It’s hard to believe that 2016 is almost over. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year!
For me, it’s good to zoom-in, reflecting on what God has done. After that, it’s easier for me to zoom-out and get a glimpse of the beautiful picture He painted for the year (even if it’s only a piece of my life’s puzzle and it’s still difficult to see what He’s shaping up there). One of the ways that helps me zoom-in is looking at the books I’ve read the past year. Many years that means I’m basically looking at a bunch of textbooks, but this year I have gotten to read a few more non-textbooks that people may actually be interested in reading. I tried not to geek out too much with my selections.
Before I list them for you, please note that I don’t necessarily endorse any of these authors and none of these books are perfect. Some authors are Christians, some aren’t. Most are Christians, but I don’t necessarily agree with every word they’ve written and I know they’re each capable of falling off the deep end (like me, apart from the grace of God). I’d also like to say that the book I do wholeheartedly endorse is the Bible, and if you’re not reading that please skip these books and dive straight into that one. That book absolutely impacted me the most this year. The two books of the Bible really impacted me in 2016 are the Psalms and Philippians. Feel free to take those recommendations over any of the ones I’m about to list. Also, the books below aren’t exactly in order of how I’d recommend them. It’s just too hard to pick a favorite!
Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
I received this little gem for graduation, but have already recommended it to countless people. It’s an allegory about Much-Afraid, who has to develop hinds’ feet so she can climb the high places with the Great Shepherd. I have the devotional version, which includes Scripture reflection, but any version does an excellent job promoting self-reflection in an easy-to-read and insightful way. I especially love the way it addresses suffering. One of my favorite quotes from it is the Shepherd saying, “Go with Sorrow and Suffering, and if you cannot welcome them now, when you come to the difficult places where you cannot manage alone, put your hands in theirs confidently and they will take you exactly where I want you to go” (page 62).
The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dr. Dan B. Allender
A lot of people reading this blog have no interest in this topic. I can’t say that I blame you, it’s a tough one! But for those that interact with people touched by this difficult topic (and chances are everyone knows someone, whether you realize it or not), I would highly recommend this book. It is the best book I’ve seen on this topic from a Christian perspective. For mental health professionals and ministers, it is a must-read. I would recommend caution in giving this book to anyone that’s experienced sexual abuse. Be sure they have a good support system and are already getting help before giving them this book. It could be very triggering and difficult to read for someone with those experiences.
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
This book isn’t written from a biblical worldview, but it does offer some incredible reflections about topics that align with the truth of Scripture. For those unfamiliar with Brené Brown, she is a shame researcher. Because the Bible speaks so readily about the results of shame, I truly believe Brené Brown’s research offers some excellent insights on how to live a life more wholeheartedly in love with the Lord. I would caution the reader that there is some language in the book and some of the points suggest that our hope comes from within ourselves, which I would substitute for coming from God.
Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst
Anyone that’s read or listened to Lysa TerKeurst knows that she’s extremely funny and engaging. She writes very transparently about “living loved” and uses some great illustrations to explain how to do that better. This book is geared specifically for women and I would truly recommend it for any woman. The last chapters offer some especially useful tools for self-examination…and are very convicting!
Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter and Marvin K. Mayers
I’ll confess this was technically a textbook assigned in my multicultural counseling class, BUT it’s not your average textbook. This little guy is only 128 pages (including the index, table of contents, etc.) and covers topics that are incredibly applicable and practical…and relevant in the cross-cultural world we live in today! Like all the books that I’d consider my top reads of 2016, this book makes you think. It does provide a lot of interesting information from a Christian perspective, but I promise it isn’t overly academic.
Change the Conversation: Teens, Dating, & the Church by Samantha Hanni
Friend or not, it says a lot that I am listing a dating book in a top reads list of less than ten books. When you’ve worked with a lot of teen girls and been single for a long time, you feel like you’ve heard just about every Christian dating thought imaginable. However, the transparency of Samantha’s writing and her fresh, grace-filled perspective made it a definite must on this list. Samantha shares sweet stories, deep thoughts, and Christ’s love in an easy-to-read format that I read in a couple hours. There are countless good quotes, but one of my favs was in the intro on page 2, “[The church] has failed to paint purity as a lifestyle; a lifestyle to be pursued before and during marriage, not a checklist of do’s and don’ts.” The only shame of this book is that more people don’t know about it! Seriously, go order it today (http://mrshanni.com/)!
Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty
I love the way this book is written, the author’s transparency, and the imagery of God’s love in this book. I’ll admit the title is a bit like a slap in the face when you’re actually experiencing something bitter, but I would truly recommend it to anyone. I cannot relate to many (okay…most) of the struggles the author describes, but this book gave me such a sweet perspective of God’s love in the midst of trials. Read it before you’re in the midst of something bitter, read it during a bitter season, or read it while a friend is in a bitter season.
Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling by Mark R. McMinn
Okay, okay, it was technically another textbook, but this too looks more like a short novel. I’ve read a lot of non-textbooks that aren’t on this list that I really enjoyed, so for this to make it says a lot about its content. This book would probably bore most people, but if you’re a Christian therapist or mental health professional…it’s another must read. It points to the gospel so well. I’ll admit that it’s the closest I’ve come to geeking out in this list because it’s a little technical, but it’s impacted my life too much to exclude it.
After listing those books, there are some themes I could easily identify: reflection, Jesus, mental health…and others. But I can also see God’s hand in each of those books and the hours, days, or weeks I spent reading them. It’s also just a sweet reminder about what God taught me through each of those reads.
My sister and friends often say that my down time is too productive, and it would benefit me to just do something fun. That’s not entirely true, but this list probably also screams “read something fun!” And I would agree. I did read a few more fun things that aren’t listed (though they also weren’t as enjoyed), but a goal for 2017 is definitely reading (and doing) more fun things.
What are some of the books you’ve read? Want to read? Would recommend?