Favorite Books of 2019, Looking Forward to 2020

Ah, the season of retrospectives! Be honest with me, can you resist them? I tell you, I get some of my best reading done during December and January. The best book recommendation lists, the best articles of the year (I can’t wait for the annual Sidney Awards from David Brooks), the best this, the best that…

For me, ’tis usually the season of realizing just how exhausted I am, just in time for a health-imposed vacation (I don’t believe in any other kind, it seems) leading to intense self-reflection and thinking about what to change for the coming year. Note, I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions (see what Deacon Michael Hyatt thinks of those, and I happen to agree). But the natural rhythm of fasting and Christmas and the festal period that follows inclines one to self-reflection, and that’s a good thing.

So I thought I’d do both for you all: my favorite books of 2019, and my plans for 2020.

My Favorite Books of 2019

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I wrote about this wonderful book on this blog before. It was a cornerstone of my lecture at AFCon this past year. 

The Cross and the Stag by Gabriel Wilson

Gabe has begun something wonderful–a successful attempt to bring the eternal heritage of the lives of the saints to young people today.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

For all of us who have issues with self-disciple, I recommend this book. One thing that amazed me is how much neuroscience is catching up with the truths about human nature that the Fathers, especially the ascetic fathers, figured out millennia ago. Took them long enough!

Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen

Ascerbic, hilarious, but ultimately hopeful, Esolen doesn’t merely diagnose the cultural issues of modern America, but he suggests a vision for how we might rebuild a Christian culture out of the ashes of post-modernity.

Perelandra by C. S. Lewis

Not merely a wonderful work of imaginative fiction, but ultimately a cautionary tale about the kinds of stories we tell ourselves and others about ourselves, and why the devil is the best, and most dangerous, storyteller of them all.

We recently read Perelandra with a book club I run over at Patreon. You’re welcome to check out one of my videos analyzing the book:

The Fall of Gondolin by J. R. R. Tolkien

Yes, it’s a beautiful story. But this, for a culture creator, is a wonderful study of how a writer grows throughout his life. Highly, highly recommended.

Plans for 2020

Initially, the plan for this blog was to provide a forum in which to explore ideas that I shared at my lecture at AFCon 2019 . Initially, that idea worked well, because it helped me focus my ideas in preparation for the lecture, then focus them in retrospect. But without the hard deadline of an actual lecture, I’ve been a little lax in posting and in the focus of this blog.

Part of the problem is that I’m no expert, and I think sometimes I felt the need to present myself as one. But no, I’m a student, just like all of you are. And a student studies. A student reads. A student shares unformed thoughts to discussions with his peers. And I haven’t been doing enough of that.

So in 2020, this blog will be a reflection of my more intense reading schedule of the following books, all of which will help me define better, for myself, the manner and the nature of this project we call culture creation:

A Secular Age by Charles Taylor

After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre

The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher

Ideas Have Consequences and Visions of Order by Richard M. Weaver

Truth and Method by Hans-Georg Gadamer

The Western Canon by Alan Bloom

Dominion by Tom Holland

If you’d like to suggest some to me, please do in the comments section!

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to those who are celebrating, and to those who are still waiting, Joyful Patience 🙂


  1. Hello Deacon Nicholas,

    That is a great list of books for 2020! I look forward to After Virtue especially.

    Here are a few more to take a look at (they have been influential for me and would love to hear what others have to say about them).
    Flight From the Absolute, Vol. 1 – Paul Gosselin
    Lost in the Cosmos – Walker Percy
    Voyage to Alpha Centauri – Michael O’Brien
    Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman
    A Conflict of Visions – Thomas Sowell
    The Abolition of Man – C. S. Lewis (perhaps a side-by-side read with Nihilism by Fr. Seraphim Rose)

    Thanks for all you do and I look forward to some great reads this year!

  2. I read and learned a lot from Digital Minimalism and Atomic Habits as well! Great books and your assessment of them catching up with the Fathers is spot on.

    Have you read anything by Ajdy Crouch in relation to your work on culture making? I’d be curious to know what you think of his ideas and how they may intersect (or not) with Orthodox theology.

    Thanks for writing… and being an ongoing student as we’re all learning together.

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