Best Books of 2018

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Since we’ve been talking about books that changed us, it seems appropriate to do a book wrap up blog—not an unheard of thing in the blogging world, and you’ve probably read a few already.

Usually, when I consider writing about the books I’ve read in the past year, I think, no one on earth except the nineteen other people in your doctorate class care about the books you read all year. And maybe not even them.

Truth, most of my reading is tuned to the thesis-writing channel these days. That might be over this year. It might not. Professional reading is fun to me, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I do a lot of it. It’s a blessing to love to read about what you do.

Nevertheless, here are some reads from this year I’ll pass on. I think you’ll find something you like. Maybe we can talk about it!

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The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis, Patrick  Kingsley

Yes, it’s heartbreaking to read. I’ve had it on my list for a while. The author takes us on the journey of one refugee, while bringing together the tales of other men, women, and families, as well as facts about the refugee crisis. It’s riveting, horrible, and hopeful, all at once. It’s also the sort of book I’m working on right now, so stay tuned.

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All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way, Patrice Gopo

I heard Patrice at Breathe Christian Writer’s Conference and knew from the first night I would like her. When I listened to her teach about memoir, I had already picked up her book the night before. It’s a treasure of one woman’s learning how to navigate growing up, race, marriage, family, and not belonging anywhere yet finding grace. It’s beautifully written and relatable. I loved meeting her and hearing her heart. Also, that cover.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown.

What can I tell you about this one you probably don’t know? I read it on a plane in a few hours. It was painful, arresting, and true. There are so many things I don’t know about being someone I’ve never been. It is so helpful to read about others’ experience so we can open our eyes wider at the world and our space in it. There is no fear in knowledge—especially if it makes us better able to love our neighbor as ourselves. There is never anything lost by hearing another story.

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Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again, Rachel Held Evans

I got to be on Rachel’s launch team for this book, so I got to read it before the world! There is poetry, drama, logical analysis, theology, and story, all woven together in this ode to scripture and our use or misuse of it. If you want to look at Scripture with fresh eyes and maybe see it in ways you haven’t, check out Rachel’s writing and her way of bringing love of the Bible to reading of it.

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, Frank Viola

Why do I seem to like unsettling books? There is a trend here. I love a willingness to deconstruct church and its practices and not fear imagining something else. Not everything he suggests might work, but the candor to say it is refreshing. Viola offers a model for church that pulls us away from American cultural church and toward its roots. He dares to say that what we practice might be closer to our own preferences and heritage than to Jesus. It will make you think, and that’s the goal of all good books.

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Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People, Bob Goff

I wanted to preview this book because Bob raises a question I struggle with—how do we really love people who try their hardest to be unlovable in today’s political and religious climate? Bob manages to open eyes to not only how we do that but, of course, how we sometimes are those unlovable people to someone else. His striking humility and hands-on personal testimony about how this works are enough to sell his authority.

One of my favorite quotes right off was: “I’m trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness.” Knowing it’s many of our struggle, not just mine, was a great start. It’s a daily thing, not a one and done. We have to resist that bait every single day it’s offered. And believe me, it’s offered a lot. Needless to say, I bought the whole book after being on the preview team, because I needed the rest of the story.

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Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin.

Full disclosure—this is my second read of this book. I love Rubin. She is a soul mate in some ways. Her work here on how we form good habits is perfect because it takes into account the many different people we are and that what works for one utterly fails for another. A great choice if you want to create better habits for 2019. I’m eagerly awaiting her next book.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Ian Cron, Susan Stabile.

OK, I’m late the the party on this one, but it was so helpful. Learning I am an enneagram 5 is a life-changer. I understand my motivational forces so much better, as well as the poor directions they could take me if allowed. Knowing why I have to feel so capable has led me to be able to put down some of those burdens and let myself be questioned and taught. I also understand my loved ones’ motivations and needs so much better. We have two 5’s, two 6’s, and one 4 in the family. It’s fun.

Books I am looking forward to in 2019:

Dare To Lead, Brene Brown. Enough said. It’s Brene. Also, I just got this one for Christmas, so maybe I’d better finally read it first.

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Outer Order, Inner Calm. Gretchen Rubin. Same. If it’s hers, I’ll read it. Also, that title. Who doesn’t need that?

Can We Trust the Gospels, Peter Williams. Just found this today, and I think it will be a valuable resource as a pastor. I like to discuss the hard questions with the congregation, especially the younger members, and this promises to be easy to understand and interact with.

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The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom, Helen Thorpe. How did I not know about this one? It’s recommended by Malcolm Gladwell, and that’s enough for me. Also, I volunteer with refuge high school students, so this is needed reading for me. Can’t wait.

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Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. This beauty. It came to me on my birthday . . . I cannot wait to be unbusy with doctorate stuff long enough to dive in. The illustrations alone are stunning enough to buy the book, if you’re a Tolkien fan (um, fan might not be strong enough a word) like me.

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Small Church Essentials, Karl Vaters. I read his blog very day because I need all the wise info on how to lead a small church and love it. Another Christmas present I need to find the time for soon.

What about you? What was your favorite read of 2018? The one you most look forward to in 2019?

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