Ten Great Books I Read This Year (11-20 of Top 20)

This was a banner year of reading for me. Here are some of the books that grabbed my attention.

Reading is one of the great joys of my life.

For a few years, at the start of the digital revolution, my reading time dipped dramatically as I got sucked into the dopamine-rich rush of web surfing. But, after a few years I started missing it. More than that, I felt the loss of it and I was suffering from its deficit. Deeply.

To my surprise, getting back into regular, deep reading was harder than I expected. At times, the lure of the ever-present quick hit of social media can still be a pull, but for the most part I have recovered my profound love of getting completely absorbed in the pages of a book.

I’m not in the habit of doing book reviews, but the impact of my reading tends to come out as I write, teach and go about my life, so every once in a while someone will ask me what books I’m reading and they seem to get value from the conversation. So, as we move from one year to the next, I plan to write several articles exploring and explaining my reading habits.

Great Books

I’ll start with what I’ve been reading recently. 2022 was a banner year. Not only did I read a lot of books, but so many were really good that my year-end review can’t be contained in a single list.

So, I’ll be offering two lists, with ten books in each list. These are not necessarily books I agree with or even recommend, but they met three criteria.

  1. They taught me (nonfiction) or made me feel something (fiction)
  2. They were very well written
  3. They were exciting to read

The ones in this article are in my top twenty. They are listed in no particular order.

You can also check out my follow-up articles

A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson, Translator of the Message

by Winn Collier

A simple, beautiful, personal biography of one of the most influential pastors of the last half-century. There was nothing especially surprising or unexpected in this book – and that’s kinda the point. One of the reasons for Peterson’s appeal is that he was who he appeared to be, warts and all. In an era when skeletons seem to be tumbling out of every closet, a quiet life of integrity and consistency feels revolutionary.

Cleopatra: A Life

by Stacy Schiff

Aside from Mary, the mother of Jesus, Cleopatra is the most well-known woman of the ancient world. But we know surprisingly few actual facts about her. Stacy Schiff brings Cleopatra to life, debunking almost everything we’ve been told, and reframing the real person in compelling ways that read like fiction.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

by Michael Lewis

The author of Moneyball, The Big Short and so many others, strikes again. I’m not into high finance, but this book was a thrift store find that I couldn’t pass up for 25 cents, and it was surprisingly compelling. It turns out that even the Wall Street experts were unaware that their computerized high-finance decisions are made so quickly (in thousands, even millionths of a second) that something as simple as putting a curve in the fiber optic line could regularly make millions of dollars of difference in stock buys. And that’s just the start of this crazy tale.

The Nickel Boys

by Colson Whitehead

A novel loosely based on the real story of a Florida reform school that destroyed the lives of so many young boys for decades. Harrowing and compelling, by one today’s most fascinating novelists.

Can This Work In a Small Church? is now The Church Lobby: Conversations on Faith & Ministry. Bi-weekly interviews with an emphasis on the small-church perspective. Wherever you listen to podcasts.

Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered: Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective

by Wanjiru M. Gitau

The author, a research fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California, draws on her research and experience with Mavuno Church in Kenya, the original home of the Rooted discipleship program (adapted for use in America by Mariners Church). In this book, she helps us rethink what megachurches can be – and what we can learn from fellow believers who live a long way outside of my American framework.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

by Cal Newport

This book does exactly what the subtitle suggests. It gives practical help to understand why we’re so distracted, the dangers it causes, and why thinking deeply is both so difficult and so healthy.

Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

by Mark Kurlansky

To be honest, I only read this book because I was born and still have family in Newfoundland, the island that is the book’s primary focus. But it drew me in from the start. The history of cod parallels the history of modern humanity in many surprising, sad, and fascinating ways.

Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres

by Kelefa Sanneh

An entertaining and thorough history of every major genre of music for the last 50 years. Notably absent is CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), but aside from that, if you have a favorite artist or type of music, it’s probably here, and you’ll learn something about it that you didn’t know before.

The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

A charming and sad novel of family drama that says so much about communication, abuse, abandonment, trauma, chasing your dreams, and more. I listened to the audiobook, read beautifully by Tom Hanks.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

by Stephanie Land

A memoir of persistence, frustration, and overcoming obstacles. Land didn’t experience the depth of aching poverty of, say, Angela’s Ashes, or First, They Killed My Father (from my next list), but because her struggles feel so . . . (is “ordinary” the right word? It’s not, but I’ll go with it) ordinary, they may resonate with a lot of people even more closely than those books do.

What Did You Read This Year?

Did you read any of these?

Did you read any other books you loved?

Let me know in the comments, below. Or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

(Disclosure: I will receive a small percent of the purchase price of any books you buy through clicking the Amazon links in the article.)

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