Recommended books for you

Ready for a little winter reading? Here are some of the favorites from my 2021 reading list to get your mind rolling.

Note that these are just recommendations, not reviews.

SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT

Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You by J.D. Greear. This book gave a clear, biblical perspective on the Holy Spirit. It was the best book on the Holy Spirit that I have read so far.

Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present by Carolyn Weber. I read this in bite-sized pieces, probably how it is supposed to be read. Sometimes it was hard to find a coherent thread that wove the stories together. Yet, Weber has a way of reverberating understandable messages around inside of me. Messages that make me stop just to breathe in the “now” of life.

Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp is a fantastic book about money that requires a thorough heart examination. Tripp isn’t afraid to ask hard questions and coax hidden motives into the light. Money can become our god no matter how disciplined or undisciplined we are with it.

Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters by Dr. Juli Slattery. This book is a wake-up call to the church. Because the church is so silent on this topic, we are letting ourselves be sexually discipled by our culture rather than by the Word of God. This book gives a picture of God’s redemption of our broken sexuality and encourages the reader to walk in sexual integrity.

MEMOIR / NON-FICTION

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. A story of a migration that changed our country forever in ways we haven’t stopped to notice. This book is hard to read, not because of the writing style–it’s well-written–but because it reveals the ugly side of our hearts. Don’t let the size of this thing intimidate you; however, you might want to clear other books off of your currently reading list first. I’m looking forward to reading her book Caste in 2022.

Things As They Are: Mission Work in Southern India by Amy Carmichael. Don’t read this book if you would rather cling to your glamorized view of overseas work. Don’t read it if you don’t want to be moved by the work that still needs to be done. Don’t read it if you want a tidy success story. Why? Because this book strips away any pretense and shows “things as they were” while still testifying to God’s worthiness. There is a free kindle version, but note that it doesn’t include the photos Carmichael often references.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a close look at introversion. This book is not written from a biblical perspective, so there were some bones I chose to pick out and throw away, but it was a thorough and fascinating read… especially for an introvert.

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook is an engaging story of the tomato. The book takes you on a journey through South American mountains, slave labor camps, and lush Pennsylvania tomato fields. But it’s thought-provoking rather than an adventure story.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman. This WWII story set in occupied Poland gives an unusual perspective of animals, humanity, survival, and hope.

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. This was another atypical WWII angle of Nazism, art, and unsung heroes. Note: It’s long, but so is winter. 🙂

FICTION

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. The story of a boy on the outside of a Jewish prison camp… until he wasn’t. This book will make your heart ache at the juxtaposition of innocence and injustice.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is children’s classic about a girl who spends years alone on an island after her people are taken away. I somehow missed this classic growing up, but it is still worth the read as an adult.

Vinegar Girl: William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew Retold by Anne Tyler. A charming, fluffy romance if you like that kind. Note: there is some language present.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. What can I say about this old favorite? Just that it was even more charming than the last time I read it. For the first time, I noted that the story really is more about Marilla than about Anne. Think about it. And for the first time ever, I read through the entire series. Still, book one is undoubtedly my favorite.

That’s all for now. Let me know some of your good reads!

Recommended books for you

I have been frantically reading over the past few months, mostly research for two essays. And in the evenings, I would wind down my over-taxed brain with audio books. So, here is another pile of recommendations. Again, note that these are not reviews. I don’t detail every flaw of every book, and if at some point, you find you have standards different than mine, please leave a comment or disregard my lists altogether.

This time, I don’t have any fiction recommendations. I did manage to read a few, one of them being in Spanish and one that was just strange enough that I couldn’t recommend it and have you all scratching your heads too. But here’s what I have:

Spiritual Enrichment

Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn. This book is a powerful narrative of a woman learning to step into a friend’s unfixable pain and walk with her in the middle of it.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You by Shannan Martin. This book is a call to serve God in ways we don’t expect. Martin’s ardent writing inspires readers to invest where they are.

With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani is a clear presentation of how we tend to relate to God and how He wants us to relate.

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf challenges our culture’s concept of work and leaves readers anticipating what God is calling them to.

A Big Gospel in Small Places: Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters by Stephen Witmer does not focus on the worthiness of people in small places,  but on the bigness of the Gospel and the worthiness of Christ to take the message to those small places.

Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel is a beautiful book about desire. It is a call to both feel and renew. I also recommend her book Surprised By Paradox: The Promise of “And” in an Either-Or World. Michel’s thoughtful writing makes readers want to embrace the mystery of faith by recognizing how much more robust faith can be because of paradox. 

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson. I’m still digesting this powerful look at imago dei that presses tender spots but ultimately leaves the reader praising God. Her book Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul is a follow-up to Made for More, giving walking legs to those deep truths. Anderson is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors with her intense but relatable style.

MEMOIR / NON-FICTION

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Middle of Life’s Hard by Kara Tippetts is a powerful story by a woman about to step into eternity. She shares the unfiltered pain of leaving behind her beautiful life. The story is haunting, beautiful, and absolutely worth your time. 

For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose. Do you want to know more about Britain’s obsession with tea? This historical book narrates an agricultural espionage and reveals the lesser known story of tea.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is the fascinating story behind HeLa cells. Some of this book was entirely over my head. There were a few parts I skimmed. But the writing was informative and engaging, the kind that makes readers interested in a topic they formerly cared nothing about.

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills. This books is a delightful close-up of one of America’s favorite authors. The story is interestingly written, really several stories woven into one. But make sure you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee before you dive into this one!

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme. Have you ever wanted to know more about Julia Child or the French cuisine? The lighthearted narrative style makes Child’s life in France come alive….and it will probably make you hungry too! There are a few parts of this book you may want to skip, but it’s perky and largely clean.

A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny by Amy Julia Becker is a moving memoir of a little girl who reshaped an onlooking world’s perspective of disability, especially the perspective of those who loved her the most.

Recommended books for you

Well, 2020 is fading but the sighs of relief are tinged with anxiety. What will 2021 bring? Well, on the bright side, just in case you find yourself isolated from the rest of the world for any amount of time, here are some book recommendations:

Spiritual Enrichment

The Next Right Thing: a Simple Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions by Emily P. Freeman is a book full of practical help on decision-making. Enjoy Freeman’s humorous and deep perspective, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Anxiety Interrupted: Invite God’s Peace into Your Questions, Doubts, and Fears by Rachael Dymski inspires readers to ponder who God created them to be, not just in spite of anxiety, but with anxiety problems woven into their story. This book gives a hopeful look at life with all its uncertainties. 

Gold by Moonlight: Sensitive Lessons from a Walk with Pain by Amy Carmichael is a beautiful book. At times, it can be poetic and hard to follow unless you’re engaged. Then suddenly, a thought punches you in the gut with stunning reflection of your own life. Best advice: DON’T SPEED READ THIS ONE. Why? Because it’s worth your time.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, is a call to worship, even in the ordinary things of our everyday lives. The writing is poetic but practical, powerful but flavorful.

White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege by Amy Julia Becker is an outstanding look at white privilege and racism. It is the kind of look that leaves you with hope rather than the suffocating knowledge of an unchangeable world.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters by Timothy Keller is an excellent read. As usual, Keller does quite a bit of stomping on toes, but he never presents a sin issue without also presenting the Help for the solution.

Memoir / Non-Fiction

For the Glory: The Untold and Inspiring Story of Eric Liddell, Hero of Chariots of Fire by Duncan Hamilton is an awing and at times horrifying read of the life of Eric Liddell, a man we think of as a runner, an Olympic gold medalist, but who was so much more.

The Spy Wore Red by Aline Countess of Romanones is a story of a female spy during World War II. It’s set mostly in Spain, which, of course, makes it that much more interesting! Note that this is a read that transports the reader to another world. Also note the presence of some strong language.

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger is for history lovers. It is a history of the Revolution that goes far beyond the Battle of Bunker Hill and Nathan Hale. That said, it’s not an overwhelming read, nor for all it’s factualness is it one bit boring.

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride is an excellent read and a beautiful tribute. The two stories of mother and son are woven into one hopeful journey. Be prepared to be moved.

Fiction

(Oops! Not a lot in this category this time!)

Still Alice by Lisa Genova is an engaging novel about a middle-aged professional woman facing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Warning: you will feel like you need a diagnosis by the time you’re done with this one!

Recommended books for you

I love to read. During lockdown, I raided my Stateside library’s ebook stash. I also had quite a few unread books on my Kindle.

And there was no time like the present.

Here are a few books I recommend from the first half of my reading year. (Note: I tend to stick to the three genres below.) These aren’t reviews, just recommendations. Take them or leave them and, by all means, create your own list and share it with me!

Fiction

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Delightful and entertaining. Reminiscent of Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy by Jean Webster.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio. This book dug down deep inside an issue and made it live and breathe. Of course, I fell in love with Auggie too.

Spiritual Enrichment

How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison. I’m still digesting this one. It was a clear and profound presentation of sanctification. Don’t let the plain title scare you away.

Mere Christianity and The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. Many writers go out of their way to be relatable and end up shallow or simplistic. Other writers present remarkable theology without a bit of humanity, as if the closer you are to God, the less of you will appear. But Lewis challenges both of those notions by presenting mind-blowing theology written with a voice so thoroughly human that I burst into laughter at times. I enjoyed both of these books. 

Unseen by Sara Hagerty. This was an awakening book for me, encouraging me to “squander” time with God, not for brownie points, but because our relationship is that meaningful. Hagerty writes beautifully about finding who we are in the eyes of Jesus rather than the eyes of men. I also recommend her book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.

Memoir / Non-Fiction

Evicted by Matthew Desmond. This was a fascinating read. The narrator doesn’t downplay the tension between the privileged and underprivileged but showed both sides of the housing struggle. I didn’t always know what I was feeling as I read, but when I set it down, I knew the book was worth my time. Personally, I stayed away from from the political side of it (as I stay away from the political side of almost everything) and focused on the reality of people living the lives Desmond writes about.

Educated by Tara Westover. This memoir was captivating and sobering, even more sobering when I realized that the author and I are the same age and her story could have been mine. As an author, Westover had an incredible way of bringing back old details and showing their significance later in her story. 

The Library Book by Susan Orlean. fascinating history of a library fire. Not an all-absorbing story line, but excellent writing. In my opinion, Orlean’s style was reminiscent of Laura Hillenbrand (Unbroken and Seabiscuit). I hope to read more of her in the future. 

I could make this list longer…

  • Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman
  • Healing for Damaged Emotions by David A. Seamands
  • Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald
  • Jesus the King by Timothy Keller
  • Thin Places by Mary E. DeMuth
  • Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson
  • I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

But I’ll stop now. I promise. Please do write me your own recommendations. I’m always on the lookout for a good read!

Recommended books for you

Merry Christmas everyone! A day late and a euro short, perhaps, but who wanted to sit down and read my blog yesterday anyway?

As 2019 closes, I decided to give you a few recommendations from my 2019 reading list. This is just a list; if you want to know more about a particular book, check out the link provided. 

Spiritual Enrichment

No God But One: Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi. I have always appreciated Qureshi’s gentle but uncompromising approach to rift between Islam and Christianity.

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken. This book is full of stories of God at work in the hardest places on earth. I also recommend The Insanity of Obedience

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty is a true journey woven with story and reflection. This book helped me on my journey, realizing that God, in His love and sovereignty, wants to make the bitter times sweet times as we cling to Him.

Memoir / Non-Fiction

Behind the Veils of Yemen by Audra Grace Shelby. A peek into one woman’s life as she struggles to maintain her faith in Christ in the midst of conservative Islam. The author’s honesty about her struggles makes this book a gem, especially if you’ve worked in a similar setting.

My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody. Mahtob’s version of what happened in Not Without My Daughter. This fascinating book begins with a child’s perspective as she grapples with love, fear, anger, and forgiveness. 

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield is a woman’s journey to faith in Jesus.  Interesting and challenging. Although I didn’t read it this year, I also recommend her book on hospitality, The Gospel Comes with a House Key.

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber is a fantastic memoir. I don’t think I can explain why exactly. Although the author and I don’t have similar stories, this memoir hit many warm and familiar spots for me. Check it out for yourself.

Fiction

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. A story of a Muslim immigrant family in America. Although the work is fiction, the story is real. Today, many immigrant families deal with the shifting worldview between generations of immigrants, Islam mingling with the forbidden, honor and shame, etc. A teammate bought me this book and I’m glad she did!

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. This is a free Kindle book that is worth much more than you’ll pay for it. It’s cute. It’s fun. It’s fiction. If you like it, note that the sequel, Dear Enemy, is also worth downloading. 

That’s all until next year! Lord willing, tomorrow at this time, I should be suspended somewhere between Madrid and Chicago. I can’t wait. You probably won’t be hearing from me for a few weeks. 🙂 

The lightning bug prayer

One of the childhood memories I treasure the most is the summer evening I found an injured lightning bug. Its wings were bent and useless. 

Heartbroken by this poor creature’s dilemma, I carried it to where Mom was working in the flowerbed behind the garage. I cried as I showed her the bent bug. 

Instead of some glib remark about it being “just a bug,” she stopped her work and examined the lightning bug with me. She has always had a tender heart for the suffering, and she probably glimpsed herself in her daughter’s tears.

There, still kneeling beside the flowerbed, Mom prayed with me for that poor little lightning bug. She prayed because she knew God cared. That’s why I still remember.


Photo by Tony Phan on Unsplash