The Best Books I Read in 2020

It has been a long time since I posted a blog, but felt compelled to add this post. 2020 has been a difficult year for all, but it has been rich in some way for most. And for me – I have grown through books even more so this year than most. I typically make it a goal to read 52 books a year. This year, I was able to read a lot more than that (thanks, COVID). Here are my top 10 books, in order. Maybe one of two would grab your attention. I’d love to hear from you if you read one of them.

#10 – Crucial Conversations – by Petterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler

I first read this about eight years ago in Brazil on a mission trip and wish it hadn’t taken me so long to read it again. If you hate conflict but need to have difficult conversations, or if you find yourself frustrated that some high stakes conversations don’t go well, this book will help you. You will be glad you read it.

#9 – Living the Cross Centered Life – by C. J. Mahaney

Other than the Bible, there is no book I’ve read more than this one. Paul said the cross is of first importance, and this book re-centers me onto what matters most. I like to read at least one book a year on the cross and the centrality of the Gospel, and this one is “Old Faithful” for me. I highly recommend it.

#8 – Atomic Habits – by James Clear

This is my third (and last) re-read on my top 10. This is my second time to read this book. And no book has been more helpful for me in 2020 in my spiritual growth – even though it isn’t a Christian book. I read “Power of Habit” in the past, but couldn’t wrap my arms around it practically. This book took the idea of “The Power of Habit” and made it practical. I now pursue habits not goals. I still make goals, but I focus on habits that I can intentionally pursue on that will lead to those goals (lead indicators not lag indicators).

#7 – The Color of Compromise – Jemar Tisby

I read almost 30 books this year on racism (to prep for the series “Racism, Justice, and Hope”) and so many were so helpful for various reasons, but this was a great help in understanding the history of racism in the American Church. It was sobering and enlightening.

#6 – Cynical Theories – by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay

The subtitle says it all: “How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity.” For someone wondering why Christians haven’t jumped on the “Black Lives Matter” movement and why the racism issue has been complicated by politics – this will help you understand why. It is not written by Christians. In fact, they are politically liberal, but that fact adds power to the book, in my opinion. I wish I could make every Christian who supports the BLM movement read this book. This book has chapters on racism (race theory), queer theory, gender theory, and other issues of Social Justice. And it shows the danger of what happens when biblical social justice becomes Social Justice (with caps). So helpful and crucial for people trying to understand where our culture is and where it is headed.

#5 – Love Thy Body – by Nancy Pearcey

The next three books all tie together perfectly, but all three were important for me to read. Nancy has been one of my favorites to read on issues of worldview, and this book powerfully shows what happens when a biblical worldview is rejected. There are chapters on issues of abortion, the hookup culture, sexuality, and transgender. Each chapter helps me understand issues I’ve thought a lot about in different ways, but this book helped me see how these issues are tied together because of worldview. This was a book I got my entire family to read and discuss with me. It is so helpful in understanding our current culture.

#4 – The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self – by Carl Trueman

This may be the heaviest content, but such a helpful book for me. His goal is to help the reader understand why this sentence makes sense in our culture: “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Twenty years ago, this sentence didn’t make sense in our culture. Now everyone knows what it means, and a majority of people accept its reality. How did that happen so quickly and why? This book does an amazing job of answering that question. Trueman explains how our culture has become so sexualized and how what was once considered perversion is now normal, accepted, and celebrated.

#3 – Irreversible Damage – by Abigail Shrier

The subtitle says it all. If you have daughters in high school or below, you must read this book. If you aren’t convinced, let me know – I will talk you into it or buy the book for you. It is scary that in many states girls can receive hormones and begin transitioning their gender without parental approval or knowledge. Before 2012, there was no scientific writing on gender dysphoria for girls (ages 11-21). Now they are the majority seeking to transition in our culture. Teen suicides have gone up 25% in 10 years, and clinical depression has risen 37%. And teen girls experience depression at three times the rate of boys. Entire circles of girlfriends are transitioning their gender. How? Why? What can you do? Parents, please read this! It will help you understand ROGD (rapid onset gender dysphoria), and it isn’t surprising if you read “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” “Love Thy Body” or “Cynical Theories.”

#2 – The Coddling of the American Mind – by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

Another book I read by non-Christians who help me understand the implications of rejecting a biblical worldview. Parents, please read three books on this list (this one, #3, and #5). This book is about three lies that have spread widely and rapidly in our culture:

  • The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker
  • The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings
  • The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

I remember when “free speech” was a high value of the most liberal and secular people. That has now been reversed. The belief is growing that free speech is dangerous, and people need to feel “safe” and protected from thoughts, ideas, and words they disagree with. If you read it, you won’t forget it. You will see evidence of this book everywhere you go.

#1 – A Change of Affection – by Becket Cook

The subtitle says it all: “A Gay Man’s Incredible Story fo Redemption.” Years ago, I did a message series on “The Church and Homosexuality.” I wish Becket had written his book back then. This is SO helpful for someone wondering about homosexuality – is it really a bad thing? Maybe people are just misinterpreting the Bible. If you want to know how to dialogue on issues of homosexuality or someone you love is struggling with this issue, read this book.

OK – that’s it. If you read any of these, drop my an email or comment below.

  1. I read the “Coddling of the American Mind.” WOW! I recommend this book to everyone!
    I’m just starting Atomic Habits. Thanks for doing the research for us!

  2. David—great book recs! Seeing so much of the gender identity issues within my counseling practice with teen girls…’s super baffling and I’m hopeful Irreversible Damage will shed light on the topic for me!
    Happy New Year to you, Sue and the girls!

    • Yes, it will! It is shocking! I read about a billboard advertising this book was taken down in LA. It does NOT fit the cultural narrative!

  3. Thanks so much for this list, David! As an HR professional, I’ve bought and given “Crucial Conversations” many times. Also read and value “The Cross Centered Life” – def fine for a re-read. Can’t wait to dive into some of the others. Hoping you and your fam have a healthy, blessed 2021!

  4. It seems like more and more books written by people who aren’t Christians land on conclusions that are surprisingly biblical (or maybe they were always there and I didn’t realize it!) – which is pretty affirming, and as you mentioned under one book above, make the arguments stronger. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Not sure if you’ve read The Righteous Mind (by Jonathan Haidt – one of the authors of The Coddling of the American Mind) . It’s a lot to chew on and took me a while to read, but the umbrella concepts have been really helpful in understanding where people are coming from – especially now, when the country is so politically polarized. He relies a LOT on evolutionary theory, which frankly gets to be redundant, but I still took a lot from the book.

    • Yes, that is interesting about secular books that make biblical conclusions. It seems to me that it goes back to the fact that God’s Ways just “work.” Not only that they are best, but that they work. And when someone that does not have a biblical worldview makes biblical conclusions, it is fascinating to me, and reminds me of God’s great grace. I haven’t read “The Righteous Mind” but I own it. It is on the “to read” shelf (which is WAY too large). 🙂

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