Staff Picks of the Year: What We Loved Reading in 2019

Joe Henegan | December 10th 2019

We’re a booky bunch. You may have guessed. Not only do we enjoy writing, editing, making and selling our own great books, but (and don’t tell my boss I wrote this) we also love books by other publishers.

We just can’t stop reading. Maybe it’s a problem, but we don’t care. Anyway, I won’t delay you any further. Here’s what you came for; the best things the staff at The Good Book Company read this year.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling
Tim Thornborough, Publishing Director

I have not stopped talking about, lending and buying this book for other people since I read it in January. It basically tells us that we in the majority world have completely got the the developing world wrong, and that our prejudicial views (for that is what they really are), are a serious block to business, world economics and, more importantly for us, our view of Gospel mission in the wider world.

Hans Rosling, a Swedish doctor and medical statistics researcher (that’s an epidemiologist if you want the big word) died before this book was published and became a publishing sensation. He basically makes the point that we are far too pessimistic about the developing world, and have forgotten that the developing world… well … develops! He points to statistics showing how millions are being lifted out of basic poverty each year, and how Europe and the Americas are basically stagnant as economies, whereas the real growth over the next 30 years will be in Africa, India and Asia, as their populations grow.  

I found this book to be a real challenge to how I view the world—like many others, I suspect I am still struggling with a post-colonial mindset. But an even bigger challenge to think about the challenges for Gospel outreach we face in those places that will experience exponential growth in the next generation. Nigeria, for example, will almost double its population, from the current 200m to almost 400m by 2050. How can we resource the gospel ministry, churches, church leaders, Sunday school and youth programmes, parenting needs, and everything that goes with it? It is a major challenge that I am still trying to get my head around. Read the book and be prepared to be blown away.

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich
Rachel Jones, Editor

This collection of travel essays did what all good books do: transport me to a whole different time and place and lifestyle. In this case, it was ranchers and cowboys in 1970s Wyoming. Ehrlich's descriptions of both landscapes and people, not to mention the experience of grief, were so rich and evocative that I read it almost entirely in one sitting. 

Christian-book-wise, this year I finally read None Like Him by Jen Wilkin. It was every bit as good as everyone says that it is! So In His Image is on my list for next year. And also The Lord of the Rings trilogy, because it's a classic I've never quite got round to reading (or even watching). I'm told I'm in for a treat… 

Settle My Soul - 100 Quiet Moments to Meet with Jesus by Karen Ehman & Ruth Schwenk 
Sayuri Kato, Customer Services Representative 

This book contains 100 short devotions that help women to have their quiet time with Jesus and deepen relationship with him. I particularly enjoyed reading this book first thing in the morning before starting my day. It starts with a bible verse to focus on, a short yet meaningful devotional, and guided prayer helps you to reflect on your life. It’s beautifully designed which makes it a great gift to your female friends!

The Gospel Comes With a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
Ben Woodcraft, Designer

Having been a member of several different churches over the years, I have come to see that the importance of hospitality is often overlooked. Rosaria Butterfield writes in a very warm way that encourages the reader to see that we are all called to show hospitality no matter how big our living space is. It is such a huge opportunity to get to know our neighbours and church family. I highly recommend this book to all Christians who long for deeper relationships.

Paul: A Biography by Tom Wright
Richard Roper, Senior Buyer 

Professor Wright’s knowledge of the ancient world—specifically the Jewish / Hellenistic culture in which the Apostle Paul grew up in—is eye-opening. The zeal and strategic nature of Paul’s church planting missionary journeys and the personal and pastoral issues that inspired his letter writing bring the man and the times into clear relief. Wright’s writing makes it easy to plunge into the world of first generation Christianity and brought me fresh insight into the earthly nature of the Kingdom of God and Christ’s messianic rule.  

My reading list for next year includes Walking with God by John Eldredge, The Second Sleep by Robert Harris, and Why God Does God Care Who I Sleep With? by Sam Allberry

Get her off the pitch! by Lynne Truss 
Alison Mitchell, Senior Editor

I’ve just finished reading this. It’s an oldish book (2010) that I found on a charity shop bookstall. Lynne Truss writes about writing (she’s the author of the best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves), which I always find interesting, and in this case she’s describing her four-year stint as a sports journalist, despite knowing nothing about sports. I spend far more time reading about sport than watching it, so that grabbed my attention too. In my experience, a sign of a poor book is when you sometimes have to read a sentence twice in order to work out what it means. A sign of a great book is when you often read a sentence twice because it is so well written. I enjoyed re-reading many of Lynne Truss’s sentences, and sometimes laughing out loud at her observations. A fun read that I recommend for anyone wanting a book they can wind down to.

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
Geoff Dennis, VP Sales

I love literary fantasy/fiction and was delighted to discover Mervyn Peake's dark-yet-delightful trilogy earlier this year. This is perhaps one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. His detailed descriptions of everyday, common events are not for the faint of heart. Gormenghast follows the imaginative coming of age of Titus Groan, the heir to the Gormenghast castle. Theresa Littleton says, "Peake has been compared to Dickens, Tolkien, and Peacock, but the Gormenghast trilogy is truly unique. Unforgettable characters with names like Steerpike and Prunesquallor make their way through an architecturally stifling world, with lots of dark corners around to dampen any whimsy that might arise. This true classic is a feast of words unlike anything else in the world of fantasy. Those who explore Gormenghast castle will be richly rewarded." If you have never read this classic literary work, you should make time in 2020.

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin 
Abigail Talbott, Customer Service Manager

I finally got around to reading this book! It really helped me to be more confident reading the Bible on my own. I have loved theology and Scripture since I was little, but I never felt equipped to look at things on my own. Jen's book really opened up that possibility for me. 

Next year, I really want to read Knowing God by J. I. Packer. Nearly every guest on the The Good Book Company podcast has talked about how much impact it had on their lives. I know it's a classic, and 2020 is going to be the year I finally get around to reading it.

Joy In The Sorrow by Matt Chandler and A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler
Nelly Ortiz, Customer Services Manager 

Joy In The Sorrow is an excellent book to look to God when we’re confronted with pain and suffering. God will transform our hearts if we trust and love Him during times of unspeakable pain. He will draw us close to Him and He will faithfully comfort us with peace that's out of this world. 

A Whole Life is an exquisite little gem about the simple life of a man that arrives as a young boy in a village in the Austrian Alps during the 1920s and then goes to fight in WWII. It's a book about finding dignity and beauty in basic things that most of us can enjoy, such as work, friendship and family. 

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John
Caroline Napper, Proofreader

This was a nostalgic read for me, having loved this as a child. And now my own children are big fans, after reading it to them recently. In fact they were constantly begging to have “one more chapter”! It may seem a little twee to some, but I call it vintage, a classic even. The story of Annette and Lucien, two schoolmates who become bitter enemies, is set in the snowy Swiss mountains. Plenty of storylines involving sledges and snow make this a great winter read! Even better is how Patricia St John so clearly shows how the love and forgiveness of Jesus can impact a child’s life. This book is a great accompaniment to reading the Bible with your tweens. 

The Coddling of The American Mind by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff 
Joe Henegan, Marketing Manager

I’m not American, nor do I live in America, but this book has really influenced my thinking about how I approach my own challenges and how I plan/hope(!) to encourage my children through theirs. The central argument of this book is that children are ‘antifragile’, in that they learn how to develop resilience when they’re challenged, in the same way that the immune system does. One case study they use to demonstrate this is that peanut allergies are only becoming more common in countries that discourage pregnant women from consuming them. This is analogous to how well-meaning parenting is setting up a generation for failure. Social psychologists, Haidt and Lukianoff spend the first half of the book describing the disturbing trends on college campuses and then go on to focus on children and the alarming rates of teen anxiety, especially among girls. My children (both girls) are still young, but I can already see how my own impulses to shield them from difficulty is shaping them, so this was a helpful book.

Joe Henegan

Joe is our Vice President of Marketing. He lives in South London, UK with his wife and two daughters and is a member at River Church Sutton - part of the Newfrontiers network - where he runs a small group and various outreach activities.

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