Book Reviews

influential books from 2020

A friend asked me a while ago what books I had read in 2020 that had the most impact in my life this past year.

I drew a total and complete blank. I read so much, and this is the first year in about five years that I haven’t written down every book that I read. After having received that question and coming up blank so many times, I sat down and really thought about it, and came up with a list of the eight most influential books of 2020.

They are listed in no particular order . . . and if you’re interested in keeping up with what I’m reading throughout the year (talking to my fellow book lovers, here :D) you can follow me over on Goodreads.

Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss

This is a book I have read many, many, many times. Over and over again. Elizabeth Prentiss is the author of several books, but this book has been one of the MOST influential books in my life. From my Goodreads review this year:

Once again, I have closed the cover on this book with regret. No matter how many times I read this one, it never grows old, and I always come away with a desire to follow after Christ more, to run after Him harder.

Reading Katy’s journal, seeing her struggle with her sin nature, strengthens my resolve to weed out the sin that “so easily does beset me” and encourages me in that task. Her words to Helen, about loving Christ now, today, instead of agonizing over whether you truly love Him or not, has been sound counsel in my life many times.

Watching as Katy resolves herself to the will of her Saviour, until she can honestly say: “to live is Christ, to die is gain” is a challenge for me, as a Christian. Do I have that faith? Do I so desire the will of Christ in my life that I am willing for Him to do whatever it takes to mold me? Is my heart’s prayer, “More love, O Christ, to Thee?”

This is one of my favourite books, and has stayed on my top 10 list since I was about 12. And I always put it down encouraged and strengthened in my walk with Christ.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton

This was a new book to me this year — a friend lent it to me, and it’s one of those books that you have to slowly digest. Definitely not a book to rush through!

This book made me think about certain aspects of Christianity in ways that I never have before, and I have a lot of sayings written down in my quote-book to muse on further. Chesterton has a way of taking a complicated matter and reducing it to common sense in a really round-about way.

Sacred Singleness, by Leslie Ludy

One of those book I didn’t know I needed to read, I quickly found a used copy after borrowing this from the library. It’s one of those convicting books that, as I heard a gentleman say the other day, so gently stabs you that you don’t realize your wounded until you look down and your bleeding.

From Goodreads:

This book is one of my favourites for us single gals. Whenever I can find a used/discounted copy I purchase it and give it away to other single girls I know.

This isn’t your every-day, run-of-the-mill, how can I get guys to notice me books, but a book that strikes at any hidden discontent in your life and then challenges you to tackle it head-on and face it.

I *thought* I was content, but I found some areas where I discovered that I was absolutely putting that aspect of my life on hold until Prince Charming showed up. I cannot say I agree with every word written in the last part for obvious reasons (I believe fostering should be done by families, not single ladies, but I wholeheartedly DO believe in fostering!), but I will be returning to this book anytime I need a good shaking.

This book so gently and faithfully pointed out the way of Christ, and applied it to us single gals so well, that it is definitely one I’ll be re-visiting in the future.

Myra Sherwood’s Cross, by Lucy Ellen Guernsey

This was a precious story that I enjoyed quite a bit. The sacrifice of Myra, for the religion of Jesus, was inspiring and wonderful. As I read how she made so sure to always be so certain of what she shared, because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and she wanted to be an example of that to the children placed in her care, a painful dart of conviction pierced my heart. As Myra did everything in her power to attempt to show the light of the true gospel, to influence those in her charge of the truth of Christianity, I realized that seldom have I ever consciously and with a lot of forethought tried to demonstrate the same to my younger siblings.

As I read about the sacrifices Myra made on behalf of her siblings, for their greater good and better gain, I was inspired to do better — to emulate better – the Lord and Saviour I follow. As I read of Margaret’s wanting to enable her brother in his sin, to avoid his disgrace, and Myra’s firm stance against taking the easy way out, I was amazed at her firmness. I saw a sister who would rather go through disgrace that was not her own to bear, so her brother could be humbled, learn a true lesson, and possibly accept Christ as His Saviour. And that is the epitome of true love, of Christian love. Of being willing to bear all things in love, because of love, because of the greatest Love of all.

Being the oldest sibling, I realized how much I lack in purposely setting my younger siblings a good example. While this book was entertaining, and kept me up at night turning the pages, it was also a painful, needed reminder that I have a duty before Christ to set them a good example and leave them with a desire to follow Him for themselves. Being the oldest is hard, and the responsibility that comes with that is great, but the Lord has equipped me to follow in His footsteps and minister to my siblings through His strength.

This is definitely a book that has left me prayerfully considering the message, and I will be reading this often as a much needed reminder!

Sir Knight of the Splendid Way, by W. E. Cule

This book, so similar to Pilgrim’s Progress, yet so different, quickly became a beloved book, and I have no doubt I will read it often. The allegory, that was so very rich in beautiful scriptural truths, was such a blessing, and I cried so many times as I read through this one!

As I read of the journey of Sir Constant, and all the perils he faced in His quest to make it to the Kingdom, I often cried simply because I could relate to his journey and his struggles at discerning right from wrong. I was the most touched by his encounter with the nameless knight who tended the well, and the poignant lesson the King taught him. I bawled through the whole section and have re-read it many times since I finished the story.

The garden scene, as the Gardener comes and shows the woman the flowers of her deeds was another part that was so beautifully descriptive, and made me long to hear the Master say to me, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

I am a fond, devoted admirer of The Pilgrim’s Progress and have read it more than a dozen times . . . but I love and admire this book even more. Yes, I think it is, indeed, worthy to be placed alongside the faithful Pilgrim, and it is just as helpful and touching as that masterpiece is. I learned so much, so many lessons were so gently taught through the wonderful allegory.

I wish this book were more widely known, and I know that I will be handing out my copy to friends to read, it was that good! I am so very thankful Lamplighter has republished this little gem!

Stay in the Castle, by Jerry L. Ross

From Goodreads:

This is a precious book about the importance of staying in the castle and waiting on your spouse while still serving God and having a single-hearted devotion to Him.

I cried as I read this one, as personal family life coincided with the words written on the pages. As an older reader, who is committed to staying in the castle, I appreciated this message. As it was read aloud to my younger siblings, I appreciated this message even more.

It is so very important to seek after God, to follow Him with your whole heart. This is stressed when the princess hears the laughter and partying going on in the village and thinks that they are all having fun, and she is being neglected by not being allowed to attend. The King tells her that it is all frivolous, vanity, and she needs to continue to learn of Him.
She turns her eyes back upon her father, the King, and she discovers that the noises down below no longer bother her.
Until she turns her heart away from the King, her Father, and seeks after her own way once again.

Girls, especially — because we are the more emotional of the genders — need to read this and heed it. Yes, I think it’s beneficial for guys, as well, but it definitely made a huge impact on my younger sisters.

Our decisions have consequences. If we leave, nothing will ever be the same again.
And we would do well to heed that message.

This is a very short book that is a very quick, yet profound, read. You could easily sit down and read it within half an hour, and it is so worth your time!

Wedding Score, by Amanda Tero

This is a book that I helped to beta-read and alpha-read, and then I read the final version, and then I went and read it again. That means four times through this book, in a space of two years, guys. Does that tell you how special this book is?

I tend to approach books about singleness with trepidation — in almost every single book I’ve read on the topic, it seems as if the girl pines away, waiting for her Prince Charming to happen along and rescue her from her life of drudgery. And then one of two things happen. She either becomes content in her singleness, and is “rewarded” by a husband, or she decides she really doesn’t want to marry anyways, and looks at any guy who seeks to pursue her as a hindrance to the plans she’s made for herself.
In any case, girls meets guy and live a perfectly happy life together.
End of story.

But this book by Amanda totally blew me away and I was *so* happy that I was able to read it. This is not your typical book about singleness — this is a very solid book about a girl who is in her late 20’s, not married, knows no one who she would even think about marrying (seem familiar?), and is suddenly surrounded by friends and family members who are in relationships, engaged, or married already.

And the rhetoric and the comments and the snide remarks that ensue are so typical, so ordinary, so very relatable, that I almost laughed in some spots — because I have been that girl. No, I’m not as old as the heroine in this book, but I *almost* am. And the older I get, the more people feel at liberty to comment about my relationship status. (For laughs, you can read THIS POST where I was bombarded with advice . . . :D) I enjoyed reading Stephanie’s response to the questions and the graciousness with which she answered them.

One reason this book was so relatable and meaningful was because it was written by a young lady who is single — and content in her singleness. It would not have meant so much if it was written by a young lady who was already married. The way Amanda poured her heart into this book was so clearly seen, and I appreciated her honesty in sharing her heart with us in this way.

This book is absolutely wonderful. I think that this book would be helpful for every girl out there — no matter how old or how young. I think this book could minister to so many girls, and the truths gleaned from it could essentially be life changing for those who are struggling with discontentment. I am certain that I will be reading this book again — and the best part is that this book isn’t very long. You can read it through in an afternoon, or before bed, and it would be the perfect length!

Unseduced and Unshaken, by Rosalie de Rosset

*A long review, but bear with me here . . . so you can understand why this one made the list :D*

From Goodreads:

I started this book wondering whether or not this was going to be a Christian feminist book, or one that exhorts feminity and Biblical womanhood, to it’s fullest extent. There’s not a lot out there that encourages a biblical model of womanhood. And this book was so much more than that.

Did I agree with every nuance this author wrote? Umm . . . no. Far from it, actually. There was one whole chapter I skipped (about sexuality — too detailed for me, but the first few pages were upholding total abstinence. So I agreed with it, but didn’t want the details) and one chapter that I read and disagreed with (about finding a woman’s voice in the church). There were several times Rosset spoke about women preparing sermons for Sunday — I hold to the belief that women were not sanctioned to lead the corporate worship of the Lord’s Day, and that is a total usurpation of the headship that God gave to men.

BUT I agreed with a lot. Her premise was that theology governs every part of our lives, and every decision we make is an outworking of the theology and doctrine we adhere to. And she is absolutely right about that. Every single decision we make is an outworking of our personal, fundamental beliefs.

Her calling to a life of dignity is one that we need, desperately. This is an area that I believe that many women are lacking in — and the way she explains dignity is beautiful. And to have a dignified life encompasses so much.

The authors’ call to reading — not just any book, but the good classics, as well as sound theology — was a refreshing chapter. I firmly believe that women need to be educated in both these areas. Frivolous novels teach nothing – in our family we call them “potato chip books” — and often fill your mind with frivolity and enable you to make emotional decisions. We need to be a thinking people, and we need to have the ability to make good, sound decisions. While a good, light read is necessary, I think, every once in a while, it should be balanced out with books that make you think.

I also am under the impression that very few girls read solid theology books — simply because we have always put that into a category for men. I think that we should read and study them for several reasons — one, as women we are called to nurture our children in the faith. Our husbands are likely to be gone working the majority of the day . . . and if we can’t answer any of their theological questions, how are we teaching them? Second, I’m sure our husbands would appreciate having a solid, sound conversation with their wives :D But besides all that, we should want to know for ourselves why we believe the way we do, why some doctrines are heretical, how to answer people when they question us, and we should always be longing to know about our Lord and Saviour.

I loved the chapter on modesty, and how it was focused not he heart. While the author did address the immodesty of dress, I appreciated the point she made that we aren’t to dress modestly simply because we could cause a man to stumble, or because we don’t want to be seen as objects by the men around us ((although those ARE valid points, and we should be thoughtful in our clothing choices, to lead no one into sin)), but because we should want our clothing to reflect our Saviour and our beliefs. The way she went into the theology of clothing was amazing, and some of it I had never thought of before.

The short of it is, This is absolutely a book that I feel every woman or young lady should read at least once. It is for older girls as some of the content is for mature readers — I would say 18+, and that’s with me skipping one chapter. It is a book that you read carefully, chewing the meat, spitting out the bones. But the premise was wonderful, the message was sound, and I think it’s one that very woman in modern and reformed evangelical church society should read at least once.

Whew! There you have it — the top eight books I read in 2020. Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? What were some books you read in 2020 that impacted your thinking and shaped your character?

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I am a 23 year old young lady who is redeemed and saved from my sin only by the grace of God. A bibliophile at heart with a love of history who desires to see the Word of God practically applied to all aspects of our daily lives -- in our homes, in the grocery store, in the political realm. I strive to put my jumbled, chaotic thoughts down onto paper -- reducing them into black and white rows, letters, sentences. Into some semblance of sanity. And I share them here with all of you, where I can challenge you, make you think, and cause you to ask questions. I am the oldest of eleven children living the country life in the deep south.

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