For the last several years, I’ve been writing down the titles of books I finish. Then, at the end of the year, I pick 10 favorites and make a list for you here. (I’ll include the last four years at the bottom of the post) This is one of my favorite posts to write all year!
I’ll list them here in no particular order.
Note: This year’s list has a disproportionate amount of books written either by people I know in real life or books I was required to read for school (and loved). It’s a season of life kind of thing, where I only have time to read books that are either assigned or written by those I’m thrilled to support. But rest assured they are only on this list if they are loved!
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!
Invitation to the Jesus Life by Jan Johnson
Genre: Spiritual Growth
About the book: “To encounter Jesus daily and have a relationship with Him changes everything; our focus becomes eternal. Experience Jesus in such a way that His love-drenched, others-focused nature shapes your character. The spiritual practices in each chapter will challenge you to go deeper with Him.”
Why I loved it: Before she was my teacher, Jan was already on the fast track to becoming one of my favorite contemporary voices in spiritual formation. But now that I’ve spent time with her and had the honor of being one of her students, I’m sold. Her writing is clear, practical, and always brings me closer to our friend Jesus.
I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Genre: Books and Literature
About the book: “For so many people, reading isn’t just a hobby or a way to pass the time–it’s a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can’t imagine life without them. I’d Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way.”
Why I loved it: I read this book as a reward to myself after meeting a huge deadline and it was the perfect companion. Reading each short essay felt like unwrapping a delightful gift of warm nostalgia – a book-lovers dream book.
Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
Genre: Decorative Arts & Design
About the book: “Cozy Minimalism isn’t about going without or achieving a particular new, modern style. Nope. It’s simply a mindset that helps you get whatever style you love with the fewest possible items.”
Why I loved it: I loved this book because applying the decorating principles I learned from it actually changed the way I live in our house. My sunroom went from being my least favorite room in our house to my most favorite within days after learning the cozy minimalist way. I didn’t have to take out a loan, sell my birthright, or win the lottery to make the changes. We have enough to fight against in this world. Our homes should be the last place on earth where we feel shame. I’m so grateful for this beautiful, life-giving book.
Streams of Living Water by Richard J. Foster
Genre: Christian Living/Spiritual Growth
About the book: “Foster examines the streams of living water –– the six dimensions of faith and practice that define Christian tradition. He lifts up the enduring character of each tradition and shows how a variety of practices, from individual study and retreat to disciplines of service and community, are all essential elements of growth and maturity. Foster examines the unique contributions of each of these traditions and offers as examples the inspiring stories of faithful people whose lives defined each of these streams.”
Why I loved it: This was an assigned book for my course called History and Traditions of Christian Spiritual Formation and I loved every word of this thick book. The kind and compassionate way Foster approaches each of the six traditions is thorough, creative, and insightful. He handled the discussion of strengths and weaknesses of each stream with grace and respect.
The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy
Genre: Christian Living/Memoir
About the book: “Podcaster Knox McCoy, co-host of The Popcast with Knox and Jamie, tells hilarious stories about how pop culture helped him answer life’s biggest questions. Through books, television, music and movies, Knox found many of the answers he was searching for about God and why we’re all here.”
Why I loved it: Another book I saved as a reward for meeting a deadline was this one and it was well worth the wait. It’s hard to write funny, but Knox has this skill in spades and I am here for it. This debut book is the perfect blend of humor, thoughtful reflection, and Generation X/Millennial pop culture references. Fantastic read.
Indestructible by Allison Fallon
About the book: “Indestructible tells the shocking story of a marriage that didn’t go as planned, the truth that shattered everything, and the beautiful unfolding of a woman who decided that saving her marriage wasn’t worth losing herself.”
Why I loved it: You know those books that you pick up and then you don’t put down until you’ve finished? That’s why I loved this book. Ally is a real life friend of mine and reading her story was an honor and a gift. If you’re looking for a well-written, heartfelt page turner, this is the book for you.
The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin
Genre: Christian Living/Social Issues
About the book: “For Christ-followers living in an increasingly complicated world, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to live a life of intention and meaning. Where do we even begin? Shannan offers a surprisingly simple answer: uncover the hidden corners of our cities and neighborhoods and invest deeply in the lives of people around us.”
Why I loved it: In a world where hope seems dim and solutions feel complicated and partisan, Shannan offers us a starting point that is as radical as it is domestic: widen your circle, hush your mouth, and pay close attention. This book is the right book for this moment in time and I simply cannot get over it. I either laughed or cried on almost every page. We need these lyrical, prophetic words now more than ever before.
Still Life by Louise Penny
About the book: “Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.”
Why I loved it: One of the precious few fiction books I read this year, the Inspector Gamache series is one I’m so grateful to have found. It’s mystery! It’s small town! It’s cozy murder! (Is that a terrible phrase?) This is the first book of the series and I’ve only read this one and the next one. I have the whole series queued up for reading once I graduate.
Water to Wine by Brian Zahnd
Genre: Christian Living
About the book: “Why would the pastor of a large and successful church risk everything in a quest to find a richer, deeper, fuller Christianity? In Water To Wine Brian Zahnd tells his story of disenchantment with pop Christianity and his search for a more substantive faith.”
Why I loved it: Zahnd does exactly what the descriptions says – walks the reader through his quest to find a richer, deeper, fuller Christianity. Spoiler alert: he finds it. Ever since attending his Prayer School last spring, I’ve incorporated his morning prayer liturgy (included in this book) to my morning routine and it has been one of the most transformative parts of my year.
The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero
Genre: Christian Living
About the book: “New Life Fellowship in Queens, New York, had it all: powerful teaching, dynamic ministries, an impressive growth rate, and a vision to do great works for God.
Things looked good—but beneath the surface, circumstances were more than just brewing. They were about to boil over, forcing Peter Scazzero to confront needs in his church and himself that went deeper than he’d ever imagined. What he learned about the vital link between emotional health, relational depth, and spiritual maturity can shed new light on painful problems in your own church.”
Why I loved it: This was another required read for school, this time for a course I just finished called Formation Through Struggle. I loved this book first because Leighton Ford wrote the foreword and I adore everything Leighton Ford puts his name on.
Second, after reading this book I believe it should be required for every church leader there ever was or will be. In our North American church culture, we idolize success in the form of the glittering image at the expense emotional health. This book is the antidote for our success addiction.
Finally, a bonus book because it’s my website and I can share if I want to: here’s the reason why I wasn’t able to read more books this year:
It’s because I wrote one of my own!
I hope you’ll add The Next Right Thing to your wishlist for 2019 or, even better, give your future self a gift and pre-order a copy today.
If the price drops between now and release day on April 2, you’ll be charged the lowest price.
There you have it! My favorite books I read (and wrote) in 2018.
As you make your own lists of books to read in 2019, 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 four years below.
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My Top 10 Favorite Books From Years Past: