Happy New Year!
If you’re putting a hard year behind you, you aren’t alone. I hope this one is better or at least more full of hope.
Instead of listing resolutions that are hard to keep, my wish for you is that 2019 will be full of good books, good music, less screen time (I’m talking to myself), spiritual practices that shape and mold your faith, deeper hospitality, relationships that stretch you, and the kinds of challenges that help you grow.
Here are a few good books to start with (or reread if that applies).
Top 10 Books of 2018 in no particular order:
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
This one was so powerful that I wrote a piece at Good Letters about it. A journalist tasked with writing about people who climb Mt. Everest, Krakauer gives a raw and devastating recounting of his decision to climb the highest mountain in the world with a hodgepodge crew of adventurers.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I was blown away by the former First Lady’s memoir of her childhood, her romance and marriage to Barack Obama, and their years in the White House. Told with grace, honesty, and intelligence, Michelle Obama’s story of is both relatable and absolutely unique.
Birthing Hope by Rachel Marie Stone
I cried so much though this book that I also wrote a piece at Bearings Online called Midwifing Pain about how it moved me. Stone’s themes of birth, death, fear, and hope are woven throughout a beautifully told story of her life and work.
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
I’m still processing and confronting my own white privilege after Brown’s raw and painful narrative about her journey as a woman of color in a world dominated by whiteness. A worthy read.
Educated by Tara Westover
Westover’s book has made best seller lists everywhere: Barack Obama and Bill Gates named Educated in their favorites of the year. The praise is well-deserved. I raced and cried through Westover’s narrative of growing up in a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho. She wasn’t allowed to go to school or the doctor but she succeeds in educating herself only after she must painfully extract herself from the control of her family.
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
I thoroughly enjoyed this swashbuckling adventure of time travel, romance, and pirates. Also, it’s a YA fantasy that asks questions of race and belonging in a way that I don’t usually see.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
This YA book has also been on best seller lists everywhere. Adeyemi manages to craft a gripping narrative set in a fantasy world while also confronting the painful realities of racial violence. A great story.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
An African American high school student named Starr witnesses a police shooting. Thomas’ story digs deep into Starr’s life as she begins to understand more deeply the affects of racism and police brutality in her community. It's a hard but beautiful read that asks us all to empathize and understand.
Laurus by Evgenij Vodolazkin
A rich, curious, and sweeping novel about a holy fool in rural Russia. The main character, whose name is altered throughout the book, has a wild and often devastating journey across the landscape of Russia and he uses his gifts of healing to transform the lives of others.
Adopted by Kelley Nikondeha
This book is really special to me. Not only is it written by a dear friend but it is also a stunning book. Nikondeha crafts a deeply theological and readable narrative about what it means to be in the company of the adopted.
And for extra credit here is a Jane Austen adaptation:
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A Flynn
I love Jane Austen adaptations and I read several this year. This was, by far, my favorite Austen adaptation. Two time travelers go back to Austen’s time period in order to befriend Austen herself and salvage one of her unpublished works.
A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to see that my book Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints made Sarah Bessey’s Favourite Books of 2018. If you haven’t had a chance to read my book, it’s available here and here and lots of other places online. If you’d like to support a great local bookstore, you can order it from Hearts and Minds books. They wrote a lovely review of my book here.
If you have read Mystics and Misfits, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve had the gift of being able to have some very touching conversations with some of my readers. It reminds me that so many people are longing for the deeper things of life.
May we all have a year full of longing for a more mystical faith.