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2018 is Halfway Over: Here's What I've Read So Far

2018 is Halfway Over: Here's What I've Read So Far

I love to read.

You love to read.

And so I love to share what I've read with you here.

Last year I waited until the end of the year to post my list. This year I'm going to do it in two installments and below is the first half. The total looks to be at 43 books in six months. Whereas last year I read 47 in 12 months.

My reading capacity is greater this year than last year for a few reasons.

  1. One is that I'm writing more, therefore I'm reading more. As my husband says, you cannot create content without reading content. He's right.
  2. Secondly, as a writer I love to see what other people are writing and I benefit greatly from their smart voices.
  3. Thirdly, my participation in things like the Colson Fellows, homeschooling, women's groups, and a neighborhood book club keep me reading (oftentimes titles I wouldn't pick on my own).
  4. Fourth, (and this is huge), my kids keep getting older and therefore I have more time to sit still and read.
  5. Finally, I listen to a lot of books--I really don't do a chore or drive a mile without a book on. 

The books are listed by the categories below, with my more favorite titles near the top of each section. 

  • SG = Spiritual Growth book
  • PI = Personal Interest book
  • WV = Colson Fellows book/Worldview book
  • BC = Neighborhood Book Club
  • HS = Homeschool book

Here's the rating system: 

  • 5 stars = I loved the book and heartily recommend it.
  • 4 stars = I liked it, but I'm not necessarily raving over it.
  • 3 stars = Ho-hum.
  • 2 stars = I have some hesitations.
  • 1 star = Don't bother. 

Spoiler: Too busy to read through the list? My very favorites are the first four under Spiritual Growth (Word-Filled Women's Ministry, The Simplest Way to Change the World, Imperfect Disciple, and Identity Theft), the first one under Personal Interest (The Nightingale), and the first one under homeschool (Listening for Lions). Don't miss those if you need something to read right away. Also, there's only one book on the list that I really, really did not enjoy and that's The Alchemist. 

Spiritual Growth Books: 

1. Word-Filled Women's Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church, edited by Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson: SG, 5 stars. If you are in women's ministry in any fashion, formally or informally, get this book. Each chapter is practical, wise, and helpful. 

2. The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life , by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements: SG, 5 stars. I want everyone in my church and everyone who's a Christian to read this book. It will open your eyes to the many ways God can use your home and family to glorify him. A must read! 

3. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act Together, by Jared C. Wilson: SG, 5 stars. This book had me howling. Wilson is funny. He's also honest and theologically robust and I love his commitment to grace. So many spiritual growth books talk about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Not this one. So good.  

4. Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of our Identity in Christ, edited by Melissa Kruger: SG, 5 stars. This is a book you are going to want to read and discuss with a bunch of girlfriends. Each chapter is written by a different wise and winsome woman of God and will remind you of who you are and whose you are. Get a copy, read it, highlight it, and meet up at the park to chat about it with your besties.  

5. Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot: SG, 5 stars. I love missionary biographies. Learning all the details of how God called Jim and Elisabeth Elliot to marry one another and to serve him in Ecuador was so encouraging. Reading Elisabeth's own words about their ministry and Jim's death at the hands of those he went to serve was powerful. 

6. Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death, by Russ Ramsey: SG, 5 stars. Ramsey--who is of a similar age, season of life, and calling as my husband--shares his story of facing death through a sudden and serious heart illness. I appreciated his openness and analysis of his fear and sadness and awakening to a new way of life in his healing process. A must read for anyone who has faced serious illness or a loved one with illness and wants to cling to Christ. 

7. God of Creation - Bible Study Book: A Study of Genesis 1-11, by Jen Wilkin: SG, 5 stars. There are not enough quality women's Bible studies on the market, if you ask me. I'm grateful that Jen Wilkin is now publishing and sharing hers broadly so the rest of us can benefit! Great for your women's group. 

8. Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds, by Jen Wilkin: SG, 5 stars. This book will help you understand the necessity and joy of studying the Bible for yourself, as well as equip you with the tools to do so. My women's group read it together early this summer, which I shared about here.  

9. The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World, by Rosaria Butterfield: SG, 4.5 stars. This book delves deeper into the call and art of Biblical hospitality than other books I’ve read on the same subject. As I read, I marked up every page. I have one teeny hesitation, which you can read about here

10. What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), by Nancy Guthrie: SG, 5 stars. As God's timing would have it, I read this book about two months prior to my dad passing away. I can say that Guthrie's words ring true. Not only does this book offer practical advice to anyone who wishes to be kind, but it also helpfully ponders life after death. 

11. Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God, by Courtney Reissig: SG, 4.5 stars. If you struggle with the role God has for you in the home, this book will bless you. It will minister to the hearts of all the young mommas at home right now. Solid theology. Solid encouragement. 

12. Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God's Good Gifts, by Trillia Newbell: SG, 4.5 stars. This is like a guidebook for unpacking and pondering the good gifts that God gives us and how we might appreciate them and steward them for his glory. Newbell even includes challenge projects to go with each chapter, which will help in reshaping our thinking.  

13. Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, by Kevin DeYoung: SG, 4.5 stars. Solid, readable, important truth for every believer. If you waver in your trust of God's word, read this and keep it handy to read again. 

14. The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis: SG, 4.5 stars. An important classic for any Christian. Though written in 1942, this pondering of spiritual warfare feels like it was written for today's audience. It's a useful warning to be re-read from time to time. 

Personal Interest Books: 

15. The Nightingale: A Novel, by Kristin Hannah: PI, 5 stars. I absolutely loved this book. Historical fiction is my favorite genre of literature and Hannah does it beautifully. The story takes place in France in WWII. I could not put it down. If you want a captivating read this summer, this is it. 

16. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen: PI, 5 stars. I so enjoy reading Austen. She's funny, spins a good story, keeps you interested, uses wonderful words, and is sassy when it comes to social commentary. It's a fun read. 

17. The Count of Monte Cristo: Abridged Edition, by Alexandre Dumas: PI, 5 stars. First of all, don't be too impressed that I read this. I actually listened to it and the abridged version at that. One day, I aspire to read the whole thing. It's a complicated story that takes place in France during the Revolution. Dumas's exploration of the human heart left me grateful for a sovereign and good God. 

18. A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle: PI, 5 stars. So funny! My family and I listened to this short work together, as we drove through France. If you've ever lived cross-culturally, you will cackle out loud. He's a great story teller. 

19. Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life, by Douglas Wilson: PI, 3 stars. Wilson has written tons of books and so knows a thing our two about the writing life. This work was full of good advice. Handy, but not the book I would firstly recommend to other writers. 

20. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson: PI, 4 stars. A great classic. Loved listening to this with my kids. We couldn't stop talking like pirates for weeks. 

21. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth, by Mike Cosper: SG/PI, 4 stars. This could have been listed under Spiritual Growth. Cosper is a great thinker when it comes to pop culture and theology--music, shows, movies, and what they say about us and God. This book is in that vein. 

22. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson: PI, 3 stars. I shared some thoughts about this book here

23. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho: PI, 1 star. I really could not stand this book. It was all I could do to will myself to finish it. The syncretism and postmodernism and flat out silly superstition got on my very last nerve. I'm a linear, rational kind of girl with a love for Christian apologetics and philosophy. This book is the opposite of rational, linear, and logical. And it's extremely highly rated, so apparently my opinion is not shared by most. 

Worldview Books:

24. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, by Os Guinness: WV, 4.5 stars. I discussed the idea of "calling," and this book, in this post here.  

25. How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey: WV, 5 stars. This lengthy read is worth the time and effort for anyone who wants to wrestle with current cultural values from a Biblical worldview. It's a handbook of sorts for examining our world from a Christian perspective. 

26. Restoring All Things: God's Audacious Plan to Change the World through Everyday People, by John Stonestreet and Warren Cole Smith: WV, 4 stars. Full of encouraging stories about God's redemptive work amongst us. 

27. People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue, by Preston Sprinkle: WV, 4 stars. Sprinkle dives deep into a Biblical perspective on homosexuality, while also providing a compassionate and balanced personal perspective. It's a solid and even scholarly book for anyone who wants to truly examine the issue. 

28. Urban Apologetics: Answering Challenges to Faith for Urban Believers, by Cristopher Brooks, WV, 4 stars. I appreciated this look at ministering in an inner city setting! 

29. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, by Amy Sherman: WV, 3.5 stars. Interesting stories about how God is using various people in various callings for his glory and the good of their cities. 

Book Club Books: 

30. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: BC, 4 stars. I actually chose this book for my book club several months ago. I really like Adichie as an author. Her sociological reflections on ethnicity in America are so good. But, I found the plot to be ethically vacant and therefore a bit of a let down. I do want to read more by Adichie, though. 

31. The Aviator's Wife: A Novel, by Melanie Benjamin: BC, 3 stars. This book is based on the life of Charles Lindbergh's wife and the murder of their firstborn child. Prior to reading the book I was completely unaware of their story. It's tragic.

32. Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front, by Mary Jennings Hegar: BC, 3.5 stars. Jennings Hegar is running for Congress in Texas. She's quite a woman! She led the legal fight to allow women to serve in any combat role in the US military--and won. I can't say it's the mantle I would bear and I sure hope my girls aren't drafted one day as a result of her efforts. But I do respect her strength and tenacity. 

33. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance: BC, 3.5 stars. Surely you've heard of this book by now and it hardly needs my explanation. Two things: 1) the first half felt repetitive and too long to me, and 2) Vance's explanation of social capital in the second half is poignant, important, and something every American should understand. For that alone, you should read this book. 

34. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel, by Robin Sloan: BC, 3 stars. Mostly entertaining. Not my style of fiction. Better suited for someone into fantasy or sci-fi or computers. 

Homeschool Books: 

35. Listening for Lions, by Gloria Whelan: HS, 5 stars. I loved this book. I could not put it down when I was reading it to my girls. It's a beautiful story about a daughter of medical missionaries in Kenya who becomes orphaned during a flu epidemic. Tragic, but so redemptive by the end. 

36. Daughter of the Mountains, by Louise Rankin: HS, 5 stars. A great story about a courageous girl in Tibet who goes on an epic adventure in search of her lost dog. I love good stories about strong girls! 

37. Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar, Janet Benge: HS, 4 stars. A good missionary biography, which I always appreciate and enjoy reading with my kids. 

38. William Carey: Obliged to Go, by Janet Benge: HS, 4 stars. A good missionary biography, which I always appreciate and enjoy reading with my kids. 

39. Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher: HS, 4 stars. Captivating tale from within the Sultan's palace, chock full of dreams and tales and history. 

40. David Livingstone: Africa's Trailblazer, by Janet Benge: HS, 4 stars. A good missionary biography, which I always appreciate and enjoy reading with my kids. 

41. Call it Courage, Armstrong Sperry: HS, 3 stars. A good historical fiction providing insight into Polynesia. 

42. A Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis: HS, 3 stars. You may as well take away my Christian badge now: I don't really enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia. I know! It's terrible, but true. I just don't like fantasy literature. I don't. I'm sorry. But I read it to the kids and there's hope for their futures because they love it. 

43. Arabs in the Golden Age, by Mokhtar Moktefi: HS, 3 stars. What can I say? This was a fairly boring school book for us, but redeemed by the beautiful illustrations. 

I'm not sure I'll be able to read as many books in the second half of this year as I did in the first. But I will try! If you'd like to list some of your favorite recent reads in the comments, I'd love to hear your recommendations. 

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