Best Books of 2016

I just set my Goodreads Challenge goal for 2017, but before I jump into that goal, I really want to look back on the books I read in 2016 and give you a quick review of my favorite books of the year.

Just to be clear – these are not necessarily books released in 2016. Sometimes I get to new releases, but not too often.

Starting with fiction:

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book took me by surprise because it is a collection of letters written between an American reader and an English bookseller. Sounds dry as dust, right? But this is one of those books that sucks you in and won’t let you go until you finish (only 112 pages so that’s really not that bad.) The relationship between the writer and the people in the English bookshop develops through the letters and becomes so real. I loved it.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know, I know, you’ve heard this before from Tolkien fans who just can’t let it go. Too bad because here we go. If you have not read these three books (and The Hobbit) what are you waiting for? I read them again this year for the umpteenth time and I will read them again in the next three or four years. Just let go and enjoy the incredible mythology of a superb storyteller!

Still Life (and the rest of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books) by Louise Penny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m crazy about these mysteries set in Quebec, primarily in the lost little town of Three Pines. I’ve read eleven out of the twelve books in the series and have grown to love the characters. Chief Inspector Gamache is somebody you want to be your boss or your dad or at least your neighbor. He’s a rock of strength, but completely human with normal, believable weaknesses. And the people of Three Pines – well, for their population they have an awful lot of murders, but I still want to live there and hang out with them. Of course that tells you nothing about the mysteries themselves – they’re good too, but it’s the characters for me.

Then there were two good ones that I’m going to classify as memoirs:

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all, I think I have to admit that I have never read one of Stephen King’s novels. Now that that’s out of the way, I loved his thoughts and advice and pushiness about writing. He even gave a homework assignment to start a story based on a paragraph he suggested. Yes, I did start it and, no, I didn’t finish because I was scaring myself! If you want a very good read on writing, pick this one up.

Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love Sophie Hudson. She’s one of those writers who gets you laughing and then pops you over the head with a solid biblical truth that you’ve been hiding from or ignoring. You can’t ignore it anymore. I think one of the reasons I love Sophie so much is because her descriptions of her Southern family sound so much like my East Texas in-laws. She sees the humor in her family and yet also the warmth and acceptance that they offer so freely. This particular book is all about women needing to encourage and equip and mentor and love each other. For a introverted hermit like me, it was perfect.

The next four books are non-fiction and I’ll end up with a set of Bible studies.

Think It Not Strange by John Piper and others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I read this book I was in a small group that seemed to focus on everything that is wrong in our country but that did not help any of us to live with what is wrong with our country. This book was perfect for me at that time. As you would guess from the title, the premise is that Christians must expect to suffer for the cause of Christ. Persecution is the norm and we must prepare ourselves and our children and our churches to expect it and to thrive in the midst of it. Go to http://www.desiringgod.org/books/think-it-not-strange to download a copy now.

The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership by Jenni Catron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year my boss encouraged me to read a couple of leadership books and I chose The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership. The book is based on the Great Commandment – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind and with all your strength. The four dimensions are heart (relational leadership), soul (spiritual leadership), mind (managerial leadership) and strength (visionary leadership). I usually use Kindle, but I would recommend buying this as a real book so you can mark it up and refer back to it quickly.

Running on Empty by Barbara Bancroft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve already written a review of this super book which you can find here: http://wp.me/p4ntu4-jB. If you are a woman in ministry or married to a man in ministry, please read this book!

What Grieving People Wish You Knew by Nancy Guthrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

This may be my favorite book of the year because I needed it so badly. Maybe you do too. Have you ever had that awful feeling that you should do something or say something to a grieving person, but you are petrified that you will say or do the wrong thing? So you do nothing? Nancy Guthrie’s book is full of what grieving people have found helpful and what they have found hurtful. It’s a gentle, non-judgmental guide to being a good friend to a grieving person. You can get a taste of the book by watching a twenty minute video of Nancy at https://www.crossway.org/blog/2016/09/what-grieving-people-wish-you-knew/.

Everyday Love, Everyday Hope, and Everyday Faith by Katie Orr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve saved these Bible studies for last so that I can preach to you a little bit. If you are a follower of Christ and you are not immersing yourself in the Word of God you are effectively cutting yourself off from the vine and you are trying to work out your sanctification in your own power. Sorry, but that is just not smart and I so want you to stop it. I know that life is ridiculously busy, but if you will just carve out 15 minutes every day, you will be able to do these FOCUSed 15 studies with Katie Orr. You can go to http://katieorr.me/about/ to find out more.

So that’s my list of favorite books from 2016 plus a little preachiness – sorry, can’t help myself!

What did you read this year that you’re dying to share? Let me know!

 

 

photography by Unsplash 

Now

Time is a weird thing. We only have it once and yet we have more each day. We can enjoy it, we can waste it, we can do a lot with it, we can feel guilty about it. We all have our own ideas about what is a good use of time and what is a frivolous use of time. Sometime time flies and sometimes time drags.

It’s hard to put your finger on time.

Yesterday is gone and today; this hour; this minute is now, and now is the time we need to live in.

Yesterday is gone and I can’t change anything about it. I can deal with the consequences of my yesterday. I can enjoy the memories of my yesterday. But, I cannot change my yesterday.

What about now? What can I do with my now? Today; this hour; this minute –  now.

I can grab it.

I can savor it.

I can plan for it.

I can pray about it

I can pray through it.

I can enjoy it.

Yesterday’s gone, but now is here.

Now is a beautiful thing.

Now is a gift.

Don’t worry about it. Don’t stress about it. But don’t let it get away from you.

Delight in your now!

 

photography by Unsplash

 

The Bells of Christmas Day

I Heard the BellsAs for so many of you, Christmas music is an important part of my holiday celebrations. One of my very favorite Christmas songs is known as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. The song started out as a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow under circumstances that threatened to shake his faith.

In 1861, our country was plunged into a horribly bloody Civil War. For Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tragedy was eclipsed by the loss of his wife in a fatal fire the same year. Later, Longfellow’s oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow went off to join the Union army against his father’s wishes and on December 1, 1863, Longfellow received word that Charles had been severely wounded in the Mine Run Campaign. Longfellow brought Charles home to Cambridge unsure whether his son would live or die.

The poem Longfellow wrote during that time reminds me of the psalms which express doubt and despair, but come round to the truth that God is; that God cares for His creation – man; and that God’s love is steadfast and sure.

Read the words to his poem again and imagine yourself as a widower – grieving for a lost wife, fearful of losing a son, in a war-torn land at Christmastime.

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,

The bellfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along the unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,

‘For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Till, ringing singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men!

The good news? Charles did recover from his wounds – not enough to return to the army. He was discharged in February and went on to live an active life.

But the real good news? God is not dead! Wars will come and go – we are not promised that kind of peace on earth, but we are promised the peace of God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27

You keep him in perfect peace

whose mind is stayed on you,

because he trusts in you

Trust in the Lord forever,

for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4

So, read the words to the poem again or listen to your favorite recording of the song (mine is Casting Crowns’ version) and remember that our peace comes from the Lord God – our everlasting rock.

Trust in Him!

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