This is one of my favorite posts to write all year – the one where I share my favorite books!
For the last several years, I’ve been writing down the titles of books I finish. Partial reads don’t go on the list and are not included here.
This year, I finished 28 books. This is less than I planned (as always) but I did start quite a few I haven’t yet finished.
Of the books I finished, I’ve chosen my top 10 favorites to share with you, as well as some honorable mentions at the end. I’ll list them here in no particular order.
All of the “about the book” descriptions come directly from the Amazon book summaries where I am a grateful affiliate, followed by a short explanation of why I loved it. Let’s talk books!
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Genre: Historical Fiction
About the book: “The untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha ‘Patsy’ Jefferson Randolph–a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.”
Why I loved it: It’s a well-researched, fascinating narrative of not only the Jefferson family but also the political and social climate of the time. I was also especially interested in the time period of the American Revolution since becoming slightly obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack this year. (Sidenote: We saw it last week in New York and it was everything and amazing okay that’s all I’ll say about that now goodbye).
Meeting God In Scripture by Jan Johnson
Genre: Spiritual Growth
About the book: Jan Johnson offers forty Scripture meditations, organized topically, giving us the tools we need to practice lectio divina on our own.
Why I loved it: In this collection of guided meditations for reading the Bible in a thoughtful more contemplative way, Johnson is a trustworthy guide. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her questions, her encouragement to slow down, read multiple times, and to give time for personal response. It’s a great resource if you want to read the Bible with more intention but aren’t sure where to start.
The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser
Genre: Spiritual Growth
About the book: “For anyone seeking to understand what Christian spirituality means and how to apply it to their own lives, The Holy Longing translates the universal struggle for love and integration of spirit into a language accessible to all, explaining God and the Church for a world that more often than not doubts the credibility of both.”
Why I loved it: I found myself whispering yes, yes! many times while reading this book. The way he strings together old truths in new ways continually surprised and challenged me to take my own long-held definition of spirituality and hold it out in the light to be questioned, re-shaped, and embraced anew.
Begin Again by Leeana Tankersley
Genre: Christian Living/Spiritual Growth
About the book: “To begin again is to open the window, even a crack, to let the breeze of grace come in. It is a call to stop running from our fears. To take one small step toward becoming the brave women we were made to be.”
Why I loved it: I’m cheating a little here because this one doesn’t release until April 2018. The only reason I didn’t read it in one sitting was because I forced myself to slow down so it would last longer.
It reads like a genuine invitation to walk forward in our own lives without shame or regret. Leeana’s words held space for me in areas of my life where I feel stuck, overcome, or undone. I want to give this tender, powerful book to every woman in my life. Do your future self a favor and pre-order it now.
In The Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
Genre: Christian Living
About the book: “For a society that measures successful leadership in terms of the effectiveness of the individual, Father Nouwen offers a counter definition that is witnessed by a communal and mutual experience. For Nouwen, leadership cannot function apart from the community. This beautiful guide to Christian leadership is the rich fruit of Henri Nouwen’s own journey.”
Why I loved it: If you can only read one book on Christian leadership book your whole life, read this one. I’ve read it several times now and it remains one of my favorites. Unassuming with it’s mere 100 pages or so, this thin book is packed with wisdom as Nouwen walks through the three desert temptations of Jesus and applies them to our lives as leaders with an accuracy that is both stunning and humbling.
This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
About the book: “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage takes us into the very real world of Ann Patchett’s life. Stretching from her childhood to the present day, from a disastrous early marriage to a later happy one, it covers a multitude of topics, including relationships with family and friends, and charts the hard work and joy of writing, and the unexpected thrill of opening a bookstore.”
Why I loved it: This is not a book about marriage. Just wanted to clear that up. It’s just great writing, interesting angles, and stories from Ann’s life. While she does have a few essays about marriage, the writing also covers her writing career, the convocation speech she gave at Clemson with parent protestors outside the door, and the summer she tried out (auditioned? interviewed?) for the LAPD.
I appreciated the essay style of this book – each one standing apart from the others while, at the same time, related in that they are all part of Ann Patchett’s life.
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
About the book: “Orphaned at age ten, Jayber Crow’s acquaintance with loneliness and want have made him a patient observer of the human animal, in both its goodness and frailty. He began his search as a pre-ministerial student at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself.”
Why I loved it: In keeping with my continued quest to learn all I can about smallness, the lure of success, and the often despised way of downward mobility, this book was a must read. It took me a while to finish – I’m slow and it’s a thick book. But this one has burrowed it’s way into my soul and informed my life more than any other fiction book I’ve read in years. Hannah Coulter is next on my list.
At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
About the book: “The Oxenreiders traverse bumpy roads, stand in awe before a waterfall that feels like the edge of the earth, and chase each other through three-foot-wide passageways in Venice. And all the while Tsh grapples with the concept of home, as she learns what it means to be lost—yet at home—in the world.”
Why I loved it: Tsh is a real-life friend who I simply adore, but that is not why her book is on my list of favorites. Instead, it’s because she’s the only person I know who can write about traveling the world with her family and make it sound not only normal, but cozy. Beautifully written, this one offers clarifying reminders of what it means to belong and be well no matter where we are.
The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford
Genre: Christian Living
About the book: “If you’re busy, distracted, rushing through each day, you might be feeling disconnected from God, unable to see how he’s working. But the way toward him starts with a pause and a prayer―with intention and attention―and becomes a way of life, awake and alive to the peaceful, powerful presence of God.”
Why I loved it: First, I loved this book because Leighton Ford is an unlikely contemplative. As Billy Graham’s brother-in-law, he worked in the spotlight of the evangelical world for many years. While his voice remains solidly protestant, his words sing well with those of the Trappist monks who influenced his own walk with God.
Second, I loved this book because as I read it, he felt like a kind companion for my spiritual journey. Many authors strive to strike that delicate note but few do it as well as Leighton Ford in this book.
Shrink by Tim Suttle
Genre: Christian Living
About the book: “The drive to be great—to be a success by the standards of the world—often crowds out the qualities of goodness, virtue, and faithfulness that should define the central focus of Christian leadership. Tim Suttle dares church leaders to risk failure by chasing the vision God has given them—no matter how small it might seem—instead of pursuing the broad path of pragmatism that leads to fame and numerical success.”
Why I loved it: If you’re sensing a theme among my favorite books of the year, you would be right. I winced a few times reading this book as Tim Suttle is not shy about pointing a strong, accusatory finger at the American mega church, citing an obsession with growth and a definition of “great” that runs antithetical to that of the Kingdom of God.
More than once I read sections of this book out loud to John accompanied with “I can’t believe he said that” followed quickly by “I’m so glad someone said that.”
So there you have it – my 10 favorite reads of the year.
Because my graphic is friendly to 10 picks, I kept it at that. But here are a few honorable mentions I read this year as well:
- The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel (Religion + Spirituality)
- Becoming Curious by Casey Tygrett (Christian Living)
- Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (Fiction)
- Reading People by Anne Bogel (Christian Living/Personal Growth)
- Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (Fiction)
As you make your own lists of books to read in the coming year, perhaps you’ll add a few of my favorites into the mix. To give you more to choose from, I’ll include my 10 favorite books from the past three years below.
I definitely have preferred genres if you haven’t already noticed: Memoir, Christian Living/Spiritual Growth, and Fiction with an occasional book on writing, creativity, and/or productivity thrown in as well.
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