We are living in a non-literary age in which books often serve more as decorative enhancement than mind, or even soul, enlightenment. Research over the past nearly two decades has revealed a decline in the individual daily reading time of average Americans from merely 22 minutes to now less than 17. This dearth in reading has become a sad joke in our society, and is the blame, at least in my opinion, for many modern ills and much current ignorance.
In the past few days, with the onslaught of COVID-19, I have been approach by or have heard from several friends and acquaintances who have, in some form, posed the question: what should I read? Perhaps all it takes is a worldwide pandemic and the threat of a national lockdown to rally Americans to read. Though the reason for this literary insurgence is awful, I will grasp any opportunity granted to press forward the nobel art of reading and guide toward masterful, captivating literature.
While I will always recommend, having not been read by those inquiring, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Systematic Theology by Frame (prepare yourself to sit for a while), The Institutes of the Christian Religion by Calvin, Start with Why by Simon Sinek, or 12 Rules for Life by Peterson, I will take this moment to fill you in on the books I have been rifling through in 2020. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, and having completed a dozen books this year while plowing through another fourteen at present, there are many to which I could direct you, but here are my top 9 of 2020 in ascending order (meaning the best is saved for last!):
To Hell with the Hustle Jefferson Bethke Interestingly enough (in light of social-distancing and sheltering in place), I have been reading much lately about solitude and slowing down. Bethke does a good job of arguing, in his typical impassioned and simplistic manner, for why we should slow down and how to go about doing so. This is a good, easy read for the non-reading, scared-of-big-books crowd.
Adorning the Dark Andrew Peterson I’d recommend this memoir on artistic creativity and bringing beauty to a broken world to almost anyone, but in particular to the artists among us. Peterson writes with vulnerability and expressive beauty. You can roll through this book in less than two days.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry John Mark Comer While I can’t link arms with many of the theologians Comer references, I can say that this book was so practically helpful in the realms of rest, prayer, solace, meditation, and sabbath that I breezed through it in just over a day and would recommend it, with doctrinal caveats, to anyone desiring to “enjoy life, not just race through it.”
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings Philip & Carol Zaleski Fair warning, this is a robust and extremely verbose work of more than 800 pages that unravels the lives of the Oxford intellects endearingly known as the Inklings. If you are at all intrigued by the writings, behaviors, beliefs, and histories of J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis (as I am) I would highly encourage you to snatch up this volume, sink into an easy chair, sip some tea and prepare to be enthralled…for a long, long time.
Church History in Plain Language Bruce L. Shelley This is my second jaunt through this volume and I am enjoying the overview of the Christian Church that Shelley eloquently, yet simply provides perhaps even more so than on my first read.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I’ve always been intrigued and entertained by the writings of Doyle and the exploits of Sherlock Holmes. I am moving back through these tales at leisure and would encourage anyone looking for good, thought-provoking, image-rich fiction to do the same.
Easy Chairs, Hard Words Douglas Wilson A small fictitious work by one of my favorite authors (that I have now read at least half-a-dozen times) masterfully conveying a theological conversation between a young inquirer and an astute pastor. If you have questions about subjects such as eternal security, predestination, efficacious grace, or the justice of God I would HIGHLY recommend this book.
Till We Have Faces C.S. Lewis I have journeyed through almost everything from the pen of the Cambridge professor over the past decade but until this year I had never read this incredible story. Just this morning I finished the fascinating myth of Cupid and Psyche and will admit that I was entranced throughout. This is fiction at its finest.
When the Man Comes Around Douglas Wilson It’s tough to top Till We Have Faces but if anyone can best Lewis perhaps Wilson can – at least on such a powerful topic. Many throughout the years have asked my eschatological views (where I stand on the “end times”) and I will unabashedly confess that this commentary on the book of Revelation heralds, almost without edit, my own beliefs in a brilliance with which only few can write. If you desire to understand the Revelation of Jesus Christ without the absurdity of modern bias and sensationalism then do yourself a favor and buy this book!