At the end of every year, I pull out my list of books that I have read throughout the year and try to pick my favorites to share with all of you. However, this year, that has proven to be quite difficult as I consumed more written material than I ever have in my life. I say “consumed” because in 2020, I found two apps that introduced me to the world of audio books.
Libby and hoopla are both apps that you can download to your phone to listen to audio books for free. All you have to do is enter a valid library card. I thought I would download both apps, use them for awhile, and then decide which app I preferred. However, after nearly 6 months of using both, I can confidently say you need both. HA! The apps have different books available on them, and slightly different restrictions. For example, hoopla only allows me to check out 8 books a month and Libby requires you to be on wait-lists for popular books. Anyways, if you are looking for a new way to incorporate reading into your life, I highly encourage you to check out either of these apps. Its incredible how much you can consume when simply driving to work or doing chores around your house!
Alight, without further ado, here are my top ten reads of 2020:
- Be Angry, But Don’t Blow It
It’s no secret that I can be a bit dramatic. Most times when I tell people I dream of “hulking-out” in anger, they laugh and assume I’m being dramatic. When I talk about wanting to throw plates or punch people, people think I’m being funny…. but the reality is I’m usually serious. While I haven’t actually ever thrown a plate or punched someone in anger… I often feel like my anger is always boiling just waiting to explode at a moment’s notice. In this book, Lisa Bevere shares her journey with anger and rage. She shared parts of her testimony and what God taught her about rage. It’s packed full of truth that wasn’t super comfortable for me to read. If I’m being honest, it also felt like finding an open door to freedom from the boiling rage that often is brewing.
In the book, she gives practical ways to rely on God to transform from a woman who is seconds away from turning into the hulk… into a woman who manages healthy levels of anger. You can purchase it here.
- Born Again This Way
By Rachel Gilson
I have never wrestled with same-sex attraction. With that said, I have come to realize through many personal experiences that Christians do not talk about same-sex attraction nearly enough. I think there are more people with same-sex attraction (who are living with high levels of shame and fear) in the church than we probably realize.
Rachel was gay before she came to Christ, and many told her that she could still have a girlfriend and be a Christian. However, the closer Rachel got to Jesus, and the more she learned the bible, she realized this was far from the truth. So Rachel broke up with her girlfriend. However, even though she made that choice, she quickly realized that becoming a Christian didn’t take her desires away. In fact, now many many years later, she is still tempted by same-sex attraction. This book is Rachel’s story, but honestly it’s so much more than just a story. The book is full of so many truths about gender, sexuality, marriage, temptation and who God is.
In my opinion, this book highlights truths that we don’t talk enough about. If we stop and actually be honest, I am sure we all have at least one temptation that we struggle with. Following Jesus, doesn’t automatically result in a temptation-free euphoria. This book is an amazing example of the grace Jesus gives as we stumble through the mess of our temptations.
I think it can be difficult to be blunt about sin. No one wants to share weakness and oftentimes, when we do share, it’s so hard to be honest without sugarcoating our true feelings. I also think it’s just as hard to be silent about our sin. Silence can be so suffocating. However, Rachel doesn’t make light of sin and she doesn’t sugarcoat her thoughts. Her vulnerability made this book so relatable even if I don’t struggle with the same things. Another thing I loved about this book is that the author didn’t say that we must rely on our faith alone to fight sin. Rachel continually reminds the reader to turn to their community in their time of need. Sin thrives in darkness and confession helps choke it out. The way Rachel describes the church family was incredible. The image she paints, and the love that God designed us with, it’s just so good!
Finally, the way the author doesn’t flinch in holding to scriptural truth is amazing. She’s very clear on scripture’s view of marriage as well as the sinfulness of desiring sexual immorality. However, she doesn’t line these scriptures out like a list of rules we must follow. Instead, she explains her decision that the pleasures the world has to offer can never compare to what Jesus has to offer. The reality is, scripture isn’t meant to be a long list of no’s, it’s actually a long list of big yes’s! You can purchase this book here.
- The Bondage Breaker
By Neil T. Anderson
I think so many of us have relationships with Jesus, but still walk around with negative thoughts, irrational feelings and habitual harmful habits. It’s easy to get stuck in a circle of “temptation, sin, ask for forgiveness, and then sin again”. We walk around thinking that our thoughts, feelings and habits will never change – no matter how hard we try – and we carry deep shame because we can’t simply “get better”. Sometimes, we just give up because it seems freedom will never come anyways.
The book is a powerful reminder that because of our position in the kingdom, we have authority to break free. We can stop negative thoughts, irrational feelings, and harmful habits and walk in total freedom. This book is a practical guide on how to get rid of negative thoughts for good. How to stop irrational feelings and how to break the agreement with habitual sins.
At the end of the book, there is an appendix that walks through steps to freedom in Christ. It’s a step by step prayer and exercise to find breakthrough. It was powerful, full of truth and so very practical! Honestly, it can be used over and over again and I will go back to it often!
If I am being honest, this isn’t a terribly easily read. It will step on your toes, give you a lot to chew on and convict you to take steps towards freedom. However, it will also encourage you, and help you break free from chains you have been carrying for years. You can purchase it here.
By Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
This book explains why boundaries are more than just a “good thing to do”, but a healthy biblical truth God gave us because he delights in us. Boundaries aren’t meant to limit us or suffocate us, they are meant to give us room to flourish. The book acknowledges that creating boundaries can be difficult, so it provides real ways to look at our lives and determine where boundaries are and how to create them. This book didn’t stop at just recognizing the need boundaries and creating them, but also how to maintain the boundaries once you create them. It touched on so many types of boundaries… relationships, parenting, work and so many more! This book will be one I read over again, because as it says “Life without boundaries is no life at all.” You can purchase it here.
- Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
By Mark Vroegop
“Dark clouds and deep mercy” is for sure a phrase I can relate to. I am not sure when it happened, but I think somewhere I picked up the idea that if I follow Jesus I have to be happy ALL THE TIME. So when I have walked through “dark cloudy seasons”, I have felt so much shame about not handling them with great joy. I mean Jesus is so great right? I am so blessed, why can’t I just be happy? I have felt a lot of shame in the past simply because I couldn’t be happy even when life was really hard.
However, a few years ago, I started to learn that doing life with Jesus doesn’t save us from walking through “dark cloudy seasons”, but it does promise us mercy during those seasons. Learning how to lament is how we can find that mercy. This book is an amazing tool to describe why lament is important. The author shares his story of big heartaches, and how God met him in the middle of those heartaches when he learned to lament.
Not only does this book explain what lamenting is, but it also explains how to lament. The Bible is full of so many examples, and this book teaches how to use those verses to cry out and tell Jesus all of our big emotions. What I loved about this book is that it didn’t stop there. Of course Jesus wants all of our big feelings, but lamenting is more than just complaining to God. This book talked about reminding Jesus what He promised, and praying boldly when those dark clouds roll in.
Even if you currently do not find yourself walking through a dark cloudy season, I highly encourage you to read this book. It’s full of so much truth that we all need and can cling to! The book can be purchased here.
- Fear Gone Wild
By Kayla Stoecklein
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I picked up this book. People hold very strong opinions about mental illness and suicide and honestly those opinions can be very polarizing. This book doesn’t sugar coat anything, and boldly tells the story of the authors husbands mental illness and eventual death by suicide. This story doesn’t just stop with his death, it goes on to describe how Kayla chose to live in hope even after her husband was gone.
I loved how real and raw this book is. Kayla spoke openly about not only her husband’s struggle with mental illness, but also her struggle watching him struggle. As someone who has battled my own anxiety, reading this book from a spouse’s point of view was very eye opening.
Kayla writes with the authority of someone who has walked through the darkest days, and seen God in the midst of them. It’s a story of who God is in the midst of pain we really can’t begin to understand. I can’t say it enough… this book is raw, and at times it’s hard to read. However the truth found in the pages is so worth it. You can purchase it here.
- Kill the Spider
I don’t really know what I was expecting when I started reading this book, but it wasn’t at all what I thought. In this book, Carlos Whittaker tells a story of when he went to a retreat center for a week on the recommendation of his counselor. He wasn’t really sure why he was going when he went, but while there he jumped in head first and kept his heart open to whatever God may have for him. While at the retreat center, God turned his life upside down. He realized the only way he could walk in true freedom was to destroy the roots habits and thought processes he was holding on to.
In the book, he helps the reader to identify cobwebs (tracking down habits and thoughts processes you can’t seem to break), locate the spider (finding the space in your story where the false agreement was formed), corner the spider (calling out the lie and combating it with truth), and finally, killing the spider (confess, reject, replace the lie with the authority of the risen Christ) You can’t just clear away the cobwebs; you need to find the spider–the source of the issue–and take it out. Carlos is a great story teller, so this book will grip you. I found myself so caught up in the story, that the truth kinda snuck up on me! You can purchase it here.
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
By John Mark Comer
I earned the nickname “Grace” when I was very young. Why? Because I was ALWAYS running into things, dropping things or making a mess of things. I can still hear my moms voice “If you’d just slow down, this wouldn’t have happened.” Slowing down doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a type A personality that likes to be moving all the time. I walk fast, talk fast and even eat fast. There is too much to do, too much to see, and not nearly enough time to accomplish everything.
This book stopped me in my tracks. I have read books before about priorities, boundaries, the impacts of technology and the importance of sabbath… but if I’m being honest…. none had hit me as hard as this one. This read is easy, but the subject is heavy. The author is sassy and bold. I laughed several times, and had my toes stepped on WAY more than I could count.
This book answers the question: “How do we slow down, simplify, and live deliberately?” Well, it doesn’t answer it completely, because that’s a very personal question, but it lays out the framework for the reader to begin working through that question. This book challenged me to look at my days and figure out how I can make room for silence and simplicity.
More than any of that, this book gave me a completely new perspective on sabbath. The author did an amazing job of explaining what Sabbath is, why it’s important, and what it can look like in our lives. This book isn’t a set of rules that forces the reader to slow down. This book explains why we need to eliminate “hurry” and gives ideas on what that can actually look like. Read this one friends! It will impact you! You can purchase it here.
- Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot
By Mo Isom
I feel like growing up in the church, sex was the thing we were told not to do, and that was that. It In this book, Mo Isom shares her story and what God taught her along the way. This book talks about purity from a young age. It discusses what children are exposed to. It talks about what kids are hearing at church and at school. It talks about what we face when we start dating and when we get engaged. Finally, it talks about sex within marriage.
The reality is, God created sex. It’s a gift from Him that can glorify Him when we use it well. The enemy works before we are married to get us together, and after we are married he works to get us apart. There is a reason for that! Friends, it doesn’t matter if you are single, dating, engaged, married or even divorced… this book is going to wake you up, step on your toes, make you mad and encourage you! As Isom says, “It’s past time for some raw and candid conversations about virginity, promiscuity, and everything in between.”
This book is raw and incredibly transparent. This book may make you feel uncomfortable at times, but don’t let that stop you from picking it up. The truth is shared respectfully. You can purchase this book here.
- What if it’s True
By Charles Martin
I didn’t know who Charles Martin was before reading this book. If I am being honest, I read the summary of the book and thought “Hmm, I wonder if that is any good?” and then listened to a small portion before jumping in. I quickly learned Martin is a gifted storyteller. I have read so many of the stories in the bible again and again, however Martin took me on an incredible journey through stories unlike one I’ve never been through. He paints these pictures and brings these stories to life in a manner where you feel like you are standing in front of the cross weeping as Jesus takes His last breath. I was the woman with an issue of blood trying to push through the crowd. I was in the crowd when the woman knelt and washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. I was a fly in the wall for the last supper and was in Jesus’ heart while he prayed in the garden. Martin tells the stories how he envisions them unfolding, including how he thinks people may be feeling.
Martin dives into that question “Is the bible true?” and “What does it mean to me if it is?” and helps the reader dig their way through it. I fully believed the bible was true before reading this book, however reading this left me feeling closer to God with a stronger appreciation for the great amount He loves me. If you fully believe the bible is true, you will walk differently.
In the middle of retelling the stories, Martin starts preaching. I found myself so caught up in the stories, I wasn’t ready for the truth and conviction he shared without abandon. This book will capture your heart and for sure step on your toes (my favorite kind of read). At the end of each chapter, Martin writes a prayer that walks the reader through the topics presented. It almost felt like I had a prayer partner helping me through the issues Martin raised in the chapters.
This book was such a gift to find. I enjoyed getting lost in the chapters and finding new truths I hadn’t thought of before. I encourage you to get caught up in this one for sure! You can purchase this book here.
If I am being honest, I wanted to add a few more books to this list as honorable mentions! Friends, I really love books? Anyways, if you are looking for something to read in 2020, I encourage you to check out all the books I recommend! (Books I Recommend) You can also check out my Top Reads of 2018 as well as my Top Reads of 2019 for more of my absolute favorite books!
What were your favorite books from 2020? Are you setting any reading goals for 2021? I’d love to hear all about it!
*Please note, I have included links to the books on Amazon, however I am not an Amazon affiliate.