Last December I set a goal of reading 48 books in 2019. I read quickly, so 4 books a month felt do-able.
We’re just a few weeks away from 2020 and so far I’ve read 76 books in 2019 — not including re-reads, not-yet-published manuscripts for work, and two titles I’ll finish later this week.
I’ve never even come close to reading this many books in a year (55 is my previous “record”) but with so many great releases in 2019 and several titles always available on my Kindle, more of my free time went to reading than in previous years.
(If you have an iPhone, download the free Kindle app or get Kindle Unlimited! I finished multiple books by reading while waiting in lines here and there throughout the year. As of this post going live, you can try it out here and get 3 months for a dollar.)
I recently asked on Instagram if a “favorite books of the year” round-up would be useful or interesting, and the response was a resounding yes. Which was great until I sat down and tried to pick my favorites. Narrowing the list down from 76 to 10 was harder than I anticipated, but hopefully this will give you a good mix of both fiction and nonfiction recommendations.
P.S. If you read my “Can’t-Miss Books” lists of 2019, you’ll recognize several titles! I’m working on the next list (early 2020) for you and it’ll be available soon.
My 10 Favorite Books of 2019 . . .
My thoughts: There wasn’t a doubt in my mind — this book would make the list. It’s compelling, practical, encouraging, challenging, and I truly don’t know a single person who wouldn’t benefit from reading this book.
Amazon: Who are you becoming? That was the question nagging pastor and author John Mark Comer. By outward metrics, everything appeared successful. But inwardly, things weren’t pretty. So he turned to a trusted mentor for guidance and heard these words: “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.” It wasn’t the response he expected, but it continues to be the answer he needs.
Too often we treat the symptoms of toxicity in our modern world instead of trying to pinpoint the cause. A growing number of voices are pointing at hurry, or busyness as a root of much evil. Within the pages of this book, you’ll find a compelling emotional and spiritual case against hurry and in favor of a slower, simpler way of life.
Whose Waves These Are :: Amanda Dykes
My thoughts: Oh my word, I absolutely could not put this one down. After closing the book and recovering from the ending (bless it all), I went straight to social media to message/gush/beg Amanda to write a sequel.
Amazon: In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss’s humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the tiny, coastal Maine town, and he sets his calloused hands to work, but the building halts when tragedy strikes.
Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. What she didn’t anticipate was finding a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Long-ago memories of stone ruins on a nearby island trigger her curiosity, igniting a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers. All her hopes of mending the decades-old chasm in her family seem to point back to the ruins. But with Robert failing fast, her search for answers battles against time, a foe as relentless as the ever-crashing waves upon the sea.
Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love :: Jay and Katherine Wolf
My thoughts: A powerful and beautiful story, Jay and Katherine invite readers to walk with them down a difficult road of brokenness and loss. Ultimately, though, this is about hope and redemption. Although I knew pieces of their story from podcast interviews and social media, I’m glad I took the time to read the book (and am looking forward to their next one in 2020).
Amazon: On April 21, 2008, Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stroke. Miraculously, Jay came home in time and called for help. Katherine was immediately rushed into micro-brain surgery, though her chance of survival was slim. As the sun rose the next morning, the surgeon proclaimed that Katherine had survived the removal of part of her brain, though her future recovery was completely uncertain. Yet in that moment, there was a spark of hope. Through 40 days on life support in the ICU and nearly two years in full-time brain rehab, that spark of hope was fanned into flame.
Defying every prognosis with grit and grace, Katherine and Jay, side by side, struggled to regain a life for Katherine as she re-learned to talk and eat and walk. Returning home with a severely disabled body but a completely renewed purpose, they committed to celebrate this gift of a second chance by embracing life fully, even though that life looked very different than they could have ever imagined. In the midst of continuing hardships and struggles, both in body and mind, Katherine and Jay found what we all long to find . . . hope that heals the most broken place, our souls.
My thoughts: Although fiction often stays with me, nonfiction titles can run together. That isn’t the case with Kat’s debut book. I read it this summer and am still thinking about it in December. Buy a copy for every woman in your life.
Amazon: In Mark 12:30 Jesus answers a question asked by the teachers of the day. They wanted to know which commandment was the most important. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (NIV).
What does that really mean in how we approach and assume our daily roles? What does loving the Lord with your all actually look like? In a day when our church culture has limited the terms of Jesus’ command to the perceived strengths of each gender, a woman trying to love the Lord beyond her heart and soul, with her strength and mind, can be thought of as crossing some line or unspoken boundary. But that is not what Scripture says.
No More Holding Back opens the doors to this important conversation with a personal challenge Kat faced while attending seminary. From there, she unpacks the four areas of how to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The goal is for the entire body of Christ, as His image bearers, to flourish and work toward the common good of our homes, communities, and the world around us.
Beyond the Point :: Claire Gibson
My thoughts: Within 5 minutes, I was hooked. Claire introduced me to a world I knew very little about and I’m crossing my fingers this will be made into a movie. I’m incredibly impressed with Claire’s storytelling. The women aren’t characters on a page — they’re real people.
Amazon: Three women are brought together in an enthralling story of friendship, heartbreak, and resilience. On the eve of 9/11, as Dani, Hannah and Avery face four grueling years ahead at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, they realize they’ll only survive if they do it together.
With athletic talent and a brilliant mind, Dani navigates West Point’s predominantly male environment with wit and confidence, breaking stereotypes and embracing new friends. Hannah’s grandfather, a legendary Army general, offers a stark warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but she moves forward anyway, letting faith guide her path. Wild child Avery moves fast and doesn’t mind breaking a few rules (and hearts) along the way. But she can’t outpace her self-doubt, and the harder she tries, the further it leads her down a treacherous path.
The world—of business, of love, and of war—awaits Dani, Hannah, and Avery beyond the gates of West Point. These three women know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But soon, that adage no longer rings true—for their future, or their friendship. As they’re pulled in different directions, will their hard-forged bond prevail or shatter? Beyond the Point is a heartfelt look at how our closest friends can become our fiercest battle buddies. After all, the greatest battles we fight rarely require a uniform.
Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation :: Latasha Morrison
My thoughts: Yet another debut on the list, Latasha seamlessly weaves together history, her personal story, and Scripture. It’s honest, to the point, and one of the few titles of which I can truly say “everyone needs to read this.”
Amazon: A leading advocate for racial reconciliation offers a clarion call for Christians to move toward relationship and deeper understanding in the midst of a divisive culture.
With racial tensions as high within the church as outside the church, it is time for Christians to become the leaders in the conversation on racial reconciliation. This power-packed guide helps readers deepen their understanding of historical factors and present realities, equipping them to participate in the ongoing dialogue and to serve as catalysts for righteousness, justice, healing, transformation, and reconciliation.
The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions :: Emily P. Freeman
My thoughts: Picking up The Next Right Thing just might be your next right thing. Emily is a trusted voice for both practical wisdom and heart-felt encouragement. If you’re overwhelmed by a decision that needs to be made or you simply need a reminder on a soul-level that peace is possible, Emily’s words are for you.
Amazon: When we have a decision to make and the answer isn’t clear, what we want more than anything is peace, clarity, and a nudge in the right direction. If you have trouble making decisions, because of either chronic hesitation you’ve always lived with or a more recent onset of decision fatigue, Emily P. Freeman offers a fresh way of practicing familiar but often forgotten advice: simply do the next right thing. With this simple, soulful practice, it is possible to clear the decision-making chaos, quiet the fear of choosing wrong, and find the courage to finally decide without regret or second-guessing.
Whether you’re in the midst of a major life transition or are weary of the low-grade anxiety that daily life can bring, Emily helps create space for your soul to breathe so you can live life with God at a gentle pace and discern your next right thing in love.
The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong :: Karen González
My thoughts: Scott Arbeiter, the president of World Relief, said this about The God Who Sees: “[It] is deeply personal, solidly biblical, and appropriately challenging. You will find Karen González an able guide to bring clarity and encourage compassion.”
I agree with each and every word of that endorsement. Her words here are sure to encourage and challenge readers to view Scripture through the lens of a God who sees and loves the immigrant, the foreigner, and the refugee.
Amazon: Immigration advocate Karen González recounts her family’s migration from the instability of Guatemala to making a new life in Los Angeles and the suburbs of south Florida. In the midst of language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and the tremendous pressure to assimilate, she encounters Christ through a campus ministry program and begins to follow Him.
González weaves the sweeping epic of immigrants and refugees in Scripture into her story, including Abraham, Hagar, Joseph, and Ruth, who also crossed borders seeking refuge. As witnesses to God’s liberating power, they name the God they see at work, and they become grafted into God’s family tree. Grounded in her own experience and work with World Relief, González empowers readers to welcome immigrants in their community and speak out about a broken immigration system. Find the power of Jesus, a refugee Savior who calls us to become citizens in a country not of this world.
Becoming :: Michelle Obama
My thoughts: I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from Becoming, but good grief it is so well-written and one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. I learned a lot and was inspired by her honesty and tenacity.
Amazon: In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion) :: Francine Rivers
My thoughts: I’m cheating a little bit with this last one because technically, this is the first of three books in a series. But good gosh, what a series. No one writes like Francine Rivers. I laughed, I cried, and even while I couldn’t put the books down, I wanted to stretch them out so the story wouldn’t end. (Don’t let the description deter you. When I posted this cover on Instagram, dozens of people commented absolutely raving about the series.)
Amazon: The first book in the beloved Mark of the Lion series by the New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love, A Voice in the Wind brings readers back to the first century and introduces them to a character they will never forget―Hadassah.
While wealthy Roman citizens indulge their every whim, Jews and barbarians are bought and sold as slaves and gladiators in the bloodthirsty arena. Amid the depravity around her, a young Jewish slave girl becomes a light in the darkness. Even as she’s torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, Hadassah clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of a decadent empire.