2013 – My Favorite Reads

This year was fairly sparse in terms of reading for me. My attention was split in a million different ways. I started a few and then didn’t come close to finishing. Fortunately I read enough to at least feasibly pull off a top 10 list. I had to pull up my library account and old journals to fill out my list. Blerg. I’m hopeful that 2014 will be full of a lot more books. As a family we are making a commitment to turn off the television and pull out a book instead.


Here are my top books from the year – not necessarily released this year!

10. The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

If you are looking for an easy and quick read this is good one to snag. This was a nice fluff mystery that filled the void after I finished reading Persuasion again. The premise: what happens when you find a lost manuscript hidden inside an English Manor. Intrigue ensues AND you get to read the “found” book.


9. Persuasion by Jane Austen

Austen naysayers beware: I am a HUGE Austen fan. (Who married someone who is a naysayer. BOO on naysaying husband.) I am such a big fan that I did not go and see Austenland. I read the book a few years ago. Meh. (I’m secretly waiting for it on Netflix. Don’t tell.) Persuasion is my favorite book of them all. Ann is my favorite Austen heroine (Lizzie is a close second) and the love story within is beautifully compelling. If you haven’t yet read this for the first time (yes, this is my 3rd time to read it), please do yourself a favor and pick it up!


unglued8. Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

“I can’t control the things that happen to me each day, but I can control how I think about them. I can say to myself, ‘I have a choice to have destructive or constructive thoughts right now. I can wallow in what’s wrong and make things worse, or I can ask god for a better perspective to help me see good even when I don’t feel good.’” – Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued

Yes. Lots of good thoughts for someone who struggles with letting their emotions dictate their words, tone, and responses. I don’t want to fly off the handle. Unglued has seared this phrase into my memory: Feelings are indicators, not dictators.


7. Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break by Kelly Minter

This was a really good study on the book of Nehemiah. I love Kelly’s approach to the reader, very authentic and direct. She spent a lot of time encouraging us to consider what (a person, issue, challenge) was breaking our hearts. Once identified, we were to move to action just like Nehemiah. I thought the study fostered some great discussion and I’ve already tried two of the recipes included.


6. Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

“If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.” –Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow

I love Annie. She’s real. She’s rough. I don’t agree with some of the things she believes and writes, but I can’t fault her grit and charisma. Like many of her other books, this one is full of real-life examples, her personal theology, and a reminder that we tend to make everything overly complicated. She takes prayer back to the basics in Help Thanks Wow.


5. The Messenger by Lois Lowry

Why hasn’t this series been made into a movie?! I’m ready to watch it and then lament how they are not nearly as good as the books, but it was still fun to get out of the house and watch it any way! This is the third in Lowry’s “Giver” series. I’m reading book #4 aloud with David and we haven’t finished yet, otherwise Son would have likely made this list as well.

The Giver (book one) has been one of my favorite books for the past decade. It took having lots of downtime to finally check out the rest of the series. Think Hunger Games minus the violence. It’s young adult fiction but the themes within the book have nothing to do with teen romance. Each of the books has left me thinking for days.


4. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

This is the second book in the “Giver” series and I loved it. This was my favorite piece of fiction to read all year. The heroine, Kira, is wonderful. I love seeing the world through her perspective and going on an epic adventure with her. There are rich themes running throughout this one!

From the Amazon description: In perhaps her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit and that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.

As she did in THE GIVER, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what could be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira’s plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.

I know… why haven’t you read the series yet?


gifts3. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This book took six months to finish. The first chapters are heavy, raw, and dark. The entire book is WORDY. Rich, deep, and very poetic, I felt as though I had to take space in between chapters to fully digest all I was reading. They style of writing certainly won’t be for everyone, but the imagery and lessons are strikingly beautiful. Ann is so very gifted with words. I found myself wondering: WHO TALKS LIKE THIS? More often than not, I would pull out my journal and record paragraph after paragraph.

“Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone. God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him.” –Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts


2. The Valley of Vision

My dear friend Becca gave me this copy three years ago and I still pull it out just about every morning. There are over 300 Puritan prayers inside. The humility of these prayers always stills my heart before I open the Word. I highly recommend this book as an everyday devotional.


greatest1. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

This book was such a special part of the Advent season this year. The daily readings were perfect. As I mentioned, Ann has such an ethereal quality to her work, that the smaller doses ended up making this work my favorite book of the year. The readings were poignant and dramatically helped to focus my heart each day of the month. I will be pulling this book out every December for years to come. (Thank you, Aunt Kathryn!)

“God can’t stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning.” – Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift


There you have it. 10 books from my nightstand to yours.

But now I would love for you to return the favor. Share 1, 5, or even 10 of your favorite reads from 2013 in the comment section. (Tomorrow we tackle what we’re looking forward to reading in 2014!) I plan to compile those answers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog comments and share the huge “YOU NEED TO READ THIS” list on Friday.



P.S. I did read countless pregnancy, parenting, and baby books this year. If you would like to know which I recommend, feel free to comment and I will respond to you individually!

  • I don’t think I can even contribute to this conversation as pretty much the only books I actually finished this year were parenting/labor/delivery books! I keep making book lists for myself each year, then I get pregnant and WHAM my list gets overrun with baby stuff. Anyways – all that to say great job on all your reading – even with a little one! I always get the best ideas from your list!

    • WHAM – I totally hear you. I read at least 10 more books about babies, but I didn’t want to dominate this list. Thanks for the encouragement! I find loading books on my kindle is the best way to happen, but I know that once I’m outnumbered by kiddos it’s all going to change!

  • Claire Bloodworth

    Wow! Super impressed you have a top 10! My mentor gave me “The Sacred Search” by Gary Thomas. Really enjoyed that. Still reading it. But I got a little sidetracked by YOUR book! ;) which I am LOVING!

    Oh, and I read a lot of books on neuroscience this semester (interesting but still lame at the same time) :)

    • @disqus_gTWBTBM2J4:disqus -I loved Sacred Marriage, so I would imagine the one you read was just as good. HUZZAH! So glad you are enjoying your current read.

      AND BLAH. My brain just exploded reading the word neuroscience. BRAVO.

  • ValerieMae

    My favorite book of the year was “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” by Mindy Kaling! :)

    • This is going to be my gift to myself for the flight to Texas. CANNOT WAIT.