Well, what a year this has been. I’ll spare you the obligatory comments about the craziness of 2020. Needless to say: despite everything else, I’ve managed to continue my standard reading pace I’ve kept up these past four years, including a lot more re-reading than I have for a while! Most of my re-reads were of classical works of literature, but there were a few non-classics as well. Because I generally keep re-reads off this list (unless it dramatically changed my view of the book), those won’t be represented on this list. But without any further commentary, let’s dig into my favorite new reads I’ve done this past year. (As always, titles are linked to my longer reviews.)
Khaled Hosseni was on my TBR list for a while before I finally got into him this year. I went back and forth on whether to include Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns in this slot, but ended up choosing Kite Runner since it was my first introduction to his beautiful prose and haunting themes.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this year about what it means to deal with injustice in biblical ways. I found this book quite helpful as I did so.
An excellent example of the type of Christian-produced fantasy I’m ever searching to read: imaginative, thoughtful, surprising, relevant, and poignant.
Contrary to what some readers may expect, this book isn’t as tied to controversial issues as the title may suggest. But in the midst of a year in which my church’s denomination has gone through a lot of vicious debates about gender, I found this book to be a refreshing look at what it looks like for men & women to value the Kingdom of Heaven above all else.
One of the best memoirs I’ve read this year. This book challenged several beliefs I had before picking it up and led me to think more deeply about what true justice and mercy looks like in the midst of a fallen world. This was not an easy book to read because of the spotlight it shines on some of the horrific racist attitudes that still exist in the US, but I was glad to have read it.
This is the fourth 1,000+ book in a projected series of ten (all of similar length), so the Stormlight Archive is quite the reading investment to get into at this point. But it’s a truly fine example of what strong character-based fantasy looks like, and I loved its various character arcs.
I almost considered making this my top book this year. Because it was the last book I read (finished yesterday), I may be biased due to its recency, so I’m not giving it the top slot. But as a reflection of what the good life looks like and what it means to find our happiness in virtue instead of the spinning wheels of fortune, this book was thought-provoking and truly excellent.
There are some books you read that regularly shatter your expectations of what’s going to happen in the story. Children of Virtue & Vengeance is one of those books–and one that matches superb character twists with really powerful themes. The best new fictional work I read this year.
This is a more intense philosophical work than the others on this list. But after hearing so much about it from others, I finally got around to reading it this year, and while it took me a good six months to work my way through the book, it was rather excellent.
Denhollander is one of my personal heroes, so this book’s position as the top work I read this year may be somewhat influenced by my admiration for everything else she’s done over the past several years. But this is a powerful memoir about what it means to truly value the dignity and worth of human beings in the face of abuse, and on top of that, it’s just a beautiful picture about what true courage looks like. As a Christian, I want to see more people like Rachael Denhollander in our churches and communities today.
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