Reflections

My 5 Best Books of 2020

By December 28, 2020 One Comment

            I’d be hard-pressed to think of a habit that has had a more substantial impact on my life than reading. My passion in life is teaching, which, I believe, presupposes the decision to be a constant learner. Reading broadly across several categories moves me toward that destination.

            One of the hacks I use to read more is to read at different times during the day. Since my mood and energy vary depending on the time, I have several books going simultaneously. I read more devotionally oriented books in the morning, personal growth during the day, and novels at night. Variety keeps me reading and feeds me according to what I am able to receive.

            This past year, reading was incredibly fruitful for me. So, I thought I would share 5 of my favorite books from this past year. Whether you read on a Kindle, prefer to turn paper pages, or listen to your pages through audiobooks, these books are worth a look.

            Here we go:

Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies by Rebecca Konydyk Deyoung – My initial attraction to this book was the title. DeYoung is a medieval philosophy professor who writes a deep dive into what we know as the “seven deadly sins.” Though the book is extremely dense, she provides constant insights into the subtle workings and rationalizations that underlie our daily actions. Couple this with thoughtful suggestions about making progress in combating these tendencies and the book had me underlining every other word. This book is a must-read for those who don’t mind working at reading.

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown – Stuart Brown opened my eyes to a gap in the way I thought about my days. He moves beyond the categories of work and rest and relaxation to express the critical place that play fills in making us human and keeping us happy. Play mixes personal anecdotes with detailed research to expand the ways we think about having fun. One of my favorite insights from Playwas his description of the eight different play personality types. This is not a lightweight book, yet Brown manages to make Play fun to read.

The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions by Emily P. Freeman – This book surprised me. Initially, I imagined a simple encouragement to live moment by moment, making the choice to “do the right thing.” Right from the beginning, Freeman showed a depth of thought that I knew I wanted to take time to savor. The chapters are short, so I made this into one of the books for my devotional time. The Next Right Thing turned into a broad assortment of wisdom inspirations. Her style is comfortable without being light. Though she writes from the female perspective, the book’s insights clearly crossed gender boundaries.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – I’m cheating here. The Chronicles are a classic compilation of seven short fantasy novels from one of the greatest writers of all time (in my humble opinion). Though typically considered children’s stories, the forays through Narnia by the Pevensie children delight the imagination of child and adult alike. I read these novels at night as part of my relaxed reading and found insights in every book which explained why Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). If it’s been awhile since you’ve read these stories, or you’ve never had the pleasure, cast off your sophistication bias and indulge in the delights of Narnia.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr – This 2011 Pullitzer Prize winner is well worth the read. Even as one who has delved wholly into the impact of technology in our daily lives, Carr takes the research to new levels. He explains clearly the concept of neuroplasticity (our brains are continually changing) and then expounds on the many ways we are being re-formed by gadgets, apps, games, and the Internet. What I found unexpected was his practical suggestions for balancing the impact of technology in a healthy way. Even though his study is practically ancient history in our rapidly evolving techno-world, he still comes through as a needed voice of sanity.

Enjoy your reading! Happy New Year!

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Mimi McCully says:

    Thanks for the suggestions Tommy. My job was eliminated in November, so think I will start with The Next Right Step. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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