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Jan
2016
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What Should I Read? My List of Recommended Books

Books on spirituality next to stock of books waiting to be sold.

Books on spirituality next to some of mine waiting to find new homes.

Last year, inspired by Sheridan Voysey’s list of books he’d read in 2014, I started to note what I was reading on a spreadsheet. I was fine in the early months of duly recording each book, not only for my local book club but for the Woman Alive book club I run and the freelance work I was doing for Authentic Media as a commissioning editor. And the books I read for pleasure, of course.

The first book I noted was The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, which my local book group chose. I noted, “Quirky and fun. Enjoyed suspending the disbelief, although others in my group didn’t. A sort of Swedish Forrest Gump.” Then came Scary Close by Don Miller, which I didn’t love, as I said in my review for the Woman Alive book club, reposted here on my blog.

I kept up the practice for the first four months or so but in the early summer I realized I had let it lapse. Wracking my brains for books read, I pretty much caught up. But now when I look at the date of when I last changed the document, it reads July. Hey ho.

I read a lot of books. I’m not going to say how many, because I’ve learned a wee bit of British understatement and self-deprecation in my years here. And also because my experiment failed and I don’t honestly know how many I’ve read. Some I skim, and does that count? Some I’ve read chapters from here and there. Some I start and they remain unfinished, piled by my side of the bed or in my study. Many I’m now reading for my master’s in Christian spirituality, and for the BRF 2017 Lent book I’m writing on forgiveness.

Books on forgiveness for The Living Cross, my 2017 BRF Lent book.

Books on forgiveness for The Living Cross, my 2017 BRF Lent book. And yes, for some bookshelves I double stack.

Vulnerability alert! The unedited pile by my side of the bed this morning. Bible – points for that? Mother & Baby – no, no immaculate conceptions to report at this age; CutiePyeGirl was reading it. 84 Charing Cross Road – a fab gift from my editor that I will blog about soon. The Miniaturist, next for my local book club; I wolfed it down and enjoyed it but didn’t love it. Some Advent books. Hidden in there is Three Men in a Boat, which I just couldn’t get on with; odd British humor? A book on forgiveness; some mysticism (that’s an excellent introduction, by the way, and one to go for if you’re wondering what to choose) a journal hiding from under the Kleenex bos; a novel by Kate Charles highly recommended to me; a classic on writing by Stephen King; Essentialism by Greg McKeown which I so highly recommend. And more that I really should declutter, now shouldn’t I.

Vulnerability alert! The unedited pile by my side of the bed this morning. Bible – points for that? Mother & Baby – no, no immaculate conceptions to report at this age; CutiePyeGirl was reading it. 84 Charing Cross Road – a fab gift from my editor that I will blog about soon. The Miniaturist, next for my local book club; I wolfed it down and enjoyed it but didn’t love it. Some Advent books. Hidden in there is Three Men in a Boat, which I just couldn’t get on with; odd British humor? A book on forgiveness; some mysticism (that’s an excellent introduction, by the way, and one to go for if you’re wondering what to choose) a journal hiding from under the Kleenex box; a novel by Kate Charles highly recommended to me; a classic on writing by Stephen King; Essentialism by Greg McKeown which I benefited from. And more that I really should declutter.

So I don’t have a “Best Books of 2015” list to share with you. I was, however, asked by a friend who runs a large UK Christian conference/festival which books they should stock for their bookstall. Below is how I responded, although as I post I do so with a bit of trepidation. I wrote the list fast and now as I post it, I’m correcting several of the titles and spellings of an author’s name. I’m aware I may offend authors whose books aren’t listed, such as any and all British fiction writers – oh dear! And I know that I’ve missed off books I should have included, such as Sheridan Voysey’s fine memoir exploring broken dreams, Resurrection Year. My apologies indeed.

Some of the books exploring spirituality that I've been delving into lately.

Some of the books exploring spirituality that I’ve been delving into lately.

I acknowledge that this list has its faults and its biases, but I offer you some great books from 2015 and a few published earlier.

Christian living

  • 17266861Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Best devotional out there on Colossians 3. Puts the themes developed by Dallas Willard into a daily devotional.
  • Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith and Formation, Gary W. Moon, ed. One of my best books of 2015 but it’s a hardback and the middle section on the academy isn’t the easiest to read. Simply fabulous on the life and influence of Dallas Willard. I read with tears.
  • Embracing the Body by Tara Owens. A fantastic look at our bodies by a spiritual director – why they are necessary; why do we sometimes hate them, etc. The best on the subject that I’ve seen.
  • Dark Night of the Shed by Nick Page. I found myself recommending this quirky book for men to the Woman Alive book club!
  • Why? by Sharon Dirckx. On the question of suffering from one who has suffered. I haven’t actually read this one but have heard many good things about it. Of course the best book on unanswered prayer remains God on Mute by Pete Greig.
  • Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness. Apologetics for the thinking person. His magnus opus on the subject.
  • John Ortberg. He’s usually got something good to say, although some people are put off by his quirks. I liked his Soul Keeping.

Christian fiction

  • 24043197Francine Rivers – any and all but especially Redeeming Love. Many in the Woman Alive book club women adore her; she’s not to everyone’s taste but her writing is deep, biblical, and emotional.
  • Sharon Brown – Sensible Shoes and Two Steps Forward. Fantastic to have the spiritual disciplines put into readable fiction. Top choice.
  • Katharine Swartz – Lion (The Vicar’s Wife and The Lost Garden). Evocative but not a whole lot of explicitly Christian content.
  • Julie Klassen – writes British historical fiction. She has a fantastic imagination and an ability to draw rich characters with a strong element of suspense.
  • Katherine Reay – Dear Mr Knightley and others. Great modern writing inspired by classic texts.
  • Rachel Hauck – a great writer of Christian romance that uplifts and inspires.
  • Cynthia Ruchti – her novels are deep and thought-provoking on real-life (and tough) subjects – a woman’s husband gets out of jail and her choice is rebuilding their life or not, for instance.
  • I was surprised how much I enjoyed Max Lucado’s Miracle at the Higher Ground Café.

Memoir

  • Anne of Green Gables High Res CoverHiding in the Light by Rifqa Bary – compelling story of a Muslim girl who meets Jesus.
  • Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter & Me by Lorilee Craker – crackingly good read about a well-loved novel and adoption – but good for anyone, adopted or not.
  • Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker – moving and down-to-earth by a global citizen.
  • Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter – fantastic account by an American of the man known as John Pac, the British Christian music/publishing genius whose heart was captured by the Amazon.
  • Finding Myself in Britain by Amy Boucher Pye – shameless promotion! A through-the-look at life in Britain by a stranger-turned-friend highlighting themes of home, identity and faith. Called Michele Guinness meets Bill Bryson.

Books I Commissioned (believed in so much as to spend months on them)

  • DiggingForDiamonds-cover[2 DEC]FINAL-v3Digging for Diamonds by Cathy Madavan. She’s no stranger to you [the Christian conference I wrote this list for]. Pure gold.
  • The Wind Blows Wherever it Pleases by Henry Kendal. Wonderful introduction to life as led by the Holy Spirit.
  • The Only Way is Ethics by Sean Doherty. Clear writing on tough subjects.
  • How to Like Paul Again by Conrad Gempf. An academic who can write to the masses. So good on the genius of the Apostle Paul and how to read his letters in context.
  • Life Lines by Debbie Duncan and Cathy LeFeurve. The importance of friendship in fiction form.
More of the spirituality books.

More of the spirituality books.

A sampling of some of the latest review books. Yes, the NIV study Bible was a score big moment! You can see why I recently decluttered over 300 books. It's painful to get rid of them, but doesn't make sense to keep books when others could be enjoying them.

A sampling of some of the latest review books. Yes, the NIV study Bible was a score big moment! You can see why I recently decluttered over 300 books. It’s painful to get rid of them, but doesn’t make sense to keep books when others could be enjoying them.

9 Responses

  1. I loved browsing your book collection! Some of the spirituality books scare me, I have to admit… Sean Doherty! I must read his book. He is awesome. I also really enjoyed Cathy Madavan’s book. I’m glad you commissioned those!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Tanya! 🙂 I suppose I should have taken photos of different areas besides spirituality too… I know what you mean; I’m scared by them too! Books are so great. I don’t have a physical copy of yours to photograph.

  2. Chris

    You have an amazing collection of books, I’ve got How to like Paul again on my pile. I’ve almost finished Donna Fletcher Crow’s new book and I’m halfway though A year of living prayerfully which is fun and really inspiring,

  3. Thanks so much for your kind words about the novels I write, Amy. The one you specifically referred to is “As Waters Gone By.” Appearing on this list started my New Year with a surge of determination to keep writing books worth reading!

  4. Reading OUT OF SORTS by Sarah Bessy – one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring books I’ve read for a long time. She comes at the things of God from a new perspective, not hesitating to quesiton, release, abandon and re-think. And she brings you back to God and the Word of God in new ways. Highly recommend it!

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