Top 11 Favorite Books Read in 2015

Each year I catalog my favorite books read throughout the year. I try to write about them along the way in this space, and yet I inevitably read many more than you hear about – and sometimes I overlook my very favorites.

So I annually look back at the year past and record my favorite books read. For 2015 I give you not a countdown as in the past – a rating from #11 to #1 – but I’m giving you my top favorites in the five categories I read from most often.

#5 Parenting

No -Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel – This builds on his foundational teaching in Whole-Brain Child and makes it practical. Literally included are cartoons showing you as a parent how to implement his teaching on parenting. I would be lying if I told you that our home has transformed and there is never any drama ever – but this lays out a worthy goal to aim for, which has resulted in small changes. Like being emotionally more attuned to our daughters, even and especially in the midst of moments of discipline.

#4 Motivational

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – by Marie Kondo – Wow. Just wow. It has been magic in our home, and I have a long way to go before I’m at the place where I would say I’ve finished her method of home-organizing (a.k.a. “radical purging”). At least with Kondo, I have a map of what’s next and directions as to how to get there.

Rising Strong – by Brené Brown – Read my review here. I love Brown’s work, and her latest book continues in her trajectory of thought, inspiring action and courage – especially in the midst of so-called failures.

#3 Writing

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – I felt like I was on a writing retreat with Dillard as she described her process of writing candidly. Writing can be incredibly isolating, but somehow this book makes a writer feel less so as you nod your head in agreement at the inevitable highs and lows of the writing process.

If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit  by Brenda Ueland – If Dillard’s book felt like a companion, Ueland’s book became like the writing coach I’ve always wanted. She gives helpful pointers like how to find your voice, and how good writing is best done in the midst of real-life – not separate from it on the proverbial “mountain top.” A classic and a must-read for all my fellow writers out there!

#2 Fiction

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen – Quindlen’s fiction is poetic and her narrative is gripping. You’ll savor each page – pun intended.

 The Space Between Us by Thrity Umbrigar – A piercing piece that transports the reader to another culture and unexpected joys and tragedies of a close network of relationships.

 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Amazing. Page-turner – beautifully written. Worth the hype and the Pullitzer Prize 1000 times over.

#1 Spiritual/Devotional/Christian Non-Fiction

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with both our Hearts and Minds by Jen Wilkin – I call this gem of a book a condensed and highly accessible version of everything I learned in seminary about studying the Bible. Jen will feel like a friend and mentor as she takes you through her process of Bible study, making God’s Word come alive in new ways and coaching you through owning your Bible study for yourself.

A Loving Life by Paul Miller – Miller’s book met me with hope mixed with challenge, giving me the push and courage I needed to depend on Jesus’ life of love within me as I loved those around me. He uses the book of Ruth as a guide for looking at what it means to lay down your life in “one-way love” – a “one-way love” that is motivated and empowered by the ultimate “one-way love” of God for us in Jesus Christ.

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman – Freeman’s book is another favorite of hers. This book more than any others I read continues to reverbate through my soul, calling me to notice the sparkle of the ordinary and the gift found in sitting and being still. The result has been a deeper willingness to embrace the mundane and a more pervasive joy in even the “simply Tuesday” moments of my life.

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On my bookshelf

20140227-134653.jpgIt’s been awhile since I’ve written about what’s on my bookshelf, and as I have picked up two books recently which I absolutely love, I thought that today’s a good time to pick up the “on my bookshelf” series. Without further ado …

1. Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid is one I haven’t yet started. But I have heard so many raving reviews about it, both on Amazon and through friends, that I am featuring it in faith that I’ll also love it. Another reason I’m confident that I’ll love this book is because the author was one of my distance-ed students through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. The class was no easy one – “Counseling and Physiology,” taught by Dr. Mike Emlet, exploring the connection between soul and body through a variety of counseling situations including bipolar disorder, OCD, and depression. Her papers were the top of the class – beautiful writing, grace-infused, thoughtful and our emails back and forth were characterized by the same gracious quality. I cannot wait to read an entire book by her. Want to join me? Leave a comment – and/or send me your thoughts/review for a future post (counselinginhope[at]gmail[dot]com).

2. A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman is no surprise to those of you who have been following my blog for at least the past year. I loved Grace for the Good Girl (it was my #1 for favorite books read in 2013), and this one is following suit. Her honest writing and poetic invitation to “uncover the art you were made to live” is compelling and finds me (yet again) right where I am in life. It’s in the category of “books I wish I had written but someone beat me to it.” I hardly know where to begin, so here are a few of my favorite quotes so far:

Perhaps those who make art in the ways we traditionally think of art give the rest of us a framework from which to live our lives. They offer a gift of knowing what life could look like if it were handled more like a mysterious piece of art rather than a task-oriented list. We may not all have the same skill or training as do the painters or the musicians, but we all bear the image of a creative God.

…being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive. … Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are.

For me right now in this season, I’m seeing that nurturing my art and moving toward what makes me come alive has hundreds of applications including:

  • being brave enough to say “yes” to speaking at a women’s retreat or teaching a difficult passage of Romans at our women’s Bible study
  • being brave enough to say “no” to what isn’t my art or to distractions from the art of living
  • blogging even when I doubt I have anything new to say
  • taking time and space to BE with my family and friends and listen to their stories and help them make sense of them, or at least let them know I want to be with them there in the midst of the confusion or the joy or the sorrow
  • stopping the tendency to schedule-to-the-brink-of-every-hour so that I can have an afternoon where I enjoy my children, laughing at their preschool jokes and delighting in their imaginative play and reading stories with silly voices

3. The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson. The title truly says it all. I love my daughters dearly, but parenting them has been one of the biggest challenges of my adult life. I think simply being three-years-old and being twins qualifies them for strong-willed, because that’s how it feels when they conspire on some new “project” that results in a mess (like using diaper cream to “paint” their nursery or writing their “signature” on every item of white furniture using red marker – thankfully the washable type). They’re spirited; they’re stubbornly independent; they want their way all the time. Kind of like me. In the first few chapters I’ve read, I think there will be many good nuggets of how-to’s as well as insight and understanding into what to expect of them and what makes them the way that they are. If you live locally and want to read along, let me know! I mentioned this book to another friend, so we may end up doing a one-shot book club in a few months …

Ok, back to reading!