Book Lists · Reading

Top Nonfiction Reads of 2020

Part Two

Ironically, I couldn’t narrow my nonfiction reads down to just 5. I say “ironic” because I read so much more fiction than nonfiction! So I decided, “Why limit myself to an arbitrary number?”

Books can often be a “top read” based on when you and the book find each other. What I find to be a top read might not be yours. However, all of these books are worth reading, even if they don’t always hit the spot right when you read them. Some of the books on this nonfiction list have been on my TBR list for a couple of years, and I finally was able to read them once I started using a different library app (Libby app by Overdrive). Others were ones that I just “happened” to find at the right moment. I call that providence – of a wonderful kind 🙂

If you’d like to know the criteria and caveats for this top reads list, take a look at Part 1 from earlier this week.

Memoir and Biography

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The Sun Does Shine – This book is breathtaking in both a painful and redemptive kind of way. The fact that this man was so unjustly accused and sentenced to death row may not be a surprise for some, but it sure did open my eyes. I really hope you read it, especially if you’re an American citizen.


Rocket Men – I did not expect this book to be so engaging. Even though I know that astronauts made it to the moon, Mr. Kurson excelled at conveying the intensity of the space race and the high risk that the 3 astronauts accepted by deciding to be the first people to leave Earth’s orbit.


Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – I found this memoir fascinating because, while I’ve heard Christians explain a Muslim worldview, I’ve never heard a Muslim-turned-Christian explain the worldview and the culture that goes along with being a Muslim. Mr. Qureshi makes his story engaging, at times humorous, and also easy to grasp. His journey of grappling with both faiths made me think a lot.

Personal Development

The other top nonfiction reads this year can be broadly categorized as personal development. They represent a smattering of topics that were the right book at the right time for me this year – and are well worth the read.


Bird by Bird – A bit irreverent, and utterly pragmatic, Ms. Lamott offers, like the subtitle says, thoughts on writing and life. I so appreciated her simple, yet overlooked advice of, to paraphrase, sit your butt in the chair and write. It might not be good at first, but no one’s writing is. It helped give me the courage to keep writing, even if it doesn’t sound good right off the bat. The idea of practicing day in and day out is sound advice no matter the pursuit.

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It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way – I listened to the author’s audio version while I was crying about missing my brother’s wedding this summer. It was certainly a book I found at just the right time – a gracious gift of God for me. However, given the events of the year, I could see this book being timely for many people right now. If you’re struggling with the sentiment expressed in the title, give this book a read (or listen).


Daring Greatly РThe memory I have of listening to Bren̩ Brown read this book is walking laps on the driveway of my apartment building toward the end of the school year. Ms. Brown has a lot of wisdom to offer and, as a teacher, I found her words on leadership timely and encouraging as I struggled through the weirdness of the end of last school year. I plan to read more of her books. Seems like I can never hear enough of her words on vulnerability, shame, and how that plays into our lives and relationships.


Reclaiming Conversation – I know, I know. If you’ve been around me recently, you have heard me mention something that has to do with what I read in this book. I am pretty sure that I referred to ideas in this book for over a month after reading it. And since the mark of an excellent book is that its ideas stay with you . . . it earned its place in my Top Nonfiction for this year. And you need to read it!

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Deep Work by Cal Newport – The ideas in this book have also stayed with me throughout this year. I’ve mentioned it in a couple blog posts this year, like my “5 Books on Technology, Productivity, and Relationships” post. I recommend it if you’re wanting to improve your relationship to technology and train your brain to focus while getting things done.

Social Justice


In Our Backyard – This was a difficult read, since it explains the presence of human trafficking in our communities, wherever we live. But it is a necessary one. Because of the importance of its message, and the tactful-yet-clear approach of Nita Belles, it deserves a place here. I encourage you to read it so your eyes may be opened as well. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not healthy for you or those around you. Not in this case, anyway. Knowing what to look for could very well enable you to save someone’s life.

That about does it for my top nonfiction reads this year. What are yours? Tell me in the comments below!

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