I realize we’ve already stepped into 2015, (Happy New Year – by the way!) but I’m only now taking the time to reflect. It was a good year of reading in my house; it almost feels impossible to rank these titles. Some were perfect vacation reads while others I will likely pull out and read again and again for spiritual growth. My top four are solid but everything after you could likely mix up the order and I would still nod my head in agreement.
So now – in a slightly particular order, my favorite reads from 2014…
10. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Here’s where I warn you that a few of these titles aren’t a good match for young readers. This is one. Although full of hilarious stories, this one has colorful language and adult situations. I very much appreciate Mindy Kaling’s chutzpah as an intelligent and hilarious female writer and actress making waves in Hollywood. Her stories of summer camp made me snort on an airplane. Nuf’ said.
“I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.” – Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
9. Written Together: A Story of Beginnings, in the Kitchen and Beyond by Shanna Mallon
“The truth is, for some people, trust looks like taking a leap, quitting a job or relocating or starting a new business; for others, trust looks exactly the opposite, staying where you are, settling in, unsure of what comes next. A lot of times, it’s somehow both. But in every case, trust is always about admitting what you do not know, recognizing what you cannot control, opening up the fierce grip you have on your own expectations and plans, and letting something better take their place.” – Shanna Mallon, Written Together
I downloaded this book an embarrassingly long time ago, but only finally read it this spring. This was a delightful little read. I’ve known Shanna peripherally through the blogging world for years. Reading this book in one sitting made me feel as though I had always known her. The recipes, photography, and stories shared by Shanna and her husband, Tim over at Food Loves Writing are authentic and lovely. What are you waiting for? Go download this little gem!
8. A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman
Emily went and did it again – yet another inspiring, challenging, and artistic book. This one came at the perfect time, the short months after releasing my own art, my own book into the world. I was short on sleep with a newborn and thirsty for affirmation. I would have preferred words to any sum of money. The Lord used passages in this book to encourage my heart and remind me that His affirmation, His words, were enough.
“It is possible for us to uncover the art we were born to make and show up to release it into the world only to be met with silence, inability to make progress, and a seemingly impossible artless road ahead. The lack of movement isn’t because of fear or sin or lack of belief. Sometimes it’s simply God asking us to wait…
Fear says I’m going the wrong way. Doubt says I won’t find it at all. But hope? Hope says, Wait. It’s just a little farther. You are not alone and this is not just your idea. My goal is a finished book – I call that my art. Yet there is a deeper work happening. I chase what I think is the art, but really that’s just the evidence. . . The real art is the invisible work happening in the depths of my soul as I uncover, sink, see, listen and wait. The book is just the souvenir.” – Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways
7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A World War II Novel about a London author and her unlikely friendship with the residents of Guernsey Island. I read this in about three days on my summer vacation. Unique, entrancing, and highly addictive, it was a delightful way to unplug and relax.
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” – Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
6. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
I’m not sure how to summarize, so I will pass this one over to the editor: “Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.”
Fascinating read, to say the least. This one also won’t be suitable for all readers. But murders aside, Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit and Ferris Wheels… who knew so much came from the 1893 World’s Fair?
5. The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro
My mom was reading this book and told me it might be a little basic. The goal of the book is to encourage and equip the reader to meet with the mentors within God’s Word on a daily basis: aka read your Bible. I thought I would skim to see if it would be a good fit for my teen girls. Skimming turning to taking notes and notes turned to reading the whole book. There was nothing new in his suggestions and yet the way Cordeiro presented the material was both engaging and compelling. I quote him almost daily, “If you need to start something, start small, but start now.” There’s too much to summarize here, so you should probably just pick up the book. J
“The more you continue to read Scripture, the more you begin to think as He thinks and act as He acts. And that’s how, over time, you gain the wisdom of the ages…
You can’t see through to the future. Looking forward is often cloudy. Muddled. You fly blind. Except for one thing: obedience. It’s like sonar. Obedience will not remove obstacles. It will only help you navigate through them.” – Wayne Cordeiro, The Divine Mentor
4. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller
I read this book in my Bible study class this fall. I’ve read a lot of books on marriage, and this one tops the list. It’s so rich, applicable and not just for marriage – but for all relationships. Put it on your list if you haven’t read it yet. My copy is heavily underlined and one I wish I had read when dating.
Here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be a part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’” – Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
3. A Praying Life by Paul Miller
“Let’s do a quick analysis on how little children ask. What do they ask for? Everything and anything. If they hear about Disneyland, they want to go there tomorrow. How often do little children ask? Repeatedly. Over and over again. They wear us out. Sometimes we give in just to shut them up. How do little children ask? Without guile. They just say what is on their minds. They have no awareness of what is appropriate or inappropriate. Jesus tells us to watch little children if we want to learn how to ask in prayer. After introducing the idea of bold asking in the Sermon on the Mount (‘Ask, and it will be given to you’) he tells us why we can boldly ask. ‘Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!’” (Matthew 7:7, 9-11) – Paul Miller, A Praying Life
This book has been a shout to my heart. I’m encouraged and challenged to ask my Heavenly Father for all that is on my heart. Paul Miller reminds me to not “be embarrassed by how needy your heart is and how much it needs to cry out for grace. Just start praying.”
I knew in my head the promise of prayer, the invitation to ask and receive, but I rarely took God up on it. My prayers were timid. I often talked myself out of asking, reasoning that if God wanted something to happen, He would just make it happen. I forgot about the relationship, and His desire to meet me in prayer. He loves to meet our needs.
2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
This book has been on my reading list since 2008. I’ve started it countless times. I still found the first segment slow, and had to force myself to push through, but I’m so glad I did! The punches that stay with me were all in the last few chapters. I read them, and then reread them (isn’t this what you do with Lewis?). I’m so thankful for the illustrations and metaphors he utilzed to bring faith to life. I think this book is an invaluable tool for putting words to what often feels indescribable. I am thankful to have read it and plan to continue doing so every other year.
“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
There’s nothing like a coming movie adaptation to light a fire under me and cause me to read a book. I know I’m way late to reading this one, but it did not make the experience any less poignant or enjoyable. I find I really enjoy well-researched and detailed stories. I pored over the pictures and read up on history. There was so much about the South Pacific side of World War II that I just didn’t know. The story of Louis Zamperini is touching, riveting, and so well written by Hillenbrand. There’s a reason this was a #1 NYT Bestseller. If you are one of the few that haven’t read it, you should remedy that situation in 2015.
“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.” – Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken
My pile for 2015 is already stacking up, but I could always use a few more suggestions! What was the best read for you in 2014?
Up on deck for me this month:
Happy reading, friends!