How have all our staff workers been keeping themselves busy this year? Hear how Lauren H kept busy this year, and what her top picks are for 2020.
While there’s plenty about 2020 that I’ll happily leave behind, here are a few of the books, tv shows and music that will stay with me.
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
This Booker prize winning novel was released over a decade ago, but I’ve only just jumped on the bandwagon, after receiving the Trilogy as a birthday present this year. It tells the fictionalised “true” story of Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to Henry VIII (yep, that’s the king with 6 wives, whose first divorce ushered in the English Reformation). As a church history fan, it was fascinating to read a story filled with some of the key players in Reformation Europe. It’s a brilliantly written book, but I didn’t find it an easy read, which made finally finishing it after 6 months a real achievement!
Known by God, Brian Rosner
A few of the Christian books I’ve read this year have ended up as ES blog posts, but here’s one I haven’t reviewed. In the lead up to Jesus Week, with its focus on identity Lauren B & I read through Brian Rosner’s excellent book on personal identity. This book reads like a textbook, tracing the theme of personal identity throughout the Bible. Rosner’s style is easy to read, interwoven with personal stories, and rounded out with solid application. In our “be true to yourself” culture, this book is a helpful reminder that knowing ourselves, is about knowing ourselves as God’s children in Christ.
What is a Girl Worth? Rachael Denhollander
This is a harrowing book. Rachael Denhollander is one of the strong & courageous women who spoke out against the culture of abuse in the USA Gymnastics team. This is her story of growing up in the world of gymnastics, the abuse she suffered, and the long and painful journey of pursuing justice. This is also a story of a young women who loves Jesus, who has had to endure the pain and wounds of this broken world, who’s wrestle with doubts and hurt from within the church, and who perseveres and holds on to Jesus – there are some beautifully moving chapters where Rachael speaks her hope in Jesus. This is not an easy book to read, Rachael tells her story with painful honesty, which makes it both powerful, but for some this may be too confronting.
I love houses. I love history. I love redemption stories. I love TV. I love TV shows about old-derelict houses being made new again! I’m not sure why it took me until this year to watch Restoration Australia, probably so many TV shows, too little time! I binge watched the first two season during the early weeks of being stuck at home & quickly got drawn into the stories of old, abandoned homes being faithfully restored by the somewhat eccentric folk who take on these sorts of projects.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
This show is a favourite in my house. It’s fun, musical, a bit OTT, with moments of deep emotions & real human struggles. The story follows Zoey, a smart twenty-something computer programmer, who gets an entire playlist of music downloaded into her head after an MRI mishap! What does this mean? Well Zoey can hear people’s inner thoughts & feelings through elaborate, flash-mob style song & dance routines – that no-one else can hear! Yep, it can be pretty hilarious. You don’t always like Zoey’s choices, the worldview it presents jars at times, but there is a lot to like here.
Ok, ok, I confess… I love watching Bluey. Until earlier this year I’d thought the Bluey juggernaut was just for pre-school aged kids & their parents, I’d watched one episode & thought “cute, but not for me”… but then COVID hit. Readers, I’m not ashamed to admit it, but in the early weeks of Zoom-life I started watching episodes of Bluey before going to bed, it was my warm hug & brain wind-down at the end of each frustrating day. This weird dog-family is adorable, crazy, loving, honest & laugh-out-loud funny. In a world were family can be messy, painful & broken, this has a redemptive quality!
Keeper of Days, Jon Guerra
It’s hard to read a Christian music “best of 2020” list without seeing Jon Guerra’s name. This is an incredible album, raw, honest & devotional. Singing songs of real faith, with all it’s doubts & questions, and a call to draw close & hold onto Jesus. While it’s hard to pick a favourite song, it’s really an album to experience as a whole, it’s the chorus of ‘Tightrope’ that plays on repeat in my head.
Mercy, Tenielle Neda
This is the album I’ve listened to more than anything else this year, I’ve even jump aboard the Kickstarter campaign for her next album coming out next year! Tenielle Neda is a singer-songwriter from Western Australia with a great story – she was a contestant on Australian Idol, became a Christian in her 20s, and now is a mum who makes music and drives freight trains! Her sound is captivating, her lyrics moving & theologically rich, and the album overall has a prayerful-feel. The title track ‘Mercy’ stands out in beautifully capturing the longing, hope & prayer of Psalm 86.
The Music of Hildegard Von Bingen
This is an odd pick, but I’ve been listening to a lot of ABC Classic this year, and when I first hear the music of this 12th-century German nun I was captivated. Written as liturgical music for the medieval church, the sound is haunting & ethereal. The lyrics, while entirely in Latin, are a reminder that worship is multi-lingual. Hildegard by all accounts was an extraordinary woman of her time, and her music is clearly her legacy. If you want the Hildegard experience, I’d recommend starting with the vocal quartet Anonymous 4.
Flinders ES- Lauren H