our books

It seems that every year my to-do list gets longer and my reading list gets shorter. *sigh* But I will not give up! Reading is my daily food for my soul. It’s my sustenance. I can feel the difference in my life when I have not had or taken time to read good books. I get irritable. I get writer’s block. I get dry spiritually. I need a steady diet of quality content or I shrivel up inside! And I firmly believe that readers are leaders. If we really want to change from the inside out–read good books. No twaddle allowed! These 15 fabulous books were my 2013 Best Reads:

1. The Well-Trained Mind: A guide to classical education at home. This book was one of the highlights of the year, no joke. Inspiring, thought-provoking, helpful, practical. Not saying it must be followed to the letter, but I’d recommend as a must-read for any parent, not just homeschoolers.

2. Touching Godliness (Only $2.99 on kindle). Not even going to talk about this one. Because you won’t want to read it. But you need to. 😉 You may have read about it here. 

3. I Told Me So. Man oh man oh man I enjoyed this book! Written by a professor of philosophy, it revels the myriad ways that we deceive ourselves often, daily, continually, sometimes even knowingly. Far from being a depressing downer, this book is inspiring and encouraging. He gives fascinating insights into human nature. In fact, it’s kind of creepy because you start detecting self-deception everywhere. Beware! It’s like tearing blinders off your eyes. Definitely worth reading. Enjoy!

4. Educating the Whole-Hearted Child. Another phenomenal read on educating our children. I actually keep this one on my nightstand and take it with me whenever I go on overnights anyway, because re-reading any of it gives me the instant encouragement, inspiration, or direction I need for homeschooling. It’s just a gift in every way. Love the clear, loving voice and wise counsel of the Clarksons.

5.Intimate Issues. Aye Yai Yai! This is another one you don’t want to read but need to. 😉 Really, really, really, really honest look at, well, intimate issues. I need to read it again but that’s TMI … moving on now!

6. Pursuing Justice. This is a clear, well-written, thought-provoking overview of biblical justice issues. I enjoy Wytsma’s voice and writing style. If you’ve never read any books on topics of biblical social justice, start here!

7. The Prodigal God. Well I love Tim Keller and that’s all there is to it. He writes with such clarity, succinctness, candor, and piercing conviction. This quick read is an overview of the scandalous gospel truth–that God went to extravagant lengths to rescue us, his lost and prideful children. His words swoop you straight in to the heart of God. Must read.

8. One Big Thing. This is a quick (really quick) read ($2.99 on kindle) written by a business man who helps companies focus their energies on what’s most important. He gives some great insights from his years of business experience, and gives thoughtful self-reflection questions to help you determine your life calling. This might be a great quick read to help you narrow your focus for 2014.

9. A Severe MercyOh my. This is a ignore-your-family-for-hours-on-end-and-cry-yourself-into-a-massive-headache book. I love it. Adore it. It kindled love in my heart for Jeff like nothing else has. But I don’t think I can ever read it again because I cried so hard I couldn’t think straight. Read it. But not today. Get it and set it aside for a vacation or some time when you can crawl inside and get lost. And bring kleenex with you. Or a towel.

10. Boys Should Be Boys. If you have a son, get this book! Love it. Partly because I already agree with everything she says. (That’s always fun.) But also because she has decades of experience working with boys, and has solid evidence for her claims. She write with clarity, confidence, and hope. I’ll probably read this book again this year, it was such life-giving experience and inspiration for me raising Dutch.

11. Running For My Life. Ahhh! Another vacation book! Take this one on an airplane (although you will likely laugh and cry out loud so be forewarned). This follows the life of Lopez Lomong, Olympic runner who came from the killing fields of Sudan, a child-soldier kidnapped from his parents when he was 6. His story is NUTS. Absolutely nuts. I just kept laughing and crying, laughing and crying. Again, not one to read a chapter at a time, go away somewhere and devour it. (kindle version is only $2.99!)

12. Respect Dare. Ummmmm… Ok I admit I haven’t finished this yet! I’m such a lousy wife! I started it and then … well, then I stopped. My resolution is to finish it. The book is good, but it requires us doing something every day. Um… that’s difficult! Enough whining. I’ll finish it.

13. Bold Love. I haven’t finished this one yet either, but only because it’s a great slow read, a few pages at a time, then letting things sink in. I greatly enjoy Dan Allender’s writing, his humility and kingdom-mindset on life and relationships. He writes with decades of experience in professional counseling, and his insights into human relationships are spot on. Terribly convicting and encouraging all at once. Definitely recommend it if there’s anyone in your life you have a hard time loving. (That would be all of us.)

14. The PlanI already wrote about this here, but this hands-down my favorite book on nutrition and health. Phenomenal. Worth buying and keeping on hand as a reference. Our copy sits on the kitchen counter.

15. Rees Howells, Intercessor. I re-read this because it’s just so good I might read it every year. It’s not a theological dissertation, it’s just a story. You may not agree with all of it, but you can’t deny the mind-blowing power of God at work in this man’s life. It brings me to my knees, literally. This is another book to read slowly because it’s so convicting sometimes you just have to put it down and pray.

My 2014 book list is still taking shape.  Will you help me? Many of my favorite reads have come from your recommendations, so:

Would you please help by sharing one or more of your all time favorite reads below?  We’ll randomly pick one commenter to win one FREE book off the list above.  Thanks so much for sharing, and for reading.


  • All In! I’m too old to limit my reads to “all time” favorites since they seem to be seasonally picked for me by Someone. But, for 2013? ALL IN has to be in the top five. Short and without a lot of mental gymnastics, the confrontation is simple and pointed. Stop trying to protect your chips and get Jesus to guard your life and follow you around. Go all in with all you’ve got for Someone worth living for. It’s time to follow HIM. Written by Mark Batterson.

    • Oh, Mark Batterson! I forgot to mention The Circle Maker on here. I read that as well last year and LOVED it. It was hugely influential in our first year of church-planting. I’ll definitely read All In. Thanks, Paul!

  • Kari, I also read A Severe Mercy this past year and LOVED. IT. What a beautiful story! Definitely one of my favorites!

  • Sarah

    “Loving Our Kids on Purpose” by Danny Silk

    • Thank you, I’ll check it out!

  • I read A Severe Mercy in college and it was hugely instrumental in my life and such a good read! I think I may need to read it again. 🙂 He wrote another book called Under the Mercy which I own, but haven’t had a chance to read yet… 😛

    I am only halfway through the respect-dare too. Haha. Maybe we should finish ours together. 🙂

    I can’t say enough good things about Beth Moore’s Jesus, The One and Only. I couldn’t put it down, but I had to go slowly because there was so much to digest. I crie and laughed and fell in love with Jesus all over again. Simply amazing.

    I loved Birthright by David Needham, although it has been a couple years since I read it.

    Another good one was For Those Tears which is about a Christian living in Communist China.

    And… Kitchen Table Counseling was a fun one if you spend much time counseling women. 🙂

    Okay, there are so many good books, so I won’t list every one I’ve ever read. Lol

    • Oh I love Kitchen Table Counseling. I could have guessed that you had read it too. 🙂 I will DEFinitely go get Jesus, The One and Only, that sounds fabulous. ALl these sound great, thank you Elisha!

  • Kaaryn Frank

    I loved and cried and appreciated life more after reading Rena’s Promise by Rena Kornreich Gelissen and Heather Dune Macadam.

    Currently reading Waiting on God by Andrew Murray. Very good.

    • Oh yes, everything by Andrew Murray is amazing, yes? I read Waiting on God in college and it was so impactful. Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll check out Rena’s Promise!

  • Sarah

    Thank you for sharing your list Kari! I’m definitely adding a couple of these to my “Must Reads in 2014.”

    I’d like to recommend “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. Don is one of my top five favorite authors and I have passed this book along to almost everyone I know. Almost every single one of them have passed it along as well!

    “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” is an honest, open sharing of Don’s journey writing a better story for his life as he follows the Lord. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… It’s definitely a must read!

    • I like Donald Miller too–but I haven’t read A Million Miles, I’ll check it out! Thanks!

  • Great list! I’m putting several of these on hold at the library! Have you read Surprised by Oxford? Loved that book and highly recommend it. 🙂

  • Great idea to have a list! Haven’t done it yet, but it might help to finally get started on the huge pile by my bedside table :). My latest favourites were (I can’t really pick one):
    The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer
    Out Of Control And Loving It by Lisa Bevere
    Be Angry But Don’t Blow It by Lisa Bevere
    Intercession and Healing: Breaking Through with God by Fiona Horrobin
    And just to add one more to the pile, here’s one, that I haven’t gotten around to read yet, but can’t wait, cause it seems so interesting from the sample, plus I have read some of his other books, and I can recommend him:
    The Map: The Way of All Great Men – David Murrow

    • Thank you for the great recommendations, Angela!

  • Elissa

    I read Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s definitely one I would read again. It helped me come to a deeper understanding of God’s great love and how to respond to that love. Thanks for your recommendations. I need to find heartier books and less fluff!!

    • Oh yes! Crazy Love is one of my crazy loves! Such a fabulous book. Thank you, Elissa!

  • I read and loved Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr and Everyday Worship by Trisha Wilkerson. Check them out.

    • Ooh, definitely going to get both of those. Thank you, MacKenzie.

  • jan small

    A hole in our gospel was really a good book and very insightful as to how we all need to really help one another and know what the real gospel is about.

    • Haha, the Hole In Our Gospel changed my life! Truly! I have like 20 copies to hand out to everyone I know. 😉 Great recommendation!!

  • Megan

    Thank you so much for listing your reading recommendations! I love reading, but haven’t been lately, partially because I don’t know where to begin. There are so many “Christian” books out there, that it’s sometimes hard to know which ones are going to be a good solid read that really points my heart in the right direction. Reading is one of the joys I want to reclaim this year and I think I’ll start with a few of these. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Absolutely! So glad this can be helpful.

  • Christine

    Haha the whole time I was reading through this I kept thinking, “where’s the Intercessor?!” But then there it was, at the bottom 🙂 You’ve piqued my interest on Intimate Issues and Running for My Life, I’m going to get those and read them next. My favorite most life changing book is “No Compromise” by Keith Green, as well as “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. Amazing!

    • Haha, I love that we’ve talked about it so much that we just call it The Intercessor. Beware of Intimate Issues. 😉 It’s been ages since I read The Hiding Place, maybe I’ll re-read it, and I’ve never read No Compromise. Do you have a copy I could borrow sometime this year? PS I got Intimate Issues from the library!

      • Christine

        Oh goody I’m going to order Intimate Issues in from the library! Yes I do have a copy of No Compromise, I’ll bring it Sunday. Also I forgot to add The Heavenly Man onto my list of favorites. It’s an autobiography of “one of China’s dedicated, courageous, and intensely persecuted house church leaders”. Seriously life changing, and sadly will probably be pretty applicable to us American Christians in the not too distant future…

        • Oh yay, thank you Christine! Ok, Heavenly Man will be added, although maybe that will be 2015, if we’re still here. 😉

          • Christine Hanna

            If we’re still here?! Lol!!! This made my day, and all I can say is AMEN sister.

  • Sherri

    I read Jen Hatmaker’s 7 on the Kindle and then had to purchase the book so I could highlight and earmark! That is a great book!

    • Haha, that IS a great book. Hysterically funny. Her book Interrupted is good too!

  • Love and War By John & Stasi Elderedge was probably the main book we read (other than the Bible) during the beginning of our marriage, and the fundamentals and key points of it have stayed with us been essential to the growth and beauty in our marriage ever since. Fantastic read for couples. 🙂

    • Hmm…we’ll have to check that out! Thank you, Matt!

  • Britni

    I’m excited to check out these books! Here are a couple of my recent favorites:

    Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt
    Speak Love by Annie Downs
    David And Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell


    • Thank you so much, I have not heard of these!

  • Aleisha Johnson

    If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes. GREAT, thought-provoking and inspiring read. I loved seeing how God worked throughout Bonhoeffer’s entire life, making use of his past and upbringing in the perfect moments when it was needed. Reading of the issues he wrestled with as he sought to live out his faith in a pivotal and harsh point in history really made me search my soul and wrestle as well. It’s a long book, but well worth it.

    • Oh, my husband read that and LOVED it. I’m intimidated because of the length, but you’re inspiring me to give it a whirl. 😉 Thanks!

  • Katie

    Sacred romance by John Eldridge

    I have been reading I will look up by, you 🙂 thank you, thank you for writing it. God has used your book in the mornings to really speak to me. I can really relate with your writing. Thanks for writing the ebooks. I have also read plenty. I really appreciate your honesty and transparency! That takes courage 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Katie! I so appreciate your encouragement (and book suggestion!)

  • Nikki

    Hi Kari,

    I love your blog posts and I’m not sure if you’ve already read or if someone mentioned it previously, but Wounded by God’s People by Anne Graham Lotz is FANTASTIC!!! A must for anyone in ministry or not.


  • carrie


    I know the drawing is done but I’ve got to add Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. It’s a golden oldie… but one I keep coming back to.

    also: LOVING OUR KIDS ON PURPOSE is well worth the read… and Danny Silk is FUNNY!!!


  • Juana

    Plenty by you ;).

    Thanks for helping me survive as a mom! Thank you for the tears and the laghter, and the fresh perspective and refocus that this book provided for me! I reccomend it to every mom of little ones (also wrote a review on Amazon). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Haha, thank you! That’s awesome. SO grateful for the review, Juana, and your kind words. Every blessing to you!

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