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.
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.
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.
- Hidden 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.
- Francine 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.
- Hiding 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)
- Digging 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.