December 14, 2016

My Favorite Books from 2016

In August, on my way to the airport for a quick trip to Atlanta for a speaking engagement, I stopped at the library. I'd planned it all out--I put books I wanted on hold, I gave myself fifteen extra minutes on the drive, and I made sure I had room in my carry-on for my fresh selections. What I hadn't planned for was the library being closed. As soon as I pulled up to the drive-through pick-up window (a reader's dream!), I realized my mistake, but I still sat for a minute at the window, dumbfounded and uncertain how to proceed. I hadn't brought any back-up books! What's a girl to do? Go a whole day without a book?!?

That story is my way of telling you how much I love reading. Reading is like breathing to me; I must do it. Without books, I'm without one of the basics of life, therefore I plot and plan my list of books so that I'm never without one, except for that sad, sad day I went to Atlanta.
Happily, my year has been full of great books! I devote one of my last posts of each calendar year to sharing my favorites and asking for your recommendations. I've chosen twelve I'd recommend to you, because that's generally how I know if a book has impacted me--I talk about it with my husband and my friends. I've also started a Recommended Reads page on my blog to share my favorites of all time, so pop on over there if you're looking for a good book.

(Please note that these aren't books published in 2016, but simply books I've gotten around to reading in 2016. Also, the links I've included are affiliate links.)

When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi

Written by a neurosurgeon who has been diagnosed with cancer, the book first takes the perspective of a doctor helping his patients face death and then takes the perspective of a patient facing death under the care of doctors. The writing is absolutely haunting, as is the story. I sobbed bittersweet tears in the end.

None Like Him
by Jen Wilkin

I'm a huge fan of Jen Wilkin, especially her Bible studies. In her writing and teaching, she reminds me of Tim Keller, able to communicate big ideas with simple words and analogies. The premise of None Like Him fit right in with what God has been personally teaching me over the last few years--that there are some of His attributes that I cannot imitate and am not expected to imitate. Wilkin summarized and solidified these truths in an easy-to-read and easy-to-remember way.

The Run of His Life: The People vs. OJ Simpson
by Jeffrey Toobin

I'm fascinated by true crime stories, especially true crime that is placed in the context of history and race. My husband and I first watched the miniseries based on this book and then the ESPN documentary, O.J.: Made in America, and apparently I couldn't get enough so I then read The Run of His Life. I graduated from high school the year Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered, so I remember bits and pieces of the news and, certainly, where I was when the verdict was read, but this book helped me understand the background, the context, and the details of the case to a greater degree.

The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New
by Marty Machowski

This past summer, my kids and I read The Ology each day after breakfast as a sort of devotional. Machowski lays out theology on a level kids can understand, using word pictures and analogies to help explain important truths such as the Holy Spirit and sin. We had lots of good discussion after our readings, and my boys often asked questions that surprised and delighted me.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House
by Kate Anderson Brower

The Residence is an inside peek at the staff that runs the White House, primarily focusing on the Kennedy through Obama years. Former and current staff, many of whom spend their entire lives serving the First Families, share their perspectives on former presidents, as well as interesting tidbits on how they make the house run. For instance, they discuss the move-out and move-in process on Inauguration Day and it's fascinating.

Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting
by Dave Furman

This past summer, when my husband had an accident, my friends and our church family rushed to help, and help they did. I learned so much about what is helpful (and what is not) in times of crisis or suffering. And then Dave Furman released his book, Being There, and I found it even more helpful. He gives such great perspective and advice on how we can come alongside others when they're hurting by sharing his own experience with chronic and debilitating pain. I highly recommend this for those who minister to others or who have a friend who is suffering.

The Nightingale 
by Kristin Hannah

I'm not a huge fiction reader. I usually only read fiction that comes highly recommended, which is how I ended up reading The Nightingale. Set in occupied France in World War II, the book follows two sisters and they're attempts to survive under Nazi rule. I couldn't put it down.

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963
by Taylor Branch

I already told you about my specific interest in any book that combines a famous person, history, and race. If that is also something you are interested in, you will eat this book up. Parting the Waters is the first in a trilogy of Pulitzer Prize winning books about the origin of the Civil Rights Movement that culminated in the 1960's. Branch focuses primarily on Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson, but it goes into detail about how the movement began and gained steam.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
by Sebastian Junger

From the first page, Junger had me thinking about the book's implications for the church. It's not a Christian book but rather a sociological one, but there are so many scriptural parallels that it's uncanny. His premise is that our Western individualistic culture is not good for our wellbeing; we thrive when we live in community, when we share and meet the needs of others, and when we as a community rally around one another in crisis. Junger still has me thinking.

Unashamed
by Lecrae

I'm a Lecrae fan, so I loved reading his story. What has stuck with me, however, is his call for Christians to engage the world with creativity. We're so quick to label music or books (or anything) Christian or secular, but how do we work and create when those worlds collide? Lecrae gives us something to think about.

Galatians for You
by Tim Keller

My favorite book of the Bible is Galatians. It has changed my life in a million different ways. I've read it, studied it, and taught it countless times, but reading Galatians for You reoriented me all over again to the truth and beauty of the gospel. The book is written like a easy-to-read commentary, so at times I read it as I would a book and other times I read it alongside Galatians. Highly recommended.

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaption): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is one of my favorite books I've ever read. This year, I began reading the young adult version aloud to my boys and they soon after began begging me for it. I'm glad I read it aloud because there were some words and a few descriptions that I skipped over, but overall it's been one of my kids' favorite read-alouds. Because of the story, we had conversations about forgiveness, courage, perseverance, God, and sin. I think this book is especially good for pre-teen and teenage boys. (Also, my husband is currently reading Thoughts for Young Men  by J.C. Ryle with our boys and raving about it.)

What are your favorites of 2016? What should I read next? I'd love your suggestions.

P.S. Have you read my books yet? I'd love a chance to be on your 2017 "to-read" list, especially my soon-to-released book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships. Look for more information on pre-order and launch team opportunities in the new year. (eek! so excited!)

P.P.S. Want more suggestions? Check out my favorites from 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012, or peruse my Recommendations page.