Thursday, June 23, 2016

Best Books I've Read this Year

(And by this year I mean within the past 365 days-ish, not calendar year).

Recently I have developed an insatiable appetite for books, as evidenced by my mile-high stack of books on my bedside table at all times. I begin one book and am already planning out which one I will dive into next. Because I am constantly on the hunt for my next great read, I thought it'd be fun to share some of my favorites that I've read recently.

For encouragement

For the Love - by Jen Hatmaker
You guys, I swear she's the next best thing since sliced bread. She's funny, she's honest and she also happens to be pretty wise. I'm not a book underliner (but I'm trying to become one) and I underlined the heck out of this one. One of my favorite pastimes this last school year was to spend the afternoons curled up on my bed with a cup of hot coffee and this book in hand (there are coffee stains to prove it!). I LOVED it! It encouraged me, fed my soul and rocked my world in the best of ways. If you haven't read it, grab yourself a copy. And don't check it out from the library. Save yourself the trouble and BUY IT because you will find yourself unable to withhold the urge to underline every page.

The Jesus Storybook Bible - by Sally Lloyd Jones
WHERE HAS THIS CHILDREN'S BIBLE BEEN ALL MY LIFE!? Let's be real here for a second: sometimes even us adults need things brought down to a child's level. It is a little embarrassing to admit that this children's Bible has had such an impact on me but I am thrilled that my kids get to grow up learning of Jesus' love in the way this little Bible depicts. I was raised in a church that, intentionally or not, put great weight in legalism. There were lots of unspoken rules and congregants appeared to have it all together which was rough on a girl with a perfectionistic, type A personality. My takeaway was less one of the love of Christ and more so a list of rules I needed to follow or else. Now in my adulthood, I am on a long journey of undoing and this little Bible has helped me in my process of re-doing. Woven throughout every story is the message of God's love and His ultimate goal: the redemption of His people. It is absolutely beautiful and has moved both Graham and I to tears. In my opinion, it is a must-have for all bookshelves!

Acts - by Luke
The women's Bible study at my church spent 8 months diving into the book of Act. At first I was a little unsure but I have to say, spending that much time in one book was an unexpected gift. I'd read Acts before but examining it together as a group unearthed so many gems that I'd never pondered before. I feel like I could another 8 months reading the book and still glean so many things that I missed.

For fun

Small Victories - by Anne Lamott
Funny story. I stumbled upon this book totally by mistake. We have a bookshelf in the break room at work where people leave their already-read books and magazines so other staff can take and enjoy them. I spotted the name "Anne Lamott" on the cover of this book and thought to myself "Oh! I love her! She wrote that book about the doctor who gets kidnapped in the Amazon jungle that I liked so much." As it turns out, no she didn't. That was Ann Patchett. Pshhh. Anyhow, I took this book from the break room bookshelf expecting a thrilling fiction novel. What I got was a surprising conglomeration of essays on faith and grace and family. Though I didn't agree with her every word, I was touched by many of the things that she shared and found myself frequently making Graham come by my side so I could read it to him aloud. It's the perfect book for a summer family getaway when you only have pockets of time to read here and there as it can easily be picked up and put down.

The Paris Wife - by Paula McLain
This one came recommended to me by a friend and I had no idea what it was about when I downloaded it to my Kindle. All I knew what that I liked Paris and, since it was in the title, I hoped I'd like the book. News to me after I finished this one: I like historical fiction! It was fun (albeit painful) to immerse myself into the rough life of Hadley Hemmingway, wife of the famous author Ernest Hemmingway. This is a great, fairly quick and informative read.

The Boys in the Boat - by Daniel James Brown
I'm sure most everyone has read this book by now, but if you haven't, stop and put it on hold at the library. I still can't quite pinpoint why it draws the reader in so. I had never really spent more than 3 minutes ever thinking about the sport of rowing. But the story-telling in this book captivates readers from all backgrounds, both wise in the ways of rowing and those of us who are completely oblivious. The heroic dedication and grueling hard work of the rowers keeps the readers of the edge of their seats until the last page.

Delancey - by Molly Wizenberg
This was one of my tippy top reads of the year. I'm a sucker for books that include recipes and this was no exception. Delancey is a true story about the creation of an AMAZING pizza restaurant (the book's namesake) that is located here in Seattle. It was fun to learn the behind-the-scenes story on how it came to be as well as read of the realistic challenges involved in opening a restaurant. Of course I concluded the reading of the book with a trip to the restaurant Delancey itself and it did not disappoint one bit.

It Was Me All Along - by Andie Mitchell
As per my usual style, I just happened upon this one. I really have no idea how, actually. But I loved it. Maybe it is partially due to my profession, but the reviews would tell you this book appeals to many. It Was Me All Along is an honest memoir of a girl who struggled immensely with her weight and body image. It is heart-wrenching to read of her pain yet the reader cannot help but celebrate as she makes big changes and writes her way through the process of losing 100 pounds and learning to love her body. For anyone who has ever struggled with their relationship with food (*ahem, all of us!), this is a must-read.

Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life - by Anne Lamott
Once I realized who Anne Lamott actually was, I soon found myself on an Anne Lamott binge, reading most all of her books in one fell swoop. As a writer, this was one of my favorites. It encouraged me, when writing, to look through a 1-inch window - to take one thing and really hone in on it. Remember what it smelled like and what it tasted like. Describe what it looked like and how you felt being there. She also shared some really great wisdom on maximizing whatever little pockets of time you have to write, even if just 20 minutes a day. Over time, the cumulative hours will add up. If you are a writer, this will be a quick, insightful and encouraging read for you.

For a good cry

When Breath Becomes Air - by Paul Kalanithi
I don't know about you but sometimes I just need to read a book that makes me cry like a baby. There have only been a handful with such an impact but this was definitely one of them. I literally could not put this book down. It's the profoundly-moving memoir of a young, talented, incredibly intelligent neurosurgeon who receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. Suddenly he finds himself wearing the patient gown instead of holding the scalpel and he is forced to ask the question: What makes life worth living? I read the book in three days. As I plowed through the pages, all I could think about was my hard-working husband who has the sacred opportunity to walk alongside his dying patients as they ask this very same question. I am in awe of anyone in the oncology field. What an amazing and thought-provoking read that forces the reader to ponder what really matters. Be prepared to bawl your eyes out.

For Marriage

The Heart of Desire - by Stella Resnik
Ok folks, let me preface by saying this book was NOT written by a Christian author and therefore covers some topics that might make the reader uncomfortable. It is quite the eye-opener in this list of books because it talks about none other than.....SEX (gasp!) But you know what? It's time we put on our big girl panties and talk more openly about some really tough issues that have historically been labeled as "shameful" or taboo topics in the Christian community. So this books is most definitely going up on the list. The author is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist and she addresses a very poignant topic for couples today: how do you keep sexual desire alive over the long term? She talks about how early programming can inhibit sexual desire as committed partners begin to treat each other less like lovers and more like family. This is an insightful and well-written read.

For parenting

Raising Your Spirited Child - by Mary Sheedy Kurcinca
If you are me or have a kid like me, then you NEED this book. One day, a former coworker of my randomly sent it to me in the mail. She must have been reading my Facebook posts about my kids or something. Ordinarily I'm not one to dive into parenting books with great enthusiasm but the timing of this one was impeccable. The cover reads "A guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic." If you were with me right now you'd see I'm sitting here with both my hands raised in the air. THIS IS MY KID. If this is your kid, then get this book ASAP. Read it to your spouse and make the grandparents and everyone who interacts with said kid read it too. I can relate to my spirited child on so many levels yet still I get so terribly frustrated when her reactions just don't make "logical" sense. Well, this might be news to y'all, but sometimes spirited kids aren't exactly logical but what they feel is real and it matters. All I can say is that trying to force a square peg through a round hole is NOT going to fix things. Seeking to better understand your kid is the best first step and this book helps with just that.

Loving our Kids on Purpose - by Danny Silk and Bill Johnson
Oh my word this is simply THE BEST PARENTING BOOK out there! And in case you aren't convinced, let me tell you that even my husband read this one (the first and only parenting book he has read solo). This book blew my mind and offered a totally different approach to parenting than I'd heard before. Rather than training kids to obey their well-meaning but still controlling parents, it encourages a the reader to motivate kids to learn to control themselves (which is what they need to be able to do when they are out of our houses anyway!) There is also a huge focus on grace toward our kids which I love and the book also offers many creative parenting strategies and consequences to keep things interesting. My library doesn't carry this one but it's worth the purchase on Amazon.

Siblings Without Rivalry - Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
This book was awesome when I first read it but apparently I need to check it out again now that summer is here and we are all up in each other's spaces again! The book offers many great "lines" to use when fights arise between the kiddos. I need to commit those phrases to memory so that they will come to me on instinct in the heat of the moment!! Another perk to the book was how it had cartoon illustrations to provide a quick summary of all the text in each chapter for those readers who can't handle an entire parenting book.

What have YOU read recently that you would recommend?


  1. Girl. I just added a bunch of books to my hold list at the library! Thank you! I'm so excited to gain back some reading time again now that I'm not pumping so much anymore and can go to bed early with a good book. Woo Hoo!!

    1. Oops, didn't mean to comment as the great white hope.


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