This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. When you click on a link and make a purchase, a commission may be paid to Gather & Grow which helps support the ministry. . .so, thank you! Read my full disclosure here.
It’s a new year and that means a new reading list full of stories, inspiration and ideas! If you aren’t a big reader, that’s OK. I wasn’t a huge bibliophile until recently but now I am thrilled each time I get to crack open a new book. You may grow in your love of reading or you may find it hard to get through a few books in a year. There’s no right or wrong way to read. But don’t be afraid to push yourself to read just a little more this year. I am a firm believer that if you find the right books, you’ll never regret reading them.
Don’t let this list intimidate you. These are the books I’ve researched (some new, some old) to read this year in the eight categories I like to cover in order to keep my consumption balanced; full of stories that bring pleasure and ideas that bring life. Before you make your own reading list for the year, consider which of these groups you’d like to read from. . .
8 Categories to Consider When Putting Together Your Reading List:
Pleasure. . .which are the only books I will read right before bed. Because I don’t need to lay my head down to sleep with ideas or challenges swirling within it. But to drift off as I contemplate a great story, a grand adventure or an inspiring character. . .yes, this is what sweet dreams are made of.
Family + Parenting. . .some of which have been written by good friends whom I admire. Women doing the great work of motherhood in the trenches and living to tell about it. As my friend Angela Thomas used to say. . .they’re passing notes back to me in class and I need to read them.
Faith + Spiritual Growth + Devotional. . .for so many layers that need to be explored as I continue to seek him. As a busy mom my time with God is usually lacking in length, but it doesn’t have to remain wanting in depth.
Personal Growth. . .books that help me tend to myself and discover feelings and passions I never knew existed in my own heart. All books could be considered for personal growth but this specific list is truly all about my physical and emotional well being.
Discipleship. . .books that are helping me navigate the spiritual journey of my children. These books have often led to great conversations with my husband about how we want to lead our kids.
Business + Leadership. . .to stretch me in writing, ministry and entrepreneurship. These books make me the most excited and scared at the same time.
Worldview. . .to open my eyes to the needs of those around the world and in my own backyard.
To Read with the Kids. . .I’ve recently discovered a love for reading aloud to the kids. The older they get, the more they enjoy just sitting and listening to a good story, even if there aren’t any pictures!
I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense. Harold S. Kushner
Disclaimers: I have not yet read all of these books so I cannot vouch for their rating or content. For some I offer my own commentary on why I chose to include the book on my list this year and for others I simply included the Amazon sales copy because I felt it better communicated a compelling reason to pick up the book.
Click on the titles to check out each book on Amazon.
My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult. Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk – Kathleen Rooney. She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.” Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed – and has not. A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, this book paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave. Set in London during the years of 1939–1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory; and on the strategic island of Malta, which was daily devastated by the Axis barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents. This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most. I read The Nightingale last year and despite my aversion to historical fiction (that depicts war or any kind of oppression), I thought it was amazing. This books seems like a great WWII follow-up.
Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman. Britt-Marie can’t stand a mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others – no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes. When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs? Funny and moving, sweet and inspiring, Britt-Marie Was Here celebrates the importance of community and connection in a world that can feel isolating.
The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective – Andy Andrews. Orange Beach, Alabama, is a simple town filled with simple people. But like all humans on the planet, the good folks of Orange Beach have their share of problems—marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, as well as the many other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses. Unfortunately, when things look the darkest, a mysterious man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” he explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what we can do about it. The Noticer is a unique narrative blend of fiction, allegory, and inspiration in which gifted storyteller Andy Andrews helps us see how becoming a “noticer” just might change a person’s life forever.
The One-in-a-Million Boy – Monica Wood. For years, guitarist Quinn Porter has been on the road, chasing gig after gig, largely absent to his twice-ex-wife Belle and their odd, Guinness records–obsessed son. When the boy dies suddenly, Quinn seeks forgiveness for his paternal shortcomings by completing the requirements for his son’s unfinished Boy Scout badge. For seven Saturdays, Quinn does yard work for Ona Vitkus, the wily 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant the boy had visited weekly. Quinn soon discovers that the boy had talked Ona into gunning for the world record for Oldest Licensed Driver — and that’s the least of her secrets. Despite himself, Quinn picks up where the boy left off, forging a friendship with Ona that allows him to know the son he never understood, a boy who was always listening, always learning. The One-in-a-Million Boy is a richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.
A Portrait of Emily Price – Katherine Reay. Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?
I read all of Katherine Reay’s other books last year and each one was delightful in it’s own way. If you are looking for lighthearted novels, I highly recommend her (and they are published by our friends at Thomas Nelson so they are completely clean).
Family + Parenting
The Magic of Motherhood: The Good Stuff, the Hard Stuff, and Everything In Between – Ashlee Gadd / Coffee + Crumbs. This beautiful book of motherhood essays includes some written by dear friends. I can promise you each one will strike a chord with your heart and make you feel like you are part of a sisterhood. Definitely read the ones by my dear friend Katie from Just Enough Brave. Her writing is lovely and she’s one of the bravest mamas I know.
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family – Paul Tripp. In this life-giving book, Paul Tripp offers parents much more than a to-do list. Instead, he presents us with a big-picture view of God’s plan for us as parents. Outlining fourteen foundational principles centered on the gospel, he shows that we need more than the latest parenting strategy or list of techniques. Rather, we need the rescuing grace of God—grace that has the power to shape how we view everything we do as parents. Freed from the burden of trying to manufacture life-change in our children’s hearts, we can embrace a grand perspective of parenting overflowing with vision, purpose, and joy. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a parenting book but one that is centered around the Gospel is appealing to me, especially in this season of life.
The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality – Luke Gilkerson. This one makes me twitch just a little. I don’t know when I’ll be ready to fully broach the subject of sex with my children (ages 8 + 5) but I know that day is around the corner so I’m committed to preparing myself as much as possible.
The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children – Alison Gopnik. I try to occasionally read books about parenting that are not written with a Christian perspective to stretch my thinking or to at least, gain understanding on what scientists and child development experts are saying about child rearing. I will always, always go back to the Holy Spirit and the Bible for my direction but it’s perfectly OK and actually good to broaden our understanding on all subjects and especially how we parent our children.
Faith + Spiritual Growth + Devotional
Word Writers, Ephesians: Experience the Bible Writing Word by Word – Denise J. Hughes. I had the privilege of sitting down to lunch with the author of this book, Denise Hughes, a few months ago. It was inspiring to hear her talk about the Word Writers series and although I am super intimidated to write out anything (I have the worst penmanship), it’s a wonderful stretch for me to study the Bible while putting pen to paper, seeing the words come to life on the page. I’ve already started this study and it’s been wonderful.
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – Timothy Keller. I’ve wanted to read Timothy Keller for a while now. After the year of debate and division we’ve experienced within the body of Christ, I thought this would be a good place to start. Though my belief in our good God hasn’t waned, I want to be able to boldly proclaim why my faith doesn’t falter, despite new ideas and theology that would try to convince me otherwise.
The Bible Jesus Read – Philip Yancey. Yancey continues to be one of my favorite Christian authors because even though we may not see eye to eye on all points of theology, he is so balanced in his approach to and presentation of the hard stuff. This is another book I’ve been compelled to read given the current state of the Christian church in America.
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community – Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This book has been on my radar for a few years and it’s finally time to dig into it. I believe Christian community IS the Church – forget buildings, programs and worship services. We were called to live life together and the older I get the more I am exploring what that looks like outside the traditional brick and mortar church.
The 60 Second Scholar: 100 Insights That Illumine the Bible – Michael S. Heiser. This series came highly recommended by a friend whom I respect greatly for her view of the Bible. There are several books about Bible study and Bible reading that offer valuable bites of truth to chew on.
The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way – Eugene Peterson. A way of sacrifice. A way of failure. A way on the margins. A way of holiness. In The Jesus Way Eugene Peterson shows how the ways of those who came before Christ – Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, and Isaiah – revealed and prepared the “way of the Lord” that became incarnate and complete in Jesus. Further, Peterson calls into question common “ways” followed by the contemporary American church, showing in stark relief how what we have chosen to focus on – consumerism, celebrity, charisma, and so forth – obliterates what is unique in the Jesus way.
The Road to Character – David Brooks. In The Road to Character, David Brooks focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.
20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now – Robert D. Smith. This short book came highly recommended by my father-in-law. The book presents simple strategies and concepts that, once applied, will enable us to be 100% present and intentional with every passing minute of every day, for the rest of our lives. This is one of my goals. Don’t worry about the past. Make every day count from here on out. It’s never too late.
Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom – Wendy Speake + Kelli Stuart. A celebration of motherhood, creativity, and the faith that binds them. This book by my dear friends rocked my world last fall and I plan to read it again this year. Such an inspirational message that motherhood and art can coexist and be a blessing to God and our families.
These next two books are a result of 1 – my current obsession with The Crown and 2 – my desire to read more biographies and learn about fascinating people. You may not be interested in the Queen and her Prime Minister but I challenge you to choose at least one person to read about this year!
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch – Have you watched it?! THE CROWN! It’s fabulous. And now I’m completely obsessed with The Monarchy. (even more than I was already obsessed with England. I want to live there someday!)
Churchill: The Power of Words – A legacy of leadership + words = my idea of a life worth studying!
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston Churchill
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society – Eugene Peterson. I started reading this book at the beginning of the year and it’s already challenging me in so many ways. To think of discipleship (my own and that of my kids) as a long obedience in the same direction (a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche) is a game changer for me. Peterson discusses cultures current obsession with the immediate and how that affects our spiritual journey.
Lead Your Family Like Jesus: Powerful Parenting Principles from the Creator of Families – Blanchard, Hodges, Goyer. Through this book, moms and dads will see themselves in a whole new light – as life-changers who get their example, strength, and joy from following Jesus at home. Yes and amen! I’ve had the privilege of working with Tricia Goyer this year and she is the real deal. Such a great example of gospel-centered parenting.
Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith – Natasha Crain. This book looks at many of the challenges kids face today that could threaten their faith and equips parents with the words to talk about how they can effectively answer the tough questions when they arise.
Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life – Traci Smith. Faith is learned when it is woven seamlessly into the fabric of everyday life. In this book Traci shares dozens of simple practices to equip families of all kinds with the tools they need for bringing faith home. Filled with easy-to-organize traditions, ceremonies, and spiritual practices for many of life’s stressful and faith-filled moments, this is a resource parents will return to for years to come. This woman is speaking my language! I read that an updated version of this book is coming in March so be on the lookout for that, too.
Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God – Voddie Baucham, Jr. This one sounds like it’s full of challenging truth that will call parents up to a higher place of discipleship in our homes. Bring it on!
The Shaping of a Christian Family: How My Parents Nurtured My Faith – Elisabeth Elliot. She’s one of my favorite “sheroes” of the faith. My goal could be to read every word this woman has written. This book sounds like it will be part memoir, part instruction manual. I can’t think of a better mentor to learn from.
Halley’s Bible Handbook for Kids – Dr. Henry Halley. We’ve had this book out on the kitchen table lately and honestly, I’ve been referring to it for my own Bible study! Help kids see that the whole Bible speaks to them. This handbook uncovers important life lessons from Genesis to Revelation. With summaries of almost every chapter and information about major people, places, and customs, this guide helps nine- to twelve-year-old readers grasp and apply unchanging truths. Open the pages of this engaging handbook along with your Bible and see how reading God’s Word can be a fun and exciting adventure for the entire family.
Case for Faith for Kids (Case for… Series for Kids) Lee Strobel. My husband and I loved Lee Strobel’s books so I was excited to learn about this series for kids. Packed full of well-researched, reliable, and eye-opening investigations of some of the biggest questions you have, Case for Faith for Kids is a must-read for kids ready to explore and enrich their faith.
Cold-Case Christianity for Kids: Investigate Jesus with a Real Detective – J. Warner Wallace. Between the ages of 8 and 12, kids often start to wonder if Christianity is true. In this book, detective J. Warner Wallace draws readers into the thrill of high-stakes investigation by showing them how to think rather than telling them what to think.
Business + Leadership
Create vs. Copy: Embrace Change. Ignite Creativity. Break Through with Imagination. – Ken Wytsma. This was one of my top 3 reads in 2016. The little book was such a game-changer for me in my creativity and business. A must read for all creatives. On my list again this year because I need to read it over and over again.
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content – Ann Hadley. I’m in the content business so this one is a no-brainer. It’s been on several must read business/creativity book lists so I’m looking forward to what I will glean from it.
Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision – Andy Stanley. My husband and I both read and loved this book years ago in a leadership class at church. It seems like it’s time to bring it out again as I ask God to bring fresh vision for my life and ministry.
Ask – Ryan Levesque. I am absolutely, without a doubt completely uncomfortable with these types of business/sales books. But I’m stretching myself in this area so I’ll step out of my comfort zone to learn about asking the right question(s) to discover just what people want. Ask is based on the compelling premise that you should NEVER have to guess what your prospects and customers are thinking. In this book you ‘ll discover why the Ask Formula is arguably THE most powerful way to discover EXACTLY what people want and how to give it to them.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek. Sinek is a powerful voice on the subjects of culture and influence. I’m excited to explore his thoughts more through this book. His recent interview on Millennials in the Workplace was fascinating and really opened my eyes regarding parenting and believe it or not, discipleship.
The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter – David Sax. A funny thing happened on the way to the digital utopia. We’ve begun to fall back in love with the very analog goods and ideas the tech gurus insisted that we no longer needed. Businesses that once looked outdated, from film photography to brick-and-mortar retail, are now springing with new life. Notebooks, records, and stationery have become cool again. Behold the Revenge of Analog. A whole book about valuing old school things?! Yes, please!
Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time – Jamie C. Martin. Love this handbook for opening our children’s eyes to the world through books!
Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis – Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, Dr. Issam Smeir. We can’t ignore the refugee crisis—arguably the greatest geo-political issue of our time – but how do we even begin to respond to something so massive and complex? In Seeking Refuge, three experts from World Relief, a global organization serving refugees, offer a practical, well-rounded, well-researched guide to the issue. Drawing from history, public policy, psychology, many personal stories, and their own unique Christian worldview, the authors offer a nuanced and compelling portrayal of the plight of refugees and the extraordinary opportunity we have to love our neighbors as ourselves.
To Read with the Kids
The Secret Keepers – Trenton Lee Stewart. From the author of one of my all-time favorites series’, The Mysterious Benedict Society. When Reuben discovers an extraordinary antique watch, he soon learns it has a secret power and his life takes an intriguing turn. At first he is thrilled with his new treasure, but as one secret leads to another, Reuben finds himself torn between his innately honest nature and the lure to be a hero. In this ingeniously crafted novel, acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Trenton Lee Stewart invites readers to join the adventure, decipher the clues, and ask themselves the question: Is knowing a secret a gift or a curse?
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Chris Grabenstein. I am currently reading this delightful story in preparation for reading it aloud with my kids next. This adorable tale is part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque and part escape room adventure. One of my favorite details about this book is the short chapters which make it super simple to read-aloud to children.
The Lost Track of Time – Paige Britt. I read this one last year and I’m currently reading it aloud to the kids. This book is about getting lost in a good story to overcome structure and predictability. Though it’s main character is a girl, even my son loves her quirky and mysterious adventure.
Flying Lessons & Other Stories – Various. I love the idea of a collection of short stories for reading aloud at bedtime! Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology celebrates the uniqueness in all of us. In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, multiple authors join together in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers. From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.
What books are on your list for this year? I can always make room for more good reads!
post contains affiliate links