December 14, 2018

My Favorite Reads of the Year

It's no secret that I love a good book, but one of the additional pleasures I find in reading is sharing with others those that have deeply impacted me. If ever there is a book (or podcast or documentary) conversation I come upon (or let's be honest, initiate), I'm all ears, and I'm also full of suggestions. Last week, I atypically had only one child with me for the afternoon, and when he said he'd like to go the library please, a little tear of happiness and pride escaped from my eye.

So every December, I leave you until January, my faithful reader, with a list of my favorites from the year. You may note a few characteristics of my list. First, I don't read much fiction, or at least fiction that I'd heartily recommend. Second, these are not books that were necessarily published in 2018 but simply books I chose to read in 2018. Finally, I hope this list compels you to read along with me in 2019! You can follow what I'm reading over on Goodreads, and of course, I'd be so honored if you'd read a book or two of mine in 2019.

Below are my favorite reads (and why I enjoyed them) from 2018. The links are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through the link, I get a small portion of the proceeds at no extra cost to you.

Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry
I've heard Jackie Hill Perry teach, and she is a powerhouse of truth. As I read her memoir, subtitled "The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been," I could practically hear her voice speaking the words to me. Jackie's story is powerful, but the way she helps us see inside her conversion and her battle with temptation that is so helpful to each of us. I appreciated that she shared her story, but that she also in the last few chapters gives us a practical theology of both navigating and ministry to those experiencing same sex attraction and homosexuality.

The Passion of the King of Glory by Russ Ramsey
In writing this book, Ramsey tackles the most difficult of jobs: attempting to retell the story of Jesus in a compelling way without losing the truth of Scripture. I read this book alongside my study of the book of Matthew, and it made the narrative of Jesus' life come alive with color and emotion.

The Call by Os Guinness
At the beginning of the year, I was wrestling with some existential questions about my vocation, specifically my writing career. A fellow author suggested I read this book, and I'm so glad I did. Guinness leaves no stone unturned as he leads his reader to find and understand the purpose of our lives, and he both challenged and settled the questions I took into the book's reading.

God Counts by Irene Sun
I met Irene a few years ago, and she is sunshine in the form of a person. She sent me a copy of her book for kids called "God Counts: Numbers in His Word," telling me she'd written it for one of her sons, who never could sit still for family Bible study but who loves numbers. She wanted him to see the beauty of God through his love of numbers. When the book came in the mail, I read it to my boys (who are 15, 13, and 10) at dinner, and though its for younger kids, we were completely mesmerized. We even guessed what the next numbers might represent and what those numbers would tell us about God. I kid you not, I even got a little teary-eyed as I read it to them.

If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey
Jamie Ivey has developed quite an audience through her podcast, The Happy Hour, so I was thrilled as I read this book to find a deeply honest and biblically truthful take on sin and shame and how Jesus redeems us. I knew instantly this would be a book I share with women in my church who struggle under the shame of their sexual sin. Jamie's writing is accessible and relatable, and her passion for Jesus shines through every page.

Therefore I Have Hope by Cameron Cole
Cole and his wife experienced the excruciating pain of their son's death, and he bravely chose to write about it. Stepping through various stages of grief, he writes about the truths in those stages that helped them cling to and trust God. I immediately gave this book to someone I know who is grieving, knowing this is an author who gets it and who also offers true comfort.

Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
One of the two novels on my list, this is a book based in reality. Characters such as Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan, and Nikola Tesla race to harness electricity, and all sorts of conniving ensue.

Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcy
Pearcy is well-regarded for her writing on worldview, but this is the first book I've read of hers. I'm so glad I read it! She challenged the way I think of the physical body and demonstrated why it's important to have a theology of the body. So much of our culture's worldview involves the body, either idolizing it or ignoring it entirely in favor of how we want to identify ourselves. This is an important read for these times.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Another novel! What's happening? I picked this up from the library during the summer when I was craving a breezy beach read. While it's not necessarily a beach read, because it's based on a true story (that I'd never in my life heard about), I was hooked. The story follows children who are taken from their parents, kept in an orphanage, and placed for adoption in order to stock the coffers of the woman running the orphanage. A story of suspense weaves throughout, and of course, upon reading the last page, I immediately googled the true story. Highly recommended.

Endurance by Alfred Lansing
Friends, you must read this book. Lansing tells the true story of a captain and his crew trying to cross near Antarctica, getting stuck in ice for an inordinate amount of time, and their attempt to get home. If you do read it, the last chapter is one of the best images for the return of Jesus I've ever read. I cried and cried and cried thinking about how that ending is just like our future ending will be.

Crossway Scripture Journal: New Testament
I love to journal and outline Scripture, so my dear husband gave me this set of Scripture journals for our church's ten-year anniversary. I've enjoyed working through books of the Bible and keeping my notes in one place rather than in scattered journals that end up in nooks and crannies around the house. I hope to pass these on to my children one day.

Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier
Winn, like my husband, is a pastor here in Charlottesville. Winn and his wife actually planted a church here in the same year we did, so we've gotten to watch his ministry over these last ten years. Winn is compassionate, pastoral in every way, and deeply committed to the people in our community. Reading this novel about a pastor and his church felt like reading about Winn and his church and the city of Charlottesville. It refocused me on the important work of simply loving people around me, and an added bonus is that Winn is just really enjoyable writer to read.

Seeing Green by Tilly Dillehay
God knew I needed this book at the time I did. Tilly's words helped me work through my own envy and helped me think through a topic I'd never really spent much time on. I invited Tilly to join me on my podcast to talk about envy and friendship, and that episode is one of my favorites from the season.

All That's Good by Hannah Anderson
I love Hannah Anderson. I read everything she writes, because she makes me think in ways I've never thought. Her latest book didn't disappoint. She writes about our need to recover the ability to discern what's good so we can give our minds and hearts and lives to those things.

There you have it, friends. Those are my favorite reads from 2018. Now it's your turn! Tell me in the comments what you're favorites have been or what I should read next!

P.S. You can find previous years' lists here: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.