Convicted by the veracity with which the rest of my family reads, I have purposed to read more frequently in 2020.
Below is a running list of all the books that I have read in 2020. In most cases I will attempt to give my brief thoughts on the books, should that be of any interest to you.
- Harvard Business Review, HBR 10 Must Reads on Mental Toughness
- Francis James Grimké, Meditations on Preaching
- Arthur G. Bennett, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions
Currently “reading.” Using the guide from joethorn.net/valley
- Andrew Yang, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future
Confession: I read this in 2019. It was one of the only books I read in 2019. But, it is a truly fascinating book. I finished it in 2 days. Recommended.
- Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter From Birmingham Jail: April 16, 1963
Short, powerful, and convicting.
- Sam Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God
I need to be better at affirmation. This book reminded me of this and, in that regard, was helpful. I appreciate Sam’s attempt to help me think about how to glorify God in my affirmation of others. That said, I didn’t love the book and had a few difficulties as I worked through it.
- Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
Theological sound and personally helpful. However, if you are walking through pain and suffering, this may or may not be the right book to pick up. While Keller argues, rightly, the wrestling with deep theological topics is important for those suffering, he also states rightly that there aren’t one-size-fits-all “solutions” for those suffering. I am sure that I will return to many sections of this book for help and encouragement.
- Paul Tautges, Comfort the Grieving: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Loss (Practical Shepherding Series)
A good book little book, especially suited for one new to pastoral ministry. I found some helpful reminders, ideas, and resources in the book.
- Nancy Guthrie, What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts)
Wow! This book is gold. If you want to be a comfort to those experiencing grief, read this book. The simple wisdom will help you be a better friend. Also, as you might suspect, this book made me cry more than once.
- Zack Eswine, Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression
I had long looked forward to reading this book. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but this book was a bit of a let-down. As one who has experienced extended seasons of melancholy, I had hoped to hear more of a biographical look at Spurgeon’s journey. While there is some amount of biography in the book, “biography” isn’t Eswine’s goal. I found his approach and style somewhat difficult to follow. Perhaps, in my view, the best contribution of this book is to hear Spurgeon’s exact words about his own depression and what he has to say directly to those who suffer.
- J. C. Ryle, Do You Pray? A Question for Everybody
Given to me by a friend that found it encouraging. The book is short and can be read in 1-2 sittings. While reading it, I didn’t super enjoy it. I kept trying to figure out who Ryle was writing to. I feel like it is almost a tract designed for nominal believers. That said, the book has sat with me and I find that I am asking myself, “Do you pray?” Which, is a helpful question to ask and one I’m thankful to be reminded of.
- J. Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling With Incurable Cancer And Life In Christ
What does theology look like in real life? This! Billings’ book is a true gift. He works his way through theological topics, applying them to his life–a life with incurable cancer. In many ways, this book is what Keller’s book (listed above) looks like lived out. While I learned so much about what it means to lament, more so I was encouraged to treasure the God of the gospel and his many means of grace. Not an easy read, but worth it.
- David Epstein, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
Short version: I am not going to become an elite CrossFitter. The problem is a little bit of nature and a little bit of nurture. While this was an interesting book, I got less and less interested as Epstein went from gene to gene and the impact it made in certain groups. In a similar vein to this book, I would rather recommend Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.
- A’Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker
Born 5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation to former slaves, Madam C.J. Walker’s story is nothing short of incredible. With no education, no resources, and the challenges of both race and gender discrimination, Walker manage to not only create a business that brought her to the upper echelon of wealth (building her mansion just down the street from James D Rockefeller), but she also provided thousands of women the opportunity to create their own wealth, often earning 2-3 times the average wage afforded to black women of the time. Fascinating and well worth reading.
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Considered a modern classic, I decided to read this one because I simply never had. Perhaps my motivation of “duty” to read the book hampered my enjoyment and engagement, but I just never really “got into it” and found myself reading it to “just get it done.” I feel like this is a disservice to the book. Perhaps I’ll circle back to it another day.
- Matt Fitzgerald, How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle
I love sports psychology books and this was a pretty good one. This book is the yin to The Sports Gene‘s yang. While the stories mostly revolved around running, they were engaging and I enjoyed the concepts that were analyzed. While Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance is still my favorite book in the genera, I have no hesitation recommending How Bad Do You Want It?
- Dr. Mark Becton, Prayer Works When You Work at Prayer: Following Jesus’ Example in Prayer
A short and encouraging book which I enjoyed very much. Perhaps the most beneficial for me was Chapter 2. Reorienting my thoughts around the one to whom I am praying was (is) tremendously refreshing and helpful.
- Marvin Olasky, Reforming Journalism
This book was a grind. I received it as a freebie from a conference that was canceled and decided to read it because the title was intriguing. Part one was the call for Christian Journalists to truly be Christians. Part two was a lot of journalism 101. Part three was (for me) the best part, giving a history of journalism and the role the Christian community played in its development. It went a little “the left is evil” towards the end. Much of the critique was fair enough. But, it does ignore that the right often does the same thing it complained the left does.
- Ligon Duncan, When Pain Is Real and God Seems Silent: Finding Hope in the Psalms
A very short book that can be read in one sitting. Duncan’s exposition of Psalm 88 is a great help and encouragement for those suffering. I also found Dever’s forward, in which he recounts a story of Andrew Murray’s advice for suffering, to be of great help.
- Jim Afremow, The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive
Honestly, I kinda wish high-school Ryan would have read this. I was never going to be a soccer superstar, but Afremow offered a lot of helpful advice that I could have used on how to be the best player I could have been. That said, there is a ton of what I would consider “fluff” and I wouldn’t really recommend it without some major caveats. But, if you can find the pull out the helpful pieces within all the “wear a gold wrist band to remind you to ‘think gold and never settle for silver'” then it might be a good book for you. And… that’s assuming “you” are someone looking to excel and a sport or athletic endeavor.
- Ben Bergeron, Chasing Excellence: A Story About Building the World’s Fittest Athletes
Such an enjoyable read. As an avid CrossFitter (and occasional coach), I loved hearing Katrine’s story as told through the eyes of her coach. Ben provides a number of great lessons drawn from Katrine’s experience and his overall coaching philosophy. Well worth checking out.
- Alex Hutchinson, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance
I often mention this book when making notes on other books in this genre. Having not read it in a few years, I decided to pick it back up for another read. It was just as good as I remember. A truly fascinating look at the intersection of mind and body. Love this book.
- Jesse Itzler, Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet
This was a super fun read. Knocked it out in two days. While it was a very entertaining read, it was also interesting to read in the context of my other reads in human performance. The book is not looking to explain the mind/body connection. Instead, “SEAL” lives it and pushed Jesse towards it. Just plain fun. And, it reminded me I should do more push-ups. Oh… and if you don’t like F*bombs, you’re gonna have a tough time in these pages.