– January –
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
“10 Ways God is Different From Us and Why That is a Good Thing”
A better understanding of who God is builds our faith and helps guard against having bad theology. This book goes through 10 attributes which belong to God alone such as infinite, eternal, immutable, omniscient and sovereign. I appreciated Jen’s straightforward writing style and truth-packed chapters that included questions for reflection at the end of each section as well. She challenged me to see my rebellious desire to possesses (or feebly try to!) attributes that only belong to God, and how embracing my limits can be a way of glorifying God’s limitless power. He is God and I am not. There is freedom found in worshiping the One who is unlike any other. www.jenwilkin.blogspot.com
Falling Free by Shannan Martin
“Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted”
I had never heard of Shannon Martin before or her previous blog as the “flower patch farm girl”, but this book began popping up on Instagram and other blogs I follow, so I thought I would give it a try. It tells the story of how her family had “the perfect life…yet followed God’s call to something radically different. From the self-focused wisdom of the world to the topsy-turvy life of God’s more being found in less.” While I certainly can’t argue with someones personal story of the journey God has them on, I did find her writing sort of pushy, like no one could really experience true freedom in Christ unless they had a tattooed former inmate at their table every night. As a whole, I enjoyed her story and it gave me things to think about, but I dislike it when growing up in a more traditional church or family is slammed just because the author felt it necessary to leave in order to finally encounter the Living God. www.ShannanMartinWrites.com
– February –
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This was a book I would never have picked up on my own, but I was trying to challenge myself with something different. Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Literature, The Road follows a haggard father and his young son through the nightmarish residue of America after an unnamed catastrophic event as they flee the oncoming Appalachian winter and head towards the southern coast. It explores what causes the human will to want to survive or give up, and perhaps the evil lurking in meeting our basic survival needs. It causes you to ask “What would I be willing to do or not do to survive?” There is LOTS of walking and scavenging for food, but interestingly no chapter breaks or names for the title characters. This is not a light read, or one I particularly enjoyed, but did give me somethings to think about.
Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
“Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together”
Reading this brand new book by Nancy was like a glass of cool water for my soul. There seems to be an explosion of books recently on the ins and outs of women desiring deeper relationships with each other, and it is no surprise that the Bible has already spoken to this need with refreshing clarity. Nancy unpacks Titus 2: 1-10, which focuses on “women of all ages and seasons being transformed by the Gospel, displaying its beauty, and making it believable to those around them.” My favorite chapters were on experiencing freedom from bondage and showing a deeper kind of kindness. If you are an older woman, read this book. If you are a younger woman, read this book. Better yet, read it together and start fleshing out what it means to do life together with God and other women. There are also MANY wonderful resources available such as books and daily podcasts at www.ReviveOurHearts.com.
– March –
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
If you are a fan of HGTV’s show “Fixer Upper,” then you have probably already read this book and don’t need my thoughts on it! Ha! I wasn’t sure what to expect reading an autobiography of sorts authored by non-authors, but I think the Gaines do a refreshingly fantastic job of just being authentic to who they are, which is one of the reasons I love the show too. It is written in the first person, with Chip and Joanna having separate fonts to discern between who is telling what part of the story, and it covers pretty much everything from their family histories, how they first met, the roller coaster of being married to a visionary go-getter like Chip, and how all the pieces eventually lined up to what we now know as “Fixer Upper.” They don’t leave God out of their story, and frequently give Him credit for His guidance, direction and blessings. They champion having a strong marriage, strong family, and strong faith while not being afraid to dream of possibilities, put in hard work and let God take the lead as you wait on His timing. www.MagnoliaMarket.com
My Sister’s Prayer by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould
I read the first book in this Cousins of the Dove trilogy last year, which follows a family of French Huguenots (Protestants) through several centuries while weaving historical suspense with modern-day mystery. This part of the saga picks up in 1704 during colonial Williamsburg with two sisters immigrating the New World , and parallels with a contemporary descendant of that family dealing with her own challenges, her own faith, and her own sister- a recovering drug addict who has come back home to live with her. This is an excellent series (even with a slightly predictable romantic subplot)! I found myself caring about what happens to every single character, and staying up late (even without meaning to!) because I was so engrossed in the story. The strong ties of personal faith, family relationships and even an unsolved murder mystery are all interwoven seamlessly in this exciting historical saga. Note: The third book does not come out until this summer, so be prepared to wait a little bit! www.MindyStarnsClark.com
– April –
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
“How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul”
I’ll confess: One of the reasons I was drawn to pick up this book was a result of it’s lovely cover color combinations (purple and green!) and NOT because I was eager to explore the need for humility in my life! Nevertheless, Hannah Anderson has done a masterful job intertwining the simple rhythms found in nature with the richly restful invitations of Jesus to cultivate a humble spirit. Wild blackberries, milkweed and forsythia are drawn on to understand how pride manifests itself in anxiety and restlessness; and how humility frees us from the cycle of stress, performance, and competition. Beautifully written, and saturated with Truth, this book was as truly refreshing as it was challenging. www.SometimesaLight.com
A Barn In New England by Joseph Monninger
“Making a Home on Three Acres”
A few months ago, I would have never searched for a book about living a a barn, but new adventures are possibly on the horizon for our family, prompting me to pick up this memoir detailing one family’s journey to renovate a rural New Hampshire barn into their new home. With a poet’s eye and a craftsman’s precision, the author expounds on the hands-on pleasure of building a fence, planting a garden and the many challenges of renovating a 6,000 square foot barn into something livable as well as meaningful. An interesting read despite the fact that the worldview of the author and myself differ in matters of theology and morality.
– May –
Craving Connection by the (in)Courage Community
“30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement”
Written by a collection of authors from the (in)courage blog community, this book extends the invitation to pull up a chair to the table as the writers share their own stories of seeking out relationships, practical Scripture application, and connection challenges aimed at creatively motivating real-life interaction between women. The readings are divided into three parts with ten articles each: “Connecting with God More Deeply,” “Connecting with Friends More Purposefully,” and “Connecting with Community More Intentionally.” It was valuable to hear from so many different experiences, personalities and women in varying seasons of life, and I think anyone could relate with or be encouraged by many of the selections. In an age where looking one another in the eye can induce a cold sweat, this book will offer you a solid foundation in the Lord to be able to fight for the connection you crave. www.incourage.me
The Martyr’s Song by Ted Dekker
Probably my favorite living storyteller, Ted Dekker is just masterful at drawing you into a narrative that is much more than words on a page. This particular one is part of a group of four novels that interconnect while still standing alone as separate titles. At the close of World War II, a group of soldiers stumble upon a peaceful Bosnian village and suddenly thrust the question “What would you be willing to die for?” on a small band of women and children. Chaos, pain, love and beauty then collide in breathtaking reality on those who have eyes to see it. This is a relatively short novel in the series, which the publisher actually categorizes as “an expansion” of a story first touched upon in a previous book. I’ve got the other three finding their way to me through the library system, and I can’t wait. www.TedDekker.com
Simple Decorating by Melissa Michaels
“50 Ways to Inspire Your Home”
This adorable, full-color little book will give you more practical (and beautiful!) advice for your home than most magazine subscriptions put together. Melissa Michaels, of the popular The Inspired Room blog, makes accessible to us mortals the decorating lessons she has learned throughout the years, including simplified spaces, creative concealments, touchable textures and artful accessories. I love that her focus isn’t to make you want to just buy more stuff, but to “make the time to enjoy and fully live in the spaces you create, filling your home with not only material possessions, but with a sense of gratitude for what you already have.” www.TheInspiredRoom.net
– June –
Heaven’s Wager by Ted Dekker
This is the second book I read in the “Martyr’s Song” series, though you can read the four books in any order you prefer. A brilliant software engineer, a bittersweet love, an almost perfect crime… and an unseen world that is more powerful than anything visible to the physical eye. What’s not intriguing about that?? I’ve said before, one of the things I love most about the way Ted Dekker writes is that it speaks to and challenges my soul in a way most fiction can’t touch. I did feel as though this one was a tad slow on the suspense side, so if you can only squeeze one book in right now, I recommend When Heaven Weeps, below.
When Heaven Weeps by Ted Dekker
The books in the the “Martyrs Song” series are connected, but stand fully alone, so you can read them in any order without being thoroughly confused. This novel fills in the back story of a character in Heaven’s Wager and continues the life of Jan Jovic from The Martyrs Song, who at the close of WWII was forced to inflict a game of life and death on a peaceful Bosnian community. Years later, Jan must wrestle intensely with the real meanings of love, sacrifice and faith. Ted Dekker delivers fast paced plots that kept me turning pages late at night, while also speaking truth to my soul and causing me to ask questions about my limited perception of “reality.” This book is highly recommended reading!
– July –
No More Perfect Marriages by Mark and Jill Savage
Through their own personal story of God’s restoration in their marriage (married 25 wonderful years, and about to celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary), the Savages tag-team writing this book that honestly lays out what they call the “7 slow fades of marriage,” ways those fades showed up in their lives, and how to combat them with some choice God-given tools. Three words I would use to describe this book are: Authentic. Honest. Real. Though at times it feels slightly disjointed with the differing points of view, this book challenged me to give my marriage my best investment- not just my leftovers. You can access lots of extras, including discussion videos at www.NoMorePerfect.com
Cultivate by Lara Casey
“A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life”
This newest book by author, business owner and mom Lara Casey encourages readers to get messy in the rich soil of possibility- embracing imperfect progress as you grow a life of joy rooted deeply in Christ. Her own personal story is woven throughout as she offers challenges to embrace the season you are in, and move from planning to planting a meaningful legacy that will last beyond this life. Quite practical, with numerous action prompts sprinkled from beginning to end, Lara calls attention to the fact that: “We can waste our time, talents, energy and resources, or we can ask God to help us cultivate. When we chose the latter, we open up space for His good fruit to grow.” www.LaraCasey.com
– August –
Unseduced and Unshaken by Dr. Rosalie de Rosset
“The Place of Dignity in a Young Woman’s Choices”
A professor of literature, English and homiletics at Moody Bible Institute, Dr. Rosalie de Rosset (and a few other contributing authors) have written a collection of essays calling all women to speak well, read often and make choices that reflect the character of God. Though aimed primarily at younger women, whose choices in her formative years have a dramatic effect on the course of the rest of her life, the truth is, none of us can afford to live casually or haphazardly in regards to the kind of person we are or are becoming. This was a rich read that invited me to cultivate my intellect, be intentional with my choices and even to establish a practical theology of “free time” or leisure. There is also a great list of recommended works of fiction and non-fiction aimed at raising thought provoking questions and growing in dignity included.
Together by Carrie Ward
“Growing Appetites for God”
How can we help to pass on a love for God’s Word to our kids? By being in it together. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of reading the Bible for ourselves, let alone reading it in its entirety with our sweet yet super-squirmy children! In this book, everyday mama Carrie Ward gives us a peek into her 5 year journey of reading aloud the whole Bible, 1 chapter a day, to her 4 young children. Practical, helpful, and encouraging, it really helped take the fear out of starting such a seemingly huge task with my own kids. We will make time for what is important to us. As a parent many things will distract us along the way, but 1 thing is necessary: sitting at the feet of Jesus to hear His Word. Today, we are on Genesis Chapter 7 at our house, and I am excited to continue this (imperfect) journey of reading the Bible together. www.AnEveryDayMama.com
– September –
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
You know how people say, “You should read the book before you watch the movie”? Well, two of the screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are among my favorite movies, yet shockingly, I had never actually read the book! (My apologies Jane Austen!) Not surprisingly, the original was funny, intelligent and filled with the many spirited, one-of-a-kind characters I had come to know in the quite faithful, though time constrained, movie versions of this classic British novel. Even though I had a notion of what was going to happen, Austen’s words kept me turning pages with a fresh sense of discovery, and I was neither bored or disappointed. Believe me, you really SHOULD read the book. 😉
The most Important Place on Earth by Robert Wolgemuth
“What a Christian Home Looks Like and How to Build One”
As a long time fan of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, I figured it was time to read something written by her husband, Robert. This is an updated and revised version of a book he wrote a few years ago which breaks down characteristics that should be found in a Christian home along with practical ideas to help implement them. Written in a warm, storytelling style with plenty of truth, and drawing upon generations of experience, his words challenged me to remember the value of the Christian home, not only to my own family but also to a lost and hurting world that needs to see Jesus when my doors swing open and they step into my life.
– October –
My Daughter’s Legacy by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould
This is the final book in the Cousins of the Dove trilogy, and though it was gratifying to wrap up some mysteries woven throughout the previous novels, it is always bittersweet to come to the completion of a good series. Set in Virginia during the Civil War and present day, two women, centuries apart, deal with past failures, difficult choices and finding God’s strength to do what is right. Even with a predictable romantic sub-plot, I found myself drawn in to the gruesome dealings of a Confederate hospital, the bravery of those standing against slavery, and the modern day struggles of a former addict striving to stand strong against the lure of her past enslavements. Definitely a good read, and a series I am sad to be done with. www.MindyStarnsClark.com
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Ever since experiencing Phantom on stage in London during Jr High, it has ranked as one of my all time favorite musicals. My sister and I spent countless hours singing along with the soundtrack, as the lyrics and the score are at once unforgettable and mesmerizing. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me until now to read the novel, which was written over a hundred years ago in French, and has since been translated into English…obviously. hahaha The Gothic horror and tragic romance of a tormented soul stalking the passages beneath the Paris Opera House contained an unexpected amount of humor, wit and compelling mystery that kept me up late at night following all the characters on their mis-adventures with the “opera ghost”. This truly was a fascinating read, even more so because Leroux doesn’t completely resolve or reveal all the mysteries surrounding the famous Phantom of the opera.
– November –
Finding God at the Kitchen Sink by Maggie Paulus
“Search for Glory in the Everyday Grime”
Through thoughtfully crafted short readings, or a “scribbling down of her days,” Maggie Paulus invites us all to see the fingerprints of God covering each of the moments of our life. This includes radiant sunsets and sky-soaked fields as well as sibling squabbles and dirty dishwater. Written in an engaging style and crafted with real life photographs of her daily search for beauty right where she is, each page infuses Gospel truth into the seemingly mundane tasks and experiences of everyday life. Refreshingly honest in her struggles, and extravagant in love towards her Savior, each time I opened up this book I was drawn into the presence of Emmanuel, God with us. He really is here. He really is. www.MaggiePaulus.com
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Honestly, after reading a British and then a French novel, this American one was by far the hardest to understand and get through. This was largely due to the “nearly illiterate yet crudely poetic voice” of the narrator Huckleberry Finn, whose slang vernacular of the late 1800’s was difficult to wrap my head around. Nevertheless, this story of a boy’s voyage down the Mississippi river on a raft with an escaped slave named Jim was full of adventure, mischief and some pretty insightful one-liners. A word of caution: Though Twain masterfully tackled issues such as racism, friendship, war, religion, and freedom with an uncanny combination of lightheartedness and sobriety, he didn’t shy away from using language of the time that today’s audiences could find offensive, particularly in regards to race.
– December –
Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard
With the premature birth, and then tragic death of my infant niece this month, I read this novel between tearful airplane flights and long nights in the NICU. A classic allegory detailing Much-Afraid’s journey following the Good Shepherd to the High Places, it was easy to see myself in the main character as she passes through many dangers and disappointments while learning to mature in her love and trust of the One her soul loves. Before receiving their new names, Much-Afraid literally must grasp the hands of Sorrow and Suffering to enable her to climb to new heights. I highly recommend this book, and will give you a heads up to help you understand what is going on: Much-Afraid is a young woman NOT a deer. “Hinds feet,” or the nimble hooves of a deer, is a metaphor for Spiritual development. You’re welcome. 🙂 Keep reading, friends!
So, what have YOU been reading??
I’d love to know!