40 for 40 (2020 Books)

Yesterday I published my 2019 book list. Check it out.

Today, let’s talk about 2020. Happy New Year!

I turn 40 this year. This milestone is obviously a time to pause and reflect, and one thing I’ve decided to do is to set a very different reading goal for the coming year. (My other big goal is to try to run a marathon).

This goal comes from two places. First, our church community is thinking a lot about spiritual formation and disciplines this year. One of my personality traits is to constantly seek and acquire new information. This is not a bad thing. But sometimes I can get caught up in needing to always be reading the “new” thing.

So part of my goal this year is to cut down the flow of new information, go a bit slower, and revisit some of the things that have formed me over the years.

Which leads to part 2: I’ve read a lot of things and been deeply formed by a lot of what I have read. There are a number of books that have been extremely important at different moments, but many of them I haven’t revisited. Some of those moments are now many years old. I’m interested to see: were these books I loved about that moment in time, or was there something timeless about what I was encountering?

Either way, it will be an interesting means through which to reflect on my 40 years. My hope is to then post something here about each book, what the original moment was like, and what it was like to read that book again at this stage of life.

A few ground rules: I could only pick one book from an author, even if I REALLY like that author (I did make one exception to this rule, but rules are made to be broken). I also sometimes picked a book that was more representative of the author, and not actually the book I enjoyed the most (this will make sense later on when I do the reviews). I also picked 39 because I want to leave room to remember something or change the list if needed. Finally, I tried to pick books from many different eras of my life.

Here’s the list:

  1. The Holy Longing
  2. A Community Called Atonement
  3. Surprised By Hope
  4. An Unstoppable Force
  5. Reaching Out
  6. The Divine Conspiracy
  7. Jesus Wants to Save Christians
  8. With Justice For All
  9. The Gift of the Jews
  10. Persons in Relation
  11. The Drama of Doctrine
  12. Tattoos on the Heart
  13. Blue Like Jazz
  14. Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places
  15. Five Smooth Stones For Pastoral Work
  16. The Shaping of Things To Come
  17. Searching For Home
  18. To Change the World
  19. Church Next
  20. You Are What You Love
  21. Between Two Worlds
  22. A Band of Misfits
  23. What the Dog Saw
  24. Traveling Mercies
  25. For The Time Being
  26. Everything is Illuminated
  27. A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius
  28. And The Mountains Echoed
  29. Book of Lost Things
  30. High Fidelity
  31. The Fortress of Solitude
  32. My Name Is Asher Lev
  33. Franny and Zooey
  34. The Fault in our Stars
  35. Plainsong
  36. The Kid From Tomkinsville
  37. Angela’s Ashes
  38. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  39. The Tender Bar
  40. The Hate U Give


Nostalgia and Being Old

Sometime this fall I was struck with a hard, nearly debilitating, wave of nostalgia.

Nostalgia for high school,
for college,
for 90’s music,
for candlestick park,
for certain streets in Salinas,
for California beaches,
for mountains in Colorado,
for tacos and bagel bakeries and pizzamyheart,
for fog and wind,
and for, of course, people.

Mostly, though, it was nostalgia in the perfect sense of the word: a desire for something past that feels better than the present.

This wave of nostalgia caught me off guard since I am the kind of person who is generally forward-looking. Most of my “day dreaming” has to do with future oriented events.

So, what the heck was going on there? Some kind of weird new dad thing? Something about getting into the mid-30’s? Something else?

I know there are people who are bent towards nostalgia and looking backwards, so I tread carefully here, but I’ve always seen too much nostalgia as a negative. And I think for me, my nostalgia, was beginning to border on the sinful. I was groveling in memories and afraid of the future and, even though I wouldn’t have said this at the time, I was losing hope.

Was the best in the past? Did I peak at 32? Is it all downhill from here?

And then, several times this past semester, I was thrust into the story of Abraham. Outside of stories about Jesus I don’t know that there’s a story in Scripture I appreciate more.

What I always love about Abraham’s story is how the writer continually points out Abraham’s age: 75, 86, 99, 100, and older. Most scholars tend to think that by the time Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham’s been on this journey with God for about 40 years.

It takes him 40 years to develop that kind of faith. I ‘ve always found that encouraging.

But, what stood out to me this time around was that God didn’t come to Abraham until he was 75.

How often in our youth fueled culture do you hear someone 75 years old say: I’m just getting started?

It’s not like Abraham did nothing for 75 years. He was a busy guy, and successful vocationally and relationally. But the biggest chapter of his life didn’t even start until he was “retired”.

That pretty much snapped me out of my nostalgic kick (even though I’m still listening to a lot of 90’s music).

The best still lies ahead.
In fact, it might be decades away.
Do you believe the best is still ahead of you?