Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Books & Reading

    The 2020 Afterthoughts Book Awards!

    January 3, 2020 by Brandy Vencel

    That’s right! It’s time for the fifth annual reading wrap-up and awards! This year was my lowest number of books finished in many, many years. I have some good excuses. My top two are (1) that I had to unexpectedly switch gears and plan/preread for/teach twelfth grade, which means that midyear I left about 15 books halfway finished and (2) instead of pushing to finish books I’d started in December, I saved them so they would count for the 2020 Scholé Sisters 5×5 Reading Challenge.

    We did, however, read 27 books aloud this year, which ties for our highest number of titles ever, so that is my consolation prize. I only occasionally include read aloud books in my awards (in categories other than the read aloud category), so those will be listed in a separate post in the future and not in my “other contenders” descriptions.

    So on with the awards! (Scroll down for my Book of the Year … I always put it last.)

    Best in Science

    Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks.

    I just fell in love with this book. I didn’t just understand more about chemistry — it gave me an appreciation for how a child’s mind and interests develop. One thing that struck me was that Sacks’ interest in chemistry needed to be capitalized on — indulged — when it was there because it faded in adolescence (not completely, but the passion was superseded by others).

    Highly recommended.

    Other contenders: Discovering Design with Chemistry by Dr. Jay Wile, A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley, Understanding Physics, Volume I: Motion, Sound and Heat by Isaac Asimov

    Best in Economics

    The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    I had been meaning to read this book since it came out ten years ago and it did not disappoint. The name dropping was a little annoying, and he definitely wants to be sure you know that he is well read — but the fact that he is well-read also make him very enjoyable to read. How many writing on business or economics do you know who also reference fairy tales, Homer, and the Bible?

    Taleb claims the books in the Incerto series are meant to stand alone, but I see a great benefit to reading this one first.

    Other contenders: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt, Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    Best in Philosophy/Theology

    In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity by Josef Pieper

    As someone who struggled with the Festival chapter in Pieper’s other book Leisure: The Basis of Culture (no matter how many times I read it), this book was exactly what I needed to understand what he was getting at. The translator for this one was fantastic. Mystie is right: this book’s chapter on the Lord’s Day is better than anything else out there that I’ve read on the subject.

    This book was the topic of the Scholé Sisters Christmas episode this year!

    Other contenders: You Who: Why You Matter and How to Deal With It by Rachel Jankovic, Against the Protestant Gnostics by Philip J. Lee

    Best in Education

    A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D.

    This one was fun because I had a lot of Charlotte Mason and Josef Pieper sightings. There were some definite parallels with Deep Work by Cal Newport as well. I plan to have my senior read it before college.

    Other contender: The Lively Art of Writing by Lucile Vaughan Payne

    Best Read Aloud

    Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier

    This year, we read aloud everything we could find from Jonathan Auxier. We were fast fans, but this was my personal favorite. I basically see mothers as “the last storyguard” and I think that’s why I loved the book — I felt it, if you know what I mean. I wrote more extensively about this here, if you’re interested.

    Auxier can be dark and/or scary, so he’s definitely for older kids. My youngest was 10 when we read it. He loved it, but I wouldn’t have done it any younger.

    Other contenders for this category will be listed in an upcoming post.

    Best in Fiction

    Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis

    This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I was enchanted, and left pondering it many days after it was over. Also, I didn’t anticipate the end. Lewis amazed me with this one.

    I wrote a blog post resulting from my reflections. It’s called Masterly Inactivity: A Million Letting-Go’s, if you’d like to read it.

    Other contenders: The Children of Men by PD James, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge, Jane of Lantern Hill by LM Montgomery, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    … and the 2019 Afterthoughts Book of the Year is …

    None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God by Matthew Barrett

    When I was in seminary, I remember thinking that there should be no excuse for writing bad books on theology. Theology, the Queen of the Sciences, ought to be honored with good writing, clarity of thought … and it should drive us to greater love.

    This book was wonderful. I have read about the attributes of God once before, but the book felt like it put God in a box and divided Him into pieces. This book, on the other hand, connects everything back to Anselm’s assertion that God is that of which nothing greater can be conceived. Placing all these attributes in terms of God’s greatness and infinity, Barrett helps us understand why God is big enough and powerful enough for us to trust.

    Highly, highly recommended.

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Tiffany January 7, 2020 at 9:03 am

    It’s been a few years since I have commented – but I just had to come back today to say that I thanked God today for you and your recommendation of None Greater. I just read your Book Awards post yesterday and decided I needed to check out that book particularly. Our public library had a digital copy, so I started reading this morning. I had been looking for something deep to fill the gap until my group Bible study starts back up in a couple weeks. This was an answer to the prayer that I had barely prayed. ? Many blessings to you in 202o!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 7, 2020 at 9:13 am

      Praise God! That was a divine appointment! I’m so glad this helped. ♥

  • Reply Leisa January 4, 2020 at 9:46 pm

    I never thought about mothers as the last story guard. Now I want to read this book again from that perspective. I went on a Auxier run in the last few months. I’m still pondering the gems found in his books.

  • Reply Anne January 3, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    Such a fun post! Thanks for sharing! So many books to add to my amazon list… 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 4, 2020 at 7:53 am

      Happy book buying! 🙂

    • Reply Amanda Gauthier January 4, 2020 at 12:51 pm

      Just when I thought my 2020 list was finished… 😉 Thank you, Brandy!! I’m feeling pretty good about reading the same # of books as you in 2019. Lol.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel January 4, 2020 at 4:12 pm

        Ha. I think you had better excuses than I did! ♥

    Leave a Reply