Top 10 Reads of 2019


Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020. It’s time for my annual top ten reads of the previous year. Last year I read 43 books. Some of them were re-reads. I revisited Quiet and Presence because they contain powerful content and I needed that reminder. Out of 43 books I’ve done my best to whittle it down to ten. I hope you add some of these to your 2020 reading list.

*language warning

We Will Feast by Kendall Vanderslice

Kendall writes her story with such elegance. She is a baker, but then so much more. She captures the powerful role food plays in our lives and especially the Church. Kendall tells the story of several Dinner Churches and how they are using meals to connect the unreachable people to the Body of Christ. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Signs of Life by Stephanie Lobdell

This book is part memoir and part devotional. Stephanie is a Nazarene pastor who candidly shares her struggles and the way God has brought resurrection out of pain and loss. Her book is worth the read for the quality writing alone. She is an artist. But you will also be moved to see how God can take your challenges and use them for the Kingdom.

Remember God by Annie Downs

I had a hard time with the first chapter of this book. However, it pulled me in quickly afterward. I appreciate that the author doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat bow at the end. She leaves us to wrestle with God on our own terms. She reminds us that God is faithful even when we are not.

Talking to Strangers by Malcomb Gladwell

I absolutely love Gladwell! He could read the weather report and make it interesting. I highly recommend the audiobook because it is read by the author. He also shares interviews and audio clips that you don’t get from the hard copy. I’m sure the written copy is just as fabulous. The title is misleading though. It is not about the art of conversation. Rather, it’s about how we misunderstand one another because of culture, idiosyncrasies, and prejudices. Powerful! You won’t forget this one.

The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen by Lisa Gungor*

Lisa is one of the vocalists of the band, Gungor. She shares her story of faith, loss of faith, and finding her way back again. The audiobook is read by the author and she will capture your heart and soul. You don’t have to agree with everything someone believes to appreciate their story. It is powerful, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Listen to this book!

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

The Next Right Thing is one of my favorite new podcasts. Emily has one of the most calming voices. I had recently finished a season of grief and loss and decisions were exhausting. There are practical steps at the end of each chapter that gave me the resources to begin again. If you find yourself in the midst of decision fatigue, then read this book.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb*

Oh, my word! I laughed out loud and cried. This was another audiobook and I binged listened. I’ve never done that before other than on a long car trip. I sat in my recliner one Saturday and just listened to her tell me a story. Lori is a therapist who found herself in a season of life needing her own therapist. As a pastor, there are times when I just want to sit in the pew and let someone else minister to me. That’s what this book did for me.

All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg

This is an old book! Like last century 1998 old. It’s a memoir also. It is sort of like The Glass Castle meets Hillbilly Elegy. Bragg is a journalist who tells his story of growing up in Alabama. It’s a story of overcoming while remembering who you are. He is an excellent writer and a great storyteller.

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue

Okay, I guess I was really into memoirs last year. Whatever! I appreciated this author’s story of faith. He has an incredible heart that comes through in this story. The author conveys his deconstruction of faith with eloquence. And he helps the reader to discover presumptions we might unknowingly carry.

How to Be Here by Rob Bell

I have admired Bell’s writing from the days of Velvet Elvis. He wants the reader to think about why we believe what we believe. As a pastor, I wish more people thought about why they believe what they believe. Bell tells a story about a medical crisis that leaves him in a season where he is forced to be present. It is a reminder that we only do this life once. We should learn to experience it one moment at a time.


The Call to Preach: The Art of Sermon Prep by Steve Estep

My bonus read this year is for my preacher friends. Here is a practical guide to preparing your sermon. Estep is a Nazarene pastor who presents a Wesleyan approach to the art of preaching. It was a pleasant surprise to read quotes and sermon examples included by women preachers. Thank you, Estep!

Okay, send me your favorite reads from last year. I’m making my list. Happy reading!


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