We’re thirty-six days into 2017 and I’ve read eight books. Yep, eight.
I’ve told you this before, so you probably aren’t surprised. But the thing is, I just really love books.
At any given point, I have five or six books piled on my 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.
I believe in the power of story and so often want to share a few of these books with you here, but I also don’t want you to feel like you’re just reading Amazon reviews. Every so often I share a good read in my monthly-ish newsletter, but last Fall I decided to try something new that I’m calling stories on the shelf.
I enjoyed writing edition one and from your response, you enjoyed reading it. And so every so often, maybe once each season, I’ll pull together a post of the books currently on the shelf, as well as a few I recently finished and what I’ll begin next. (I will only share books that I truly enjoyed because honesty is the best policy.) Since posting edition one in mid-September, I’ve read 21 books. Two of my favorites are listed below in the “recently on the shelf” section, one from the past few weeks and one from December of 2016.
Currently on the shelf:
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life :: Tish Harrison Warren
I’m only one-third of the way through this book, but from the very first chapter I knew I would love it. Walking through a completely ordinary day, Tish shares ways to keep our eyes open to what is sacred all around us. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt to find the glorious in the mundane, while also grounding ourselves in gratitude for every ordinary moment.
Each chapter centers around something that we do every day — make the bed, brush our teeth, sit in traffic, check email. And then it connects those regular, mundane activities with a spiritual practice. For example, being unhurried, treating your body as a temple of the Lord, choosing healthy rituals and learning to be beloved. It is practical and encouraging all at the same time, and I’m enjoying every page.
Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard :: Jennie Allen
I listed Nothing to Prove as one of the 13 Can’t-Miss Books of 2017 and although I’m only 100 pages into it (almost halfway), I fully stand by my prediction.
If you’re exhausted, if you struggle with people-pleasing, if your to-do list is never-ending or if you’re simply weary of trying to measure up to an invisible standard, I would suggest reading this book.
This quote in particular stood out to me because 1) truth 2) every story matters 3) He is the Author and He doesn’t make a mistake.
Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives :: Wayne Muller
Much like Ragamuffin Gospel (from stories on the shelf: edition one), this book has been on my Must Read list for quite some time. And much like Ragamuffin Gospel, I’m working my way through it very slowly.
There are dozens of short chapters, some just a page or two in length, but each one is full of wisdom and encouragement to slow down and find rest in the middle of our busy, hectic, filled-to-the-brim lives. I’ve really appreciated how Wayne stresses the point that rest can be taking a nap, but it can also be painting, singing, baking, writing, going for a walk, reading, having coffee with a friend, and so much more.
So far, my favorite quote is: “Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground.”
Recently on the shelf:
“If people saw less of us and more of Jesus, it would make a radical and significant impact on those around us.” That sentence (from the back cover) sums up the entire message that Max sets out to share in his latest book.
When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette is filled with several ordinary stories of Jesus showing up in ordinary people, including, of course, one green-eyed brunette that changed his life.
Max encourages and challenges readers to live their faith by loving others, while reminding readers that God can and will use them right where they already are.
The Atonement Child :: Francine Rivers
One of my favorite books — ever — is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Because of my job, I’m almost always in the middle of a memoir and don’t often find the space to read fiction (although I love it). Also, there’s no stopping me once I start and so I kind of have to prepare my schedule ahead of time.
A few weeks before Christmas, one of my roommates ordered this book and encouraged me to read it. So I did… I started reading, stayed up until 4am, and then used my “lunch break” to finish the last two chapters (proof). Because, priorities.
If you enjoy fiction, I highly suggest the The Atonement Child.
Up next on the shelf:
My Heart: Every Beat Surrendered to Our Unchanging God :: Julie Manning
Although I don’t know much about Julie, I distinctly remember reading a tiny piece of her story through Jennie Allen’s blog and a few social media posts. I’ve prayed for her, though I don’t know her, and now I’m excited to read her first book!
I mean, if both Jennie Allen and Jamie Ivey highly recommend a book, it’s probably going to be pretty great. Since I haven’t started reading it yet, here is what Amazon has to say:
“What if you were told there’s a possibility you would not be alive to see this afternoon or wake up tomorrow morning? My Heart is the first-person account of Julie’s journey—from a healthy woman’s normal expectations and self-reliance to the surrendering of her dreams, plans, and deepest desires into the hands of our unchanging God. Part retelling and reflection, part in-the moment prayer journal, her story takes you with honest vulnerability into the jaws of fear and suffering, and speaks realistic hope into your own story, leaving you with well-fought, well-placed confidence for the road ahead. It’s what her heart would like to say to you . . . about the faithful, loving, impeccably trustworthy heart of God.”
Okay. So. I’ve looked forward to reading this book for an entire year. I listed it as one of the 12 Can’t-Miss Books Coming in 2016 and the only reason I didn’t preorder it is because I’m the actual worst at coming up with things to ask for as birthday gifts. I figured… what’s a few more months of waiting, right? Right after my birthday in November, I used my fancy new Amazon gift card to order this and preorder Nothing to Prove, totally forgetting that they’ll ship together – AKA when Jennie’s book releases ON JANUARY 31ST OF 2017.
So. I have waited patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) and will be starting this one next week! I can’t be sure, but I think it’s going to wreck me in all of the best ways. Here is what Amazon has to say about Present Over Perfect:
“In a culture that values speed, efficiency, image, and busyness, some of us are aching for another way to live: more intentional, more connected. Simpler, slower, richer. Present Over Perfect is Shauna Niequist’s motto for how to live a rich, engaged, and loving life in the midst of what often feels terribly messy and imperfect. This collection of essays focuses on the journey from frantic and tired to connected and free. Many of us find ourselves busier than we want to be, missing the sweetest moments along the way. We end up resentful and distracted, full of regret and feeling disconnected. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out to a new way of living—full of grace, space, and connection.”