Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My Favorite Books in 2019

Hey, Book Lovers ~

As I began to pull this list together a month or so ago, it quickly became clear that the books that stayed with me long after the final page turned out to be non-fiction.  One after the other.

Go figure.

Is it because I listen to people's stories for a living?  That real life sagas are hard to beat?  I'm not sure, but these are the volumes that jumped out at me, in no particular order, as I scanned over 2019's 55 titles in my reading journal.

Right off the top, I want you to know that I am not embracing most of the world views or theologies represented in these volumes.  There's language and sexual situations that you might find offensive and if that's true for you, please don't choose these titles.

Over the years, my reading life has morphed and broadened.  Yet everything I pick up I read through a biblical lens of a deep faith in Jesus Christ and the truth of God's Word.  So, while there's not a Bible pictured below, when all is said and done that's been the most impacting book I've picked up this year.  Time and time again.

And, praise God, it's non-fiction at it's best.

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Educated: A Memoir
Tara Westover
Devastating, riveting, stunning.
Tara's unbelievable story is never the less true, her writing style completely captivating.  You'll be rooting for her every step of the way, you'll marvel at the choices she makes and the obstacles she overcomes as an isolated child of survivalists, kept out of school, and a victim of violence.  Her slow and steady rise to the top makes for top-notch reading.

Michelle Obama
Inspiring, compelling, challenging.
Exquisitely written, I burned the midnight oil savoring Mrs. Obama's eloquent writing, her perseverance in her emerging years as she conquered the odds along the way, the weaving of her compelling life story.  And while politics is discussed here and there, this is not a political diatribe.  

Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack
Alia Joy
Wrenching, beautiful, life-changing.
Alia's writing grabbed my heart, expanding it, breaking it in two.  She writes of her struggles with bipolar disorder, childhood sexual abuse, the horrors of poverty on the mission field, the nakedness of physical pain, her own experiences of racial injustice.  An incredible woman of God, an exquisite writer.

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up to Move Forward
Henry Cloud
Wise, insightful, perceptive.
Worth the price alone is this leading Christian psychologist's discussion on the foolish and / or evil people we encounter and how to wisely respond to the challenges they constantly throw at us.  We're talking issues on trust.  Character.  Boundaries.  Emotional intelligence.  Aimed for professionals, but with subject matter that impacts us all.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
Lori Gottlieb
Bold, illuminating, R-rated for language and sexual situations.
'Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.'

Inheritance: A Memoir of Geneology, Paternity, and Love
Dani Shapiro
Riveting, informative, stunning.
Author Shapiro grabs hold of readers and takes us on a whirlwind exploration into the world of secrets, paternity, the destruction and reimagination of her entire heritage and how she views her identity.  Along the way, she leads the reader through the murkiness of DNA testing, artificial insemination, medical ethics and the rapid development of technology.

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God
Sarah Bessey
Personal, lyrical, profound.
Sarah's chapters on giving birth to her final child, her wise observations on self-care vs. self-comfort, and the benediction chapter make this book an incredibly worthy read as she tells her story of re-building her life after a car accident shook up both body and faith.

The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions
Emily Freeman
Inspiring, fun, practical.
Emily guides the reader to 'clear the decision-making chaos, quiet the fear of choosing wrong, find the courage to finally decide without regret or second-guessing' without being bossy or directive. 

Does Jesus Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
Jeff Chu
Enlightening, challenging, thought-provoking.
Chu's memoir / investigative analysis tracks his cross-country visit to churches, conversations with clergy, and eye-opening interactions as he searches for the God "forbidden to him" because of his sexuality.   You'll most likely find much cause for pause in his discoveries.

What's your favorite book this year?  


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  1. Here on cancer's journey
    something's got me shook,
    and really, it does worry me
    that I cannot finish a book.
    I'll read one for a little while,
    and then the story palls.
    It is not subject or style;
    I just hit a wall.
    I wish that I could stay with tales
    of edifying elucidation,
    but every time I try, I fail;
    is this ever now my station?
    Or is this a hop from rock to rock
    to flee the racing river's shock?

    1. It's so fascinating that at this stage of your journey you've become an accomplished poet.

      How do you think that happened, Andrew? Was it always a hidden desire? An unknown talent?

    2. I can tell you how it all began
      and the place from which the rhyme doth run.
      But I bid you understand
      that I did it all for fun.
      I left a blog-post comment
      a year ago, in verse
      for I’d little to say on it,
      and thus commenced The Curse.
      Now I stalk the blogosphere,
      and sonnets I let slip
      on every subject, dire or dear,
      and they often bear a quip.
      I never wrote this stuff before,
      but watch this space - there will be more.

    3. Keep going with the sonnets, friend. Looks like they're working for you ... and all your fans!

  2. I always enjoy reading your reviews. It's funny how I'm the opposite in that I have come to prefer fiction reads much for the same reason your prefer the non-fiction....listening to the stories of others. I've found the ficion a needed escape at times. I do need to dig into a few of these though. I recently finished listening to Malcom Gladwell's Talking to Strangers. Compelling and thought-provoking. I like when the author reads the audio version.

    1. I hear you about the fiction, Debby! There were some wonderful reads this year {Crawdads!} that I might get around to doing a post on ...

      Great escape, for sure ...

  3. I've not read any of these and hadn't heard of some of them. I like a blend of fiction and nonfiction. I'll probably post my favorite books of the year after Christmas.

    1. Barbara hi! I'm already looking forward to your list ... I know it'll have lots of goodies just waiting to be explored.

      'Til then, advent blessings to you and your family.

  4. Yay! I've been looking forward to this list and it did not disappoint. I've read several of these myself and have several more on my tbr list. And the remainders need to be added! Thanks for sharing, Linda. I respect your opinion; you don't lead me astray. :)

    1. Gosh, Lisa, your words are so very encouraging this afternoon! Thank you so much for your kindness.

      You and I do have fun trading titles back and forth, don't we ...

      Grateful I am.

  5. My reading list is most definitely different than yours. The only one which would even grab my interest would be Chu's book. My pick for Book of the Year is Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin. I also found What's a Girl Worth (non-fiction also) by Rachel Denhollander and eye opening read into the world of sexual abuse by a doctor. She wrote exquisitely and intelligently (she is a lawyer in real life). I found Beckett Cook's book "A Change of Affection" a great book. I'd also suggest Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp as one to give to people who want to believe in God but have trouble with stuff that goes on in the church. As a pastor I found Above All by J.D. Greear to be invaluable.

    1. One of the best things about these 'favorites' post is the new titles we all trade back and forth. I love that we're reading different authors and have this venue to share what's on our desks.

      I so appreciate that you've taken the time yet again, to recommend a whole passel of good stuff. Your track record is fabulous, Bill ...

  6. I love your list, Linda. I am currently reading "Becoming" and read "Educated" with my book club. I think I must get Sarah Bessey's new book. I loved "Jesus Feminist". Thanks for providing this space for some good book talk and Merry Christmas!

    1. Oh I wish I lived closer, Laurie ... I'd be begging for an invite to your book club!

  7. Love your list and the amount of books you read this year. I too am a nonfiction reader but haven't found the rhythm to keep a reading journal. You are inspiring me to do so in 2020. Or at least try once again. Merry Christmas, Linda!!

    1. Oh I'd love to hear how that works out for you, Jean! I've been keeping track since 1992 and love looking back every once in awhile to see what's been read and when.

      And how my reading has evolved and morphed.

      Merry Christmas to you, too, friend!

  8. Great list Linda! I really appreciate your "right off the top" disclaimer ... it's always hard to know how much to share about certain books when they contain good stuff but also material that doesn't exactly (or at all) line up with the truth of scripture. That said, the book on your list that most stands out on MY own list is "Maybe you Should Talk to Someone." :-) Despite the salty language, I really liked it. I had "The Next Right Thing" checked out when my dad died, and I never got around to reading it. I returned to it later and loved it. Apparently, timing is a thing when it comes to reading books. Many Christmas blessings, my friend!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on disclaimers and reading 'salty' books that don't line up with Scripture. My hope is that we all bring our faith wherever we go and whatever we do.

      That said, I've closed the cover on more than a few books that were way out of bounds. Sometimes on the 2nd page. Just because someone we respect likes something doesn't mean it fits for us.

      Discerning quickly is the key, I'm guessing.

      Christmas blessings to you, friend. I know this is a difficult season this year ...

  9. There are so many books to read and not enough time in one life to read them all. I don't even have time to read the writings on the side of the cereal box. I read quickly on the Quick Cook Rice box: "Take one sachet and stand in boiling water for five minutes". I burnt my feet.

    A Blessed Christmas to you and yours. God bless.

    1. Ouch, Victor!

      May your days be merry and bright ...

  10. This is a great list! The only one I've read is The Next Right Thing but so many of these sound interesting. I enjoy reading fiction at the time, but non-fiction tends to stick with me more too. I've just been compiling a blog post of my favourites (which will post on Monday) and I narrowed it down to six non-fiction books. I think the one that has stuck with me most is What Is A Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander. It's not an easy read but it's an important one.

    1. Lesley, hi! I keep hearing about Rachael's book ... maybe a sign I should check it out?!

      Meanwhile I'm looking forward to your Monday post. These bookish conversations are so fascinating.

      Advent blessings to you across the sea ...

  11. Loved reading your list, and loved everyone's comments. This is a book club stop on an early Tuesday morning!

    1. 'A book club spot.' I like that, Michele. And you're right ... the comments are the best part!

  12. I really enjoyed Educated and Becoming as well! I have been wanting to read Maybe You
    Should Talk to Someone but it is good to know that it is rated R for language and sexual content before I dive into it. I am thinking it was still worth the read if it made your list despite that content? I definitely have. a few books I thoroughly enjoyed that had language I wasn't fond of, but I was able to overlook it because of the rest of the book

    1. Yes, I went back and forth about Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, but finally decided to include it because I found it to be a powerful read.

      I do hope that at the first sign of offense, that people will close the book and not continue. But for those who can navigate the excessive language and decidedly un-Christian scenarios, I do believe there is value in this memoir.