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.


5 things I learned (in October): from Adele to bullet journaling

Whenever I can, I enjoy linking up with Emily Freeman’s monthly “What we learned.” I’ve missed the official link-up this month, but that’s no reason why I shouldn’t share with you what I learned in October. Because there was. SO. MUCH. I’ve chosen my top 5 things I’ve learned/am learning.

  1. Adele. Hello. Hauntingly beautiful is how I’d describe her music video that’s breaking records. adele hello
  2. Daily blogging doesn’t really work for me. See my conclusion to #write31days.
  3. The importance of margin. I have started to literally schedule it into my week like an appointment. Its absence has led to an accumulation of needless stress in a life that already has *plenty* to go around. Margin is helping to restore my soul – because it creates space for the Spirit to meet me and touch my heart and life. 
  4. Konmari is magical. And exhausting. My dear (and slightly OCD in terms of how much he loves things to be neat and clean) husband has patiently endured piles and piles and piles of the things I’m purging after being inspired/instructed by Marie Kondo in The Magical Art of Tidying-UpWe tried to yard sale most of it, which wasn’t the smashing success we’d hoped it would be. Oh well. More on this in the month to come. #lessonlearned #justbringittogoodwill
  5. Bullet journaling. Thanks to Emily Freeman talking about it on her blog, I decided to start practicing this way of daily tracking activities, to-do lists, and ideas. I found a beautiful three-section journal that I’m loving, which I picked up for all of 4.99 at a Tuesday Morning store. I started in September with one of these journals from Rifle Paper Co – they’re perfect in terms of size and portability. RPCo notebooks

Konmari and my bookshelf

On my birthday, my best friend gifted me with a magical book, titled “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing professional. It had already been buzzing around my circle of friends when Mary told me about it at a spring baby shower. She described it in those very terms – “life-transforming!” and summarized the book by saying, “You clean out your house by asking the simple question of every item in it: does this spark joy?” I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about it. It sounds a bit too simple, and “magical” and organizing don’t seem to fit together in a book title. Plus as a Christian who puts value in the spiritual and eternal over the temporary and material, none of my stuff *should* spark true joy, right?

Yes, and no. Of course possessions shouldn’t spark true, lasting eternal joy, but the things I choose to invest in should bring some measure of meaning and beauty into my life. Beauty reflects God’s glory wherever it is found. And shouldn’t I want my house and closet and bookshelf to only be filled with what seems beautiful (and useful) to me/our family? Additionally, if my energy and time and attention is consumed with maintaining all my “things,” I have less of it to devote to what is truly and most important in my life – relationships, service, justice, mercy, kindness, God’s Word, to list a few.

So I read the book this summer, and decided that when my 5-year-olds started 5-day preschool this fall, I would give the “Konmari method” a fair shot. I’ve sorted through clothing and books so far, with three categories remaining: paper, miscellany, memorabilia. And it has been pretty darn close to magical in terms of how liberating it feels to get rid of things I do not want or need. I can feel my mental capacity increasing as my things in my closet decrease and as my bookshelves open up. For me as a self-professed bibliophile, that says something.


And an important caveat: no method is 100% effective, nor can it be for all people. I’m not following all of her suggestions, and there’s a few sections I’m amending or omitting entirely. Like emptying my purse every day and thanking all of my things for serving me each day. Or her instruction not to roll up socks because they’ve done so much work during the day and need some rest. I’m not an animist, and parts of her book sound a bit like animism and a mixture of her Japanese Shintoism. But I as a Christian should be first in line to care for things better, and to live life more simply and with greater joy. Plus – for a second post in the future – all the things I’m purging from my house can be put to better use and shared with those who need them more than I do.

If you’ve tried the Konmari method, has it worked for you? What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you. It’ll give me the courage I need to tackle the piles and piles and piles of papers scattered throughout my house as next week’s Konmari task … !