This year, I’ve posted a few book reviews on the blog, but I’ve also read a few books I haven’t officially reviewed/recommended. Most of these books were not published in 2016, but here’s the list of my 5 favorite books of the year, in order of my undying love. ;)
Click CONTINUE to check out my favorite reads of the year!
Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott
From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny. With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. She shows us the myriad ways in which this sustains and guides her, shining the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life and exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope. Whether writing about her family or her dreadlocks, sick children or old friends, the most religious women of her church or the men she's dated, Lamott reveals the hard-won wisdom gathered along her path to connectedness and liberation.
My 2 Cents: It doesn't get much better than Anne Lamott. She's in my Holy Trinity of authors (Lamott, Young, and Manning). I feel like, if we could just sit down and have coffee, Anne would be one of my favorite humans, too. I love her writing, her style, her heart, and her humor. She's so damn honest, vulnerable, and wise. I'm pretty sure it's because she's the Headmaster at the School of Hard Knocks.
2. The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places, by Mark Yaconelli
In many ways society teaches us to try to have everything under our control. If we are honest, we tend to think that this can be true even of our spiritual lives. But Mark Yaconelli eloquently expresses the reality of our situation: "We are small, sensitive creatures with short lifespans, in a world that is often chaotic, capricious, mysterious, terrible and wonderful all at the same time. Failure, disappointment, loss and other difficult experiences call us to accept our humanity, feel grateful for what has been given, receive the care of others and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit." Using extraordinary stories from his own life and the lives of others, Yaconelli offers a narrative journey through ways in which disappointments have turned into gifts. In these pages are a wealth of spiritual practices that will carry us deeper into the grace we find in unexpected places.
My 2 Cents: Yaconelli is a masterful storyteller, who intersperses just the right amount of wisdom and humor to keep me laughing, thinking, and crying. This book has lessons for everyone.
3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.
My 2 Cents: I can list the same author twice in a list of 5 if I want to! Since we can’t all just fly out to California and take a writing workshop with Anne, this is the next best thing. Best book I’ve ever read on writing...and the writer.
4. Some Things You Keep: Letting Go. Holding On. Growing Up., by J.J. Landis
After her mom’s suicide, JJ Landis wanders through loneliness and pain. She knows grieving is necessary, but all she can do as a twelve-year-old is keep her sadness locked inside. She walks forward facing rejection, fear, addiction, and depression. Despite her circumstances, she collects pieces of goodness, trinkets of hope, and fragments of redemption along her path. With healing, she is eventually able to recognize these as gifts. Growth comes from letting go of the past and pain and stepping forward each day. And with growth comes the wisdom to know what to hold close and what to keep. We’ve all suffered; we’ve all rejoiced. Every one of us has been on a pilgrimage, and we are all still hiking.
My 2 Cents: This book is about much more than a mother’s untimely death. It is a call to never forget, to always forgive, and that all you have to do when life says you’re drowning is to let go and find grace, just beneath your feet. It’s been there all the time. Follow JJ's blog here.
5. Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Fr. Richard Rohr
A fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life. In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or "gone down" are the only ones who understand "up." Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as "falling upward." In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness...This important book explores the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right.
My 2 Cents: Father Richard Rohr reminds me a great deal of William Paul Young, author of another favorite book, The Shack. In Falling Upward, Fr. Rohr gives the reader permission to question and patiently reminds us all that bumps and bruises are a part of the journey, leading us toward a full life with God.
To see which book made my "Honorable Mention", just click CONTINUE! Trust me, it's a must-read!
Honorable Mention: A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, by Joshilyn Jackson
A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.
My 2 Cents: This is my current read and if you’re a fan of Southern fiction, this book should be at the very tip-top of your list of must-reads. Joshilyn Jackson weaves a story unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s a coming-of-age story, and so much more. This page-turner is a mystery that includes: scandal, heartbreak, and stubborn faith in family. Jackson does much more than just write a book, she creates an experience for the reader. This one is a gift.
Still reading? Click CONTINUE for one the blog I never miss!
#1 Must-Read Blog of the Year: Easy as Hard Gets, by Jeremy Sims
My buddy Jeremy is a phenomenal writer. A truly great guy. A brilliant fella. Heart of gold. And really funny. But his blog isn't so funny. Easy as Hard Gets is the gripping journey of Jeremy's family, as they walk through his wife's battle with Huntingdon's Disease, "an ugly neurodegenerative disorder". Jeremy posts a new blog every Wednesday afternoon, and every single one makes me cry, but more important, they make me slow down. If you need a reminder of the power of family and faith, this is the blog to read. To read EasyAsHardGets, start here.