Books I Read in 2020

Due to the stay-at-home-order it became difficult for me to get my hands on books for a while. I was not in the office very much and so didn’t have access to my personal library except every few weeks, and Amazon was not delivering “non-essential” items with any speed. So, that left me with my digital subscription to comic books which I could get without any hassle. Needless to say, then, I read way more graphic novels this year than I have ever read. There are some great theological, sociological, counseling, and ministry-related books on this list but you will have to look in between graphic novels, of which there were an abundance. Here is what I read in 2020:

1. Deadpool: Soul Hunter by Brian Posehn

A surprisingly compelling storyline on this otherwise fun and sometimes hilarious series. Deadpool’s own struggle with his memories, the balancing act of ethics, and the witty characters made this an even more enjoyable read than volume 1 in the series.

2. A Practical Primer on Theological Method by Glenn R. Kreider & Michael J. Svigel

A really good and insightful introduction to theological methodology. Very accessible and yet not amateurish in its discussion.

3. The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel

While Perel’s anti-judgment insistence regarding adultery leaves a lot to be desired, the book’s sociological analysis of the reasons people cheat and the impact is very fascinating and insightful.

4. Help! My Spouse Committed Adultery: First Steps for Dealing with Betrayal by Winston Smith

For such a short booklet, this work is actually a really great introduction to the issue and the practical steps to take in the initial phase of discovery.

5. Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever

One of the best, most simple books on discipleship that I have ever read.

6. After An Affair: Rebuilding Your Trust, Rebuilding Your Marriage by Howard Eyrich and Cheryl Blackmon

A very great guide to navigating the aftermath of adultery. I found this be a great resource in my own counseling.

7. Loving Your Community: Proven Practices for Community-Based Outreach Ministry by Steve Viars

If some of the examples are too extreme to be helpful, the overall focus and theological/Scriptural foundation for the practice of loving our neighbors is excellent.

8. Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Growing Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer

I was utterly disappointed with this book. The premise is excellent but the writing is cumbersome and confused. There are so many mixed metaphors and topic shifts that it is hard to believe it was written by Vanhoozer.

9. The Whole Armor of God: How Christ’s Victory Strengthens Us for Spiritual Warfare by Iain Duguid

This was a really insightful read on the famous passage about the Armor of God in Ephesians 6. Duguid gives readers a broader look at each piece of the armor and connects it uniquely to the person and work of Jesus Christ. He also helps readers to understand more about how to “wear” this armor and live in light of it. A really terrific book.

10. Symphonic Theology: The Validity of Multiple Perspectives in Theology by Vern Poythress

Poythress gives readers a unique take on prolegomena to theology in this volume. He borrows from John Frame’s multi-perspectivalism but presents it in his own way. A short and yet helpful read on theological method.

11. The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology by Richard Lints

This book is a decent resource, and Lints is a solid theological, but the book igets bogged down in historical survey on the front end, and is less about theological method (as suggested) and more about hermeneutics in particular.

12. Deadpool: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Brian Posehn

Another good edition to this series, this one full of some fun and funny team-ups.

13. Scripture and Truth by D.A. Carson and John Woodbridge (eds.)

There are some really excellent chapters in this book, but I confess it was such an academic work that I struggled to finish it. Chapters that detailed the history of Biblical Criticism and postmodernism were too much for me.

14. Ms. Marvel, vol. 6: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson

This was an okay addition to the Wilson storyline on Ms. Marvel. It developed some of Kamala Kahn’s own ethical struggles, and the ways in which heroes can disappoint us. It lacked some in the particular story-telling, but overall I enjoyed it.

15. On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts by James K.A. Smith

This was such an amazing book! It is probably the best book I read all year. Smith is an excellent writer and with Augustine as a guide he walks us through what “real-world Spirituality” looks like. The book both clarified some important truths, and illustrated some great practices for me, especially as it related to issues of desire and habit (Smith’s most common subject these days).

16. Deadpool: Deadpool vs S.H.I.E.L.D. by Brian Posehn

More insight into Deadpool’s past and more hilarious antics. Brian Posehn really does a great job writing these stories and adding variety to the plot.

17. New Testament Theology by Thomas Schreiner

An absolutely amazing volume. Schreiner avoids a lot of overly technical arguments within the field, but without losing any of the depth of study. The thematic approach to the subject was a great way to see the scope of New Testament theology as a whole, without completely losing the focus of the individual authors. An excellent volume.

18. Deadpool: The Wedding of Deadpool by Brian Posehn

Just an awful volume in this otherwise entertaining series. After the character’s fourth reminiscence of failed marriages I was done with the whole plot, and it still had more to go! This volume fell shockingly flat.

19. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, vol. 1: Change is Constant by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

Not the TMNT of my childhood, that’s for sure. I thought that my son and I would enjoy this but it was way more gritty than I realized. So, I just read it and found it rather exciting and enjoyable. Great twists on the classic kids cartoon.

20. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

Quarantine made it difficult to get books from my office and Amazon wasn’t shipping in reasonable times, so I read a lot of comic books in the evenings when we were winding down. This whole series turned out to be a lot of fun. Well written dramas playing off of nostalgia without being derivative.

21. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 3: Shadows of the Past by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

An epic reunion of Splinter and Shredder, the introduction of April O’Neil, this volume moves the story along nicely in this overall gripping series.

22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 4: Sins of the Fathers by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

Lots of emotion in this volume as the story explores father-issues and the influence of family failures on children. Also, one of the better introduction of the character Slash in the whole TMNT universe. 

23. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

This issue took the turtles to another dimension to fight a cosmic battle. It was not a great volume and Krang strikes me as the most underdeveloped character in the whole series, and this particular war is not compelling to the reader, so that left a lot to be desired in this volume.

24. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 6: City Fall, Part 1 by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

The turning of one main character from good to bad made this a compelling story.

25. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 7: City Fall, Part 2 by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

A wonderful conclusion to this story arch within the series. This volume also saw the introduction of Bebop and Rockstead, two great characters from the classic cartoon.

26. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 8: Northampton by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

This was a short and not very interesting volume, mostly dealing with moving the plot forward and driving the turtles back to NYC. It was filler.

27. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 9: Monsters, Misfits, and Madmen by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

As you can see, I rather enjoyed this series, and I had free access to the first 9 volumes so…I read them all.

28. Spider-Man Blue by Jeph Loeb

A rather beautiful and unique story of a superhero processing his own personal grief. Loeb is a masterful writer and this depiction of Peter Parker’s loss is a brilliant contribution to the Spider-Man narrative.

29. When Crisis Hits: Where to Turn When Life Falls Apart by C. John Miller

A really excellent resource to share with unbelievers when crisis hits. Miller writes with compassion and awareness about the need to trust God and the resistance we feel to that need, and to God himself. Miller writes even as he undergoes chemotherapy to treat his cancer. This is not a booklet written from a theoretical and academic perspective, but from the deep struggles of life sorrows. An excellent resource!

30. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 10: New Mutant Order by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

I couldn’t stop thinking about this series, so I bought the tenth volume and it was a great contribution to this story. The development a new mutant army is an interesting enough story line, the characters, however, make this story enjoyable. One of the challenges that Eastman and Waltz have is knowing the difference between main characters and cursory characters. They have sometimes attempted to make a side character more front and center and it just doesn’t deliver – there’s not much emotional connection there. But when a cursory character is rightly utilized they can deliver a great distraction and/or a slice of comedic relief (like Pete the pigeon).

31. Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders by David H. Barlow et. al.

While this is a very technical read, I did find it insightful regarding the treatment of emotional disorders. Some of the strategies can be adapted and utilized well even in Christian counseling and I anticipate I will do that in the future.

32. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 11: Attack on the Technodrome by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

A riveting volume in the series with a huge surprise twist ending!

33. Howard the Duck, vol. 1: Duck Hunt by Chip Zdarsky

Eh…way too many side stories and back stories.

34. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 12: Vengance, Part 1 by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

The final showdown between Shredder and the Turtles is building! Well written, beautifully drawn, and compelling.

35. Dr. Strange, vol. 1: The Way of the Weird by Jason Aaron

This was just okay. There were some creative and interesting narrative elements, and it was definitely “weird,” but it didn’t hold my attention the way other stories do. By the time the conclusion came I was bored with it and ready to move on.

36. Opiate-Related Disorders: Helping Those Who Struggle by Eamon Wilson

An excellent booklet by a clinical psychologist writing for CCEF. The booklet gives a great introduction to the nature of addiction, noting particularly the reductionist views of many and the more complex interplay of biology, sin, and sorrow. It is written more for helpers and loved-ones than actual addicts, but it is a great introductory resource.

37. Dr. Strange, vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic by Jason Aaron

This was a better issue than the previous and it involved some compelling action and some interesting details about the inner secrets of Dr. Strange.

38. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 13: Vengance, Part 2 by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

This is definitely a darker universe for the turtles, and that reality comes to the foreground in this epic conclusion to their battle with Shredder. A well-told battle sequences with plenty to keep you entertained and the shocking conclusion was a great pay-off.

39. When You Love An Addict: Wisdom and Direction by Philip G. Monroe

I found this simple booklet packed with recommendations and encouragements. Monroe knows his subject well, and while I am not entirely sure what is philosophy of addiction is (there are few comments that would warrant some further questions), I was overall very pleased with this and would recommend it.

40. All New Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 1: Communication Breakdown by Gerry Dugan

I enjoy lots of Dugan’s work but this volume is just okay. It mostly feels like filler material and not a well developed story. There’s some issue going on with Groot but we don’t get much in the way of an explanation or even a progression. There is a cosmic battle happening between the Grandmaster and the Collector, but it’s not all that interesting either. 

41. Schizophrenia: A Compassionate Approach by Todd Stryd

This is a good booklet, though with a very specific focus. Stryd’s interest is in helping loved ones develop and display compassion for those in their lives who suffer from Schizophrenia. It’s a really useful tool in that regard, with specific practical steps given. I wish it gave more insight about the nature of the disease and the types of treatment offered. I feel these are incredibly useful insights for understanding those who suffer, but Stryd gives just a few cursory details about these issues.

42. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Volume Two by Kyle Higgins

The little dude and I read through volume one last year and it was a lot of fun. So we picked up volume two and found it a mostly enjoyable story. It’s simple and not overly creative, but it was fun. It was also an entirely new story, as opposed to volume one’s largely retelling of the plot from the television show.

43. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Volume Three by Kyle Higgins

Great story-telling and introduces readers to an alternate universe with a wicked Green Ranger. 

44. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Volume Four by Kyle Higgins

The epic showdown with Lord Drakkon comes to a gripping conclusion.

45. Am I Just My Brain by Sharon Dirckx

A fantastic apologetic for Christian anthropology. Dirckx writes as an expert in brain science and philosophy and she explores a number of concepts that simply do not make sense if humans are simply brains. It’s short and mostly accessible, thought she does use some key technical terminology in both fields of neuroscience and philosophy.

46. All New Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2: Riders in the Sky by Gerry Dugan

Eh, another dud in my opinion. The story attempts to spotlight each of the individual guardians but it doesn’t make for the most interesting read in this case.

47. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Volume Five by Kyle Higgins

An interesting storyline which looks back at the 1969 Power Rangers.

48. All New Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 3: Infinity Quest by Gerry Dugan

Another Infinity Stones storyline…there’s a few fresh twists on this one, but again I just don’t think this series is all that interesting. 

49. The-Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New by Marty Machowski

An amazing resource for teaching theology to kids!

46. Kierkegaard: Christian Missionary to Christians by Mark Tietjan

An absolutely fascinating introduction to the life and thought of Kierkegaard. I loved this little biographical sketch of his thought, in fact I liked it so much I decided to try reading Kierkegaard first-hand.

47. Annie John by Jamaica Kinkaid

A fascinating look at the loss of childhood by a unique author. 

48.  Practice in Christianity by Soren Kierkegaard

One of the most challenging reads I had this year and yet one of the most interesting and insightful. Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, exposes the cultural accommodation of much of what is called “Christianity.” Written in 1848 it is, sadly, as relevant today as it was then.

49. Marriage Conflicts: Talking as Teammates by Steve Hoppe

This simple devotional gives some practical and theological guidance on navigating marital conflict. It’s a simple book without being simplistic!

50. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund

This book is beautiful and insightful. It is not only the best book I read this year, this century even. Ortlund’s ability to give readers a fresh and yet Biblical look at God can both enliven our passion and comfort our souls.

51. God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of this World by Scott Harrower

While this is a scholarly treatment, the interdisciplinary approach looking at theology proper and its application to trauma counseling was so insightful that I think all Biblical counselors should attempt to read it.

52. The Color of Compromise: The Truth About American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby

A hard look at the church’s complicity in American racism. This is the story too rarely told and yet so important for Christians to hear.

53. Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments by Winston Smith

Because it’s such a common counseling resource I end up reading through this once a year with at least one couple. Smith does an excellent job of bringing Biblical and yet fresh insight to marriage and frame’s marital conflict in ways that provide real help to struggle couples. This is one of my favorite marriage books.

54. J Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life by Paul Miller

Hand down one of the best books I have ever read on the Christian life. So practical, inspirational, and though-provoking. Miller provides a Biblical and yet fresh framework for viewing life as the constant cycle of dying and rising with Christ. I absolutely loved this book!

55. Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience by Sheila Wise Rowe

A helpful guide on an issue that I have no familiarity with but which I felt I needed to attempt some understanding of. Wise-Rowe offers some real guidance both on what racial trauma is and how readers can navigate the pain of these dynamics from a Biblical perspective. I might do a few things different in the treatment of trauma, but there’s a lot here that is truly helpful. I found that especially as someone who has never experienced racial trauma, this was goo for me to read.

56. Gospel-Centered Marriage Counseling: An Equipping Guide for Pastors and Counselors by Robert Kellemen

One of the most helpful guides to the method, practice, and process of marriage counseling from a Biblical perspective. A fantastic and useful tool that I will be consulting often.

57. Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose by Aimee Byrd

Despite being hailed as a massively controversial book, this work is actually about the church’s need to develop a healthier and more biblical approach to the discipleship of women. In that regard, it really shouldn’t be controversial, and I found it very insightful and helpful.

58. Deadpool, vol. 6: Original Sin by Brian Posehn

This one was just okay. Some of the story was convoluted, and felt random. Not Posehn’s best work. As a whole this series has been enjoyable but this issue was a dud. 

59. Addictive Habits: Changing for Good by Dave Dunham

It’s weird to read your own book, but I used it in a counseling case with someone.

60. Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness by Megan Hill

Another re-read for me, as I used it in a counseling case, but it’s an excellent devotional focused on helping readers cultivate gratitude. 

61. Is it Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims by Darby Strickland

A robust exploration of the types of abuse, how to identify each, and how the Scriptures enable us to help those who suffer. This is probably the most important counseling book of 2020.

62. Telling a Better Story: How to Talk About God in a Skeptical Age by Joshua Chatraw

A fascinating exploration of apologetics from a different vantage point. Josh is an old friend of mine from seminary (and church), so I read this out of a sense of curiosity. I was stunned by how profound, insightful, and helpful it is. While the book is primarily written to equip Christians to have conversations with unbelievers, I found it as equally helpful for me as a counselor. A great guide for having conversations with people when there is no obvious common ground. It shifts the conversation from formulaic apologetics approaches to more mutual dialogue.

63. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl Trueman

This is one of the best books of 2020! A fascinating historical survey of the evolution of the modern self. Trueman writes with incredible insight and great prose. He navigates a number of cultural shifts to help readers understand our current cultural values and how they are most deeply rooted in our its understand of the person.

Comments

  1. Dave, thank you for taking the time to annotate these. I love the breadth too!

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