I was happy to finally accomplish one of my yearly reading goals. Having three little ones and limited time means that getting through the books I want to get through can be a challenge. But, this past year I was able to do it. What is more personally satisfying is that I likely would have beaten my goal by 2-3 books if I had not taken about two months off when our third child was born. I usually begin each year with a book list and do minor tweaks based upon interest along the way. To see all of the books I read go here: Michael Brooks’s 2020 reading challenge | Goodreads
Below is a list of the top-10 books that I read and the reasons I enjoyed them.
10. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship by J.F.C. Fuller
This book was gifted to me as a Christmas gift and I am grateful for that as I would never have found this interesting read on my own. I love Civil War history and the era of the Civil War. In this book written in the early 20th century, a General and military historian discusses these two men, Grant and Lee. He challenges the typical claim that Grant was just a simple numbers man and that Lee was the greater General. It was a great read. The author did make a few oversimplifications regarding Lee but overall it was well argued and gave great insight into both men. If anything it gave me a greater appreciation for Grant and the importance of the war in the West. It highlighted some clear flaws that Lee had as a general but gave both men high praise. Another enjoyable part of the book was the digestible and quick overview of the war as a whole that it gives the reader. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship by J.F.C. Fuller | Goodreads
9. Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray
I am a big Star Wars fan and as the new canon continues to develop I am trying to pick-and-choose what books I read from it. This book stuck out to me as a very interesting book about two characters that I love. This book is about Obi Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jin before (about 10 years ) they appear in Episode 1. I enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons but the main one was that it dug deeper into the relationship between Kenobi and Jin. The author revealed their differences and the reasons why Kenobi turned out the to be the kind of Jedi he is. It is fun, fast-moving, and at the same time a deep dive into two great Star Wars characters. Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray | Goodreads
8. Beyond Racial Gridlock by George Yancey
This resource could have been higher if not for a few faults I had with later stages of the book. But, nonetheless I recommend this book as a go-to resource when seeking to understand 1) the current state of racial tension and 2) the current solutions (and how they fail). Yancey provides an amazing overview of the four major approaches to racism and racial inequity and how none of them are uniquely Christian which is one reason why this issue continues to be such a major issue in our country. His thesis for the book is that Christians need to put together a uniquely Christian approach to racism and racial tension, as we have done with abortion, to begin to make a real impact in this area. He then goes on to sketch the beginnings of his Christian solution. For my full review click here: Beyond Racial Gridlock – A Review – Of Life, Mind, & Things
7. Mistborn (Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson
Being a fantasy/sci-fi reader I have long heard of Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn was my first book of his as it was highly recommended and slightly shorter than his other legendary books. He writes long books! This book is incredible and worth every minute. Sanderson writes rich characters and a creates a great introduction to a greater world. I strongly recommend this book as a starter into the Sanderson (Cosmere) universe. The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson | Goodreads
6. How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter Gentry
This book was incredibly practical and one of the most useful books I have ever read. It was short, readable, and every page brought value to the reader. Gentry gives you the important themes and key aspects of proper interpretation of the Biblical Prophets. I will go to this book over and over again when I study the prophets. How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets: How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter J. Gentry | Goodreads
5. Gospel Allegiance by Matthew Bates
I read this book as a recommendation from a friend. He said it would be challenging and engaging and he was correct. It was challenging in the sense that the author challenges presumptions that many evangelicals have about the gospel, faith, and works. I loved the first part of the book and enjoyed the second half of the book, although it was not without issues. For a discerning reader this book has a lot to offer and I am very thankful I read it. My only warning is that it could confuse those that are not discerning, or worse, lead them to conclusions that I believe are not biblical. I was enriched and challenged in ways that I would not have been if reading a book that I already knew I agreed with and for that I am truly grateful. For my full review click here.
4. Gettysburg by Stephen Sears
Civil War history is one of my favorite areas of study. Ever since watching the movie Gettysburg in my childhood I have been drawn to this battle and because of that drawn into the love for Civil War history. As a more widely read Civil War reader I sought to dive deeply into this battle with greater understanding. My sister was reading it and trusting her own quality reading, I decided to dive in. It was hefty volume but well worth it. It was readable and enjoyable at every turn. Sears does an incredible job of giving you everything you want in a military/battle history: context, personal accounts, a personal face to each part of the battle, important geographic details, political details, and behind-the-scenes data, while also making reasonable and measured conclusions along the way. Sears creates an incredible narrative that keeps you reading chapter after chapter. He avoids too much detail to be overbearing but never lacks in compelling information. It is the best Civil War book I have ever read. Now, I want to read another one of his. Gettysburg by Stephen W. Sears | Goodreads
3. Atonement and the Death of Christ by William Lane Craig
When I heard that the great William Lane Craig was writing on the atonement I was thoroughly excited. His work did not disappoint. It was an effective biblical study that was fair and engaging while including key elements that many traditional biblical scholars and theologians do not contain. For conservative theologians and biblical scholars some may be concerned about what Craig may or may not conclude. I can tell you, this is not something to fear in this work. His exegesis is sound and his central claims and conclusions are strong and orthodox. The most unique part of the work, and the thing that sets it apart, is his defense of the atonement as a just way to deal with sin even as compared to human justice systems. He defends the atonement philosophically and legally in the final part of the book and that is valuable in and of itself. He is careful to qualify that even if there were not parallels in our own justice systems that would not show the atonement to be unjust. Only that the parallels help support and show that it is not outside of human conceptions of justice as well. He shows that there are many parallels and comparisons that can be made (although not exact) between that the atonement found in the Bible and legal precedent or practices in our current understanding of law and punishment. Read my full review here.
2. Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes by Jackson Wu
This book truly made me think deeply on every page. The book challenges readers to interpret and think from a perspective that more resembles Biblical/Ancient culture, that is, Eastern culture. The book does a good job of seeking to enrich and integrate the perspective the author is bringing rather than simply tear down and replace. It was exegetically demanding and truly forced me to think in an almost upside down way. It was so good for me! It was a ton of work, and to be honest, I was relieved that it was done when I finished. But, it was so rewarding. I strongly recommend this book! The only reason it was not number one was simply because of how much work it was for such a compact book.
1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
It may not be fair to rank the culmination of a truly wonderful series in a list with other individual books. But, this book was a fantastic read. It was my 2nd favorite read from the whole series (Book #6 is my favorite) but only by the smallest of margins. It finished the series in a satisfying way and honored the truly magnificent story that Rowling wrote. I will certainly be planning to listen to these on audio book in the future. It was an epic finish that was worthy of the world, series, and story that Rowling wrote. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling | Goodreads