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My List of Best Reads of 2016

It’s the end of another year. Can you believe it? I’m sure I’ll be writing 2016 on everything for at least another month because I can’t believe 2017 is here already! Whether I like it or not, time is flying and it’s the time of year where I like to think back on what books I’ve read and compile a list to share. So let’s get to it!

In no particular order the following books made my 2016 best reads list.

Create vs. Copy by Ken Wytsma. This book is a gem. I learned a lot about theology of creation and how it informs, inspires and spurs on creation and innovation in my own life in community with others. I enjoyed this book so much I wrote more about it and the personal impact it had on me in a blog you can read here.

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. After reading and loving Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children by Batterson a couple years ago (review of this one is also on the blog if you’d like to learn more), I was thrilled when I received The Circle Maker as a gift from my friend Monica. Batterson tells story after story of transformation taking place in so many lives because of prayer. While reading this one, I felt compelled to wake up a little earlier than I normally would (read: I only hit snooze once instead of 3 or 13 times), to spend a few minutes praying intentionally for people in my life. I have to tell you, I had some incredible conversations with the very same people I was intentionally in prayer during this time. Pausing, acknowledging God is at work for all people and He is good in and through all circumstances, changes everything.

Play with Fire by Bianca Olthoff. Rather than describe the book here, head on over to the blog to read through a fun conversation Bianca and I had about Play with Fire.

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. “The Bible is a story about the reign and rule of God” make for wise words from Wilkin. This little book is packed with insightful truths and practical helps regarding reading and understanding the Bible. I wish this book had been around 20 years ago! Wilkin identifies for the reader, the main theme of the Bible is creation-fall-redemption-restoration. We see the same 4 big ideas told over and over throughout the smaller narratives found from Genesis to Revelation. She also offers 4 practical ways to engage with scripture which will help us remember the Bible is about God. Yes the Bible informs us and our lives, but only through the lens of who God is. Reading and learning as much as I did from Wilkin inspired me to write a 2 part series on Reading the Bible which you can find here and here.

Favor with Kings by Caleb Anderson. Nehemiah. What a story right? Favor with Kings is a look at the memoirs of Nehemiah as He was used by God to lead the charge to rebuild the city walls around Jerusalem with the Israelites who had recently returned home from exile. The overarching idea of the book is every person has a mission from God and the mission is always about people. Nehemiah led in the rebuilding of the wall, but more importantly, the rebuilding of morale and joy for God’s people.

Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but I completely did on this one and I’m glad I did. The title alone captured my interest and I just had to read a book titled Giddy Up Eunice. This is a book for the ladies. And it’s not full of potpourri, butterflies and doilies.  Hudson uses hilarious and insightful storytelling to discuss three very different stories found in the Bible of the unique relationships between Elizabeth and Mary, Ruth and Naomi and Lois and Eunice. All stories are of very different circumstances, yet all with the underlying truth women need each other. We need women older than us who can mentor, encourage us and pass on their wisdom to us. And in return, we need to do the same for the generation of women rising up behind us. I may have genuinely cried laughing reading this one. Pick up two copies because you’ll want to gift to an important woman in your life too.

Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf. I may have cried a river reading this book but for a different reason than above. I first heard of Katherine and Jay’s story via a video clip of them at Catalyst West several years ago. And last February, I watched Katherine talk about her life streaming from The If:Gathering conference. In her mid-twenties and with a newborn and Jay in law school, Katherine suffered a massive stroke. Hope heals recounts the story from both Katherine and Jay’s unique perspectives. What I loved most about the book is while they wrote it to share their story of stroke and recovery; they did so in a way telling of the story of God. It’s about who He really is and the hope and healing only He can bring. Earlier this year I drove to a little Christian book store in Brea, CA to meet Katherine and Jay for a book signing. Katherine told me, “the story is God’s; we just told it.” It’s a beautiful read and I highly recommend you snag this up, along with a box or 30 of Kleenex.

One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella. Here again I judged a book by its cover. The tag line of the book reads, “How an Audacious Goal Taught me to Love the World Instead of Save it.” Intriguing, am I right? An early twenties Jena, in a unique partnership with the band Jars of Clay, set out for Africa determined to build 1000 wells and bring clean water to communities in need. Throughout the book she shares about struggles with working with the band, the struggle of bringing foreign aid to areas of desolation and maybe the most poignant of struggles, learning to live out the Christian faith like Jesus, despite status quo.

The Hatmakers were frequent flyers in my house this year. I read 3 of Jen’s and 1 of Brandon’s. Here we go:

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. This book is about grace. It’s about accepting and extending grace. I  enjoyed the random recipes she threw in here and there throughout and some quotes of some of her followers. It’s simple, full of grace - for the love - with a bit of typical Jen humor throughout (such as the rant about yoga pants. If you don’t know what I am talking about, stop reading and immediate look up Jen Hatmaker Yoga Pants on YouTube).

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  Jen takes minimalism to a new extreme with her 7 month long hiatus of excess. Jen leads her family on a major downsizing experiment to rid the excess and refocus their dependence upon God. Jen chooses 7 areas of her life where she lives in excess and for the duration of a month for each, she lives on only 7 of whatever the theme is for that month. For example, one month she purges her closets of clothes and literally wears the same 7 articles of clothing every day for a month. Another month it’s food. She eats a variation of the same 7 foods for a month.  Throughout the book Jen shares about the lessons learned throughout the experiment. I loved this book. It’s hilarious, honest and inspiring. I’ll read this one again. It certainly caused me to consider areas of my life where I live in excess and am missing out on living life closer to God because of it.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. Interrupted tells the story of Jen and her husband Brandon as they go through a season when they began to question the Christian status quo and they began to wonder if Jesus really meant what he said and did. Because if he did intend for his followers to live lives reflective of what he said and did, this changes everything about everything. It means Jesus cares much more for how his followers treat the people around them, than carrying out the traditions of religion. Of the three Jen Hatmaker books I read this year, this was my favorite.  

Barefoot Church by Brandon Hatmaker. In Jen’s book 7, she tells a story about an Easter service she and Brandon went to one year with Shane Claiborne as the guest speaker. At the end of the service, Claiborne creates space for people to leave behind the shoes they walked in with because later that night, he was going to take them to the local homeless community. Both Brandon and Jen were so struck by this unconventional offering. It seems to me the idea for Barefoot Church was birthed from this experience. Brandon shares about the journey he and Jen took as they left their previous safe Christian world (much like Jen wrote about in Interrupted and embarked on a church plant dedicated to being both a gathering and a sending church community. This book is not a model for how to do church. Rather, it’s a story of their church planting experience. I took away some valuable insights and overall, enjoyed this book.

So that’s it! It’s been a good year of great reads!

Here’s a list of what I’m currently reading followed by what’s next on my list.

A Beautiful Mess by Danielle Strickland.

The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perserverance by Kristen Deede Johnson and Bethany Hanke Hoang

Doing Good is Simple by Chris Marlow

What’s next. This list is sure to grow by about 38 before years end:

The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper

Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott

Ministering Cross-Culturally  by Sherwood Lingenfelter – I read the first edition while in seminary at Gordon-Conwell and am excited to flip through this newly revised edition.

Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah

More than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World by Jo Saxton

Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines because who doesn’t love the Gaines’?!

There you have it friends! Please share with me what you read that left an impression on you. What is your number one recommend for me to read this year? Maybe it’ll make the cut for best reads of 2017!

Be Blessed!

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I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.


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