The beginning of January is one of my favorite times for blog reading. I love the end of the year reflections and I always look forward to reading “best books I read this year” blog posts. Shawn and I both did a lot of reading year, so we thought it would be fun to share our favorite books of the year. This is my list and you can find his favorite books in a separate post.
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You may remember my post from earlier this year with some thoughts about how I had to train my brain to read again after enduring the brain fog that comes with multiple pregnancies and a house full of small children. It was a struggle at first, but totally worth the effort. At the beginning of the year, I made a list and set some reading goals so that I could get back in to the habit of reading deeply. My goal was to read about 1 book per week (more than I expected to read, but I wanted to push myself) and I ending up reading about 40 books this year.
There were some weeks when I found I wasn’t reading at all. When there were lags in my reading, it wasn’t because I didn’t have time. I just didn’t have another book ready. I learned that I need to plan ahead, order books or get to the library early, and have a few options ready to go for when I finish my current book. I also read several books at a time. Reading a heavy theological book before bed isn’t ideal, so it helps to have a variety of genres ready to read at different times of the day.
At the beginning of the year, I made a list of books that sounded interesting and included a variety of topics such as theology, business, homeschooling & parenting, and some classic literature. I used that as a starting point, but didn’t necessarily read everything on the list. Throughout the year, some new titles grabbed my attention and I added them to the list. I also saw some books on a great Kindle sale that and I stumbled upon reviews of other intriguing books. The list helped me to read on a variety of topics and gave me ideas when I was ready to start something new. I plan to rollover some of the books from last years’ list on to my 2016 list. I’ll also drop some that no longer interest me and try to add a few more. I’m also hoping to write monthly updates and reviews, because it’s extremely hard to share all of my thoughts about the things I read in one wrap-up post!
So, without any more explanation and in no particular order…here are the top 10 books I read in 2015:
1. Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney – If you’ve ever struggled with boredom or a wandering mind during prayer (that should be almost everybody!), then this little book is a must-read. You can read it in an hour and it might just change the way you pray! I wrote a whole post about this book a few months ago with more details about the book and the prayer method.
2. Notes From A Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider – I’ve been following Tsh’s blog, The Art of Simple, for many years. When I saw the digital version of her book was on sale for $.99, (when I checked, it was still just $1.99!) I bought it and started reading. I expected it to be good, but her story was so compelling that I could not put it down. I read it in a couple of days and then read it again to digest the content more slowly, and again this week while I was thinking about it again.
Tsh spent many years living overseas and missed the simplicity and slowness of life in other countries. When she and her family moved back to the US they felt out of place in our fast-paced culture, and found themselves longing for the life they had left. They made a plan to enjoy life more fully by slowing down and making some lifestyle changes that are contrary to the typical American way of life. Her story is woven in between chapters that address intentional living in different areas of their lives like food, travel, work, and school. I enjoyed the story of their lives, but also really connected with the goals and choices they have made for their family. She presents their choices and reasons with grace, leaving room for families to make their own decisions and to make changes when their first ideas don’t go according to plan.
Tsh’s book affirmed that the choices we have made to enjoy our family time at home, seek out good food, prioritize exploration, and make time for creativity, are good for our family even though we often feel out of place. We don’t have to be lost in the never-ending cycle of busyness that seems to overtake so many families. We can make choices that allow us to live our lives more fully, and those choices can change with the different seasons of life that we go through. I felt encouraged to keep doing what we’re doing and to stop and evaluate some other areas of life where we could be more intentional, all without feeling like I was a failure if I didn’t make the same choices that the Oxenreider’s made for their family. I highly recommend this one!
3. Ida Scudder by Janet & Geoff Benge – Ida Scudder is the most amazing missionary I had never heard of. We read several of the missionary books from this series this year as part of our homeschool curriculum. In all of my years in church and homeschool study, I don’t remember ever reading about her. I was hooked within minutes as the author described Ida’s family heritage of medical missions in India. Her grandparents raised 10 children as medical missionaries in India. Seven of their sons (including Ida’s father) received medical degrees and returned to India (the other son planned to, but died tragically while completing his schooling), and their two daughters both married men that served as Indian missionaries. Ida grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins all serving on the mission field as a family. Ida went on to pioneer medical training for women in India by opening a women’s medical college and later a hospital. Her story was truly inspiring.
4. Eight Twenty Eight (When Love Didn’t Give Up) by Larissa & Ian Murphy – I first heard of Ian & Larissa a couple of years ago when a video of their story circulated through Facebook. While they were dating, Ian was involved in a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. By the grace of God, Larissa stayed by Ian’s side and loved him until he could return her love again. They married, and though Ian continues to heal, he will always need Larissa to care for him. Larissa tells a beautiful story and is truly gifted with words. Their book shares their story while giving all glory to God for his grace and love. I read this while I was re-reading This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. The books complement each other well as Ian & Larissa’s story shows how a biblical view of marriage (as laid out by Piper) allows them to live in an imperfect marriage in an imperfect world, that demonstrates God’s love to the world. It is inspirational and thought-provoking. (And when I checked, it was only $.99 for the digital version!)
5. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon – This is a short and fun little book, subtitled “10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.” I’ve come across some quotes and ideas from this book through other creative blogs and articles and I was intrigued by the very high reviews. There is so much good advice packed into this little book! I’ve read through it a couple of times now and I plan to work through it again, putting the suggestions into practice as a I go. I’m looking forward to reading his 2nd book Show Your Work.
6. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – Myquillyn is another blogger turned author. I’ve been following her blog for a few years as well. On the surface it seems to be all about decorating, but there’s a deeper message, one she repeats over and over—it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. The Nesting Place is filled beautiful imperfect pictures of her home surrounding her story of over a dozen moves, many imperfect homes, her struggle for contentment, and her joy in teaching women how to make their homes feel beautiful among the imperfections. As we bought a house this year and made plans to live here indefinitely (for the first time in our marriage), I needed this encouragement to make this new place feel like our home.
7. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love by Gloria Furman – Last year, I read (and loved) Gloria’s book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, a funny and encouraging look at mothering many small children while keeping Jesus at the center. In this book about life as a pastor’s wife, Gloria does an excellent job of reminding wives of church leaders that their identity is, first and foremost, in Christ. I appreciated her perspective as a pastor’s wife living in Dubai, surrounded by people from all over the world and from different cultural backgrounds. Not only does that provide some humorous stories for her to tell, it also helps her to share Biblical principles that apply to a global church. I highly recommend this for women whose husbands are in any leadership position in the church!
8. Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God’s Word by Stephen Nichols – The introduction of this book explains that God’s word is all one story—the story that tells of our Creation, our Fall, our Redemption, and our Restoration through Jesus Christ. These four themes provide a framework through which we can understand scripture. If you would like to understand how the details of scripture fit into the big picture, this book is a great place to start. Nichols has a knack for telling stories at just the right time to keep the book engaging. I particularly liked the chapter on creation that emphasized God as an artist, creating beauty to display his glory to the world.
9. Prayer by Tim Keller – I just finished this book, and I’m still digesting all of the content. It’s packed with information. Tim Keller’s thoughtful academic analysis of prayer plus his practical tips from years of experience make a well-rounded and thorough book on the subject. I’d love to read it again, taking more notes as I go. In contrast to the quick and easy Praying the Bible, this book requires time and effort to read. It’s worth the effort, but you’ll want to set aside time in the morning to work through it slowly.
10. Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reike – I read this book at the beginning of the year. It’s a helpful guide covering how to read better, what to read, and why you should read. I loved the practical suggestions on choosing books with discernment, reading widely, prioritizing books, and how to read within a Biblical framework. He covers how reading has changed in our culture and how internet habits cripple reading. When I finished, my first thought was that I wanted all of my children to read this book in high school. And just now, I saw that there is a recommendation in the book from the author of the homeschool curriculum I use calling it a “gracious and principled guide”. I highly recommend reading this before you make any reading goals and lists for the year!