My 71 Books of 2020

I set a new personal reading record this year (by one book!). Finishing my Master’s degree this year definitely made it easier for my own reading. Hopefully one of your goals is to read intentionally this year, and if so, this list will provide you with a number of options to consider.

Here are the books I read since January of 2020 with my rating for them (5 being the best) along with a brief review. Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher.

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  1. Range by David Epstein (4.5). A really insightful look at the notion of learning from a variety of sources and allowing yourself the freedom to experiment, risk, and even fail on your way to growth.
  2. The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger (3.5). The story of Disney as told from the last CEO. I love hearing about the behind the scenes aspects of leadership decisions that are made.
  3. The Jewish Gospel of John by Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg (4). I read three commentaries on the Gospel of John in my sermon prep and this one was my favorite.
  4. The Second Mountain by David Brooks (4.5). A terrific read to provide perspective on what matters most in life. Don’t spend all your time on the first mountain.
  5. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson (2). Peterson is a fascinating psychologist but a bad theologian. His insights into life are worth exploring but he misses the point of many of the Bible passages he unpacks.
  6. Handle With Care by Lore Ferguson Wilbert (2.5). I loved the premise of this book about the spiritual value of human touch more than it ultimately delivered. It’s definitely a topic worth exploring.
  7. Beneath a Scarlett Sky by Mark Sullivan (4.5). This was a fascinating story of a teenager in Italy who navigated World War 2. It’s hard to believe this whole thing is true but it is a captivating story.
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by JK Rowling (5). Rereading this series was my personal reward for finishing my Master’s degree. Now with the whole story as perspective and the last few years to see how it holds up, I’m officially rating all of them a five.
  9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (5).
  10. Inspired Imperfection by Greg Boyd (4.5). Few people are willing to talk about some of the trickier aspects of the Bible and then propose real solutions with how to resolve them. 
  11. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (5).
  12. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard (3). One of the thinkers whose name has emerged numerous times in my theological studies has been the French philosopher René Girard. This is one of his gems.
  13. The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann (5). This was my fourth read through in three years.
  14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (5).
  15. Keep Going by Austin Kleon (4). This is a great book for helping you get out of the quarantine funk.
  16. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (5).
  17. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling (5).
  18. The Myth of the American Dream by D.L. Mayfield (4). A really great read from a fellow Oregonian. Challenges many of the assumptions we have as Christians in America.
  19. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (5).
  20. That All Shall be Saved by David Bentley Hart (4.5). A bit of a heady read, but an incredible dismantling of the traditional view of hell.
  21. I’m Your Huckleberry by Val Kilmer (4). Named after Kilmer’s famous line from my favorite movie (Tombstone), this is an entertaining look at his life and career.
  22. Danielle by Ray Kurzweil (2). This is a fictional story and a collection of applications following it (about the future of solving problems). The story felt a bit too bizarre to get into it.
  23. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry (3.5). A bit tedious on some of the scientific explanations, but a fascinating look at the 1918-19 pandemic and it’s correlations to today.
  24. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen (2). I really liked the premise of the book but some of the explanations felt cliche.
  25. King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild (4). A fascinating and heartbreaking story of the Congo.
  26. Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber (3). While I don’t agree with some of her conclusions, I appreciate her heart for people and the way she brings a fresh perspective to some Christian topics.
  27. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (3). I was motivated to read this after finishing #25 on my list. It’s almost a shame how poetically this is written considering the horrific history it describes.
  28. The 21st Century Card Counter by Colin Jones (3.5). An intriguing look at the world of professional Blackjack from a seasoned card counter.
  29. Lincoln by Fred Kaplan (2). This focuses on Lincoln as a writer but didn’t feel like it had a compelling overarching theme throughout.
  30. 56 by Kostya Kennedy (4). A gripping journey through the year that Joe DiMaggio got a hit in 56 straight games and why that record will likely never be broken.
  31. The Color of Life by Cara Meredith. I really enjoyed hearing Meredith’s journey as a white woman marrying into a (famous) black family and learning a new perspective.
  32. Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven (2.5). A quick little book that reads like a Red Bull for your motivation in life.
  33. Prediction Machines by Ajay Agrawal (3). I love reading books about the future of AI but this one is focused on how it will affect your business so it got a little narrow at times.
  34. Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall (5). I LOVED this book. Everyone should read it to have a better grasp of the world through history and geography.
  35. Quantum by Manjit Kumar (3). The history of this was intriguing even though I often got lost in the science.
  36. Suggestible You by Erik Vance (4). A well researched and well written exploration of how our minds work differently than we often think.
  37. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (2.5). An intriguing story similar to Breaking Bad but with a dumb ending.
  38. Life is In the Transitions by Bruce Feiler (5). A great book for anyone but REALLY good when you are trying to rethink your life.
  39. Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss (4.5). Okay, I thought this would be a fun read by it was so well written that I literally laughed out loud while I listened to the audiobook.
  40. Victoria by Julie Baird (3). While never overly compelling, this was a well-documented biography on the life of Queen Victoria.
  41. The Everyday Guide to Wine by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan (2). A very in-depth look at wine but much of this is designed for a visual presentation and the audio does not capture it.
  42. Cork Dork by Biana Bosker (4). A fun and educational journey into becoming a sommelier.
  43. 1491 by Charles C. Mann (4.5). A new look at the Americas before Columbus. Every American would do well to read this.
  44. The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace (3.5). A bizarre journey into the world of vintage wines and the people who buy them (and counterfeit them too).
  45. Halfway by Tom Macher (3). A sad but vulnerable memoir of a boy growing up with addictions and heartaches.
  46. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (5). A stunning look at how the United States has been built on an elaborate caste system and what this means for our culture.
  47. The God Who Trusts by Curtis Holtzen (3.5). Great theology about God’s faith and trust in us rather than only the other way around. I’d rate this higher but it is more technical for the average reader.
  48. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (4). A brutally sad book to read but it is a part of history that every person should be familiar with.
  49. Justice Calling by Palmer Chinchen. Palmer has recently become a friend of mine and I so appreciate not only the way he leads his church, but the way he thinks of church in the first place.
  50. Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell (5). Rob tells much of his own story in this book and I was amazed how much I related to him and appreciated his perspective.
  51. Better Decisions Fewer Regrets by Andy Stanley. This is solid Andy but feels like a very safe response to his last book which was brilliantly provocative.
  52. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle (4). This book is so simple it probably could have been even shorter. Nonetheless, he makes his main point well.
  53. Tangled Webs by James Stewart (3.5). This was a fascinating look at some of the biggest cases of lying under oath and the backstory behind them.
  54. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (4.5). I enjoyed this way more than I thought. I’d recommend the audiobook read by the author.
  55. A Church Called TOV by Scot McKnight (4). A great look at what makes a church healthy (and what reveals when it isn’t).
  56. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler (3.5). A tricky read at times as it dives deep into the artistic life of Robert Irwin but ultimately worth it.
  57. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline (4.5). A sequel that did not disappoint. If you liked Ready Player One this is a no-brainer.
  58. Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger (3). I loved the premise of this book (church needs to fundamentally change) but felt like the author didn’t quite develop the idea adequately.
  59. A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards (4). Rereading this one after a number of years and it is still so good. Explores how we patiently wait on God’s timing.
  60. Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuck (4). This is a bit older but was awesome motivation as we started our own company this year.
  61. Dangerous Prayers by Craig Groeschel (2). I was underwhelmed by this one. Walks through a few prayers you can pray but felt like ideas that are common.
  62. Echoing Hope by Kurt Willems. Kurt is a friend of mine and this is an incredibly vulnerable book combining Kurt’s heart for ministry with a refreshing depth of theology.
  63. How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims (4.5). Totally worth a read if you have kids, especially if they are under 18.
  64. Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett (5). I read this every Christmas and love it as a ‘part one’ to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
  65. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (5). My favorite Christmas story that I read every year.
  66. The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling (5). Rowling (the author of Harry Potter) is such a brilliant storyteller. This stand-alone book is an absolute delight and thoroughly sucks you in.
  67. The Introverts Edge to Networking by Matthew Pollard. He does such a great job at equipping introverts (like myself) to find ways to leverage our strengths.
  68. Washington’s End by Jonathan Horn (2.5). Looks at the post-presidency of Washington but ultimately fell a bit flat for me.
  69. Breaking Bread with the Dead by Alan Jacobs (4). I’ve loved Jacobs’ previous books and this one does a great job in showing why it matters that we read old books.
  70. Galileo and the Science Deniers by Mario Livio (3.5). An insightful cautionary tale of the role of ideas and those who try and regulate them.
  71. The Bible by Jesus (5). I continued my five-chapters-a-day reading plan this year and used the NLT version. Click here for the reading plan I use. 

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.