I’ve already scanned through a number of best books of 2020 lists from friends and public intellectuals and have filled my shopping carts accordingly.
Here’s my list, with a few caveats: (1) These weren’t necessarily published in 2020. They’re just my favorites from what I read last year. (2) I decided not to include books I was re-reading, of which there were quite a few (e.g. from favorite authors like John Owen and C. S. Lewis). (3) I've also not included reference books, such as commentaries.
10. Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People by Joel R. Beeke. I actually started this book in 2019 and finished in 2020, but it is the best new book specifically aimed at preachers or pastors that I’ve read in the past couple of years.
9. Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J. Williams. This short book packs in a lot and persuasively argues for the historical trustworthiness of the gospel narratives. This would be especially helpful for church people who are shaky in their confidence in Scripture.
8. 2000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers by Nicholas R. Needham. This excellent overview of the first few centuries of the church covers the most important figures, controversies, and events. Books like this remind us of how resilient the church is and how faithful Christ the Lord is in building it.
7. Finding the Right HIlls to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage by Gavin Ortlund. All biblical doctrine is important, but not all doctrines are equally important. The Trinity is more foundational and important than one’s specific view on the nature of the millennium, what it means to speak in tongues, or the modes and subjects of baptism. But how do churches distinguish between essential and non-essential - and the large middle ground between? That’s what this book is about.
6. God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God by Mark Jones. This is the best popular level treatment of God’s attributes I’ve read, even surpassing Packer’s Knowing God and Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy (both of which I re-read this year).
5. All that is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal. Defends the classical doctrines of God’s simplicity, immutability, and eternity. Worth the effort.
4. The New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 5 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Excellent, as Spurgeon’s sermons almost always are. A more detailed review forthcoming (on Goodreads).
3. The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. Riveting history of the Spanish flu. I started reading this during the pandemic and finished a few months in. Helpful historical perspective.
2. Thomas Charles’ Spiritual Counsels, edited by Edward Morgan. Essays and letters from one of the 18th century Welsh Calvinistic Methodist fathers, a man who apprenticed under John Newton. This was one of the books Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked for during his final days on earth. Deeply spiritual and edifying.
1. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane C. Ortlund. Soothing gospel balm for the sin-weary soul. There’s a reason why this book keeps showing up in top ten lists. It’s just that good.