December 28, 2015

2015 in Books

I love reading. I sincerely hope there are libraries in heaven, because I simply can't finish in this lifetime all that I want to read. I often find myself riding a reading roller coaster of emotions: savoring a delicious, well-written book, debating whether I should allow myself to give up on a so-so one, the letdown of finishing said well-written book, and the thrill of beginning a new one and instinctively knowing it's going to be good.

This year I've read a crop of great books. As I do every year, I want to share with you my top picks and, if you're so inclined to give them, invite your reading suggestions in the comment section. Please note that these aren't books published in 2015 alone and that they generally fall in line with my favorite genres: narrative nonfiction and biography. Also, fyi, now is a great time to purchase books online. Publishers know you may have gotten an e-reader or a gift card for Christmas, so many books are marked down for a few days. In fact, my publisher has a great sale going on my very own book, From Good to Grace. Grab the ebook version for only $1.99 between December 27 and January 2 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or ChristianBook.com!
On to the post! Here are my favorite books I read in 2015:

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
I consider myself a Bible-literate person, so Wilkin's book challenged me in ways I didn't expect. In this easy-to-read book, she helps women develop a God-centered framework for approaching Scripture and then teaches detailed ways of inductively studying it. I have also enjoyed Jen's Bible studies and podcasts that can be downloaded for free online.

The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney
How do we think biblically about the gifts God has given us? How do we love and enjoy them without making them into idols? These are the questions Joe Rigney answers in The Things of Earth, and he does so really well. You'll appreciate the gifts in your life with greater clarity and awe after reading this book.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I'm not a crazy Apple fanatic, but I do love a good biography, and this one didn't disappoint. Isaacson helps us see the genius behind all the Apple products we know and love and how influential Jobs is in our everyday culture. He also paints a picture of the personal side of Jobs, which I found fascinating and sad.

Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Weaving British, American, and German perspectives into one story, Larson gives us the historical narrative of the sinking of the ship that led the U.S. into World War I.

Hope Has Its Reasons by Rebecca Pippert 
At The Gospel Coalition conference last spring, Tim Keller mentioned this book from the stage. I subsequently picked up a copy and found it to be a gem of a book. Pippert writes for the skeptic, cynic, and nonbeliever, pointing out the longings we all have and how they point to a God. I found it helpful for understanding my culture.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and Murder of a President by Candice Millard
This type of book is my absolute favorite: a book that focuses on a person in historical context in order that I get a better understanding of both. Millard looks at the assassination of President Garfield, someone I knew absolutely nothing about, connecting his life with another famous life, Alexander Graham Bell, and the modernization of medicine. Fascinating.

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts
Tippetts, a church planting wife who has since died, wrote about her battle with cancer and how her faith applies even in the hardest things.

In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
Sides tells the story of a group of men in the late 19th century who set off to discover the North Pole. If nothing else, this book's subject displays the lengths people will go to in order to stay alive.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
As you can tell from the list so far, I don't read much fiction, at least not many fiction books that stick to me. All the Light We Cannot See is a major exception. The start was slow, but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. The writing is poetic and made me feel like I was in the story.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity
This is the "beach read" of the bunch--super light, funny, and with some suspenseful twists and turns.

The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White by Henry Weincek
I'm a sucker for book lists, and I discovered this one on the list of favorite all-time books of a retiring long-time Washington Post book reviewer. The fact that it covers a family from my adopted state of Virginia is an added bonus. The Hairstons are a family that can trace their roots back to slavery days, some of them white and wealthy and others black and obviously descendants of slaves and their white masters. An insightful read and a perspective on why our racial relations continue to be so complicated in the U.S.

Want more suggestions? Here are my favorites from 2014, 2013, and 2012.

What are your favorites from 2015?