It’s that time of the year again, when media outlets award their, “best of,” awards for this and that. Rather than enthrall you with dramatic prose, drum rolls, or drama–I’ll get to the point. Here are the best things I encountered over the course of 2019. I hope you find some of these helpful.

Best book (Christian): Confronting Christianity: 12 Tough Questions for the World’s Largest Religion, by Rebecca McLaughlin. It’s an apologetics book that is just flat out useful. Her doctoral degree in Renaisssance Literature (Cambridge) is obvious through her quick, polished prose. It’s an efficient work that gives the reader a great set of answers for today’s most frequently asked questions about the faith. It’s the kind of book you can confidently put in the hand of someone with questions about faith. The first two chapters alone are worth the price of the book: 1) Aren’t we better off without religion, and 2) Doesn’t Christianity crush diversity? It isn’t a long read, but it super helpful–blowing away several popular doomsday myths even Christians circulate–like the immanent death of Christianity among young people.

I hope other writers see fit to write similar works in the days ahead. Christians need accessible books with sound thinking they can give to people who have profound questions about the faith. Rebecca McLaughlin’s work delivers. Bravo.

Quote: “My secular friends are twice as likely to raise children who become Christians as I am to raise children who become nonreligious. And the kind of religious beliefs people hold today are not the kind that fit comfortably into the “Coexist” bumper sticker. In North America, partly thanks to immigrant believers, full-blooded Christianity is outcompeting theologically liberal faith. . . . The question for the next generation is not How soon will religion die out? but Christianity or Islam? (13, 14)”

Best book (Non-Fiction): Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business, by Rita McGrath. Rita McGrath is not a familiar name to many among this readership. I would encourage you to become familiar with her work. I was fortunate enough to study under Rita’s tutelage at Columbia Business School over the course of 2019. She is one of the most brilliant business minds on the planet, but also a delightful person. If I gave out “Best of,” awards to people, she’d get one 🙂 Thinkers50 ranks her the #5 management thinker in the world, and the leading mind on strategy. Seeing Around Corners is already mentioned as a top business book of the decade. If you could see what is coming long before it happened, would that be helpful? Answer: Yes. Her observations like, “Snow melts at the edges,” helps people understand the nature of inflection points and how to recognize them. Changes happen gradually, then all at once. I love the title so much, I’m using the primary title as the title for my New Year’s sermon series on hope at New Vintage Church. There is a ton in this volume that translates to the church context. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.

Best movie – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It’s harsh at times (language, themes), but it’s just a gem. Music, acting, creativity, cinematography, casting…the entire package. The Irishman is the movie I thought I would choose when I learned of its release. But, it’s my second choice. Early nominations tell me I wasn’t the only one who really thought OUATIH was great. Both DiCaprio and Pitt do a typically exquisite job acting, but Brad Pitt really makes the movie. He should receive a best supporting actor nomination. The soundtrack is also fantastic, complete with vintage ads that gives the feeling of listening to a vintage radio station as you work your way through it. From top to bottom, Tarantino created a real work of art. For me, it’s the top movie of 2019.

Best Album: Candidly, nothing really jumped out as an instant classic this year. From a straight musical artistry standpoint, I’d give the nod to two albums whose verbal content I couldn’t commend: Brittany Howard’s, “Jaime,” and Lana Del Rey’s, “Norman F*&?#@! Rockwell.” Both are wonderful musically, but I can’t sit back and listen to them on repeat due to content. I do hope Brittany Howard goes back to Alabama Shakes–one of my favorite bands. She is better with them, and they with her. 2019 wasn’t a great year for new music, to me. If you have an album you loved, drop it in the comments.

Song of the Year: “Still,” by Oja Gjeillo. Gjeillo’s music is some of the best study music available. Some of it dabbles in choral music, but most of it is instrumental composition. The simplicity of, “Still,” on a rainy day with a cup of coffee and a fire place is niiiiiice. His new, full album is out in January. For pop, I’d go with Lana Del Rey’s remake of Sublime’s, “Doin’ Time.” As a Long Beach kid who grew up during Sublime’s peak, I was skeptical. Well, it’s fantastic–one of the smoothest songs to come out in some time.

Best Podcast: Business Wars, by Wondery. I stumbled across Business Wars by accident, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a documentary that, “…gives you the unauthorized, real story of what drives these companies and their leaders, inventors, investors and executives to new heights — or to ruin.” Miller vs. Budweiser, Facebook vs. Snapchat, Nike vs. Adidas (particularly good), and more. You will learn a lot about the companies whose products you use everyday, and their story. You will learn a lot about leadership, and wondering how you plowed through those eight episodes so quickly.

Best Productivity App: Monday.com. We have moved our church project management to Monday.com. I love it’s visually appealing, bright, clean layout in table format. However, one of it’s best features is the ability to switch between views of your project, including a Kanban board view. It has a series of other unique features and integrates with other to-do apps. However, because Monday.com is still relatively new, there are a few small features missing. However, Monday.com is growing rapidly and keeps adding features all the time.

Runner up: a blank journal with nice paper, dot grid, and a good pen. Yep, analog is still hard to beat.

What are some of the best things you encountered this year? Movies, music, books, lifehacks, etc.? Drop them in the comments.