(None of the links in this post benefit me in any way. They are simply to serve as resources.)
In 2018, I set a lofty goal for myself concerning the amount of reading I wanted to do.
I failed. Epically.
(WordPress says that’s not a word but IT IS NOW.)
This year has been different. With less time on social media and trying to be more intentional about my time, I’ve already read more books this year than I did in the past three years COMBINED.
This is where shame and embarrassment kicks in because I’ve always claimed to be an avid reader! (Also because you’re about to find out that I haven’t read a large number of books yet this year.) But I banish those feelings to bring you this blog post: a list of the books I’ve read this year, most of which I recommend, and a small review of each. I know many of my friends are, in fact, avid readers, so this is for them. I hope you enjoy reading both this blog post and the books you chose from it to consume.
This book I actually began in the fall of 2018, after Joshua and I started delving into minimalism, and finished in January 2019. It should not have taken me that long to read it, because anytime I actually sat down with it, I ATE IT UP. It is a fairly quick read that is not bogged down with step-by-step plans and a million reasons why minimalism is the best lifestyle for any human.
Joshua Becker did not become a minimalist until his family of four lived in a large house full of stuff, with a large garage full of stuff. He is passionate and persuasive in his writing. The book includes many stories of people who de-clutered, downsized, or jumped off the corporate ladder to live simply. There are many tips and ideas on where to start, how to deal with the items you are really attached to but can’t figure out why, and what to do if you’re the only one in your family interested in minimalism. He also includes a section that walks through various ways advertisers subtly infiltrate our subconscious . . . something like that. That was one of my favorite parts of the book, and now I can’t look at a commercial or ad without thinking, “Ah yes, they are using that color or that layout to convince me to buy their product.”
The best part I think is that Joshua Becker is a Christian. Not only is he an excellent communicator who wants people to live more simply and intentionally, but he understands the bigger picture. Most prominent minimalists are not believers so even though much of what they say is scriptural, they don’t come all the way around. At the end of the day, to them, minimalism is about simplifying life so you can enjoy it as much as possible. But Joshua Becker connects all the dots. Minimalism is about simplifying life so you can make room for what is truly important: connecting with people, loving your family, and serving the Lord. The More of Less includes various passages and stories from the Bible.
If you are intrigued by minimalism, wondering what the big deal is, or are already taking steps to simplify your life, go read this book. It is a fantastic introduction if you are new to the concept of minimalism, and it also includes great steppingstones if you have already begun the journey.
If you’re interested in learning more about Joshua Becker or want some quicker reads about minimalism, you can find his blog here: https://www.becomingminimalist.com/.
Joshua surprised me with this book for Christmas, and I absolutely loved it. Cait Flanders writes in a relatable, laid-back style, chronicling her year of living with a shopping ban. Each chapter covers one month of the year, in which she recounts challenges, realizations, and practical advice.
Reading this book was like becoming friends with Cait. She reveals some serious personal struggles both from her past and during the year that she gave herself a shopping ban. At times the book reads like a diary, with pain and growth and relationships and travels and life changes.
Cait Flanders often compares her problems with shopping and materialism to her struggles with binge-eating and alcoholism. She overcame the latter problems before the first chapter; but throughout the book, she recognizes that she maxed out her credit cards for the same reasons she ate mindlessly and drank frequently. I won’t give it all away here, but she makes some very poignant points that I think resonate with a lot of people.
The book does have a tiny bit of language (a handful of minor profanities, as far as I remember) and reference to intimacy but nothing that should keep one from reading this book, in my opinion. A great read that is easy to finish in a few days, weeks at most.
Here is Cait’s blog, although the last post is from last year because she’s doing more living than sharing: https://caitflanders.com/.
I picked this book up from the library while I was in the middle of the next book on this list, and finished it quickly for two reasons: the book I was in the middle of was HEAVY and felt like it had stopped moving, and I also didn’t really like this book but was determined to finish it. So I did.
Courtney Carver is the founder of Project 333 and continues to blog about living simply and intentionally. Her book Soulful Simplicity had some good thoughts about consumerism and materialism, and I really enjoyed the section about why shopping and owning things is so addictive. But there was a lot of spiritualism in this book. For example, she ended every chapter with reminding you to “Put your hands on your heart,” and “Listen to her” because your heart truly knows what is best for you. Much of the book was about taking care of yourself first and foremost, because you are the most important person.
No thank you. We already naturally “listen” to our heart and take care of ourselves because we are selfish people.
One of the chapters closer to the end – by the time I read it, I was fed up with the whole thrust of the book – is about her view of religion and how it applies to her personally. There was an excerpt from a sermon that was already not scriptural; but then she shared how she interpreted the sermon, which was even more bizarre.
All that to say, not every book you read is going to be a home run. This was one book that I kind of wish I hadn’t read because I could’ve been reading other, better books; but now, if you ever see this book or hear someone recommending it, you have something to go off.
Topic: Hospitality (but not just the kind that you’re thinking of)
God began working on my heart about being more hospitable a while ago. (Read: it’s been a long process of conviction and Him breaking down my issues with comparison and perfectionism.) I don’t remember how I heard about this book, but I knew I wanted to read it.
Rosaria Butterfield has one of the most interesting, incredible salvation testimonies I’ve ever heard. I won’t spoil the book by giving you the details now, but it was because of the love and hospitality of a pastor and his wife that she came to know Christ. Because of this and because she has studied this concept extensively in the Word of God, she is passionate about what she calls “radially ordinary hospitality.” This hospitality is not the have-friends-over-for-Thanksgiving, let-missionaries-stay-at-your-house hospitality. This kind of hospitality goes much deeper than that, and should be something we display and love with every single day.
This is a bit of a heavy read. Her writing style is unique and requires a lot of focus, but is absolutely worth it. Chapter two had me crying in a coffee shop. I seem to remember feeling like I was trudging through mud between chapters two and three, but I could’ve just gotten lazy or lost focus. Once I finished the selfishly-motivated Soulful Simplicity, I was ready for something meaningful and others-focused. I found it in this book.
Rosaria spends most of the book talking about why we should demonstrate this kind of hospitality and gives many stories of people it has personally impacted, including her own testimony. Her beautiful story-telling will move you to tears, and the way she talks about Jesus will make you want to know Him and love like Him more than you ever have before. Many of the philosophies and mindset-shifts she presents in the book impact my thinking every day.
This book will change your life if you let it. If you want a deep, ground-shaking, heart-tugging book to convict and challenge how you think about others, stewardship, and real love, read The Gospel Comes with a House Key.
Recommendation: 12/10 (I do what I want, it’s my blog post.)
The title of this book really throws some people. Often when I mentioned that I was reading it (which was a lot because it’s awesome and I was constantly reading it), I got a look that said, “You guys ok?” But listen to me right now: Every single person over the age of eighteen needs to read this book. And I mean everyone. But ESPECIALLY if you are in a relationship, engaged, have been married for any length of time, are having struggles big or small, or just want to be a better spouse.
Leslie Vernick is an experienced Christian counselor; so not only has she witnessed and helped with issues within many marriages, but she is also passionate about the Word of God. How to Act Right is packed full of examples of people she has personally counseled, as well as countless passages from scripture. You can feel her concern, her urgency as you read this book.
The reason I say that everyone should read this book is because the majority of the principles she writes about can and should be applied to most relationships in our lives. She writes of being slow to speak, quick to listen, and assuming the best. She encourages us to examine our own hearts before lashing out at our spouse when they do something wrong or something we perceive as wrong.
Her heart is that our marriage relationships – and again, most relationships in our lives – would bring glory to God and help us to grow in Christlikeness. THAT is the thrust of the book. Maybe your spouse is rude, or lazy, or sarcastic, or angry, or unloving . . . but we are not called to have a happy marriage. We are each individually called to be holy. Your unhappy marriage may be what God wants to use to draw you closer to Himself and make you more like Him.
A very sobering but encouraging book. It may sound heavy but truthfully it was not a difficult read. I have literally been telling everyone GO READ THIS BOOK. Again, if you go into it with a receptive heart and open mind, God can use this book to change your life. I will personally buy you this book (or lend you mine) because I am THIS SERIOUS about it. Go read it right now.
books I’m currently reading . . .
Topic: Sex and Purity
Dude, Mo Isom does not hold back! I’m at the end of chapter five out of eleven, and I appreciate the candidness with which she shares about her past. Her writing style is a little tough sometimes (some too-long sentences or too many modifiers) but the truth she conveys has you holding onto every word.
The theme of the book, from what I can presently deduce, is WHY sex is something we need to talk about, WHY so many people struggle with sexual sins (the root of the problem), and HOW the church should approach virginity, purity, and everything that comes with it. According to Mo, the church thought the family would talk about sex; and the family thought the church would talk about it. So young people have been left hanging in the middle, left to figure it out on their own or with the world.
Throughout the book is the truth of redemption, God’s design for purity, His forgiveness and open arms, and that we are made in His image for His purpose. I am excited to finish this book and recommend it to those who are confused about what the difference is between purity and virginity, those who have struggled or are in the midst of battling sexual sin, and those who want to know how to communicate truth about this to others.
Topic: Reproductive Health (female)
I am going to make two statements about this book:
1. This book is not for the faint of heart.
2. Every woman should read this book.
Those may seem like contradicting statements, but hear me out. Our reproductive health is tied to SO much of what our bodies do and any weird things we may discover. If you know anything about me, you know that I despise all things medically-related. This fact must now be modified because I LOVE learning about my reproductive health. I am no feminist by any means, but I love “taking charge” and being well-informed about my own body and how God designed me!
If you are new to understanding fertility signs, charting, or natural birth control, picking up this book may be quite overwhelming. It is 560 pages, 7.4 by 9.1 inches in size, and weighs almost two pounds. It is massive. But it is nearly comprehensive. I’m on page 78 and it has been absolutely fascinating to read, to finally understand so many things that have always been sort of “I’ll think about that when I need it.”
There are definitely tones of feminism, as well as anti-Big-Pharma vibes. And some of the color photos should be for women’s eyes only, if that woman is not easily squeamish. But this book should be a reference book for woman everywhere.
Thanks for reading this blog post! I hope you take some of these recommendations and they encourage or challenge you, or teach you something new. What book(s) do you think everyone should read?