I read a lot of books this year! At least forty-four, if I’m tracking it correctly. When I’m trying to learn or lean into change, my default is to read and talk about all of it. As 2016 brought shifts in our country, I tried my best to lean into the shifts in myself – my thinking, my beliefs and my habits. I’m thankful that words help communicate, that words allow us to learn about the experiences of others and that words can encourage growth in us, if we let them.
Maybe you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking for some recommendations. Or, reading more in 2017 is a goal of yours. I’d love to share some of the best books I read this year… maybe they’ll be some of your favorites, too.
- A Woman’s Place, by Katelyn Beaty: I’ve spent the last three years, or even maybe longer, trying to navigate this tension between women and work. The language is tricky, and the feelings are even trickier. While Beaty doesn’t solve any problems, she does wade into the tension and provide clarity into why issues surrounding women and work are so complex. And she does so with stories, data and scripture. It’s not just for women who work outside the home, either; the author affirms all the work that women do.
- Hillbilly Elegy, by JD Vance: There are a lot of reasons why I loved this book. A majority of the story takes place less than twenty miles from here I grew up. It’s one of the most well-written and insightful books I’ve read in a long time. The stories that Vance tells about his life and his relatives have left me wondering how I had never heard them before. The proximity to my own adolescence was next door, but also millions of miles away. Reading Hillbilly Elegy reminded me why I love to read; reading takes you to a whole new place and gives you new perspectives that you may never have experienced on your own.
- Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist: A book by Shauna on my list of favorite books of the year is no surprise. All five of her books sit on my shelf of favorites. She’s my favorite author. Present Over Perfect, with it’s vulnerability and insights is a must read for women. I read it and gave three as gifts immediately.
- Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is the only book on my list that is fiction… you could say that I don’t read a lot of fiction, but this is THAT good! I was challenged by the narrator’s stories on what it looks like and feels like to be African in America, as she immigrates from Nigeria, and struggles to define her identity in an American context.
- Good Faith (and UnChristian) both by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons: I read UnChristian this spring, and felt so late to the party. Oh my goodness, the way that Kinnaman and Lyons used data to tell the story of what’s going on in American Christianity was phenomenal. Thankfully, I didn’t need to wait long for the second book, as it came out this summer. My vacation group read Good Faith for a book club discussion while we were all together in July and it was a great book to discuss with likeminded friends. Either book stands alone, but Good Faith definitely builds on the ideas that UnChristian explores and provides meaningful application.
- What’s Best Next, by Matt Perman: I don’t know if I would have selected this book for myself, but it was given to me and it was SO GOOD! The author tackles productivity through a Gospel-lens, and even though it sounds a little bit boring, I promise you that it’s not! After giving the reading a Biblical case for productivity, He then walks the read step by step in some very practical application steps, starting with a big picture vision and ending with how to schedule your weeks and days. I highly recommend this book to my Christian friends in corporate America, who want to make a difference, but struggle to know how to do it. The author gives a great framework for how ambition and productivity are crucial for building the Kingdom of God.
- Living Into Community, by Christine Pohl: Pohl’s research and application of living in community is probably one of the deepest I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot on community. The book is divided into four different practices of community, and I was challenged to begin incorporating some of her language and ideas into my relationships both inside and outside of the church.
- The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander: I’ve long been a fan of book about race. I guess I’m weird like that, but it always made my sociology classes fun and not boring. For anyone who read and enjoyed Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, this book is the next step. With fewer stories, but a deeper dive into the policies that have lead to mass incarceration, you’ll feel helpless, but better understand the complexities of our justice system.