Remember my 2018 Reading Challenge? The goal was to read 100 books in 2018. I ended up reading 53. But I don’t hang my head in shame, because I usually read about 15-20 in a year. The point was not necessarily to read 100, but to push myself, and I did that – and benefited from it. My house did not. But I did.
I’m doing it again this year, and if you’d like to join me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will add you to our Facebook 2019 Reading Challenge Group.
But first — a friend asked me to list my top 15 favorite reads of 2018. I had planned to list my top 5, so this will be a bit of a challenge, but for her sake, and maybe your sake, I’ll list 15. So here goes:
The Real Thomas Jefferson, by Andrew M. Allison. It’s a large book, and when I picked it up, I certainly didn’t expect it to be my very, very favorite of the year. But you guys. And gals. It’s so, so good. Allison does an incredible job telling Jefferson’s life story, and while there is a bit of politics involved, telling that aspect of his life wasn’t the main objective of the book. The main objective was to give the true, lifelong story, with tons of legit resources to back that story up. And what a story it is. He gets a bad rap these days, and I get that. But what if you really knew why Jefferson had slaves? His day was a different time in history, and while that American era had some major moral blind spots, there were people who did what they could to remedy the ramifications of those blind spots. Jefferson was such a man. That’s all I’m saying. Just read the book. It’s so good I strongly considered reading over again three minutes after I was finished. Also, when you read it, please keep in mind that our country in this day and age also has blind spots, and one day, those will be written about as though we were horse’s patoots. So the admonition is to not read it as a Judgey McJudgerson, but to read it as though you want to learn real, true history.
A Shepherd’s Look At Psalm 23, by Phillip Keller. If you love Psalm 23, but have always thought it to be a little bit cryptic as well, read this book. It’s comfort food for a hungry soul. I’ll be reading it again in 2019.
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Again, a very large book (I like big books, and I cannot lie!), but one I had trouble putting down. It’s a classic for a good reason, and although the story is painful at times, it’s also one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. Will likely also read this again in 2019. So excited!
God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life, by Paul Kengor. Like The Real Thomas Jefferson, there are some political stories here. But the focus of the book is on Reagan’s spiritual life, and how his beliefs influenced his political career and choices. Because I grew up in the Reagan era, I loved it! A great man every American should know about.
The Day Lincoln Was Shot, by Jim Bishop. I’m a little bit obsessed with the Civil War (Civil War stories, I should say), and this was a good and accurate account of the day we lost a noble President. Sad. But a must read.
The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, by Matthew Henry. Another book I’ll be re-reading. It’s so very contrary to human nature. It was fascinating, convicting, and oh so so so thought provoking. It’s a small book, but it takes a while to read because it’s so rich. Every Christian should have this on their shelf, and it should be worn, marked up, underlined, and all that jazz.
The Imperfect Disciple, by Jared C. Wilson. Wilson is my new favorite Christian author. His writing style is easy but amazing at the same time. He really has a way with words, and this book is a much needed message for hurting Christians who feel the pressure to be perfect all the time. It’s filled with grace and mercy – what we all need at all times.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in The End, by Atul Gawande. Not written by a Christian, but a good book nonetheless. It entails a difficult ethical discussion, and I appreciated the author’s insight as a doctor with both professional and personal experiences. Vivid stories are told, and anyone who’s going to die or watch someone die someday needs to read it. Difficult, but necessary read.
Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler. A time travel novel. I typically don’t admire time travel stories, but I enjoyed this one, as it was set in 1970 and the Civil War era. A page turner for me, and it takes a lot to enable me to stay up past my bedtime and read. Ha!
Made for His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith, by Alistair Begg. I think it’s prudent to examine one’s faith once in a while, as to whether it’s genuine and as Begg says, vital. Though I listen to Pastor Begg on the radio quite a bit, this was the first book of his that I’ve read. I wasn’t sorry. He writes in the same manner he preaches, and his preaching is always a great comfort and challenge. It takes someone special to be able to comfort and challenge at the same time. So just read it. You’ll like it.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.C. Vance. Another page turner for me. I identified with the author, unfortunately, as I was raised in a hillbilly town. It’s for anyone who has known a hillbilly, to whatever degree, and anyone who wants to get an idea or two about how to change, for the better, the lifestyles of those struggling in America. An all around excellent read, but beware of some vulgarity. We hillbillies can’t help it sometimes.
Mrs. Mike, by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. Honestly, I think I read this just before 2018, and then I read the second in the series just after the new year. The Search for Joyful (Mrs. Mike #2) is an okay book. But definitely start with Mrs. Mike, and stop there if you want that super feel good feeling to last. Mrs. Mike is an older novel, but it’s sweet, sad, well-written, and leaves you with a feeling of togetherness and support we all crave and yet have trouble achieving. Will likely read this one again in 2019.
Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom, by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. This is about Spurgeon and Johnson’s friendship. Spurgeon was a preacher from England, Johnson a slave from America. Very well written and again, will leave you with a warm, cozy feeling that can only be achieved through the telling of a genuine friendship.
The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. This one is last for a reason: because I didn’t like it. Why list it, you ask? Because it made me THINK until it hurt. Eventually, I was forced to go on reading the next book without ever coming to a conclusion about what I really thought. It’s a bit haunting. Somewhat confusing. Laborious, as well. So you may want to read some intelligent person’s overview of it before you begin to clarify what the actual heck is actually going on. But I’m glad I read it and may force myself to read it again, or perhaps another C.S. Lewis to pursue what other ways he is able to torture my brain.
That’s it! There were other notable reads of course, but those were definitely my faves. For 2019, my personal goal is to read at least 50 books, 100 if I break a hip and am bedridden for months on end. I will also be re-reading books I have come to love in my lifetime, as has been advised by some old, wise sage whose name I can’t recall.
Happy New Year. Happy Reading. Happy Everything. And please join us, if you can. It’s so much funner than going to the gym.