“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” Mortimer J. Adler
This is why I mark my books with squiggly lines, stars, and large ellipses so I can revisit the best parts like a converstaion with an old friend. I know their words can water my soul if I let them soak in. This year, I read more than fifty books, which is not meant as a brag, but I hope gives you context for my offering of a favorite five.
The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin
The tagline alone got me, "waking up to God's goodness around you". I like anything about waking up, ordinary life, God's goodness, and finding it all in unlikely places. This book is an honest look at planting yourself in a neighborhood and church among people with hard lives and staying put with joy.
Last year Mike and I had the honor of meeting Father Gregory Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassionand Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.
We heard him tell his wonderful stories and he signed my copy of both books. At its heart, Shannan's life reminds me of Father Boyle's only with gingham curtains. I could not lover her honesty and resilient faith more. She inspires me to lean deeper into my work at Door to Grace.
The Gift of Being Yourself (The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery) by David Benner
I had never heard of David Benner until this year when I read three of his more-than-thirty books. Benner's books meet at the three-way intersection of theology, psychology, and spiritual direction. How in the world have I missed his writing?
Just these two lines are worth the read:
"We do not find our true self by seeking it. Rather, we find it by seeking God."
"Daily experience impresses upon me the painful fact that my heart has listened to the serpent instead of God."
This slim volume is full of that kind of gritty wisdom that I need to get deep into my heart so I can hear my true story. And listen to yours.
But I know why I put it in my shopping cart. The jacket reads, "Hilary cut a path through her old, familiar faith to the God behind it.
she discovered that it is by walking out onto the water, where the firm ground gives way, that we can find him." She doesn't know it, but we are kindreds of a kind.
I am fascinated with what forges a resilient faith; not just surviving a trauma, but thriving in the midst of it. Some of us walk away at the first sign of a troubled life and others dig deeper wells. I have long wanted to be one who dug deeper wells, but underneath my determination, afraid I might crumble under hard times. I know the deep cry of a mama's heart from a house full of children, one on the autism spectrum, and wondering if God had chosen the right mama for their sweet bewildered hearts. And then Jesus spoke to me from the fog, "I have never looked away, not for one instant. I knew just what I was doing when I chose you."
That Hilary could find words for her story so soon on the journey has me feeling weak, but that she found such lyrical ones has blessed my soul.
I leave you with this line,
My son must know that life is a rising up, a complaint and an exhoration and a song sent before the throne of God. My son must know that throne is reached through the Jordan River.
A Tree Full of Angels (Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary) by Macrina Wiederkehr
We read a single chapter of this little book online for one of my Seminary classes and after filling several pages in my journal with quotes, I realized I needed to see what else Wiederkehr had to say about seeing and so I ordered it. I read it, but I will be re-reading it because of lines like this,
"We must allow ourselves to be taught by God, and we must share with another person our ache for God."
And she introduced me to this Thomas Merton poem,
Make ready for the Christ,
Sets free the song of everlasting glory
That now sleeps,
In your paper flesh,
It was perfect for Advent and well, always.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I am always trying to get more fiction into my reading list and this book came recommended by one of my daughters, maybe both of them. This one made it for that reason amd several more: the historical event (the Nazi occupation of Paris), the historical setting (costal town of Saint Malo), the characters (a blind girl, an brilliant orphan boy, and a Nazi treasure thief), a miniature architectural replica made by a loving father, and writing ten years in the making.
I stayed up way too late to find out what happened to all of the characters and see when their lives intersected.
Here are the rest of the 50 books I read this year in no particular order- except this first one is an audiobook read by the author which Mike and I listened to together and so it gets top billing for that reason. And because Brene Brown.
That's my life in books for 2018. I wonder what Anne Bogel might recommend to me if I went on her podcast What to Read Next?
Life is short and the world is full of books to read. I hope this list serves you well by making a curated list for you.
I am already thinking of next year's reading list and know I will need good recommendations on the craft of writing, timeless classics, biographies, and modern fiction to balance out my love of spiritual formation and required Seminary reading. So send me your favorites for 2019!
In the meantime, read on dear friends!
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