This was a tough year in publishing with the world homebound and authors and publishers only able to market new books through online avenues. Nevertheless, books on a wide range of topics continued making their way into the hands of readers. From riveting autobiographies to vegan cooking, from theology to understanding Adventism, here are 20 books from Adventist authors that we read in 2020.
(The following titles are in order of publication date.)
1. Contours of European Adventism: Issues in the History of the Denomination on the Old Continent edited by Stefan Höschele and Chigemezi N. Wogu (Theologische Hochschule Friedensau, January 16, 2020)
This anthology includes scholarly papers presented at the 3rd International Symposium organized by the Institute of Adventist Studies of Friedensau Adventist University in Germany that analyze the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Europe from a variety of angles: historical, missiological, theological, and socio-political. “The essays provoked, puzzled, and inspired me — addressing questions I will likely need to confront at some point in my own culture as the United States experiences increasing secularization,” wrote Lisa Clark Diller in her review for Spectrum.
“Contours of European Adventism — Book Review” by Lisa Clark Diller
2. Enjoying Your Bible: Finding Delight in the Word by John Brunt (Oak & Acorn, January 22, 2020)
Scholar and pastor John Brunt has created a practical guide with a fresh approach designed to bring out the joy in studying scripture. In his review for Spectrum, Scott Moncrieff wrote, “I will enjoy and understand my Bible better with ‘Uncle John’s’ friendly encouragement and counsel in mind.”
“Enjoying Your Bible — Book Review” by Scott Moncrieff
3. The Earthy Canvas Vegan Cookbook by Fay Kazzi (Pacific Press Publishing Association, March 1, 2020)
Fay Kazzi, PhD, MS, RD, has crafted a beautiful cookbook full of healthy vegan recipes inspired by her education, career, and Middle Eastern heritage. The health professional and food photographer said in an interview with Spectrum earlier this year that, “I really wanted to share my love of beautiful, healthy dishes and food photography, and this cookbook seemed the perfect way to do that.” In the interview, she also shared one of her favorite recipes with readers: Bartlett Pear Cast Iron Skillet Cake.
“Dietician Dishes About Her New Vegan Cookbook” by Alita Byrd
4. The Restless Shepherd: My Journey from Rural Ethiopia to America and Back Again by Adugnaw Worku (Tsehai Publishers, April 20, 2020)
Longtime library director at Pacific Union College and political activist, Adugnaw Worku, has written a riveting autobiography about growing up in Ethiopia, traveling to Australia and the United States for his education, and the political poetry that got him exiled from his home country for 29 years. In her profile of the author for Spectrum, Nancy Lecourt writes, “Adu’s story comes full circle and his theme resonates into the future: the power of education to change lives.”
“Vision: A Profile of Adugnaw Worku” by Nancy Lecourt
5. Why We Stay Home: Suzie Learns about Coronavirus by Samantha Harris and Devon Scott, illustrated by Harriet Rodis (Self-published, April 23, 2020)
Samantha Harris and Devon Scott, both medical students at Loma Linda University Health, give children straightforward, easy-to-understand information about the pandemic in this book. It’s available as a free download from their website, has been translated into four additional languages, and is being read by tens of thousands of families in countries around the world. “We wanted to make this resource to help explain coronavirus in child-like terms, but also to accurately present the symptoms of the virus and ways that they can protect themselves,” authors Harris and Scott said in their interview with Alita Byrd for Spectrum.
“Why We Stay Home: Loma Linda Students Publish Book for Children” by Alita Byrd
6. The Future of Open Theism: From Antecedents to Opportunities by Richard Rice (InterVarsity Press Academic, April 28, 2020)
Adventist theologian Richard Rice captured the attention of theologians across denominations with the publication in 1994 of his book The Openness of God. In his latest book, Rice recounts the 25-year history of open theism and what the future may look like. Spectrum reviewer Reinder Bruinsma said he “warmly recommend[s] it to all who are eager to probe the mysteries that form the basis of our Christian faith.”
“The Future of Open Theism — Book Review” by Reinder Bruinsma
7. Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Holy Writ: A Boy-Turned-Scientist Journeys from Fundamentalism to Faith by James L. Hayward (Resource Publications, April 29, 2020)
In his thoughtful memoir about growing up the son of a conservative Adventist minister and then falling in love with science, longtime Andrews University biology professor James L. Hayward recounts his journey from “young-age creationist to a science-embracing theist and a productive member of the mainstream scientific community.” Ronald L. Numbers called the book “evocative and engaging” in his review for Spectrum.
“Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Holy Writ — Book Review” by Ronald L. Numbers
“Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Holy Writ — Chapter 1” by James L. Hayward
8. Everything Is Better Than You Think: How Gratitude Can Transform Your Life by Will Johns (Self-published, June 15, 2020)
Pastor Will Johns’ book about gratitude seeks to teach readers to be intentional about what they focus on, with the goal of transforming how they feel. In explaining his inspiration for the book, Pastor Johns told Spectrum readers, “I was trying to come up with a topic related to spiritual growth for my doctoral thesis. I needed something that wasn’t too broad. My major professor suggested I look into gratitude. I think he may have sensed that I am a naturally pessimistic person and needed to research this topic. Whatever the reason, I am so grateful that he pointed me that direction. I was drawn in very quickly and my outlook on life has never been the same since.”
“Everything Is Better Than You Think — Author Interview” by Alita Byrd
9. Simple Gifts by William G. Johnsson (Oak & Acorn, June 18, 2020)
“Blending honesty, vulnerability, and spirituality, Elder Johnsson looks back on his long life and shares the big picture,” states the publisher’s description for William G. Johnsson’s latest book. “It’s the simple things — the things we too often overlook, the things we get too busy to see — that are important, extraordinary, unchanging. Using words to paint insights, reconnecting us with our five senses, telling thoughtful stories, and cracking himself up with some pretty bad jokes, he helps to once again see the beauty of simple gifts.”
10. The End of the Scroll: Biblical Apocalyptic Trajectories by Herold Weiss (Energion Publications, June 24, 2020)
In Adventist theologian Dr. Herold Weiss’ latest book, he “applies a lifetime of study, teaching, and writing on the Bible to helping readers understand apocalyptic literature and symbolism,” states the publisher. “Avoiding the common error of simply finding something in recent history that can be tied to the text in some way, he seeks the purpose of each of the writers. Why, when expected events failed to take place as predicted, did the readers of these books still hold onto them as valuable? What is it that they communicated to those readers, and can we make use of it now.”
11. Prophets in Conflict: Issues in Authority by George R. Knight (Pacific Press Publishing Association, July 7, 2020)
In his latest book, prolific author and Adventist historian George R. Knight asks, “Are Ellen White and Joseph Smith two flavors of the same thing?” and “Why are Adventists prone to the ‘Mormon Temptation’?” Spectrum reviewer Reinder Bruinsma wrote, “This… book by George Knight about the person and work of Ellen White is a very useful capstone of his important contributions toward improving the understanding of church members around the globe of the role of the modern prophet.”
“Prophets in Conflict — Book Review” by Reinder Bruinsma
“Prophets in Conflict — Book Review” by Ted Ramirez (courtesy of Pacific Press)
“Prophets in Conflict — Author Interview” by Dale E. Galusha (courtesy of Pacific Press)
12. Pocket Dictionary for Understanding Adventism by Michael W. Campbell (Pacific Press Publishing Association, July 21, 2020)
This easy to navigate little guidebook contains alphabetical entries and introductory articles that are helpful to Adventists and non-Adventists alike. “Even long-term Adventists can discover better ways to explain some of the important and exceptional elements of our faith,” states the publisher.
13. The Road: A Journey Through the Narrative of Scripture by Marcos Torres (Story Church Project, August 19, 2020)
Prolific author and millennial pastor Marcos Torres has written a new study guide to tell the story of Jesus in a way that appeals to young people who don’t know anything about Christianity. “The Road is a new Adventist Bible study set that reframes Adventism linguistically, conceptually, and aesthetically for emerging secular generations. It has a clean, minimalistic design to avoid the old school off-putting religious art and it aims to explore the story of scripture as a story, not a set of disjointed doctrines. I think that’s where the magic lies really. When you let the story of scripture tell itself, it has an authentic vibe. My main goal here was to capture that and channel it in a meaningful way for emerging generations impacted by secularism,” Torres told Spectrum readers in an interview with Alita Byrd.
“New Bible Study Guide Launched for Millennials” by Alita Byrd
14. The Heavenly Trio by Ty Gibson (Pacific Press Publishing Association, August 26, 2020)
Ty Gibson, co-director of Light Bearers and pastor of Storyline Adventist Church, explores the beliefs of Ellen White and other early church pioneers in regards to the Trinity in his latest book.
15. Change Agents: The Lay Movement that Challenged the System and Turned Adventism Toward Racial Justice by Douglas Morgan (Self-published, October 27, 2020)
In Adventist historian Douglas Morgan’s latest book, he asks and answers the following questions: “How and when did racial discrimination become embedded in Adventist institutions? Is it possible to change patterns of injustice when they become deeply ingrained in the corporate life of the church? Is it appropriate to organize in opposition to the voted policies of duly elected church leaders? May Christians use protest and pressure to bring about change in the church? Were Black conferences a step forward or backward?”
16. Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life by Linda K. Olson (She Writes Press, October 27, 2020)
Linda Olson, a Loma Linda University graduate, recounts her incredible life in this deeply moving memoir. “Linda Olson and her husband, Dave Hodgens, were young doctors whose story had all the makings of a fairy tale. But then, while they were vacationing in Germany, a train hit their van, shattering their lives ― and Linda’s body…. As a triple amputee, Linda learned to walk with prostheses and change diapers and insert IVs with one hand. She finished her residency while pregnant and living on her own. And she and Dave went on to pursue their dream careers, raise two children, and travel the world,” states the publisher’s description.
Read Linda K. Olson’s 2013 Spectrum article, “A Little Help from My Friends” about her trip to Machu Picchu (Vol. 41, Issue 3, pg. 28).
17. Advent: Hearing the Good News in the Story of Jesus' Birth by Nathan Brown (Signs Publishing, November 1, 2020)
Book editor at Signs Publishing and prolific Adventist author Nathan Brown has penned a new title, this time tackling the topic of Advent in a premium book perfect for sharing “the gospel message in a fresh and compelling way,” says Maryellen Fairfax. Designed to be read throughout the month of December, the 31 daily devotionals tell the stories of Jesus in an accessible and down-to-earth way for readers.
“Nathan Brown on Advent — Adventist Voices Podcast” by Alexander Carpenter
“New Book about Christmas Receives Thousands of Pre-Orders” by Maryellen Fairfax and Nathan Brown (courtesy of Adventist Record)
18. Call My Name, Clemson: Documenting the Black Experience in an American University Community by Rhondda Robinson Thomas (University of Iowa Press, November 2, 2020)
Rhondda Robinson Thomas, a graduate of Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) and English professor at Clemson University, traces the history of the predominately African American state convict crew that built Clemson on John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation in South Carolina. “Threading together scenes of communal history and conversation, student protests, white supremacist terrorism, and personal and institutional reckoning with Clemson’s past, this story helps us better understand the inextricable link between the history and legacies of slavery and the development of higher education institutions in America,” states the publisher’s description.
The Friday Forum Book Group will be discussing this title on April 9, 2021. To view the Forum’s full reading list, click here.
19. In the Time of Coronavirus: Chronicles of a Pandemic by Hanz Gutierrez (Adventist Forum, December 1, 2020)
Spectrum columnist Hanz Gutierrez’ thought-provoking articles chronicling the coronavirus as it swept through the world this year were a beacon of light amidst the pandemic. “Every time I read from the pen of Hanz Gutierrez I am impressed by his expansive view of life and faith. I find him optimistic, well read, and a faithful critic of our Adventist community,” wrote Mark Carr in his review of Gutierrez’ essays, now available in a beautiful paperback edition from Adventist Forum.
“In the Time of Coronavirus — Book Review” by Mark Carr
“Friday Forum Book Group Discussion — Pandemic” Facebook Live panel discussion
20. Seeking an Understanding: How to Have Difficult Conversations without Destroying Your Relationships by Seth Pierce (Advent Source, December 28, 2020)
“Tired of tone-deaf dialogues? Angry online exchanges? Misunderstandings?” asks the publisher in its description of Seeking an Understanding. This book “makes communication research accessible for those who want to have better conversations. It brings together interpersonal and intercultural communication principles, with a practical pastoral approach.”
A book review of this title is forthcoming on the Spectrum website.
Tell us about a book you read this year, whether published in 2020 or before. Was there a book you found particularly meaningful during this unprecedented year of the coronavirus pandemic? What’s a long-time favorite that brought you comfort during quarantine? Is there an author you’d like us to interview or a book you want us to review in 2021? Let us know.
You can find all of the books we discussed in 2020 in our “Arts & Essays —> Books & Magazines” section. If you appreciate the books we’ve highlighted throughout the year, please consider giving to support Spectrum. As a non-profit news organization, every gift helps us provide you with the content you value.
Thank you, and Happy New Year!
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Images courtesy of the respective publishers.
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