What I’m Reading in 2020

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Last year, I posted 12 books I planned to read in 2019. My hope was to read each book then reflect on them in some way here, but alas, that never materialized. I completed about half the books on the list, read other books not on the list, and just didn’t get around to the others. I’m sure I’m not the only one, right?

So this year, I’m scaling back the ambition just slightly by organizing the new year’s reading list by semester. By planning in shorter spans, I’ll be able to renew the excitement that comes with curating a new reading list, and I’ll be able to avoid reading books that don’t fit my current interest. So, first up is the Winter to Spring semester, spanning from January though May. Then I’ll work through a Summer reading list, and finish up the year with a new Fall through Winter list. Not a bad idea, right?

Okay, so let’s get to it. Here’s my Winter to Spring reading list for 2020.

The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

This book won Christianity Today’s 2020 Book of the Year Award, and seems like a much needed starting place for the chaos of my current life season. Here’s a snippet about the book:

The answer to our contemporary chaos is to practice a rule of life that aligns our habits to our beliefs. The Common Rule offers four daily and four weekly habits, designed to help us create new routines and transform frazzled days into lives of love for God and neighbor.

The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold Senkbeil

This book won the 2020 Christianity Today Book Award Winner for Church/Pastoral Leadership as well the 2019 TGC Ministry Book of the Year. Clearly a must read for any pastor. Here’s what the book says about itself:

In a time when many churches have lost sight of the real purpose of the church, The Care of Souls invites a new generation of pastors to form the godly habits and practical wisdom needed to minister to the hearts and souls of those committed to their care.

Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness

I’ve been interested in exploring the themes of Christianity in Shakespeare’s writings for some time now. It seems like his plays could provide an accessible yet powerful glimpse into the deeper things of life. Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness promises to be an insightful leap into the world of the Bard’s spiritual, moral, and religious ethos.

In tracing the changing speech patterns of confession and absolution, both in Shakespeare’s work and Elizabethan and Jacobean culture more broadly, Beckwith reveals Shakespeare’s profound understanding of the importance of language as the fragile basis of our relations with others.

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland 

The need for unity in the church is obvious, but this book is approaches the issue from a social psychologist’s perspective, offering research and insights into why we experience disunity, even though we ought to be the most unified people on the planet! Here’s a glimpse of what the book should offer:

With a personal touch and the trained eye of a social psychologist, Cleveland brings to bear the latest studies and research on the unseen dynamics at work that tend to separate us from others. Learn why Christians who have a heart for unity have such a hard time actually uniting. The author provides real insight for ministry leaders who have attempted to build bridges across boundaries. Here are the tools we need to understand how we can overcome the hidden forces that divide us.

Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer

As always, Kevin Vanhoozer helps moves pastors further into their role as theologians in the church, and in Hearers and Doers, he gives specific shape to the work of disciple-making through theological and doctrinal models. Really looking forward to reading this one!

In Hearers and Doers, Kevin Vanhoozer makes the case that pastors, as pastor-theologians, ought to interpret Scripture theologically to articulate doctrine and help cultivate disciples. scriptural doctrine is vital to the life of the church, and local pastor-theologians should be the ones delivering it to their communities.

And just in case I finish one or more of these books early, or decide they aren’t worth finishing, here are my bonus and extra books for the semester waiting on standby (you may remember a couple from last year’s list!):

  • Fearless Prayer: Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should, by Craig Hazen
    • According to the Lord himself, “asking” is the center point of prayer. He wants us to bring our fruit-bearing requests to him boldly and with expectation for the blessing of his answer.
  • Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age, by Alan Noble
    • 2018 WORLD Magazine Book of the Year – Accessible Theology and 2018 ECPA Top Shelf Book Cover Award
    • In this book Noble lays out individual, ecclesial, and cultural practices that disrupt our society’s deep-rooted assumptions and point beyond them to the transcendent grace and beauty of Jesus. Disruptive Witness casts a new vision for the evangelical imagination, calling us away from abstraction and cliché to a more faithful embodiment of the gospel for our day.
  • Serving Without Sinking, by John Hindley
    • John Hindley shows how Jesus was telling the truth when He offered people an “easy yoke” a way of serving Him that is joyful and liberating. He explains why serving is so often joyless and how our identity in Christ changes everything.

I hope you’ll consider reading a few of these with me, and check back in to hear my thoughts. What other books are you reading this year?

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By Bobby Oliveri