For the last two years, at the beginning of January, I clear an entire shelf on my bookcase. Throughout the year, each time I finish a book, I add it to the shelf. It’s one of my favorite post-grad traditions. Plus, it gives me a visual representation of the progress I’m making towards my goal. I challenged myself to read more fiction this year. I did. But only one of them made my top 10. The following, in no particular order were my favorite books of 2015.
Let Your Life Speak: This book sat in my Amazon shopping cart for years. I was delighted to find it during one of my Saturday trips to Half Priced Books. I can get so caught up in what’s next and rushing through things, that Parker Palmer challenged me so much. The way that he talks about calling in this short book was refreshing and has allowed me to look at calling and vocation with a long-term view, not with immediacy and panic.
Just Mercy: This was one of the most talked about books of the year. And for good reason. It is one of those books that sticks with you. Bryan Stevenson’s storytelling greatly challenged my view of the justice system in America. The feelings I had reading Just Mercy reminded me of what I felt the first time I read one of Jonathan Kozol’s books about the inequalities in the American public school system. We, as a nation, are failing the black and poor in our country. Stevenson tells the stories of those who are death row, maintaining their dignity and challenging the reader.
Soul Keeping: At the end of last year I realized yet again that the way I was trying to live my life was not sustainable. I lived in a constant state of hurry. John Ortberg teaches in this book that in order to commune with God, it’s necessary to remove all hurry from you life. Wow. All hurry? Yes. There are so many books written on our hearts and how to live the Christian life, and Soul Keeping addresses those topics, but from the lens of caring for the soul. Ortberg encouraged me on my path towards living a healthier and fuller life. It changed me in a way I couldn’t really recognize until months later.
Me Before You: I’m not a fiction reader, but Jojo Moyes makes me want to read more novels. Me Before You is fantastic. Don’t just take my word for it, ask all the friends who I made read it. It’s that good. Moyes tackles a difficult issue with poise and compassion, challenging the reader not to simplify things that are indeed complex.
For the Love: I’m a big fan of Jen Hatmaker. So much so that when she invited her followers to join the launch team of her soon to be published book, For the Love, I jumped on the opportunity. I didn’t regret it one bit. As soon as I finished the book, I immediately wanted to read it all over again. It’s not a memoir or autobiography, but instead separate stories and commentaries living in the same book. She covers deep topics and not so deep topics with wit and grace. I found a friend in Jen because of the way her words rubbed me on the back and said, “It’s okay that you haven’t arrived yet, you never will, none of us do, and that’s okay.” She challenges and comforts like a friend across the table from you.
Life Together: I’ve tried to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship multiple times, but I can never seem to get past the first chapter on “Costly Grace” because it’s just so good. I love his writing — it’s beautiful and convicting all at the same time — and sought out to finish one of his books. Life Together is a Christian commentary on community. Not the fluffy, let’s all talk about our feelings-type of community, but the self-sacrificing, me before you-type of community. For Bonhoeffer, being a Christian ended up costing him his life, so when he talks about faith and the privilege of living in Christian community, you better listen.
The Finishers: This book was given to me when I graduated from college. I wish I would have read it my senior year. It’s written by a man named Roger Hershey, a lifelong staff member with Cru. Honestly, I did not have high expectations for the book, but once I finished it, I recommended it to every Christian I know. Why? Because Hershey told the reader a story that I’ve been hearing since I was a sophomore in college, but instead of just telling me the story, he invited me to join in. The title comes from the concept that the millenial generation could “finish” Jesus’ commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew to “go into the world making disciples of all nations.” It is a must read for college students and young professionals. He does assert that every Christian should consider vocational ministry globally, but he also leads the reader through the different ways to reach the world — by going, by praying and by giving.
Adopted for Life: Dr. Russell Moore does a fantastic job weaving his family’s adoption story with a biblical view of adoption. As an adoption professional and advocate, I was encouraged by the depth of his story and theology. It wasn’t a fluffy view of adoption and he doesn’t use the language of rescuing children, he goes deeper into God’s heart for the orphan and the biblical command of the church. It’s a must read for every Christian, regardless of if your family is considering or has ever considered adoption. Caring for the orphan is a mandate for the church and Moore does a great job breaking down that this looks like.
Wild in the Hollow: Amber Haines’ writing style isn’t for everyone, but I loved it. Her Southern drawl is thick and you can hear it in her story-telling. Haines shares her testimony, even the less than pretty parts with eloquence and grace. While our stories are so very different, I was comforted and encouraged by the way she shared her own experiences.
In 2016, my roommates and I are participating in a reading challenge. We would love for you to join us! If you’re interested, I’d love to add you to our closed Facebook Group – The Bungalow Book Club for some accountability and community as we read our ways through 2016.