New Year Resolutions for me used to include vague ambitions such as, “Read More Books.” And after so many years of never knowing whether or not I actually read more books, I changed my resolution to read, “Keep track of books I read.”
It’s specific and measurable…like a good resolution ought to be.
With the simple change of wording, there was no pressure to hurry through stories or finish books I didn’t like. I simply committed to write down the titles I read.
In some years, I didn’t even write them down. I just stacked the books on top of one another or on a specific shelf. This has actually proved to be least time consuming, and most accurate method.
What did I read?… check the stack.
This year I read 17 books, partly due to the fact that I was writing my own book, Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People.
But 17 is also an improvement upon my zero books-per-year when my boys were little. I mean, I did read books—actually memorized a few–but they had titles like Cuddles the Cow and Hop on Pop.
Just in case you’ve resolved to read more books, or maybe you’re a serial reader, here are a few I enjoyed that you might enjoy too!
Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin
Amazon Description: “At the age of eighteen, musician and songwriter Cooper O’Connor took everything his father held dear and drove 1,200 miles from home to Nashville, his life riding on a six-string guitar and the bold wager that he had talent…
…A radical retelling of the prodigal son story, Long Way Gone takes us from tent revivals to the Ryman Auditorium to the tender relationship between a broken man and the father who never stopped calling him home.”
Why I liked it: I had not read Charles Martin before, but this was my favorite fiction title. It’s a modern retelling of the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15. A loving father, a beloved son, the rebellion and the eventual return of the scarred son parallel the biblical account. The main characters are musicians and music lovers so musical themes, and even lyrics, are woven throughout.
The words that warmed my heart come from the father’s letter and reiterate the theme of the novel and the parable on which it’s based: “No matter where you go, no matter whether you succeed or fail, stand or fall, no gone is too far gone. You can always come home.”
Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger
Amazon Description: Peace Like a River, “narrated by an asthmatic 11-year-old named Reuben Land, is the story of Reuben’s unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor. But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah-a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles-and Reuben’s little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy.
Why I liked it: With lovely writing and an emotional plot, this was my second favorite. I loved the portrayal of the family dynamics–the loving and gracious father, the occasional tiffs between the younger siblings, their adoration of their protective older brother–and yet they are far from being the “ideal” family. I also enjoyed the son’s childlike descriptions of his father’s faith, even though some of his “miracles,” were far fetched. But then again, I suppose all miracles seem far-fetched, unless you witness them first hand.
Also worth mentioning…
The Centurion, Ken Gire (Lovely writing and well researched, it’s the story of the Centurion at the cross who spends a lifetime running from and finally walking toward the Christ he crucified.)
Iscariot: A Novel of Judas, Tosca Lee (Far from being portrayed as a disgusting traitor, this imaginative portrayal reminds us that any of us could have done what Judas did.)
The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap, by John Koessler
Amazon Description: We live in a culture that values activity, achievement and accomplishment. Whether in our careers, churches, schools or families, busyness is the norm in our lives, and anything less makes us feel unproductive and anxious. We have to work all the harder, then, to pursue true rest in a 24-7 world that is constantly in motion. John Koessler understands that rest is not automatic or easy to attain. He names the modern-day barriers to becoming people of rest and presents a unique perspective on how pursuing rest leads us to the heart of God. With honest, biblical reflections on trends in our culture and churches, he exposes our misconceptions regarding the concept of rest, as well as offering correction and practices to align our ideas with God’s ideal.
Why I liked it: It is “radical” to think of pursuing rest. No one gets awards or recognition for taking a break, or stopping a good work. This book not only gave me permission to rest, it is good, necessary and holy. It’s not a how-to rest kind of book. But it’s a great relief to learn that God is not impressed with the frantic scrambling even if we call it “ministry.”
Audacious, Beth Moore
Amazon Description: Glancing over the years of ministry behind her and strengthening her resolve to the call before her, she came to the realization that her vision for women was incomplete. It lacked something they were aching for. Something Jesus was longing for. Beth identifies that missing link by digging through Scripture, unearthing life experiences, and spotlighting a turning point with the capacity to infuse any life with holy passion and purpose. What was missing? Well, let’s just say, it’s audacious and it’s for all of us. And it’s the path to the life you were born to live.
Why I liked it: It’s interesting that my two favorite nonfiction books of the year appear to be on opposite sides of one coin. From one I received “permission” to pursue rest, from the other I received “permission” to do something audacious. I believe the link between the two is found in the the gospel of grace. Once we realize we are free to rest in the finished work of Christ, and receive it as a gift, then we are liberated from the frantic striving which we thought would earn his favor. But resting in his grace turns duty into delight. His grace is the reason we can say with the Psalmist, “I delight to do your will.” (Psalm 40:8)
Others worth mentioning:
Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God, by Mark Galli (Bought this book based on title alone. Provocative word play on the lyric “Jesus meek and mild.” Galli helps us see the actual Jesus, who isn’t beholden to the opinions of men and doesn’t necessarily conform to our Western idea of “nice.”)
Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams Into New Beginnings, by Sheridan Voysey (Enjoyed this memoir of an Australian couple’s faith journey from heartbreaking disappointment, to surrender, to their resurrection year. Lovely writing.)
Leave a comment below or on facebook…What was your favorite book of 2016?
P.S. With the new year, I am trying a little something new. I applied to be an affiliate with amazon.com. This means if you buy one of these books through the links in this post, Amazon will pay me a few cents for recommending it to you, but you will not be charged anything extra. It’s just a way for amazon to thank bloggers for getting the word out about good books or products. Bloggers are required to disclose this information to their readers. 🙂