My Top 5 Books of 2020

I entered 2020 with a goal of reading 25 books this year. Like most of 2020 for all of us, that didn’t quite go as planned.

But, fittingly, I did finish 20 books this year. Most of what I read was Christian non-fiction/Christian living, but I did throw a couple of sports books in there as well.

As you are building your 2021 reading list, I wanted to share my Top 5 books of 2020 so you can add them to your list if you haven’t already read them:

5. For All Who Wander by Robin Dance

One of the biggest compliments I can give an author is that I felt like their book was written directly to me. That’s how I felt as I read Robin Dance’s book, For All Who Wander. 

I could not stop nodding my head as I read through this one. Her story is beautifully crafted over 215 pages and full of truth about doubt, unbelief, and asking God those tough questions. She does such a wonderful job of taking the theme of “wandering” and weaving it through a personal narrative, starting with her life as a young child to present day.

Her voice is genuine and authentic, and I appreciated how vulnerable she was. The book also comes with a companion study that allows readers to apply this book to their own story. Robin ends the book with plenty of scripture, which serves as a wonderful literary method to remind us that no matter how far we wander, our journey needs to lead back to Jesus, and she reminds us that He is constantly pursuing us as well.

Robin joined my podcast in February to talk about this book.

4. The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh & Travis Sawchik

The game of baseball has evolved tremendously in the past 20 years. This book offers a fascinating view at how technology and advanced analytics are changing the game of baseball and helping create a new-age player. Gone are the days of “Moneyball,” where teams tried to find the most valuable players for the least amount of money. Now the sport is ushering in a new era, led by Ivy League-educated numbers gurus, to use data and analytics to maximize a player’s potential.

The amount of reporting and research that went into this book is unparalleled in any sports book I’ve ever read. Casual baseball fans who are only tangentially aware of the game’s changes can read this and better understand what’s happening and how the game is evolving. It gave me a better appreciation for the science behind the sport and the strategy involved in building a successful player and franchise.

During a summer where there was no Major League Baseball, this book filled in the gap wonderfully.

3. Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper

Simply put, this book is necessary reading for all Christians. It’s eye-opening, challenging, comforting, and honest. There’s a good chance, whether you are a Christian or not, that you’ve struggled with doubt and have questioned the existence and sovereignty of God. I love the subtitle of this book because it affirms that doubt can actually lead to a stronger belief in God.

In this book, Barnabas also affirms the truth that we cannot and should not know everything about an infinite God with our finite minds. Like For All Who Wander, this book focuses on the passage in Mark 9:24 that says, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

This book addresses, though admittedly and justifiably cannot answer, the most pressing questions about God. This book will give you the confidence to go to God with your questions and to trust God, even if you still have questions.

I’ve had Barnabas on my show podcast twice, once in early 2020 right as COVID-19 hit, and once in October to talk all about book writing and the publishing industry. You can find both episodes on any podcast app and our most recent conversation is available on YouTube.

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I could read this book five times a year and not get tired of it. I’d probably have different takeaways each time, too. If you consider yourself to be creative in any way, this book is an absolute must read.

This book takes a more mystical approach to creativity, but it’s full of practicality as well. Many creatives consider this to be their “creative Bible,” and it’s easy to see why. It felt freeing to hear Elizabeth Gilbert describe creativity and art in the way she did because she aims at stripping away the fear that is often attached to creativity.

Big Magic is a celebration of creative living. It will completely reshape how you view creative living and approach your creativity.

1. Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher

This might be weird to say, but this book felt like a puzzle piece for my soul. Hannah Brencher’s writing has resonated with me so much, perhaps more so than any author. I’m not sure if it’s the Enneagram 4 wing 3 in both of us or the fact that we both met our spouses online, but at times reading her writing made it feel like we’re kindred spirits.

Come Matter Here is a book I could not put down and I will probably re-read it every year. I’ve truly never read a book that spoke to me so deeply on an emotional level. As someone who has openly struggled with battles with comparison, identity, and significance, this was such a comforting book.

Hannah gracefully shares her own battles with all of that, as well as her battle with anxiety and depression, and allows us to use her own experiences to apply to ours. Her longing for roots and community is one I resonate with deeply as well as the temptation to be anywhere but where you are right now.

I will read anything Hannah writes, and I could not recommend this book enough.

I was fortunate enough to have Hannah on my podcast in October where we talked about this book and her forthcoming book, Fighting Forward, which will be out in early January.

It was hard to narrow this down to just five books because there were so many others that I read and really, really enjoyed. Here are some others that I rated five stars this year and would definitely recommend you add to your reading list if you’ve not already read them:

  • My Name is Hope by John Mark Comer
  • You Are What You Do (And Six Other Lies About Work, Life & Love) by Daniel Im
  • Afraid of All the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal
  • Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.
  • Befriending Your Monsters by Luke Norsworthy
  • The Good Life by Derwin Gray
  • Fear Gone Wild by Kayla Stoecklein
  • Dream Big by Bob Goff
  • Hoping For Happiness by Barnabas Piper

If you are an avid reader, especially of Christian living books, I want to invite you to listen to my weekly podcast, In No Hurry with Cole Douglas Claybourn, where I often interview authors and talk with them about creativity and the topics of their book. It’s available wherever you get podcasts.

You also might enjoy being a part of my newsletter community, where I do frequent giveaways that include free books. You can sign up below:

Happy reading in 2021!