I buy a lot of books. Like, an unnecessary amount of books. On my shelf is an entire section labeled “To be read.” I like to think that I will clear it out before I buy another book, and I promise I will try, but to be honest? I won’t.
I crave the experience in books, the knowledge I can gain. I love books that make me cry and laugh, and look at the world with a new wonder or amazement. Particularly, I like finding God in books, and not just the “Christian” ones. I underline and highlight and copy quotes out into my journals. There is just so much to be learned and explored out there, and I just can’t seem to keep up. Here are a few books that I have actually finished this year, and how they impacted me the most.
I cannot tell you enough how this book made me hungry for more. I was sobbing by page 17 (and if you read the story of Carol, you’ll know why). More than the tears though, I was challenged to really see the people around me. This book was tough, because instead of telling me how great I was, I was shown where I lack. We need that sometimes, and there is no shortage of encouragement here. If I was going to recommend one book this year, this is it.
To be completely transparent, the refugee crisis that I see on the news has never really connected with me until I read this book. A fictional look at some not-always-sympathetic characters as they navigate a civil war and a somewhat fantastical escape, this book examines relationships under pressure, and tragedy… and hope. Though not a book about God, at least not directly, there are themes in here that resonate: the persistence of the human spirit, the bonds of family, the dreaming of a better future.
The Very Worst Missionary
I went on my first real mission trip this year: a dusty and dirty journey to Tanzania to teach and serve at a church my home church had planted over a decade ago. Reading this book a few weeks before we left, I was fighting cynicism, but determined to not fall into the same traps of vanity mission work and serving through the lens of my Instagram feed. The language might not always be the most kosher, but I appreciate this as a very real and transparent look into short-term missions.
The Way Back
Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock
It is no surprise that Christian’s aren’t exactly the most popular or well-loved demographic in the world today. We have spent years ruining our image through hypocrisy and scandal, and just general mean-spiritedness. The Way Back is a hopeful look at people putting boots on the ground and working to improve this. All is not lost.
Mariette in Ecstasy
I actually found this book through another book (I chase rabbits like that). A fictional tale of a young nun whose piety and religious episodes garner widespread attention, it is a beautiful read. Hansen’s poetic writing will make you savor every sentence. While I may not recommend something like this to a new believer or someone without a sound theological foundation, I found it quite provocative and enjoyable.
Rachel Held Evans
Let’s all be honest: sometimes the Bible can be a hard read. We get bogged down in genealogies and obscure rules that don’t seem to be relevant anymore (spoiler: they are). For me? Tabernacle measurements, temple measurements, any kind of measurement. My mind just fogs. But the Bible is a treasure, and Evans’ fresh take on the stories we read “because we have to” will give you a fresh hunger for God’s Word. Also, her retellings of some popular stories throughout multiple genres are gorgeously executed.