Other than gathering with my church fam to worship, my favorite way to spend a day is curled up, under a blanket (or by a pool, depending on the season), with a good book. Friday afforded me a day of such luxury. We had finished all our school for the week, we had nowhere we had to be, and we all indulged in a day of sewing, Legos, and, of course, reading. I devoured a fabulous book called Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and it got me considering what books were most impactful from 2017. I’ve shared my favorite reads from the last five years here –click the year to read the list. (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012)
My Top Seven from 2017:
1. If You Can Keep It:The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxes. FABULOUS! Metaxes talks about the great experiment of American democracy, and what must be in place in order for true freedom to flourish. He explains the Golden Triangle of Freedom, borrowed from Os Guinness. Basically, true freedom requires virtue, and virtue requires faith and faith requires freedom. He shares historical documents that reveal some of our forefathers’ roots of virtue, humility, seeking God’s guidance, and relying on His grace, and explains that if we depart from those roots, we will never be able to recover the true freedom we have lost. Metaxes doesn’t take sides, he encourages both conservatives and liberals to work together for the common good of our country.
2. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey. This one felt like an answer to my heart’s cry. It’s a challenging read–it’s huge and I had to re-read a lot of portions of it to understand, but it’s so powerful, well-worth the work. Pearcey was a student of Francis Schaeffer, so her book is makes many of his ideas attainable for regular people like me. 🙂 I have tried to read Schaeffer and felt lost (Jeff loves him!). It’s basically a study of the history of secularism, darwinism, and how infiltrated our entire culture, education, and society has become as a result. I was reading this right as Dutch was engulfed in Is Genesis History study, so the timing was perfect. She argues that the gospel doesn’t begin in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1, and how critical it is that we embrace God as our Creator. Highly recommend!
3. You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan & Lisa Chan. This is a quick read, but probably my favorite marriage book. It’s simple and straightforward: wholeheartedly following Jesus with reckless abandon is the only way to be the best spouse. Ultimately, we love our spouse not because he or she is lovely, or because we feel like it, but because our marriage is a picture of God’s love for his people, and I have been given the responsibility of helping my spouse come to know, love, and follow Jesus fully. Great for engaged couples too!
4. Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment by Shannon Ethridge. I read this and was like, “Whoa. Why does no one talk about this??” I knew about the men’s book on sexual purity, Every Man’s Battle, but I never knew there was a women’s version. I came across it because someone recommended Preparing your daughter for every woman’s battle which is for moms to go through with daughters in the 9-13 age range. I have to say, I absolutely recommend women read this book. It is so eye-opening. So often, sexual purity is talked about from male perspective, and usually seen as a “male struggle”–but Shannon is an incredibly honest, straightforward, insightful voice for women, she has a powerful testimony, and she deals with the emotional and mental side of things. Excellent read, especially if you work with women in any kind of ministry setting.
5. Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxes. LOVE!! I want to buy a copy of this book for every woman in our church, it’s so inspiring. Metaxes shares brief biographies of seven women: Joan of Arc, Susannah Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Theresa. So inspiring! If you love biographies, but have a hard time wading through looooong ones :), this is a great solution. He does a fabulous job summarizing each woman’s life and the essence of God’s work in and through their lives. Even though I was familiar with most of these women, I learned new things about each one, and gained an all-new level of respect for each one. Plus, they are each SO DIFFERENT from each other. It was very inspiring that God uses women from all different backgrounds, abilities, seasons, and classes in order to accomplish His purposes. And… I want to be Susannah Wesley when I grow up. 😉
6. How Children Fail by John Holt. The timing for reading this book could not have been more perfect. I was frustrated by our workbook-driven educational existence, and felt like we were expending a lot of energy without getting much of anywhere. It was like Holt was exactly answering my fears and frustrations with wisdom and research that confirmed exactly what I was suspecting. In short, Holt shows how simply stuffing children with content will never produce great thinkers. He opens our eyes to how fear cripples our ability to learn, and demonstrates how to cultivate a love of learning, rather than just a desire to get right answers. It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t love Holt’s other books, but this one is a powerful! If you are attempting to educate your children (whether public, private, or at home), I highly recommend.
7. The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (4 books): Kind of cheating here, because this is four books, but this is a young-adult series that, if I can be so bold, ranks even higher than the Chronicles of Narnia in my book. I honestly think CS Lewis would say the same, I think he’d tip his hat to Peterson and congratulate him on a brilliantly-written saga that ties in fantasy, wit, virtue, and the gospel. At the end, I sobbed, so grateful for Jesus’ free gift of salvation. Dutch read these first and then I quickly became enraptured as well. A great read-aloud for kids in the 10-year-old and up age group. They are intense, but virtuous and inspiring. Would be a set worth buying.
Other great reads from 2017:
1. Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife by Kay Warren: This one almost made the top 7, but it’s for a pretty narrow audience, us pastor’s wives. It was a super encouraging read, and really helpful to get an insider’s glance into the life of Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren, perhaps the most influential pastor of our time. She’s raw, real, honest, and very hope-filled. I highly recommend to any pastor’s wife.
2. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. To be honest, I have a hard time connecting with the way Ann writes, only because I prefer a more straightforward style, but of course Ann is amazing and any book that highlights the power of brokenness, choosing the low seat, and pursuing a path of humility is always going to be worth your time. Personally, this book helped me not be afraid of getting hurt in relationships, but to move toward people in love even when you feel hurt.
3. Til We Have Faces by CS Lewis. This is considered by many (and Lewis) his best novel. A bit disturbing, but fascinating too. It’s a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, and gives piercing insight into our own brokenness.
4. Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible by Shannon Popkin. This dear girl is a new friend of mine, and she’s NAILED this topic! She’s been speaking and writing on this topic for years, and this book totally gets to the heart of all our control-issues.This has a Bible study that goes with it and would be great for a small group Bible study.
5. Be Fruitful and Multiply: What the Bible Says about Having Children by Nancy Campbell. I had to chuckle while I was reading this, because it’s SO FAR off the normal beaten path of what I read. But it was given to us, and honestly, I really enjoyed it and it was eye-opening. The author basically builds a case for how our society has lost our biblical understanding of what a blessing children are, from God. Instead we’ve come to see them as a hindrance, costing too much money, cramping our style and stealing our freedoms. She goes through the biblical evidence of how God feels about children, and some interesting evidence about the dangers of permanent forms of birth control (vasectomy & hysterectomy). Considering our recent journey, it served as much-needed encouragement to persevere.
6. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May. Well my oh my. Natural-childbirth proponents likely know about this book. It was … wow! Very informative, worth reading.
7. Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. So glad I read this! I had heard bits and pieces about the “supernatural childbirth” movement, but most of them all revolved around having a pain-free childbirth experience. But this book is SO MUCH more than that! It’s about, again, seeing what God says about children and then believing His Word and His promises regarding our own conception, pregnancy, and delivery experiences. This might sound crazy, but I have this book to thank–by God’s generous power and leading–for the conception of our child. This isn’t the place to get into it, but this book fanned into flame the faith that had dwindled, and allowed me to re-approach God from a correct mind-set, resting on His Word.
8. Different: The story of an outside-the-box kid and the mom who loved him by Sally Clarkson. This is the story of Sally Clarkson and her son, Nathan, who has OCD and sensory disorders. Together they share about his childhood and the challenges of homeschooling, coming into adulthood, and the lessons they both learned as a result. I read it because Dutch is certainly an out-of-the-box child but honestly, my takeaway was that he’s not THAT out-of-the-box. Ha! We actually have things pretty easy compared to some of the challenges that Sally and Nathan had. In the end, it’s her encouragement to love our kids just as they are, and to be patient and gracious with their quirks.
9. French Woman Don’t Get Facelifts by Mireille Guiliano. Are you laughing yet? Right after a book on supernatural, miraculous childbirth is a book on facelifts? A few weeks after my miscarriage, we were spending the day at the river with my mother-in-law, and I just desperately wanted something light. Everything had been so heavy, and I wanted to laugh, so I borrowed this book from my MIL and enjoyed it while basking in the sun. Nothing earth-shattering, of course, but it’s just about aging gracefully and not trying to be something your not, vainly clinging to some 20-something image of yourself. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin (and taking care of that skin!), and eating to live, rather than focusing on diets and body-obsession. Of course, this is not written from a Christian perspective, I don’t endorse everything in it, but it was a quick enjoyable read.
10. Sacred Mundane: How to find freedom, purpose, and joy by Kari Patterson. Ha! Yes, I re-read my own book because it reads differently when it’s actually on paper. You can get get it here for cheaper than Amazon, with free shipping: https://squareup.com/store/sacred-mundane
Re-reads that I thoroughly re-enjoyed:
1. Mere Christianity by CS Lewis (one of my all-time favs)
2. The Great Divorce by CS Lewis (hadn’t read since college–so good! Fascinating.)
3. Educating the Whole-hearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson (one of my favorite homeschool reference books)
4. High Call High Privilege by Gail MacDonald (LOVE THIS BOOK!!! A must-read for every pastor’s wife. I hadn’t read it since we first got married, so it was a completely new experience, almost 15 years later. Highly recommend.)
Whew! There you have it. Now, I would LOVE to hear your favorite books from 2017. Will you please share? Thanks so much for reading.