Best Books I Read in 2020

1. The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton. G.K. Chesterton is the greatest writer you’ve never heard of, and if you have never read him you cannot imagine what you are missing. Tagged “The Prince of Paradox,” Chesterton has a way of turning a sentence back on itself while clearly expressing a thought you never thought and you never would have thought to write. Chesterton is at his best in this book, which C.S. Lewis called the best apologetic he had read and which influenced Lewis’s conversion.

2. Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkinson. What, might you ask, does a book about Powerpoint have to do with the kingdom of God? Well, it has to do with work—my work as an attorney—and work has everything to do with the kingdom of God. This book swims against tide, arguing that text on a slide does not a powerful presentation make. In fact, Atkinson argues that text actually divides the reader’s attention between the speaker and the slide, making the communication less effective. His suggested solution is worth the price of the book.

3. The Destruction of Jerusalem, George Holford. Written in 1809 by a British lawyer and member of parliament. This book shows how Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem was fully realized in 70 A.D. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is one of the most important historical events for Jews and Christians alike. For Jews it marked the end of the Jewish sacrificial system; for Christians it marked the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24 and puts much of what many Christians worry about as a future event firmly in the past. 

4. The Great Influenza, John M. Barry. This book about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans and more than 50 million people worldwide was written in 2004, well before the COVID-19 pandemic. But its lessons are prophetic. I was fortunate to read this book at the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, I was able to rely on the lessons of history to avoid the errors so many Christians indulged, including the mistaken mantra, “Its just the flu” and political objections to mask wearing and social distancing. This book is a must read if you want to rise above puerile political propaganda and obtain a perspective of the current pandemic informed by history instead of histrionics. 

5. Rhetoric, Aristotle (Tr. W. Rhys Roberts). I am embarrassed to admit I had never read Rhetoric. Having read it now, I am surprised it is not required reading for every law student. Aristotle in all his Greekiness, spends a lot of time describing, defining, and categorizing, but he also identifies key considerations and gives good counsel on the art of argument. If you plan to be a lawyer, politician, or ever intend to do public speaking I highly recommend Rhetoric. GS

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