Books I’ve read, or re-read, in 2020

In the back of my daily journal I keep a list of books I read. I share it each year, not in a competitive spirit, but more as a tool for reflection.

This year I’m almost embarrassed by the length of this list. But then, as I reflect, I realize that it’s not surprising how highly reading figured in my list of relaxations. Covid-19 caused many things to grind to a halt, including substantial holiday trips, attending open stages, holding musical evenings in our home, and any real motivation for songwriting (I hate to admit it, but when I can’t share songs live and see people’s reaction to them, I find songwriting a little pointless).

One thing that stands out on this list for me was how much fiction I read this year. I would further define the parameters and say, how much easy reading fiction, including re-reads. I re-read a lot of Ursula LeGuin, Suzanne Collins, Catherine Fox, C.J. Sansom, and Jane Austen. I also read a lot of Bernard Cornwell (historical fiction with a lot of violence in it), and Ann Cleeves (murder mysteries). Conclusion? I wasn’t interested in working too hard at my reading. Daily life already required enough effort.

Some of the really good books I’ve read this year have been ones Marci and I read together. The best one was her choice: Camilla Townsend’s Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs. We also enjoyed Pierre Berton’s The Arctic Grail, a re-read for me, but first time through for her. I also note that on December 22nd Marci and I, and our four kids, got together on Zoom for two hours and did a family read of Oscar Wilde’s brilliant play The Importance of Being Earnest, which was more fun than anything we’ve done together for a long time!

I’ve been using the little Bible commentaries in the ‘For Everyone’ series (Old Testament by John Goldingay, New Testament by N.T. Wright) in my devotional reading and as resource material for Bible study groups this year. I don’t always read them all the way through, but the ones I’ve finished, I’ve listed here.

Best reads? For fiction, I would probably list the two Richard Wagamese books I read this year: Medicine Walk and Starlight. If you haven’t yet read anything by the late Richard Wagamese, you’re in for a treat; in my opinion he was one of Canada’s finest authors of recent years, and also a great introduction to indigenous writing if you haven’t dipped into it yet. For non-fiction, my favourites were probably the two David Runcorn books: Love Means Love (on same-sex marriage and related issues) and The Language of Tears. On a side note, David and I have become friends this year, which adds a whole new dimension to reading an author’s work.

Also, I re-read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina this year and I still think it’s the finest novel I’ve ever read.

Least enjoyable read? Probably Shane O’Mara’s In Praise of Walking, which was full of information but ultimately rather boring!

Interestingly (to me), fully 38 of these 75 books were read on my Kindle. Sometimes this is because books are so easy to get in the Kindle store, and are usually cheaper. But also, as I get older, I find my wrists get tired faster from holding a big book (I especially noticed this with Sansom’s Sovereign), and a Kindle is just lighter and easier to hold.

So, here’s the list, in the order in which they were read.

  1. Ann Cleeves: The Long Call
  2. Ann Cleeves: Raven Black
  3. Thomas Cahill: How the Irish Saved Civilization
  4. Ann Cleeves: White Nights
  5. Brené Brown: The Gifts of Imperfection
  6. Richard Wagamese: Medicine Walk
  7. Ann Cleeves: Red Bones
  8. Ursula K. LeGuin: The Tombs of Atuan
  9. Ursula K. LeGuin: The Farthest Shore
  10. Ursula K. LeGuin: Tehannu
  11. Ursula K. LeGuin: Tales of Earthsea
  12. N.T. Wright: John for Everyone: Part 1
  13. Ursula K. LeGuin: The Other Wind
  14. Rowan Williams: Tokens of Trust
  15. Ann Cleeves: Blue Lightning
  16. Philip Gulley: Home to Harmony
  17. Ann Cleeves: Dead Water
  18. Philip Gulley: Just Shy of Harmony
  19. John Goldingay: 1 & 2 Chronicles for Everyone
  20. Philip Gulley: Signs and Wonders
  21. Michael Frost: Keep Christianity Weird
  22. Shane O’Mara: In Praise of Walking
  23. Richard Wagamese: Starlight
  24. Eugene Peterson: Run with the Horses
  25. Pam Smith: Online Mission and Ministry
  26. Ann Cleeves: Thin Air
  27. Catherine Fox: Acts and Omissions
  28. Catherine Fox: Unseen Things Above
  29. Catherine Fox: Realms of Glory
  30. Catherine Fox: Angels and Men
  31. Ann Cleeves: Cold Earth
  32. Catherine Fox: Benefits of Passion
  33. Ann Cleeves: Wild Fire
  34. Marcus Green: The Possibility of Difference
  35. Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games
  36. Suzanne Collins: Catching Fire
  37. Suzanne Collins: Mockingjay
  38. Camilla Townsend: Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs
  39. Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
  40. Natalie Jenner: The Jane Austen Society
  41. N.T. Wright: Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 2
  42. David Runcorn: Love Means Love
  43. Nicholas Sparks: The Lucky One
  44. C.J. Sansom: Dissolution
  45. Pierre Berton: The Arctic Grail
  46. C.J. Sansom: Dark Fire
  47. N.T. Wright: Acts for Everyone, Part 1
  48. Bernard Cornwell: The Last Kingdom
  49. James D.G. Dunn: Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels
  50. Bernard Cornwell: The Pale Horseman
  51. Bernard Cornwell: The Lords of the North
  52. Vicky Beeching: Undivided
  53. Bernard Cornwell: Sword Song
  54. Bernard Cornwell: The Burning Land
  55. Bernard Cornwell: The Pagan Lord
  56. Bernard Cornwell: The Death of Kings
  57. Bernard Cornwell: The Empty Throne
  58. L.C. Tyler: A Cruel Necessity
  59. N.T. Wright: Acts for Everyone, Part 2
  60. Bernard Cornwell: Warriors in the Storm
  61. Joanna Trollope: Sense and Sensibility
  62. Alexander McCall Smith: Emma: a Modern Retelling
  63. Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility
  64. Jane Austen: Persuasion
  65. David Runcorn: The Language of Tears
  66. John Grisham: A Time for Mercy
  67. K.M. Elizabeth Murray: Caught in the Web of Words: James A.H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary
  68. N.T. Wright: Matthew for Everyone, Part 1
  69. Stephen R. Lawhead: Hood
  70. Julia Zarankin: Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder
  71. N.T. Wright: Revelation for Everyone
  72. Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
  73. Richelle Thompson, Ed.: Watching and Waiting: Advent Word Reflections
  74. C.J. Sansom: Sovereign
  75. Jonathan Evenson: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

The Meaning of Christmas

I believe with all my heart that at a certain point in history, the Word of God became a human being and lived among us as one of us. I believe he showed us by his life and teaching what God is like. I believe he infected the human race with the love of God in a new and unique way, and this good infection has been spreading ever since. And because I believe this, I love Advent and Christmas with a passion! It is my favourite time of the year!