At any given point, I have up to seven books piled on my makeshift nightstand. If you take into account the bookshelf that is overflowing, the three stacks of books under the bed, the Kindle app that is a bit overloaded and the dozen or so books waiting patiently in the corner of the room, well, you might say that I have a bit of a problem.

It’s September 12th and I’ve read 40 books this year.

Every once in a while, if I truly love the book, I share a good read here on the blog or in my monthly-ish newsletter. Recently, I’ve been brainstorming a way to share more of these stories without leaving you feeling like you’re just reading Amazon reviews.

Because I believe in the power of story. Today I’m trying something new and I’d so appreciate if you jump in as I try this out.

stories on the shelf: seven great books you don't want to miss

Every so often (maybe 4 times each year? ish? I don’t actually know), I’ll pull together a post of the books currently on the shelf, as well as a few I just finished and what I’ll begin next. (I am obviously not one of those people who can only read one book at a time. Bless it.) (I will only share books that I truly enjoyed because honesty is the best policy.)

P.s. Whenever I can, I’ll include a book giveaway because stories are meant to be shared. This time around the giveaway is over on Instagram Stories (duh). Starting on Wednesday, I’ll be sharing and then mailing several books to different winners, so make sure you’re following me over there.

Currently on the shelf:


Play with Fire: Discovering Fierce Faith, Unquenchable Passion, and a Life-Giving God by Bianca Juarez OlthoffPlay with Fire: Discovering Fierce Faith, Unquenchable Passion, and a Life-Giving God :: Bianca Juarez Olthoff

I’m almost halfway through Bianca’s debut novel and so far it’s almost completely the story of her childhood-through-college years. But I know she’ll soon be talking about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so basically the anticipation is killing me. Because, well, I kinda wrote a book about walking through the fire, living in the in between, and choosing to say we’ll trust God no matter what. I’ve been learning a good deal about water, fire, and the Israelites this past year (and especially this summer), so needless to say this is a timely read for me.

In Bianca’s words, “He’s whispering in the wind and speaking through the fire and shouting in silence the extraordinary dream He is birthing in you. His dream for you is far greater than the dream you have for yourself. It’s not your identity or income or influence that will make this happen. Like Zechariah 4:6 says, “’It’s not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord.”


After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships, and Faith by Erica Young ReitzAfter College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships, and Faith :: Erica Young Reitz

I won’t even bother pretending: I was hesitant at first, assuming this book would be cheesy or surface level fluffy. But the title caught my attention and I can honestly say I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far.

I’m reading through this one slowly and underlining several paragraphs as I go. So far, there have been many times I’ve thought, “Yes, that, exactly. She’s describing what I couldn’t put words to.” I’ll leave a little blurb from the Amazon description below, but so far I would highly recommend this book for all college seniors and recent graduates.

The years after college can be some of the most uncertain, unstable times of life. Recent graduates grieve the loss of community, question their place in the world and struggle to find meaningful work. Erica Young Reitz offers practical tools for a life of faithfulness and flourishing during a critical, transitional time, addressing issues like making decisions, finding friends, managing money, discerning your calling and much more.


The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan ManningThe Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out :: Brennan Manning

How I managed to graduate with a minor in religion without reading this book is beyond me. For years, it’s been on my Must Read list and now that I’ve started, I’m inching my way through. There is so much depth and wisdom on every page. I find myself reading four pages, taking a deep breath, and having to think on Brennan Manning’s words for a handful of days before I open the pages again.

The Ragamuffin Gospel is written for anyone who secretly worries God is keeping track of their failures, anyone living by impossible standards (whether self-implied or not), and anyone desperate for grace instead of a measuring stick.

Recently on the shelf:


Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted by Shannan MartinFalling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted :: Shannan Martin

Well, I could tell you about Falling Free or I could just copy and paste my review. I’ll do the latter:

“You cannot read this book without being changed. If you come to the final page and nothing has changed or shifted within you, then you haven’t really read the book. Begin again, because Shannan has something important for each of us to read.”

I listed Falling Free as one of the 12 Can’t-Miss Books of 2016 and I stand by that recommendation. Here are two quotes that stood out to me…

The heart of God simply adores brokenness.

Resting in the tender place of me-too-ness, the community of sinners makes way for the communion of saints.


All the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way Home by Edie WadsworthAll the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way Home :: Edie Wadsworth

Over the weekend, I began and finished reading this brutal and grace-filled Southern story. Edie paints a vidid picture of her life story and makes it feel like you’re growing up beside her through every chapter. I didn’t know what to expect with this book and it definitely took me by surprise, but I’m left with the message that we can always give out more grace.

These endorsements sum it up best, in my opinion: “Edie Wadsworth drops the needle on her life’s record and lets it play. The result is a vernacular collection of moments both beautiful and terrible; in other words, intensely human.” -John D. Blasé

“The most beautiful things are born in pressure and birthed through pain. Pain is the silent author behind thousands of great stories and songs. Edie’s story is born of pain and rejection―it is raw-throated and broken open; it is fragile and strong and bright. It is ten thousand fireflies dancing over a Tennessee field. And Edie is masterful in the telling.” -John Sowers

The painful parts of our lives are often the very things that God will use as gifts to change us and the people we meet.


The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHughThe Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction :: Adam S. McHugh

Written around the idea that listening is a way of life, this book is not a how-to list but a you-can gentle challenge to place listening at the heart of our spirituality, our relationships and our mission in the world.

This book took months to read, not because of boredom but because it so deeply struck a chord inside that the last thing I could do was rush through. And then the first thing I did upon turning the final page was go online and give it 5 stars.

I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Instead of gushing, I’ll share a few quotes that I haven’t been able to shake…

“We must remember that we are not ultimately seeking the spectacular, nor anxiously straining for a word from the Lord, but we are seeking the Lord himself. The listening life is based less on the content heard and more on relationship with the One who speaks.”

“Our goal is unity, not uniformity, and we aim for genuine community, not artificial conformity. That means that we will disagree, sometimes bitterly, but we will stay at the table and keep listening to those we disagree with. Our unity is in our commitment to listen to one another.”

“Servant listening is a practice of presence, in which we set aside what might distract us and what we think should happen in a moment or conversation. It is an act of humility, in which we acknowledge that no matter who we are listening to, we come to learn. Servant listening is an act of surrender, in which we lay down our verbal weapons, our preconceived notions, our quick advice and our desire to steer the conversation toward ourselves.”

Up next on the shelf:


Find Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In by Holly WagnerFind Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In :: Holly Wagner

I’m both nervous and excited to dive into this one. The story in Acts 27 is one that has gripped me since my Junior year of college. Almost exactly one year ago, I let you in on why bravery looked like sitting down and staying still instead of moving or going or doing something amazing. Two weeks ago I shared this weird fact: I’ve spent the past several months learning about water. So this? This will be good.

Since I haven’t started reading it yet, here is what Amazon has to say:

“In Find Your Brave, Holly examines the dramatic shipwreck faced by the apostle Paul in Acts 27. There she uncovers profound truths that will guide you safely through life’s most difficult moments. Through solid biblical teaching and relatable personal stories, Holly offers an uplifting, friendly voice in the midst of the gale-force winds and overpowering critical voices. She shows you how to anchor your trust in the God who remains faithful in every storm and in whose strength you can find your brave.”

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