Hello, dear readers!
Another year has come and gone.
2020 held a lot of surprises for me– some were unpleasant, but quite a few were also huge answers to prayer. Often, they were a mixture of both. I sold my horse, but the new owners are people we know, and they’re showering him with loving attention. An overseas trip I anticipated was canceled, but on the day I had been scheduled to leave, I officially started being mentored by two fantastic authors. There are many people I wasn’t able to see, but I found a supportive, encouraging writing group. All the concerts I had looked forward to performing in were either canceled or looked significantly different, but I started working on a new sci-fi novel and posted more consistently on this blog.
One of my most valuable takeaways from 2020 is that in the midst of every heartache, there is also a plethora of blessings shining through.
However, that’s probably enough of my rambling. In the middle of all the craziness, I read a number of wonderful books that I want to share with you. I even discovered some surprising new favorites. I ended up reading far more non-fiction than usual, which stretched myself in fantastic ways, but I’d also like to return to more fiction in this next year.
Number of Books Read: 118
(This was far less than my goal of 175, but I still think it’s a decent amount, considering how writing consumed my life in the second half of the year.)
Author of the Year: I started this tradition last year and want to keep it going. The 2020 Author of the Year goes to… C.S. Lewis.
His books were both an encouragement and an education this year, impacting me so deeply that it was only fitting to give him this slot. Lewis’ wit, wisdom, faith, and logic compelled me to devour 5 of his books along with a biography about him. He’s definitely been an inspiration and is a writer that I strive to emulate in my own work.
As hard as it was, this list is in order, so the #1 book is my top read of the entire year. Without further palaver, here’s my countdown of the top books I read in 2020.
10. Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki
As a violinist, I was well acquainted with Suzuki’s name before picking up this book. (For those of you who aren’t violinists, the Suzuki Method is widely popular teaching method for violin.) However, my respect and appreciation for this man and his educational philosophy grew greatly after reading this petite book. He believed in the capability everyone possesses and strove to create learning environments where students would flourish and music’s beauty would be expressed. Not to mention, I felt very inspired to go learn all sorts of classical pieces once I’d finished reading it.
9. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
I read a number of Shakespeare’s plays this year, but The Merchant of Venice was probably my favorite. Portia is a gem of a character who reminds me of Elizabeth Bennet, Nerissa is as loyal a friend as a girl could ask for, and Bassanio… well, he has a good heart. I’ve heard there’s a bit of controversy surrounding this play, but the overall message I walked away with was mercy. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness, counting on God’s grace, and thus we are called to show that same grace toward others. While we should show restraint and live in the mean for many areas of life, mercy is a gift we should spread lavishly.
8. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Like I mentioned earlier, I read a number of C.S. Lewis’ works this year, but Mere Christianity was one of my favorites. (Who would have seen that coming when it’s on a list titled “favorites?”) It was a practical and encouraging look at what it means to live the life of a Christian. In typical Lewis fashion, the topic was approached in a down to earth, logical, warmly witty, and grace-filled way.
7. Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
If I think back into the black hole of 2020, I seem to recall that this was a spontaneous read for me. Yet, I’m so glad I decided to pick it up. It refocused me on the core of living out my faith– pursuing God. It’s that simple.
Note: simple doesn’t equate to easy.
Living in relentless pursuit of God is not without challenges, but it is worth it, and that’s exactly this book’s message. I also appreciated the prayers at the end of each chapter, which were both eloquent and stirring.
6. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
I’m not sure where to begin with this book. The Hiding Place recounts Corrie ten Boom’s experiences during WWII, including her work in the underground and surviving a concentration camp. This book is raw, and a lot of it is hard to read. How could such atrocities be committed? How can human beings treat each other with such cruelty? Reading this brings you face to face with the brokenness of the world.
But that’s not where it ends.
Shining in the darkest places, there is light. Corrie’s faith, dignity, and compassion weaves hope through every page, and through it all, God’s light is displayed. It’s not an easy read, but it’s absolutely inspiring.
5. Not a Tame Lion by Terry Glaspey
It was thanks to this biography that I set out to read so many Lewis books this year. I was deeply moved by the story of C.S. Lewis’ life, and I loved that a significant portion of Not a Tame Lion is comprised of direct quotes. More than just a list of facts, this biography helps you understand and appreciate the man C.S. Lewis was.
4. The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson
I got this novella as e-book, thinking I should probably read it because Kara is now my mentor. However, this book should have come with a disclaimer for the way it made me stay up far later than I should have, put my emotions through the gauntlet, and was the first book I’d utterly devoured in quite some time. Needless to say, I was (and still am) thrilled to be under Kara’s mentoring.
This quick, urban fantasy novella packs a large punch. I already discussed it earlier in this review, so I won’t say much more here. Fern and Tristan were wonderful characters, and I loved how real the story felt. The book captivated me from the first line and never relented. All in all, it’s one of the best novella’s I’ve read.
3. The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
My copy includes not on only “The Weight of Glory,” but several of C.S. Lewis’ other addresses, and I loved all of them. I remain convinced that every middle-schooler should read “The Inner Ring” to save themselves a whole lot of heartache and drama; “Learning in Peace Time” was the perfect read for as we headed in to the first wave of Covid lock downs; and “The Weight of Glory” introduced me to quotes that I still ponder. Lewis offers profound insights, and I highly recommend this book to anyone with a bit of time on their hands.
2. Dust by Kara Swanson
I debated on whether I preferred The Girl Who Could See more or Dust, but ultimately Dust won.
Honestly, the ordeals I put myself through for blog posts. 😉
If you missed my review, this book is a Peter Pan retelling/ sequel. I haven’t read Peter Pan nor seen the movie, but I still loved this book. The characters, the vivid writing, the cliffhanger— all of it is lovely. However, what strikes me most clearly, and why this book made second place, is its theme of letting the light heal all our broken pieces. We are not defined by our shadows– we are defined by the light. Kara beautifully captures this message on every page.
1. Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson
I know. I couldn’t believe it either. A non-fiction book is my favorite read of 2020? But this book truly deserves it.
Adorning the Dark is a soulful look at the creative process, art, and faith. It impacted the way I view my writing tremendously, encouraging me as I walk this path of being a Christian who is also an artist. This book is filled with Peterson’s personal stories and hard-won wisdom, speaking not only to Christians and artists, but also to people in general (including those who wouldn’t ordinarily deem themselves creative). I read this book twice and gleaned so much each time. Also, the moon on the cover is glow-in-the-dark, which is pretty darn cool.
I recommend this book if you are:
- An artist
- A Christian
- And/ or human (optional)
So, those were my top reads of 2020! Tell me what yours were in the comments below. Also, let me know if you’ve read any of the books I picked.