I was sitting with a friend and she asked me, “What were the greatest books you read this year?” I could only recall a few of them, not because I hadn’t read great books but because my memory fails me so often. That is one of the reasons that I keep a list and short review of the books that I read each year now. Even as I was getting this post ready and re-reading my list I was reminded of all that I learned from these authors. There were some themes that shaped my year and my life as a result of the wonderful words and stories shared in the pages I consumed. I’m ever grateful for books and the opportunity to learn and grow through others wisdom and creativity in the craft of the written word.
Books I Read in 2015
A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers — This book is a compilation of five stories of Tamar, Rahab, Basheba, Ruth and Mary. They start with the Biblical story and she ads things that may have happened. They are incredible stories, sometimes scandalous, yet true, about the women God chose to use for a particular time in history and in His story. There are also lots of questions to use in a Bible study setting after each story so you can dig into the scripture and apply it to your own life. I love Francine Rivers!
The Spark by Kristine Barnett– Kristine tells the story of one of her children, Jacob, who is a brilliant child on the autism spectrum. He has a higher IQ than Einstein, went to college by the time he was 10 and will change the world with his gifts. When he was two however, doctors told her that he would never speak. Kristine took her child’s well being and development into her own hands, discovering the spark within him and as a result watched him blossom and grow. She believes incredible possibilities can occur when we learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us. This is an incredibly inspiring story and helped me look at my own children, their gifts and talents, and challenged me to think how I can encourage them and help them grow.
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas — The premise of this book asks the question, What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? This book looks at how you can use the challenges, joys, struggles, and celebrations of marriage to draw closer to God and to grow in Christian character. This was a great book and I had some useful and challenging take a ways.
Going Public by David and Kelli Pritchard — This talks about how your child can thrive in public school but it also offers so much more. They offer wise, biblical and practical parenting stories throughout this book that are so valuable. I’ve read this before but needed to re-read it as we are continually evaluating what is best for our kids. This may change from year to year and child to child. We value being in the public school setting and want to be a part of making it better but always keep an open hand to the Lord’s leading with schooling.
The Healing Path-How the hurts in your past can lead you to a more abundant life by Dan B. Allender — I am a big fan or Dan Allender. I’ve heard him speak many times and loved this book. I resonated with many of the themes and wrestled through his explanation of ambivalence. It’s hard to describe all the great stuff in this book, here’s a word from his preface: “This life has great suffering and sorrow woven into its fabric, but it also has an incandescent beauty and compelling call. For now, the beauty serves as a window through which we can glimpse the face of God, which we will one day see in its glorious fullness. The Healing Path is about how God redeems our doubt and betrayal, our despair and powerlessness, and disappointment and ambivalence. It call us to more toward the great destination of this life: becoming a man or woman of faith, hope, and love.” It’s a practical and helpful book for working through your own story and healing path as well as entering into the lives and stories of others.
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung — I LOVED the chapter on parenting and how our busyness affects the lives of our children. We live in a culture of do more, child focused families, and be the “perfect parent” and it’s sucking the life out of parents and the joy out of us and our kids. Less often equals more.
Surprised by Motherhood – Everything I never expected about being a mom by Lisa-Jo Baker — This is a great, easy and fun read as a mom. It tells her story of growing up in South Africa, losing her mom, meeting her husband and their journey as a married couple into parenthood. I could so relate to parts of her story, especially how she didn’t imagine having kids and then how God changed her heart. She says she discovered three things about motherhood: that it’s hard, it’s glorious and it’s very hard. It’s a real story with honesty and humor I could relate to as a Christ follower and a mom.
Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor — This was a fascinating read. She talks a lot about actual darkness. She spent time in caves to experience physical darkness and with those who are blind. Our world has such an aversion to the physical dark as well as the spiritual darkness. She believes that “for it is in the dark, that one can truly see.” It exposed many things that I may be afraid of and how we avoid the things that are dark to us instead of leaning into them.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — I just have to say this was recommended by a guy friend, my husband read it first and it was a teary, wonderful, moving, heartbreaking story. Enough said.
The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson — Peterson looks at Jesus’s way of life in scripture, examples of others in scripture and compared it to how the contemporary church lives today. Very challenging and insightful and this explanation just seems so simplistic for an incredibly deep and complex book.
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott — I love Lamott’s honesty and ability to connect with those who have suffered, are in hard places and in need of some new perspective.
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning — I loved this book. I struggle with grace in my own life. I believe it in theory but to really grasp it and live it out so that I can walk freely in it is a challenging task and concept to grasp. I love this main thought in the book, “The Father beckons us to Himself with a furious love that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the ragamuffins.”
A Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore — The story of how God brings together a homeless man from the South and and a rich man from Texas in unexpected ways. It’s a powerful story of God changing lives through engaging with those who seem unlikely to have anything at all in common.
Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning – I loved this book so much that I bought it half way through reading it. There are foundational truths in this book that he had a way of explaining in ways that helped them seem new again. If we really did believe this, “Our identity rests in God’s relentless tenderness for us revealed in Jesus Christ.” we would all live differently and in more freedom. I will definitely be re-reading this book!
Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff — I just really like Jon Acuff and wanted to see what he had to say so read this one. He has lots of wisdom in being successful in work and I think most people can relate to the fact that we don’t want to “get stuck” and sometimes we need a “do over” even if it’s just in our perspective of our work.
Calico Joe by John Grisham — This was an enjoyable and easy read about a boy, his father, their complicated relationship, Calico Joe and the game of baseball. It has themes of forgiveness and how things can find some form of redemption in the end.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller – I love all things related to Psalm 23. This book gave incredible insight from someone who was an actual shepherd of sheep and what that entails. It gives new meaning to the biblical meaning in Psalm 23. I’ll definitely be reading this many times throughout life.
For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe — Now don’t judge me here. I watch the Bachelor and therefore I had to read “America’s favorite” bachelor’s book. And for the record, I had to wait in a long wait list at the library to read this so I know I’m not alone. I sped my way through this book. I love reading a good story about someones life and they did a great job telling Sean’s story of life, his faith and love. It really is pretty amazing that God can use even reality tv shows like the Bachelor to bring others together and make himself known. Yep, I loved it.
Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell – This was a heartbreaking story of a boy who was left in an orphanage at the age of three, denied by other family members, and lived there until he graduated high school. It walks through his trials, how he managed to become more than his past and how God intervened to help him do just that. A great story of redemption of brokenness and how forgiveness really can set you free. I was totally challenged by the theme of forgiving those who really don’t deserve to be forgiven.
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans – I read this because Rachel is influential with the millennials and I wanted to know more of her story. Although I don’t agree with all of her theology it was an interesting read and I appreciate many of her thoughts. I love this one, “We think church is for good people, not resurrected people.” I agree that we need to stop pretending we have it all together. We are broken people in need of a God who restores. The church should be a safe place, but not necessarily a comfortable place like she says in the book.
When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashim – This was a timely read given the level of refugee crisis in our world. It’s an incredible novel that takes you through one women’s journey of life in Afghanistan, the take over of the Taliban that forces her family to flee their country and all of the heart wrenching loss that they experience along the way.
For the Love-Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker – I LOVE Jen’s humor, wit and ability to speak into issues of the heart of women and the church so poignantly. Easy read, encouraging and challenging as well. The chapter about turning 40 hit so close to home, even thought I’m not quite 40, that I was literally crying. Good stuff.
Scary Close dropping the act and finding true intimacy by Donal Miller – Don invites you into his life of working through isolation and how he’s finding true intimacy. He has a lot of wisdom in building healthy relationships that everyone can benefit from. Loved this book.
The Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos – Written by our friend and co-worker. This is an incredible story of how a sky lantern ended up in Matt’s driveway which led to the eventual meeting of the woman who sent it. It’s inspiring to think about what can happen when we take the small things in life that may look like a distraction or piece of trash but don’t pass it by. When we stop to engage in picking up that trash, simply writing a letter, or offering an act of kindness it could lead to changing the trajectory of our day, someone else’s day or even our lives.
I’m still in the middle of about 5 other books that I didn’t finish and the perfectionist in me is really annoyed that this list only has 24 books on it. My goal was 25. Here’s to embracing some grace and letting it go.
What did you read this year? What should be on my Must Read list for 2016? Please share.