Books Read in 2020

Each year I make it a goal to read a certain number of books. I think this year, thanks to Covid, was my all time most. This year was a lot of diving further into contemplative Christianity, prophetic preaching and justice, how we grow and change, and books on psychological/emotional health. Usually I don’t shoot for this many books, but Covid left many of us staying inside more than previous years and it helps that I have never bought a TV for myself.

You will also see that I decided to highlight my top 5 books in Green and 3 honorable mentions in Yellow, with brief descriptions of what I thought of them. Green was reserved for deep and meaningful books that I think everyone could benefit from reading, while Yellow was reserved for books that not everyone would enjoy but make a decent contribution if you were to engage them.

  1. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
  2. Beyond Codependency: And Getting Better All the Time by Melody Beattie
  3. What Do We Do with the Bible? by Richard Rohr
  4. Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila
  5. Mechthild of Magdeburg: The Flowing Light of the Godhead
  6. The Way of Perfection by Teresa of Avila
  7. The Sign of Jonas by Thomas Merton – This is understood as a classic of Merton’s. Written as a journal over the first few years of his monastic life at the Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey. It recounts a number of harsh winters and interactions within the monastery, but also provides a lovely insight to the poetic nature of Merton’s soul. This is not a fast read, but if you take the time to really steep yourself in it then you will find yourself deepening your own spiritual life through the words of this fantastic 20th century contemplative.
  8. The Enneagram, Relationships and Intimacy: Understanding One Another Leads to Loving Better and Living More Full by David Daniels and Suzanne Dion
  9. Befriending Silence by Marl McColman
  10. The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith by Jane Hagberg
  11. Postcards from Babylong: The Church in American Exile by Brian Zahnd
  12. Lamentations: A Commentary by Adele Berlin
  13. Water to Wine: Some of My Story by Brian Zahnd
  14. Teilhard de Chardin – Seven Stages of Suffering: A Spiritual Path for Transformation by Lous Savary
  15. Ecclesiastes: A Commentary by James Crenshaw
  16. The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom on Earth by Dallas Willard
  17. Hegel: A Very Short Introduction by Peter Singer
  18. Love Alone is Credible by Hans Urs von Balthasar
  19. Moving Through Grief: Proven Techniques for Finding Your Way After Any Love by Gretchen Kubacky
  20. A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album by Ashley Kahn
  21. Bitten by A Camel: Leaving Church, Finding God by Kent Dobson
  22. A Course in Desert Spirituality: Fifteen Sessions with the Famous Trappist Monk by Thomas Merton
  23. Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World by Krotke Wolf
  24. The Enneagram of Belonging: A Compassionate Journey of Self-Acceptance by Christopher Heuertz
  25. The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation by Thomas Keating
  26. From Judgment to Hope: A Study on the Prophets by Walter Bruggemann
  27. Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word by Walter Bruggemann – Bruggemann is a master. I had the good fortune of meeting him in Washington, DC as he was walking into a building that I was walking out of just hours before he was set to speak at an event. This book is all about understanding the pastoral role of preaching in a prophetic way. Taking cues from his earlier book called The Prophetic Imagination, this was a timely read because it was just as George Floyd was murdered and the riots and demonstrations were happening in the US and the world.
  28. The Contemplative Heart by James Finley
  29. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard – Everyone has either been a scapegoat or been the one doing the scapegoating. In this sociological reading of the Crucifixion, Girard breaks down how scapegoating is the oldest mechanism for social grouping and formation and that the Christian narrative both exposes it while showing a better way. Rather than being a community of exclusion, the church can be a community of grace and for-giving.
  30. Nine Lenses on the World: The Enneagram Perspective by Jerome Wagner
  31. From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality by Richard Rohr
  32. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ by Maximus the Confessor
  33. Invitations to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation by Thomas Keating – Keating was a masterful writer on contemplative Christianity. He was a Trappist just as Thomas Merton was, but took his writings in a different direction and so reclaimed centering prayer while also merging contemplative christianity and evolutionary psychology. If you want a great introductory text to contemplative Christianity because you think your current faith understanding needs an upgrade.
  34. The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Riso and Russ Hudson
  35. Isaiah: A Commentary by Brevard Childs
  36. The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Williams, Kabat-Zinn and Teasdale
  37. The Showings of Julian of Norwich by Julian of Norwich – This is simply a classic. I read this at a point when I was doing a fair amount of self-accusation/condemnation this summer. I was coming out of a depression and found these writings from Julian to be so tender, healing, and loving. No wonder it is a classic among those who read it.
  38. Everything is Spiritual: Who We Are and What We’re Doing Here by Rob Bell – I think Rob is misunderstood. I think he is actually communicating Christian ideas all the time, he is simply not at all fixed to using the conventional Christian vocabulary that makes church folk comfortable. This is essentially his spiritual biography, interspersed with commentary and a little bit of wit. The pages that really stood out for me was when he wrote of his pressures to be a certain type of pastor and to keep growing his “brand” as a mega-church pastor. What is great is his emphasis on continuing to be authentic to where the Holy Spirit is leading you. Did you know he has had a dominican spiritual director for years?
  39. Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm by Cynthia Bourgeault
  40. The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about Ourselves by Curt Thompson
  41. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
  42. The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder by Richard Rohr
  43. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Its Impossible to be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero
  44. Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child by Frank Miller
  45. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola: With Points for Personal Prayer from Jesuit Spiritual Masters by Sean Salai
  46. Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf
  47. What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church by John Caputo – Jack, as he is called by friends, is an out of the box thinker. Originally he was on track to become a priest but shifted his studies toward secular and Christian philosophy, deconstruction (ism) and post-modernism. Put all of that in a blender and you get some very on point statements and insights about the movement known as “Christianity” and how both liberal and conservative branches could step up their game. At a time when Christianity has become so politicized, this was a great read.
  48. The Enneagram of Discernment: The Way of Vocation, Wisdom, and Practice by Drew Moser
  49. Hebrews: A Commentary by Luke Johnson
  50. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther
  51. Listening for the Soul by Jean Stairs
  52. The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehesi Coates
  53. Spiral Dynamics in Action: Practical Application of Spiral Dynamics in the Real World by Beck, Larsen and Solonin – I have been a fan of spiral dynamics for 2-3 years, but I gave it a second and closer look this year. It is probably best known as a large scale theory of the cognitive development of societies. I think it is spot on in its analysis. Then, while perusing Amazon I found this book, which outlines the influence of Spiral Dynamics and how helpful it was in overcoming Apartheid in South Africa, managing conflict in Israel, changes at Google, and more. Seeing as we are at the cusp of a new presidency and the culture wars of the past 4 years, this was timely.
  54. This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
  55. Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie J. Thompson
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