Favorite Books of 2020

2020 has been a year of change for my family. We moved in the middle of a pandemic from Texas to Florida. I started a new job as a professor of philosophy and the director of a new program in philosophy at Palm Beach Atlantic University. We left behind two of our children in Texas–both college students at Baylor. Our younger two sons have had to endure an on-again/off-again year at a new school. But there have been many constants, even in the midst of change. Family. Jesus. And the reading of books! And this blog post. As is now my custom, each January, I list my favorite books read from the prior year. This year was a banner year for the reading of books (it was also a good year for binge watching TV shows--see some of my favorites listed here).

According to my book log, I read 53 books this year. Here are my favorites from philosophy, theology, apologetics, culture (a new category this year), fiction, and non-fiction. These books are not necessarily published in this year (some are), they are my favorite books read this year. In my book log, I record the date completed, title, author, and a one-sentence summary of the book. I’ll include that sentence in my list of favorites below.

Best in Philosophy

  • In Defense of Conciliar Christology, by Timothy Pawl. “A very careful and rigorous defense of the coherence of conciliar Christology.”
  • Real Essentialism, by David Oderberg. “An excellent introduction to Neo-Aristotelian metaphysics.”
  • Was Jesus God?, by Richard Swinburne. “A tightly argued book showing how the Historical Jesus is God.”

 

Honorable mention: The Challenge of Evolution to Religion, by Joshua De Smedt and Helen De Cruz, Are we Bodies or Souls? by Richard Swinburne, Natural Goodness, by Philippa Foot, Whatever Happened to Good and Evil, by Russ Shafer-Landau.

Best in Theology

  • Divine Action and the Human Mind, by Sarah Lane Ritchie. “A critique of standard causal joint accounts of divine action along with a new theological and participatory framework for understanding divine action in the world.” See my review at Sapientia, along with a symposium on the book here.
  • Jesus the Great Philosopher, by Jonathan Pennington. “Christianity is a philosophy and Jesus is a philosopher King.” See my Christianity Today Review here.
  • On the Road with Saint Augustine, by James K. A. Smith. “A journey through the life of Augustine as we find our way home.”

 

Honorable mention: Everyday Glory, by Gerald R. McDermott (reviewed here), A Theology of the Ordinary, by Julie Canlis (reviewed here), and The Biblical Cosmos, by Robin Parry (reviewed here).

 

Best in Apologetics

  • The Geneological Adam, by Joshua Swamidass. “Argues that Adam and Eve are our genealogical ancestors, nor our genetic ancestors.”
  • The Everlasting Man, by G.K. Chesterton. “Man is distinctive in kind; Christianity is the true story of the world.”
  • The Abolition of Man, by C. S. Lewis. “A prophetic explanation of the result of denying an objective moral order.”

 

Best in Culture/Cultural Analysis

  • Seven Brief Lessons on Magic, by Paul Tyson. “A brilliant little essay on Christian Platonism and the nature of nature.”
  • De-Fragmenting Modernity, by Paul Tyson. “A solid contribution to the renewal project of re-enchanting the world.” See my review of this book here.
  • The Madness of Crowds, by Douglas Murray. “Persuasive case that social justice, intersectionality, and identity politics have turned culture into a mob.”

 

Best in Non-Fiction

  • A Prayer for Orion, by Katherine James. “A moving memoir of a son’s struggle with drugs and addiction and hope in Christ.”
  • A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. “An inspiring story of Bryson’s summer hiking the Appalachian Trail.”
  • Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann. “A chilling story of injustice against the Osage Indians in oil-rich Oklahoma.”

 

Best in Fiction

  • Dune, by Frank Herbert. “An epic science-fiction story of young Paul Atriedes and his rise to power.”
  • Nausea, by Jean-Paul Sartre. “A gripping story of the tragedy of life without God.”
  • Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. “In a world decimated by the flu, beauty and hope sustain the survivors.”

 

My reading tends to follow my research interests. This year, I’m working on a sequel to my Cultural Apologetics book. I’m writing a book of cultural apologetics, not a book about cultural apologetics. So, I’m doing my best to be cheeky, creative, rigorous, inspiring, storied, and edgy. I’ll let you know how all that went by this time next year! The book will be a kind of journey to discover the true (and satisfying) story of the world. Along the way we’ll look at clues or “stones” (eleven of them to be exact) that point to something beyond this world (Hence the working title: Eleven Stones).

How about you? What are some of your favorite reads this year? May you find joy in reading this year. May you hear the voice of God in the text and see the love and beauty of God in your life this year. And just for fun–my last picture of the year, taken on New Years Eve, 2020 at Key West, Florida. Caption: Beauty and Hope.

New Years Eve 2020, Key West, Florida

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