

The Color off Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, Jamar Tisby
Such an important work on the ways people of faith have not always been on the side of racial justice (often the opposite side).

Wild Mercy, Mirabai Star
This was a super fun, challenging, and inspiring reflection on female mysticism and some of the significant teachers from these traditions.

Modern Kinship, David and Constanino Khalef
Every so often I get to do pre-marital counseling and am currently working with a same-sex couple. As you can imagine, there aren’t a lot of LGBT+ Christian works on premarital preparation. I’ve found this book engaging and helpful.

Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Petersen
Eugene has been, and still is one of my favorite literary mentors. This book explores the nature of being called into vocational ministry as a pastor. I was so encouraged by this one. I love Eugenes subtle sass and critique of American celebrity Christianity.

Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman
Thurman is a must read for anyone concerned about racial justice and looking for some spiritually enriching reflections. Thurman was an academic, a minister, and I would argue a contemplative. I’m working on one of his other books too.

Stiches, Ann Lamott
A beautiful and short reflection on grief and the messiness of life. Very timely for 2020. Highly recommend to anyone holding loss (all of us this year).

Soul Care in African American Practice, Barbara L Peacock
This one came as recommendation from my friend Gina who recently completed a spiritual formation internship at our church and is training to become a spiritual director. This book was a very accasaable exploration of various “soul care” practices in the historical black church.

The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, William Jennings
A must read for folx engaged in ministry or who are invested in faith communities in these times. Dr Jennings does an amazing job at providing an overview of Christianity’s racist & colonial past and how to potentially move forward. Definitely core curriculum in my opinion. I got to hear Dr. Jennings speak before the pandemic craziness and found him to be brilliant, powerful, and humble. His voice is one I hope can be more prominent in the American Church.

2 thoughts on “2020 Reading List

  1. Thanks for sharing these! I’ll put some of them on my 2021 list. After reading Gushee’s “Changing Our Mind” I’m super intrigued about his next take on the future of American Evangelicalism (namely, one that doesn’t just abandon Evangelicalism).

  2. Pingback: 2021 Book List | Chris Writes Here

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