Countdown to 2014: top 10 books read in 2013, part 3

If you’re just now joining in, this is the final part of my “top 10” countdown. Click on the links for part 1 and part 2.

#4 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (2011)

I blogged a good bit about this one already during the summer, so it will come as no surprise that this made my top 10 list. I found Rubin’s suggestions and reflections based on her “happiness research” to be intriguing to read about and formative to practicing happiness in daily life. She reminds us that happiness is found not in the all-inclusive week at a Caribbean island, but that it awaits us around each quite ordinary corner of our own homes. Happiness is a practice and a mentality more than it is a set of ideal circumstances. As one who can be overly critical of my own life, always waiting for “better” around the corner, I appreciated the push to stop and engage in looking for happiness here and now. One of the best take-aways was to begin blogging more regularly (daily at first in June), refusing to wait for “perfect” to attempt something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.

#3 The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (2010)

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a few months will find this to be no surprise either. I am a huge Brene Brown fan. Her work has shaped and influenced other writers and bloggers I enjoy, notably Glennon (and her book I reviewed yesterday). I read Daring Greatly after this one, and I have to say that I prefer The Gifts of Imperfection for its concise and practical summary of all of her shame/vulnerability/empathy research. She condenses it into “10 practices of Wholehearted people,” and each chapter spells this out along with suggestions to put it into practice. The one that’s stayed with me the most is the need to cultivate creativity. Hence my desire to embrace the messiness that IS art with my preschoolers, like the 15 minute finger-painting session yesterday which left red, yellow, green, and blue paint everywhere. And, yes, it was only 15 minutes. Long enough to do about 4-5 “paintings” each and to empty each of their 4 jars of paint to 15% or less. Astounding …

#2 What It Is Is Beautiful by Sarah Dunning Park (2013)

I received an autographed copy from the author of these beautiful poems about motherhood, and she is one of those truly filled-with-beauty women whose poetry pours forth onto the page as a balm for the soul. My soul as a mother has often needed to stop and savor and read these poems which put words to my own experience of the tender and excruciating journey of motherhood. I cannot recommend her book highly enough, and I have given at least half a dozen (if not more?) copies to friends this year as gifts. Love these poems, love the author, love this book. It’s part of the beauty and creativity we need for our souls to thrive.

Drumroll, please?? And #1 book read in 2013 was … 

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Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman (2011)

Have you ever read a book that’s your story, put into book form? This is it for me. I have my whole life been the quintessential “good girl” (with a few covert “rebellious” breaks that included slamming my door in high school after yelling at my parents and listening to Nirvana on full blast). My first deep encounter with grace the summer after my sophomore year in college transformed me – for I realized for the first time in my life how much I, Heather Elizabeth Davis, goody-two-shoes, needed grace. I couldn’t be good enough, no matter how many hour-long devotions I had or small groups I led or people I shared my faith with. In fact, some of these endeavors were actually in fact ways I sought to hide from my need for God. I would feel self-sufficient after a “good” quiet time and wouldn’t turn to him throughout the day. I would feel superior and self-righteous to others who weren’t as “holy” and judge them. For I was out of touch with my own neediness and I was blind to my own blindness. Even our goodness is worth nothing to God – no one can be good enough for a 100% holy God. Yikes. But he has made a way to bridge the gap. Jesus! Grace, mercy, clothed in Christ’s righteousness so that I can stop hiding behind my own attempts to be good. I can receive help from others instead of having to be the helper always. I can be honest about being hurt and weak and vulnerable and shame-filled. There is always grace. All is grace. Emily writes beautifully about these truths through the lens of her own story. What a good place to end for 2013, and what a good place to begin in 2014!

Countdown to 2014: top 10 books read in 2013, part 2

The countdown continues from yesterday. Without further ado, here are the next three:

#7 Gospel in Life by Tim Keller (2010)

Our community small group from church did this study together this fall, and it was excellent in every way – from the “homework” to do on your own each week to the DVD we watched together and discussed each week. We were challenged to see how faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ should make a difference in our hearts’ affections and attentions, resulting in a changed perspective in our work so that we would make noticeable, positive differences in our neighborhoods and cities. Keller began with the thought-provoking idea that as much as our cities need the gospel,  we Christians need the city in order to more deeply and fully live out the gospel in our own lives (through meaningful engagement in the issues of our city, especially regarding mercy and justice). Well worth a read!

#6 Seven by Jen Hatmaker (2012)

This book talks about ways to be engaged in social justice and pursuing less – rather than the “more” I assumed I’m entitled to when I live by the American dream.  Hatmaker takes readers along on her journey through seven radical experiments of “less is more” including these particularly hitting-close-to-home areas for me: clothing, waste, spending, and technology. I wish I could say that I’ve continued to live up to these ideals she discusses, but I haven’t. What I have started is being mindful about small choices in all areas, and to begin considering how to make “less” on earth translate into “more” for the kingdom of heaven. I probably should re-read this one every year to be shocked out of my comfort zone and reminded of a bigger perspective. 

One quote from her that bears repeating (from my initial reflections when reading this book earlier this year):

Jesus’ kingdom continues in the same manner it was launched: through humility, subversion, love, sacrifice; through calling empty religion to reform and behaving like we believe the meek will indeed inherit the earth. We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and powerful. We’ve been invited into a story that begins with humility and ends with glory; never the other way around.

#5 Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (2013)

Not many books are laugh-out-loud funny, deeply insightful, and thought-provoking all at the same time. Glennon has done this beautifully in stories from her own life that are real and honest and brave, as she calls her readers to do the same. “We can do hard things,” is a favorite line that I need often, and that I try to give to my daughters, too. Equally important, if not more so, is how she talks about the practice of being kind (in contrast to how we often teach our kids: “be right! at all costs! no matter who gets in your way!”). My friend-in-real-life who’s also a talented blogger, Mary, gave a favorite review of this book on her blog here


Stay tuned for more of the countdown tomorrow …


Countdown to 2014: top 10 books read in 2013

Those of you who follow my blog and know me in real-life know this about me: I love to read and am constantly reading something. The books I finish compared to those I start is a bit disproportionate. I am usually reading at least 5+ books at any given time, of various genres and topics – parenting how-to, Chrstian faith, marriage, counseling, fiction, cultural reflections, etc.

My goal for 2013 Goodreads was to read 40 books this year. And wouldn’t you know, out of all of my 2013 resolutions, this is the one of the *few* I completed (ok, maybe it’s the only one completed). So I thought it would be fun to do a countdown to 2014 of a review of my top 10 books read in 2013. Without further ado – here are #’s 10, 9, and 8:

#10 – Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman (2012)

Expect to be challenged if you are an American parent reading. Expect to laugh out loud and also scratch your head at how different French parenting is. And expect to be insanely jealous about how well-behaved French children are described to be. For example, take Druckerman’s observation that all French babies “do their nights” (meaning sleep 8-9 hours at a stretch) by 4 months old, at the latest. And that they know how to eat multiple course meals in public as toddlers tantrum-free. Then there’s the idyllic “creche,” a government-subsidized childcare option for ages 3 and under that’s a far cry from our public daycare systems. They serve the children 3-course-meals including a “cheese course,” that are prepared by in-house chefs who take great pride in their meal plans. This book made it to my top 10 list because of what an entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking read this was in our American parenting culture that seems too characterized and defined by competition, comparison, and perfection (expected both of ourselves and our children).

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#9 – Making the Terrible Two’s Terrific by John Rosemond (1993) [note-I just saw that there’s an updated version from 2013 available here. I’m sure it’s even better than the original!]

The best book I’ve read on specifically parenting two-year-olds, of which we had TWO for over half of 2013. (And to be honest, I haven’t found age 3 to be that much easier yet …!). He’s down to earth and practical and keeps in balance a parent’s authority and the developmental reality of age 2. Such as saying it’s more about “containment than correction” at this age. It’s made me think of how I can be more proactive in parenting instead of reactive. He gives a variety of suggestions for parenting and natural consequences that I found helpful to implement (not easy but helpful to at least have a game plan!).

#8 – Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson (2013)

What a great book on motherhood that balances both its reality and joy! I appreciated hearing the two stories weaved throughout of Sarah Mae who’s “in it” (with 3 young kids) and her mentor, Sally Clarkson, who’s been through motherhood (and thrived).  Sarah’s perspective resonated with me since this is where I am, too, and it gave me hope to hear of someone struggling in motherhood in similar ways (while loving her children). Reading of their interaction gave me a vision for being this type of mentor when I am out of this young kids stage, and it reminds me that the first steps to take when feeling desperate as a mom is to admit you are and to reach out for help. I am thankful for so many mentors and fellow young moms past and present who have been there for me in these moments of desperation to remind me that I am not alone. Reading this book in the beginning of this year when I did feel more desperate than I do today was a significant part of helping me to carry on. (speaking of that last phrase “carry on” … ok, spoiler alert for the next segment!)