In 2019, I read some stuff.
I was all over the place — from C.S. Lewis to Michelle Obama and from Barbara Brown Taylor to William Faulkner. I read an interesting and entertaining biography by shock jock Howard Stern immediately followed by a thought-provoking, forward-thinking theology book from Franciscan priest Richard Rohr.
Obviously, my interests are varied. I don’t mind reading stuff I don’t agree with. And, of course, all preferences are subjective.
So if you’re looking to add to your 2020 reading list and looking for a few suggestions, here are five of my faves from this past year, in no particular order:
It’s a classic, and I’m embarrassed to say I had never read it. Beautifully and vulnerably composed, it caused what all books cause in the reader — an emotional reaction. A book that makes you feel something is almost always an honest book. It is certainly well-written. In this book the response may be visceral for some readers. It’s that true. You can count the 20th Century writers who are better than Angelou on one or two hands. If you’re like me and whiffed on this one for years, don’t let 2020 pass without reading it.
This book is worthy of a more thorough review, but I’ll save the space. Suffice it to say I think this is a really important book that will be referenced by the Church more in 50-100 years than it is today. Rohr is a little ahead of his time…but only a little. It will trouble some, and it sparked no shortage of controversy in the Church, but most reformers do. I found it exceedingly helpful in latching new language to ancient tradition.
I’m a sucker for a biography and a sucker for politically-themed books, and this is both. With 2020 bringing on another contentious election, I find that Buttigieg promotes reasonable discussion, level-headedness, and an honest approach. Of course, I don’t agree with the author on everything, nor will you, but you will appreciate the tone of his voice and I think you’ll likely be challenged to think. I also think you won’t be surprised that he keeps raising money and rising the Democratic ranks.
On Writing has long been my favorite book about writing. Stephen King now has some competition. Anne Lamott’s book was so great. It is one of those books where I think my wife caught me nodding my head in agreement while I read. So vulnerable and brilliant, weaving together truths about life and writing in a way that really felt challenging and growth-inducing. Even if you don’t care about writing, I think you’d really appreciate her work as it applies to your own life, vocation, hobbies, and relationships.
Also in the category of “How Did I Miss This?” Steinbeck tells a multi-generational tale that had me totally enthralled. It’s a book about humanity as much as anything, and it is timeless. If he’d written it today it would be just as brilliant. I read more fiction than usual this year, and this tops the list of favorites. If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it recently, put it on your 2020 list.
I almost went through and added Amazon links for all these, but I decided not to. While my family certainly does our part to keep Amazon in business (and I’m not anti-Amazon, by any means), I also really value local bookstores for their service. And their smell. So if you decide to pick up any of these books, give your local bookstore a shot. Or visit your library.
Two honorable mentions to note: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield as well as Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr. You wouldn’t do poorly to read either (or both) of those titles in the next year.
(For a total compilation of my 2019 reading list, visit here)