First off, welcome to the newly redesigned Daily Bites! This space was in great need of a makeover, and the lovely Erin and Phil from Design By Insight did an incredible job. The new look is cleaner, softer, and much more me. I feel like I just digitally decluttered—and much like when I clean my house, it feels invigorating. It’s a great way to go into the new year.
Speaking of the new year, December is the month when—before heading into another year—I love to look back on the previous one and evaluate what worked and what didn’t, what I loved and what I didn’t, how I grew and how I didn’t. And I also take a look back at all the books I read, because I read a lot and it’s fun to pick out my favorites.
Books and their authors teach, challenge, inspire, irritate, motivate, and transport me. There is a richness to my life that would not exist if it weren’t for reading. John Green says, “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.”
Couldn’t agree more.
I’m that geeky bookish person who views old favorites as friends, who can remember when and where they read their most-loved books, and who lays awake at night wondering how they’ll get through all of their library books before they’re due.
In recent years, I’ve kept a simple log of most books that I read. Most years, I read about 50—roughly a book a week.
My 2015 reading year has been a mixed bag of greats, goods, and bads. Looking back over my reading log, it wasn’t hard to spot my favorites from the past 12 months. Here they are, in no particular order.
(Interesting note: I read a blend of fiction and non. This year seemed to be the year for non-fiction in my world. Four of my five faves are non-fiction. Much of the fiction I read this year was the ho-hum or quit halfway type, except for one great novel that I’ve included here.)
Seven Women, by Eric Metaxas
I read this follow-up to Eric Metaxas’ Seven Men over the course of a week, reading about one woman each day. Each chapter left me with a growing conviction that I need to do more with my life! The captivating women highlighted in this book lived lives nothing short of remarkable. If not for the incredible stories, I think Metaxas’ introduction alone is worth the money.
Quotable: “When I consider the seven women I chose [for the book], I see that most of them were great for reasons that derive precisely from their being women, not in spite of it; and what made them great has nothing to do with their being measured against or competing with men. In other words, their accomplishments are not gender-neutral but are rooted in their singularity as women.”
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
I was a bit worried going into this book that it would be a heavy one, since it’s basically a meditation on aging and death. Boy, was I wrong. The author, a practicing surgeon, eloquently examines what it means to live a good life right up until the end—and the role of medicine in that process. Filled with research, vivid storytelling, and a great deal of kindness, the book offers a clear-eyed but compassionate look at how to face mortality honestly and with heart.
Quotable: “In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life may be empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.”
Thriving in Babylon, by Dr. Larry Osborne
I can’t say enough good things about this book. The 20 packed chapters educate, inspire, challenge, and equip Christians to pursue godly living in a culture that has deviated wildly from the truth. Using Daniel and his time in captivity in Babylon to parallel the current culture, Dr. Larry Osborne’s message is honest, well-communicated, and so needed for our time.
Quotable: “We live in a world gone haywire. Our moral fabric seems to be decaying at breakneck speed…Yet Daniel steps in with a book that contains the life-changing rebukes, correction, and training in righteousness we so desperately need. He offers us a model for not only surviving but actually thriving in the midst of a Godless environment.”
The Lake House, by Kate Morton
I’ve read everything by Kate Morton, and honestly? I love her writing so much that I’d read her grocery lists if she let me. When I got her newest novel in my hands, I did what I always do with a Kate Morton book: I devoured it like a decadent slice of chocolate cake—quickly and with joy. True to her style, the story is richly layered, spans several time periods, and centers around a tragic mystery. Set in Cornwall, England, the book reverberates with atmospheric details, lovable characters (and eerily mysterious ones), and page-turning plot twists. Kate’s masterful storytelling hinges on her skillful, intricate plotting and beautiful way with words. I’m a forever fan.
Quotable: “It wasn’t so much the discovery of a single clue, as the coming together of many small details. That moment when the sun shifts by a degree and a spider’s web, previously concealed, begins to shine like fine-spun silver. Because suddenly Sadie could see how it all connected and she knew what had happened that night.”
Simply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman
I fell in love with Emily P. Freeman’s writing when I read A Million Little Ways. I started reading her blog soon after and found a kindred spirit—if you can call someone you’ve never met or spoken to a kindred spirit. I pre-ordered Simply Tuesday months before it came out and quickly read it cover to cover once it hit my mailbox (and I’ve since re-read portions multiple times). It’s a book about where real life happens: the small moments. In our world of bigger and faster and better, Emily challenges us—with beautiful, straight-to-the-heart words—to release our obsession with building a life, and instead believe in the life Christ is building within us. Highly recommended.
Quotable: “What if your big break is really a breaking from big? What if your big break is you becoming acquainted with the suffering and brokenness of Jesus? We’re called to live with Jesus and to embrace his downward way. We are not called to live by whatever means necessary as long as the ends look successful.”
And one more, because I can’t resist: “This fast-moving world supports a language the soul doesn’t speak and it takes courage to emerge in a land that isn’t home.”
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
- The Mingling of Souls, by Matt Chandler
- The True Vine, by Andrew Murray
- The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harman (a bit graphic at times—it’s about birth, after all—but good)
Here’s to many more great reads in 2016!
(Want to receive these posts in your inbox? Subscribe here.)