favorite reads of 2013

Thursday, January 2, 2014

So I basically concluded that if you were to ever get me anything - any gift of any kind - just give me a gift card to Amazon, or the bookstore, or cash for books, or even just a book itself! Because seriously, what more is there to life than to get lost in a good book, to grow your library and knowledge of the world, to escape to another realm and live through the obstacles of another life through their eloquence of words stringed together on a thin piece of paper bound by glue? Or, if you'd rather get something else, say, furniture perhaps, just get me more bookcases. Loads of them. Wall-to-wall. Ones with desks in them. Ones that stretch to the ceiling. Enough to make my office literally looks like a library with rows I can walk through- neatly alphabetized and categorized shelves of which I can stick a ruler to keep my place, while pondering another read for the day. Perhaps one day, I will have a room dedicated to be a library - not one just on the wall around my desk as I long for today, but in rows of shelves laid out like one at a school. My own little schoolroom, complete with little desks, a chalkboard, and a comfy corner nook set with tea and cake and candles, to read away and kindle your dreams! I will make room for it in our current little two-bedroom abode - anything is possible! Oh, I can dream, right? I sure can dream.

But the point of all this is to come to a time when I want to shout for all to hear, my favorite books of the year! Clever how that rhymes, right? Well, it's hard a bit to narrow it down, because, um, I've read 75 books in 2013 (well, at least that number).. But I kind of narrowed it down to my absolute favorites - the ones dog-eared, laden with tears forever in the pages, the ones I forgo sleep for and started journals about, ones that kindled seemingly forgotten dreams and passions and loves of mine- ones that I really, I mean actually found myself in. The favorites of mine, the best, that I personally laid eyes on this year, for hours at a time. And what joyous hours those were! And yes, as you can see, the absolute favorites are still more than a few in number for I read many this past year - so bear with me, and grace me with your eyes a little longer, will you?

And please, do not hesitate to chime in and say - oh! I read that too! Because I would love to hear that. Has anyone else read and loved these books - or did you think something else of it? Have you heard of them before - seen them somewhere perhaps, or did it come up in everyday conversation? Do you long to live a life like those described in these papers, do you find yourself aching for something more that just reading words printed on fibers of trees would ever quench? Or do you have another view altogether? Perhaps you think I am just crazy. That's okay too! Crazy is good. We're all a little crazy. Probably more than just a little, actually. I guess that makes me pretty crazy then. Better to be crazy and well-read than sane and unfamiliar, by cultural standards.

I think I somehow narrowed it down to my top 15 - that's FIFTEEN out of more than SEVENTY-FIVE! In no particular order, though, of course.

So, without further adieu ---

Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers

I absolutely couldn't put this book down. It made me cry, laugh, and challenged me to see a world that many of us often overlook, because it doesn't fit in our neat little bubbles of life and safety. In California's gold country in 1850, a young girl was sold into prostitution by her own mother- living the only life she knew for years and years, which left her empty, cold, and bitter. Until a man, Michael Hosea, comes to rescue her from the brothel, marry her, and show her true, unrelenting, compassionate, redeeming love - the love of God for his people. She runs, he rescues. This continues until there is nothing else to hold onto but truth, and to let go of her horrific past and to let God consume her life with his redeeming love. Based on the biblical book of Hosea, following a paralleling story of Hosea being called by God to rescue Gomer. Redeeming Love is a powerful story of God's all-powerful, unrelenting, redemptive, and all-consuming love.


Jesus > Religion - Jefferson Bethke

Do I sense a cultural upheaval perhaps? Yeah, cause fabricated American Christianity, in so many words, is just that - a mask, a comfort zone, a box of where we want Jesus and his truths to fit in our little neat fine lives, then do the rest our way, rather than His.. This is a guide on how to truly understand the Jesus of Christianity for who he is. One of the most thought-provoking and applicable books I have read this year!


Cottage By The Sea - Robin Jones Gunn

As soon as I heard of this author, I knew I had to find her books - and fast! This is the first one I picked up. Tears, the whole time. I loved it all. I need the rest! Two women start a wedding planning business in Oregon, and immediately one's father becomes deathly ill. But he lives away at a cottage by the sea in California, with a woman the daughter has never met. Sad to leave the business and her best friend, but needing to be at her father's side, this is a story of highs and lows. "Her journey tosses her through highs and lows of hurt and healing, betrayal and renewal, wrong assumptions righted, and the brightest future one could ever hope for. All just around the corner, at the cottage by the sea."


Faithprints - Rebekah Montgomery

Leaving faithprints wherever we go - how to mobilize our world and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I just love this. Montgomery urges readers to pray for confidence to seize opportunities to serve others, rather than sit on the sidelines as we watch an injustice happen, as so many of us do. In this book you will learn practical ways and insights through stories of faith and downfalls and triumphs on how to use your spiritual gifts and natural talents to do good in God's Kingdom, and to impact our world for the better. I soaked up every page of this book!


Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis

Starting with mere particles and space, Lewis builds a case for Christianity- logically, piece by piece, expounding upon truths and not-truths, fallacies, purpose and meaning, Jesus, and the human experience. Seriously, I wish I could give this book to every human on the planet- no matter what you believe, you have got to read this- yes, it should quite possibly be a human requirement to read this book. How much different this world could be- if people actually, truly, understood life itself!


Disciplines of a Godly Woman - Barbara Hughes

Things we women need to keep ourselves to, in order to be stewards of God's grace and truths. Oh, how we need this, especially today, and every day to come. A guide to cultivate spiritual disciplines, making us consistent in our daily lives and especially our relationship with God. An exceptional read!


The Greatest Gift - Ann Voskamp

Following the line of Jesus all the way back to Jesse, Voskamp poetically gives us a background on what Christmas is truly about - the gift of a Savior - of God in the flesh, of a baby borne of a virgin, of this little God-man. Redeeming Christmas for what it truly is, rather than the consumerism and accepted debt that our culture turns it into. Oh, my soul.


Real Talk for Real Teachers-  Rafe Esquith

I had the absolutely exquisite pleasure of visiting Esquith's 5th grade classroom last August- just a few days after I read this book and it came out, in fact. I just cannot get enough of it - he is a revolutionary in the field of education, of which there are not enough, I'm afraid. If every American and world citizen were to read his books, perhaps we'd be a place that puts teachers with higher esteem and dignity and salaries than movie stars and lottery winners. Perhaps we would see the importance of education for our culture, our lives, the future, everything that we know and hold dear and life as we know it as it exists today. Perhaps we'd see teachers as the solution, not the problem, and in turn treat them as such. Perhaps.


Bonhoeffer - Eric Metaxas

He is an incredible man. Deitrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and an author, lived an incredible life- one full of God's grace and love and passions. He preached the true gospel in the face of evil, when many were looking away.
"Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life—the theologian and the spy—and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland."


Dirty God - Johnnie Moore

How to find and be the hands and feet of Jesus in the most unlikely places - reaching the most unlikely people. Sometimes, you just gotta get dirty to do God's work. This is your manual. " Moore outlines the central importance of the doctrine of grace while introducing readers to a humble and human Jesus who reaches out to us at our worst and pulls us up to our best."


Touching Heaven - Leanne Hadley

This book is too much for me to contain, and I feel stronger than I can ever fathom to put into words about this. It will probably always be my absolute favorite book that I have or will ever read. Eloquent stories of a children's hospital chaplain during her residency, outlining the final days of 10 different children, aged 6 to 15. This book is bent up, bruised, sloppy wet with tears, and turned all over with dog-ears on the pages. I would read it every day if I could, but then I'd be so happy-sad I wouldn't know what to do with myself other than drive down to Rady Children's and hand out stuffed animals and words of encouragement and cookies and puppies and pillows and glitter to all the little souls, who are hurting in pain that I am all too familiar with from my younger years, and some years not too far ago. It should be a human requirement for all to read this book as soon as one is able to read- I mean, yes, absolutely, everyone who is reading these words right now - do me a favor, and if you gain nothing else from this post, or only want to find one book to take away, let it be this one, and read it now!


Kisses from Katie - Katie Davis

After reading Katie in Uganda's book, I so long for missions. For international missions. Someday I will! This book will challenge you, tug at you, and leave you wanting more. I love her story - how she forgo college, stability, and the "American dream" at a comfortable home in Tennessee in order to go back to the place she knew her heart was - at an orphanage in Uganda. She has started a ministry, has adopted dozens of little girls, and is truly being the hands and feet of Jesus in a place that desperately needs his truths. Meeting the lost where they are. Giving them hope, care, a mother, a Savior. Oh, my soul. I long for just an ounce of her immense faith and love for Your people, for our neighbors.


Feminine Appeal - Carolyn Mahaney

True, inerrant, biblical feminism - far from the skewed view of the place of women today. That is to be a daughter of God, a wife, a mother, a mentor, a woman of true grace - for a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Exploring the 7 virtues of a godly wife and mother, taken from Titus 2, Mahaney teaches us how to live with true feminine appeal and become a woman who lives for God, and helps others to do the same. It should be a human requirement for every woman alive to read this book- absolutely incredible!


Crazy Love - Francis Chan

Love is crazy, love is true, love is God. From the book itself: "It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you've verbalized it yet or not, we all know something's wrong." Once you experience God's love in the eloquent way Chan describes it, once you understand God's true love for us in this crazy kind of world, well, that changes everything. When you're wildly in love with someone, everything changes.


Love Does - Bob Goff

From the back of the book: "Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world's best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it's not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob's love takes action. Bob believes Love Does." 
Love does things. It changes people. Love makes life happen. Don't miss it. Read this book today!


All quotations taken from Amazon listing.


  1. I read Jesus > Religion. It was one of my favorite books! It answered a lot of questions and thoughts I had about social issues of today that we face as Christians. Loved it!!

  2. What a great list. You've definitely peaked my interest on quite a few! Thank you!

  3. redeeming love is still one of my favorite books of all time! :) I've been meaning to read Love Does.


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