Nineteen More Books in 2019
I love to read and I hope you do too! Below you can see what I’ve read during the last three months, along with a numbered rating and review of each title. Click the links to find them on Amazon. Click on Book Reviews in the menu, if you want to find more titles I’ve read over the past few years. And if you want to know what I read in the first three months of 2019, click here.
You can see that the books are divided into the reasons I read them (and that I have been a complete slacker book club member recently!). I not-so-scientifically listed my favorites reads in each category first and my lesser favorites last.
Feel free to comment and tell me what you’re reading and loving too!
Spiritual Growth Books
1. If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free by Jamie Ivey - 5 stars - If you need a beach read this summer, here it is. There’s not a woman I know who would not benefit from reading it. Ivey tells her story—really the story of Christ in her and how he redeemed her past sin and continues to draw her to himself. Ivey’s testimony is real and raw, but she doesn’t end with her vulnerability, she always leads the reader back to the strength and goodness of Jesus. Jesus is better, as she always says. I’ll be recommending this to every gal I know, especially to the ladies in my core group (small, weekly accountability group), as Ivey sets the very example and tone I would love to see amongst all the women at Redemption Parker.
2. Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission As Strangers In Our Own Land by Elliot Clark - 5 stars - This book was so convicting. I could not put it down. Clark called me out on every page. He makes an excellent argument that we fear man more than God when it comes to evangelism. We are more worried about being embarrassed than we are about the state of our neighbors’ souls. Clark says we have a culture of sharing the gospel (meaning the recipient must be willing) when “scripture, instead, spoke primarily of preaching the gospel, declaring and proclaiming a message” (p 95). If you need an evangelism kick in the pants, this book is for you.
3. The Passion of the King of Glory by Russ Ramsey - 4.5 stars - I read this book through the season of Lent with my daughters. It’s part of Ramey’s Retelling the Story series (the other two focus on Advent and the mission of the early church). Ramsey retells the stories of the life of Christ in 40 short chapters (meant to be read one a day through Lent), through Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. It was a helpful tool to focus our minds and hearts on the season at hand. Ramsey is a beautiful story teller.
4. Unashamed by LeCrae - 4 stars - LeCrae spent some of his childhood in Park Hill, a neighborhood in Denver where many of my childhood friends lived, so hearing more of his story was personally interesting to me. I appreciated learning directly from LaCrae about his journey to faith in Christ and his journey through various peaks and valleys and camps within American Christianity. His life and his book weave together themes of race, fatherlessness, faith, and fame. His is a compelling story.
5. Eats with Sinners: Loving Like Jesus by Aaron Chambers - 3.5 stars - This book is full of moving stories that will likely compel you to reach out to your neighbors, coworkers, and friends in Jesus’s name. Chambers is a great story teller and clearly motivated by the gospel to share the gospel with all who are lost. He’s admirable. I found myself wanting a richer theology in the book, but I was definitely also left with a desire to love those around me more actively.
Books I Read for Ministry Purposes
6. Given: The Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing by Tina Boesch - 5 stars - I just reviewed this book for The Gospel Coalition. It’s a beautiful work. In a time when we reduce blessings to material gain or personal progress, Boesch calls us back to God’s Word, to the origin of blessing—God himself—and to the purpose of blessing: that we might bless others. Rich in beauty and biblical substance, Given reminds us that as we have been given life, so too, we must give life. Boesch calls us to live given.
7. Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes by Jonathan K. Dodson - 5 stars - This book will be out in February 2020 (hence no link or front cover yet) and I read it early to provide an endorsement. Here it is, “Our Good Crisis is a compass, drawing the reader back to our true north, to God himself. As we walk across the ever-changing landscape of our age, Dodson reminds us of the never-changing goodness of the Beatitudes. God in heaven is the source of virtue, of all that’s good, of the very remedy needed for the crises we see in the world and in ourselves. This meditation on the Beatitudes will nourish your soul and exhort you to walk with Jesus, living out his kingdom here on earth, by the power of His Spirit.” Keep your eye out for this book early next year!
8. The Relentless Encourager: Bringing Life to Others through What We Say by Mark Hallock and Scott Iken - 5 stars - I also read this book to provide an endorsement. Here’s what I said, “The Relentless Encourager is a balm for our day. In this age of toxic hot-takes, Hallock and Iken bring us back to the goodness of encouraging words. The message of the book carries the reader from conviction to inspiration—from reminders of what’s true and right, to practical tools and ideas for becoming an encourager. This is not a how-to book, but rather an exploration of the Word of God, a reminder of the necessary equipping of the Spirit of God, and an exhortation to the people of God to live on mission through our words. Oh, that we may see an awakening of kindness and encouragement in the church and radiating from it! This book will help us get there.”
9. The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You by Shane Snow and Joe Lazauskas - 3.5 stars - I borrowed this book from a fellow writer after hearing her recommendation. It was helpful—not paradigm-shifting or super eye-opening, but helpful. People love to read stories. Stories change lives, they sell products, they compel people. The advice in this book will help you write a better story.
Personal Interest Books
10. Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line by Abby Johnson - 5 stars - I loved this book. Abby Johnson is a hero of mine. For eight years she worked at and managed a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Texas. When she assisted in an ultrasound-guided abortion she left the clinic and never went back, horrified at what she saw on the screen. Het story has always inspired me and motivated me in my own pro-life work. No matter where you are on the abortion spectrum, this book is a must-read.
11. Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan - 5 stars - Based on extensive research into the life Joy Davidman, Patti Callahan introduces us to the woman who married C.S. Lewis. I so enjoyed this glimpse into the life of Joy, a strong and smart woman, as well as into the life and times of C.S. Lewis. If you love Lewis, or history, or literature, you will enjoy this book.
12. On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Reading Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior - 5 stars - I love literature and I love contemplating virtues. I also love to learn from smart women who wield words well. Swallow Prior takes the reader through 12 virtues as seen in 12 great books. I haven’t read every book she discusses, but I certainly want to now. If you’re a literature lover, a homeschooling parent, an educator, or someone who wants to cultivate virtue in your own life, this book is for you.
13. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall - 4.5 stars - A fascinating geopolitical explainer. Thought provoking and helpful when it comes to history, current events, and pondering the future.
14. Open by Andre Agassi - 4 stars - I picked this book up because TGC Editor Matt Smethurst tweeted that it was the most interesting book he had ever read several months ago. It did not disappoint. Lots of F-bombs, but super interesting. Agassi’s life is, well, kind of tragic. He had a heartbreaking relationship with his father, absolutely hated tennis, and used drugs to cope with major life crises. Ultimately, Agassi is generous and wants his life to count for more than his tennis career, but, I don’t know, I didn’t sense much transcendental hope in his story. The book is a compelling look inside family relationships, the drive to excel in at least one great sportsman, and the surprising hollow at the finish line.
15. The Bookshop on the Corner: A Novel by Jenny Colgan - 1 star - I really enjoyed the first 50% of this book. I listened to it as we landscaped our backyard. I wanted something fun and mindless to pass the hours of shoveling rock. And it was—at first. I was amused by Colgan’s main character who is a librarian, loves books, and sets out for an adventure in Scotland. Ultimately, though, the strong female protagonist ends up having tons of sex with a not-yet-divorced man. Such a weak and disappointing ending.
16. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin - 1 star - I wanted to love this book. I know Baldwin is one of America’s most respected writers. And I know this story is loved because of the way it portrays several black male characters as strong, family-oriented, and courageous. But the writing was just too R-rated for me. Rape, sex, masturbation, violence. Too much. The story itself was compelling, but littered with graphic content that made my stomach churn. Reading it caused me to wrestle anew with a common inner struggle I have: when presented with a lauded writer, a great work, but one that contains such content, what’s a reader to do? Suck it up and get through the grit to benefit from the message? Or put it down at the first troubling scene?
17. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - 5 stars - I reread this classic with my 8th grader this spring. It’s one of my favorites. Atticus is a timeless hero. Scout is a treasure. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s time. It starts out a bit slowly, but hang on. This work is a part of our collective American story and so worth pushing through to the very end.
18. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance by Susan Wise Bauer - 4 stars - Required curriculum reading with my 6th grader. I appreciate Susan Wise Bauer and her Story of the World series. I love re-learning history every year with my kids! It’s handy, because I always forget it.
19. Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray - 3 stars - The story of a boy in 13th century England. Required reading with my 6th grader. Can’t say I loved it, but we got through it and we were both left with helpful impressions of life in that era. I do highly value teaching history through literature.
Recent travels and family events have kept me from participating in my neighborhood book club. It’s a bummer! I love getting to read interesting titles that I would not likely choose on my own here.
Books I’m in the middle of, but not quite finished with:
Stay tuned for reviews on these titles and many more in a couple more months!