2019 Reading Review

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Last year, when I wrote about my reading journey through 2018, I did not know what to expect. I worried about coming across as braggy. I wondered at the anxiety that would come from broadcasting my yearly reading goal. However, I only wanted to encourage others to engage in one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity—reading.

The response was exactly what I had hoped for. In the weeks that followed, readers replied with questions about certain books. Others recommended books for my 2019 reading list. Through the year, many have shared parts of their own reading journey. It has been awesome!

The problem is, now my hands are tied! Apparently, when you let the world know what your plans are for the year, people expect a follow-up. Who knew?
So, here we are a year later. I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal of reading 60 books this year.

The following is a summation of my year in reading.

First is the list of the sixty some-odd books I read this year. Feel free to peruse, critique, or skip altogether. If you have read any of the same books, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share!

(By the way, if you remember last year, I mentioned that I had seven books that I read every year. Each hold a special place in my heart and mind. So, I revisit them every year. This year, my “Yearly Seven” has grown to my “Annual Eight” with the addition of a new all-time favorite. See below!)

Next, in lieu of the reading advice I gave last year, I would like to share my thoughts on a controversial topic for us bibliophiles: audiobooks. Again, I would love to hear your opinions and experiences about this polarizing issue.

Finally, I have listed the three books I enjoyed the most this year. These highpoints made the greatest impact on me. For whatever it’s worth, I recommend these three books with enthusiasm.

My 2019 Reading List

The Annual Eight

  1. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
  2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  3. On the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen
  4. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  5. Think by John Piper
  6. How Should We Then Live by Francis Shaeffer
  7. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler
  8. The Lessons of History by Will Durant (New to the list!)

The Rest of the List

  1. Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan
  2. Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson
  3. Bringing Up Girls by James Dobson
  4. The Triumph of Faith by Rodney Stark
  5. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
  6. God and Philosophy by Etienne Gilson
  7. If There’s a God Why Are There Atheists? by R.C. Sproul
  8. American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion by John D. Wilsey
  9. Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy B. Zuck
  10. Counseling by John MacArthur & ‎Wayne Mack
  11. Competent to Counsel by Jay E. Adams
  12. 3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter
  13. The Consequences of Ideas by R.C. Sproul
  14. Turning Points by Mark Noll
  15. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
  16. Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
  17. The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark
  18. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  19. Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
  20. The Weight of Glory (and other essays) by C.S. Lewis
  21. Philosophical Thoughts by C.S. Lewis
  22. C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath
  23. Think by Simon Blackburn
  24. 1776 by David McCullough
  25. Cultural Anthropology by Paul G. Hiebert
  26. Desiring God by John Piper
  27. Significant Work by Paul Rude
  28. The World Is Flat 3.0 by Thomas L. Friedman
  29. Tactics by Gregory Koukl
  30. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  31. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  32. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  33. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  34. Letters to the Church by Francis Chan
  35. Inside the Atheist Mind by Anthony DeStefano
  36. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
  37. Benjamin Franklin by Thomas Kidd
  38. On Guard by William Lane Craig
  39. Prelude to Philosophy by Mark W. Foreman
  40. No God but One: Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Quershi
  41. The Essentials of Christian Thought by Roger E. Olsen
  42. Augustine for Armchair Theologians by Stephen A. Cooper
  43. Aquinas for Armchair Theologians by Timothy Renick
  44. Seven Days that Divide the World by John Lennox
  45. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  46. Ten Philosophical Mistakes by Mortimer J. Adler
  47. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  48. Contagious by Jonah Berger
  49. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin
  50. Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller
  51. The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  52. The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch
  53. Scientism and Secularism by J.P. Moreland
  54. Minimalism by Joshua Bell
  55. The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias

(Continue reading for numbers 64, 65, and 66.)

On Audio Books

“Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension.” – Mortimer J. Adler

As you may have noticed, How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler is on my yearly shortlist. Last January, I read this classic as my first book for 2019 with a question in mind: What would Dr. Adler have to say about audiobooks?

Audiobooks are obviously not the best possible way to engage a book. Listening to someone read can never replace your own internal voice absorbing and processes a written work. As convenient as audiobooks are, the comprehension is not as thorough, and the experience is not as satisfying.

However, it’s not nothing.

I would argue that the proliferation of audiobooks in recent years is one of the great blessings of living in the 21st century. I have benefited greatly from audiobooks, more this year than ever. But, I also believe Dr. Adler would approve. Allow me to explain.

Adler outlines four levels of reading: elementary reading, inspectional reading, analytical reading, and synoptic reading. Of course, it is well worth your time and effort to discover what he prescribes at each level. But, I only want to focus here on the middle two.

Adler describes inspectional reading as getting the most out of a book in a limited amount of time. To do this, he proposes two skills: systematic skimming and superficial reading. Systematic skimming involves perusing the structural elements of the book like chapter titles, preface, index, pivotal chapters and paragraphs, and publisher blurbs. Superficial reading entails a fast-paced read (speed-reading, if you will) through the book, “without ever stopping to look up or ponder the things you do not understand right away.” The goal on this level of reading is to gain a provisional understanding of a book that lays a foundation for more comprehensive levels of reading.

Adler describes analytical reading as getting the most out of a book given an unlimited amount of time. To do so he proposes that the reader should not only absorb the book but also engage the author. It is on this level that reading goes from being a lecture to a dialogue. The goal on this level of reading is to gain a comprehensive understanding of a book.

Here is my claim: Listening to audiobooks typically falls somewhere between inspectional and analytical reading.

Having a book read to you certainly acquaints you with the book more than systematic skimming and usually more than superficial reading. It clearly does not allow you to grapple with a book and achieve optimal comprehension. But, it is not difficult to get a solid understanding of the book and retain major details (especially with the bookmark features in most audiobook apps).

The key is concentration. How much are you concentrating on what is being said? If you are allowing the words of a book to float through the air without grabbing at any of the content, yeah, you’re not really reading. But, isn’t this a potential problem with any type of reading? Haven’t we all turned the page of a book, unable to recall the anything we were staring at just seconds ago?
But, what if as you listen, you are catching the major points, following the major arguments, retaining the major details? By way of listening, you can attain a level of comprehension worth your time and effort.

(I hope to write a blog post soon with my advice on how to get the most out of audiobooks. Keep an eye out!)

My Favorites

As I look back over the year, the following three books were highpoints for me. As I ponder all that plagues us in the early twenty-first century, I have come to appreciate books like these more and more. The books are not just good; they are needed. Please read them.

(The links below are Amazon.com affiliated links. I receive a small kickback when you use them to purchase the books.)

Last Call for Liberty by Os Guinness

In the United States, we are living through the highest levels of political polarization since the Civil War. We have moved beyond seeing people who disagree with our politics as opponents, to seeing them as enemies. Os Guinness brings some desperately needed historical, philosophical, and theological clarity to our current situation. The reality is that our problems are rooted deeper than most of us are willing to dig. In this book, one of the great Christian intellectuals of our time hands us a shovel and points to the spots where we need to begin.

If you are a U.S. citizen of voting age, please read this book!

So the Next Generation May Know by Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace

There has been more talk of generational differences over the past few years than there was over the past few decades combined. At times it seems like Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers are all just staring at each other thinking, “If only they were more like us.” McDowell and Wallace offer some well-informed and much needed clarity. They succinctly educate previous generations on who and what we are dealing with regarding the youngest among us. They then go on to prescribe a dynamic and Biblical way forward. (Read my full review of this book here.)

If you are a Christian parent, teacher, or pastor, please read this book!

Why Suffering? by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale

The problem of evil is perhaps the most pervasive challenge to Christian belief. As big of a problem as it is, Christian thinkers often treat the problems of pain and suffering with either intellectual rigor or emotional care—usually emphasizing one at the expense of the other. In this book, Zacharias and Vitale have achieved both. Their treatment of this massive topic is both rational and careful. They demonstrate that while the problem of evil is a problem for everyone, it is not a problem without a solution.

If you have ever been troubled by the problem of evil, please read this book!

My Goals

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”

I am happy that I met my reading goal this year. However, I must admit, it was a stretch. There are several books I plan to revisit, simply because I did not read them for all they are worth. As much as I recommend using audiobooks, I feel like I was a little too dependent on them this year. Pushing to meet my goal had me getting to the point of valuing quantity reading over quality reading. And that is a point I want to avoid.

So, here’s the thing…
I am dialing back my reading goal for 2020 to 50 books. This year, I want to focus less on how many books I get through and more on how many books get through me.


Thanks for reading!

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