My Year in Books (2020)




When I finish reading or listening to a book, I add it to my annual “books read” list. My 2020 list is at the end of this post.

2020 Reading Highlights

This year I devoted time to reading Scottish preachers and theologians. I returned to some old companions who have served me well through the years: the memoirs of Boston and McCheyne and John Macleod’s Scottish Theology, to name just three. A new favorite is Donald Macleod’s Therefore the Truth I Speak: Scottish Theology 1500-1700. His  biographical sketches and survey of key events and theological literature of the period make for a compelling story, exceedingly well told.

For readers who long for a deeper understanding of the heart, Craig Troxel’s With All Your Heart: Orienting Your Mind, Desires, and Will Toward Christ will prove valuable. With the skill of a mature physician of the soul, the author explores what God’s Word reveals about the human heart. Life presses upon us its urgent concerns, fierce temptations, and harsh setbacks. The succession of trials is never-ending. In the midst of all the tumult, we dare not neglect the heart—which is why the author will not let us forget that “as goes the heart, so goes the man.”

The sexual revolution that swept the West in the 1960s did not emerge spontaneously.  In The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Truman explores movements in philosophy, literature, and science since the mid-18th century that laid the foundation for the revolution’s sexual attitudes and behaviors. Christian leaders, teachers, and parents who struggle to understand the forces at work today against biblical sexual morality will find this book indispensable.

In The Christian and Technology, my friend and RTS colleague John Fesko explains how six technological advancements have shaped Christian thinking and behavior, for better and for worse: screens, social media, the automobile, the book, virtual reality, and internet access. The message throughout this book is this: You must learn to use technology, or technology will use you.

Anyone interested in the study of leadership will benefit from Ron Chernow’s Grant. Through two of  the 19th century America’s tumultuous times – civil war and reconstruction – Grant proved himself a courageous military and political leader, a man of uncommon grace, tenacity, and dignity. Chernow’s appraisal of Grant’s presidency and, especially, his attempts to secure constitutional rights for black Americans is a testimony both to Grant’s fortitude and to the limits of presidential power and influence to shape the national will.

In The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart, Lutheran pastor Harold Senkbeil makes a spirited case for traditional pastoral ministry. He argues that “there’s a framework for pastoral work that translates well over the centuries; it’s both transcultural and timely in that it connects with people groups no matter where or when they live.” I agree wholeheartedly. The environments in which we minister constantly change, but the fundamentals of pastoral ministry remain the same. Much more unites Lutheran and Reformed pastors committed to traditional pastoral ministry than divides. For two millennia, Christian pastors have reflected on what it means to be a faithful shepherd, true to God’s word. The well of wisdom is deep. The Care of Souls leads us there and invites us to drink.

Between 1916 and 1970, six million African Americans left the Jim Crow south, heading to cities north and west. In The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson tells this remarkable story through the lives of three persons: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a Mississippi sharecropper, who with her husband, went to Chicago in 1937; George Starling, who in the 1940s left Lake County, Florida and its notoriously racist and violent sheriff, Willis V. McCall, for Harlem; and Louisiana native and  physician Robert Pershing Foster, who established a thriving medical practice in Los Angeles in the 1950s. One of Foster’s patients was Ray Charles. With elegant and moving language, the author successfully provides an overview of the Great Migration while using personal stories to give readers a glimpse of the suffering endured and opportunities both forfeited and gained by those who left the South and changed America forever.

Albert N. Martin’s The Man of God: His Preaching and Teaching Labors (the second of three volumes in pastoral theology) contains the instruction one expects in a homiletics textbook, as well as an array of those practical matters we preachers have on our minds. The author is unapologetically committed to preaching that is faithful to the Scriptures, sound in doctrine, and evangelical in content and tone. Helpful, informative, and encouraging, this book will enrich those who “labor in preaching and teaching.”

Christian men today need theologically-informed, biblically based, and practical books on serving Christ at home, church, and community. Joe Barnard has given the church just that in The Way Forward: A Road Map of Spiritual Growth for Men in the 21st Century. 

During the year, Lynne and I used Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings as our after-dinner devotional. We highly recommend it.

Dr. Gwyn Walters was the homiletics professor at Gordon-Conwell Theology Seminary and part of my church family in Ipswich, Massachussetts. After he was diagnosed with cancer and left his position, he invited me to come to his home on Thursdays. I did so for the remaining 18 months of his life. His influence on me was profound. His son, Meirwyn, an attorney, has written  Intentional Preaching: A View from the Pew. His book reminded me of his father’s encouragement to me. As I read, I could at times, hear his father’s voice. Meirwyn offers much common sense advice for preachers, especially for those of us who forget to ask those in the pew what they think about preaching.

Since moving to Jackson, I have enjoyed getting to know Philip and Jasmine Holmes. Philip is a colleague at RTS. One of the reasons I read books is to gain an understanding from those whose lives and experiences are different from my own. Jasmine’s Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope accomplished just that. As I read her letters, I’m invited to think about concerns that might never cross my mind. As she touched on several contemporary controversies that thoughtful Christians need to discuss, she maintains a conciliatory spirit that welcomes honest conversation.

My 2020 Reading List

  1. Sharon James, Gender Ideology: What Do Christians Need to Know?
  2. Athanasius, Life of Antony
  3. The Rule of St. Benedict in English
  4. Geoff Thomas, Brownlow North: The All-Around Evangelist
  5. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
  6. Mark Bowden, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam
  7. Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls
  8. Kent Philpott, How to Care for Your Pastor: A Guide for Small Churches
  9. Campegius Vitringa,  The Spiritual Life
  10. Tim Pollard, The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Design
  11. Karl Marlantes, Deep River
  12. Jerry Mitchell, Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era
  13. Colin O’Brady, The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice―Crossing Antarctica Alone
  14. John W. O’Malley, Trent: What Happened at the Council
  15. C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
  16. Martha Grimes, The Old Success
  17. Christopher Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties
  18. John Fesko, The Christian and Technology
  19. Eryl Davies, Not Uninformed: Sure and Certain Hope for Death and Dying
  20. Joe Barnard, The Way Forward: A Road Map of Spiritual Growth for Men in the 21st Century
  21. Alan D. Strange, Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards
  22. Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart
  23. Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt
  24. John A. D’Elia, A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America
  25. Lewis Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism
  26. John Macleod, Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History
  27. David P. Beaty, An All-Surpassing Fellowship: Learning from Robert Murray M’Chenye’s Communion with God
  28. Margaret Shepherd, The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication
  29. Meirwyn Walters, Intentional Preaching: A View from the Pew
  30. A. Craig Troxel, With All Your Heart: Orienting Your Mind, Desires, and Will Toward Christ
  31. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  32. William Swan Plumer, Impeccable: The Person and Sinless Character of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  33. Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life
  34. Mark Bowden, Killing Pablo
  35. John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History
  36. Donald Macleod, Compel Them to Come In: Calvinism and the Free Offer of the Gospel
  37. Philip S. Ross, Anthems for a Dying Lamb: How Six Psalms (113-118) Became a Songbook for the Last Supper and the Age to Come
  38. Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist: Learning to Share the Gospel from the Book of John
  39. Thomas Boston, The Memoirs of Thomas Boston
  40. Andrew Thomson, Thomas Boston: His Life and Times
  41. Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot
  42. Christian B. Keller, The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy
  43. Leland Ryken, The Soul in  Paraphrase: A Treasury of Devotional Poems
  44. Andrew Bonar, Memoirs & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne
  45. Ron Chernow, Grant
  46. Rueben Bredenhof, Weak Pastor, Strong Christ: Ministry in 2 Corinthians
  47. Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs
  48. David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
  49. Amity Shlaes, Great Society: A New History
  50. J. Douma, The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life
  51. John Currid, Exodus (volume 2)
  52. John Mackay, Exodus
  53. Zora Neale Hurston,  Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”
  54. Phillip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory
  55. Albert N. Martin, Pastoral Theology, Volume 2: The Man of God: His Preaching and Teaching Labors
  56. A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods
  57. Mark Bowden, The Case of the Vanishing Blonde and Other True Crime Stories
  58. Augustine, The Confessions (Maria Boulding translation)
  59. J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John (vol 1)
  60. Donald Macleod, Therefore the Truth I Speak: Scottish Theology 1500-1700
  61. Yaa Gyasi, Transcendent Kingdom
  62. Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. 
  63. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction
  64. Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers
  65. William Plumer, The Bible’s Teaching on the Call to Ministry
  66. Jonathan Kline, Keep Up Your Biblical Greek in Two Minutes a Day
  67. Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents
  68. Jasmine L. Holmes, Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope
  69. William J. Edgar, 7 Big Questions Your Life Depends On
  70. Septima Poinsette Clark, Ready from Within
  71. Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley
  72. Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution
  73. Becky Cooper,  We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence
  74. Richard Rushing, ed., Voices From the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings
  75. Joel R. Beeke and Nick Thompson, Pastors and Their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry
  76. The Bible
  77. Jordan Stone, A Holy Minister of Christ: The Life and Legacy of Robert Murray M’Cheyne
  78. Paul David Tripp, Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church
  79. Benjamin Shaw, Ecclesiastes: Life in a Fallen World
  80. Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era
  81. C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns

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