Ten Non-Fiction Books that Helped in a Difficult Year

I read more fiction than non-fiction last year, for obvious reasons. It was the kind of year in which retreating into a fictional world was a relief. However, I still read some very good non-fiction books, and here are ten of them that are worth recommending.

Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World is at its Worst by Ed Stetzer. This book sneaked in from 2019’s list, but it was an appropriate non-fiction book to read before this crazy year. Stetzer makes a case for Christians to be gracious and kind, behave with love and neighborliness, and to remember that we are ambassadors for God’s kingdom here on earth while interacting on social media.

Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times by Robert J. Morgan. Based on a recommendation, I checked this book out from the library and liked it so much that I bought it. Its rules, like Realize that God means for you to be where you are (Chapter 1) and Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work (Chapter 5) and View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future (Chapter 9), are straightforward and comforting. Morgan uses Exodus 14 as the basis for these ten strategies. The book can be read in a couple of hours or one chapter a day, and it would be time well spent.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. This is a necessary book to read. Tisby says that Christians in every part of the country have a duty to recognize and fight the church’s complicity with racism. The most helpful part of the book is the chapter about what can be done about racism in the church. Tisby uses “The ARC (Awareness, Relationships, Commitment) of racial justice” (p. 194) to define antiracist actions and he calls every Christian to become aware, develop relationships and be committed to anti-racist attitudes and behavior.

Tramp for the Lord by Corrie ten Boom. I read this book based on a friend’s recommendation, and found it both encouraging and challenging. Corrie ten Boom followed the Lord. Period. She traveled all over the world, speaking and evangelizing, sometimes without knowing how her travels would be funded, but God always worked it out. It’s quite a story. I was encouraged to follow Jesus more closely and challenged that I don’t.

For All Who Grieve: Navigating the Valley of Sorrow and Loss by Colin S. Smith. This short book is very helpful for anyone experiencing devastating loss. Smith brings together Lamentations and five stories of his congregation members to give us biblical assistance in dealing with our grief. Highly recommended.

The Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre de Dios by Holly Fitzgerald. It may seem strange to insert this book in the midst of all my theological reading. It probably is, but this was a fascinating book. It’s about a young couple taking an adventure in South America which leads them to rafting on the Amazon River and eventually getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. Their story of survival was intense, and makes our year of staying put in comfortable homes seem a little less trying. It’s a good read.

Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson. Swanson is a pastor in Chicago with the goal of building solidarity, beyond multiculturalism, in his church. “White Christianity has been blind to the powerful racial discipleship that has formed the imaginations of white Christians.” (p. 38) Swanson’s book challenges us to expand our imaginations.

The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott. The book begins by saying, “A child born in the West today has a more than 50 percent chance of living to be over 105, while by contrast, a child born over a century ago had a less than 1 percent chance of living to that age.” (p. 1) The authors consider what impact this will have on our lives, particularly in the way we approach our careers. They propose additional life and work stages, more emphasis on intangible assets and taking time for transitions. It makes sense to me.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. A very good book in which the author talks about different ways we “winter.” “Transformation is the business of winter…” (p. 67), she writes. Her husband had an emergency appendectomy and she got mysteriously sick, took a leave from her job and “wintered.” Wintering is a metaphor for any difficult time in life, for they happen in all seasons, but winter brings with it time for rest and retreat. Especially this winter. The book is arranged by month, starting in October and ending in March, and in each month she discusses a topic. Sleep – “first sleep” and “dead sleep,” snow, swimming in the winter, and losing her voice and regaining it are some of the material she covers. I appreciated her humble tone and related to several of her topics. Highly recommended.

The Bible It is no surprise that I read the Bible last year, for I read it every year. In 2020, stories of oppression, like the slaves in Egypt, liberation, as in the Exodus, the desperation of Job, the life of Jesus, his stunning death, thrilling resurrection and everything in between reminded me that life in this world is often troublesome. In fact, much of the Bible is story after story of human difficulty. But, the overarching narrative of the Bible is a story of love, mercy, grace, freedom, transformation and the confident hope of one day being with the Lord in an eternity in which sin, failure, disappointment and tears are no more. God is the central character of the Bible, and he shines through on every page.

It was a tremendous encouragement.

Are there any non-fiction books that expanded your imagination? Did you find any challenge or encouragement from a non-fiction book or the Bible last year?

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

8 thoughts on “Ten Non-Fiction Books that Helped in a Difficult Year

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  1. Thanks, Judy — I have another book for you for 2021:What Comes Next by Nick Skytland (VU grad) and Ali Llewellyn. Just hit Barnes and Noble last week, Amazon a couple weeks ago.

    Our mission as Christians was the same yesterday as it is today and will be tomorrow. The world, however, is changing faster than ever before, and keeping up feels impossible. The realities of human life—from how we develop relationships to how we use technology to have impact —therefore change rapidly too. It’s critical that Christian leaders take this into consideration as they plan for their organizations’ future.

    In What Comes Next?, strategists and innovation experts Nick Skytland and Ali Llewellyn use the eight elements of their Futures Framework to teach us how to help shape the future, be visionary, and grow our businesses and ministries. This futures-thinking process is a proven solution for executives, entrepreneurs, pastors, and anyone in between who struggles to respond to an ever-changing world.

    With love, Barb

  2. Judy, Thank you for all these wonderful recommendations! You motivate me to do more reading. I, too, have enjoyed some non-fiction books this year, mostly historical fiction, and I also read Christians in the Age of Outrage; how timely! I also recommend One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Racial Reconciliation by Dr. John Perkins.

    1. Thank you, Sandy! I’ll add Perkins’s book to my “to read” list – ever growing! Opening our eyes to racial issues deserves reading multiple books, and the ones I’ve read so far all have a slightly different perspective. I’m trying to fill my perspective out!.

  3. Thank you! I’m hoping to read more this year. Please post some of your fiction recommendations from what you read in 2020 also!

  4. These books look excellent Judy and I plan to read a few! A book I would recommend is THE SPACE BETWEEN US: How Jesus Teaches Us to Live Together When Politics and Religion Pull Us Apart by Sarah Bauer Anderson.

    1. Thanks Susie! I just took a look at The Space Between Us on Amazon, and it looks to be a thought provoking read, and those are the best kind. I’ll definitely check it out.

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