Books, Books, and more Books!

One of the benefits of not working for four months earlier this year shows up in the abundance of time I had to read. Although I still have not made it through my entire bookshelf as I had hoped when I moved back to DC last fall, I have plenty of time to continue working through all of the books now that I am staying here for a while longer.

It’s been a while since my last book list, so there are a bunch of them on here. I’ve split them up into categories, and I hope you find something worth reading! These books have encouraged, exhorted, challenged, and delighted me, and I hope they do the same for you as well.

Christian Life and Godliness:

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, by Timothy Keller.

Only 44 pages long, this is a short read that has a big impact! It is based on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7, and in it Keller shares how true Christian joy is found in living out of who we are in Christ, practicing gospel-humility. He says “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less” (p.32). Worth your time, and one that I will read again.

In the Name of Jesus, by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

The tagline for this book is “Reflections on Christian Leadership”, and it is a must read for anyone in vocational ministry or Christian Leadership of any kind, in my opinion. Based on a collection of talks that Nouwen gave at the fifteenth anniversary of the Center for Human Development here in DC, and written with authenticity and wisdom. He shares about his transition from prominence in the academic world at Harvard University as a theologian and teacher, to serving among the mentally handicapped in the L’Arche Community near Toronto, Canada. Rich in reflections on servant leadership, humility, community, and sacrificial love. Well worth your time and attention.

Morning and Evening, by Charles H. Spurgeon

This daily devotional was given to me as a gift by a dear friend last year for my birthday, and each entry is gospel-centered and rich in theological truths. Spurgeon is one of the most prolific Christian writers of the last few centuries, and his sermons, books, and devotionals stand as a testament to Christ and His church. It has been encouraging to begin and end my days with a short reading, and each one draws me continually closer to Christ.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson.

I add this one to the list with some hesitation. The book centers on one sentence from one verse in 2 Samuel 23, that says “He [Benaiah] also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day.” It is non-fiction, and the premise is that we are called to be lion-chasers like Benaiah; that God desires for us to dream big, and to take huge steps of faith. While the book makes some good points and challenges complacency, I am a bit wary of entire books that center on one short verse like this (think Prayer of Jabez). Batterson uses very little other scripture to support his points, and makes absolute statements about Benaiah that are nowhere in the text. So, I offer it on this list with caution. If you read it, make sure you have a bible nearby, and dig into the text for yourself. Find out who Benaiah was (his story extends into 1 Kings, something not mentioned in the book), and find other examples of heoric faith and boldness to compare and contrast with this story.

 

Non-fiction:

The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D.

As an introvert, I am fascinated by books that discuss the differences between the two personality types, and this is by far one of the best I have read. Laney delves into the science behind introversion and extroversion, explaining the differences in brain function and how we process information in a way that is easy to understand. She then spends several chapters on strategies for introverts to thrive in a culture driven by extroverts, and shares wisdom from her own journey to help introverts use their strengths to their best advantage.

Money, Purpose, Joy, by Matt Bell

Written from a Christian perspective, this book takes a look at how believers can discover a life of purpose and joy as they manage their finances well. Bell spends the first few chapters discussing how we are stewards of the money we have been given, and the freedom found in viewing our money as belonging to God and not to us. Both inspiring and practical, Bell focuses the last several chapters on budgets, retirement planning, home ownership, and more, and in each case gives helpful tips and ideas from his years as a financial planner.

Half the Sky, by Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn

“Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide”, the tagline heralds. The title of the book comes from an old Chinese proverb, that says “Women hold up half the sky”. Kristoff and Wudunn have spent years traveling around the world championing women’s rights and helping women transition out of poverty and oppression. Although not always an easy read, this book is full of encouraging stories of women who have succeeded in creating a new life for themselves or others around the world. The authors cover a wide range of topics from education, to health, to trafficking, to drugs, to marriages and babies. The book also sheds light on how much work still needs to be done in this area, and the realities women face on a daily basis around the world.

How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, by Jordan Christy

Written with wit, honesty, and clarity, this book discusses the “Art of living with style, class, and grace”. Christy tackles the changes that happened in culture over the past few decades, exhorting women to buck the cultural norms and live differently in the areas of clothing, words, choosing friends, dating and more. She uses personal stories, as well as classic examples of “Hepburn-esque” modesty and class that we should strive for as ladies. Share this with the young women in your life, and read it for yourself too!

Mao’s Last Dancer, by Li Cunxin

They made this book into a movie, but I wanted to read the book first before seeing the film. Li shares his story of how he grew up in rural China to become one of the premiere dancer’s in Mao’s final troupe. As I dancer I was intrigued by the descriptions of the studios and training practices in China during that time, and the intense national pride these men and women felt at being hand selected by the Chairman to dance for their country. Li eventually came to the US, and he shares the struggles and triumphs of adjusting to a new culture.

 

Fiction:

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

True confession: this was my first time making it all the way through this book. I have started it many times before, only to be distracted from finishing it by something else. This time, though, I made it, and I am so glad I did! Although written several hundred years ago, Austen’s words are timeless and relevant to this generation. She hearkens us back to a time when relationships meant something, when lives were led with decorum and propriety, and marriage was taken seriously. The best part is that she does it with humor and grace, creating imperfect characters who fail miserably at times, but who are lovable and relatable.

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

An American classic novel, centered on events in WWII. Vonnegut details the journey of Billy Pilgrim through the war, culminating in the firebombing of Dresden. Written in a memoir style, there are also elements of time-travel, aliens, and spaceships. Difficult to follow, but it paints a picture of the realities of death and war, and shares the perspective of those who die without Christ as futile, meaningless, and mundane.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Written in 1999, and touted as a “bittersweet coming of age story”, Chbosky chronicles the life of Charlie, a young man struggling to find his way as he begins his first year of high school. The book recently gained recognition when the movie of the same title was released, and so I decided to see what all the hype was about. The story is told through a series of letters written by Charlie to an unknown recipient, and through them we are painted a picture of depression, drugs, alcohol, sexual identity questions, family discord, and the personal identity & acceptance struggles that Charlie and his friends are dealing with.

 

Have you read any of these? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions! What should I put on my list to read next?

 

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