Good Reads

~~This is a list of some books that have affected me for the better, whether in making me think, pushing my faith forward, or just being good stories. ~~

Kisses From Katie - Katie Davis
Katie, the class president of her high school, left everything to move to Uganda, where she adopted fourteen children as a single woman. Sound crazy? It's not. Katie tells her story and the story of the non-profit she runs there, her family, and how God stretches her to do more each day. A story of hope, really. Inspiring, challenging, beautiful.

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
A superbly researched (and experienced) book about the food we eat. If you care at all about where your food comes from, you will enjoy it. Pollan is delightfully well-thought-out, reasonable, subtly humorous, and knowledgeable. I deeply appreciated that this behemoth work wasn't just an exposé about all the dirt in the food industry. Far from it, it was an opportunity to think differently about how we as Americans "do" food. I look forward to reading more from him.
Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer
Chris McCandless disappeared into the Alaskan wilderness after burning his spare cash and giving away his college fund to charity. He was found dead four months later by some moose hunters. This is his story, poetically told. While a bit extreme, I deeply connected to the Chris that Krakauer describes. If you have any sense of adventure or wanderlust, you will too.

 Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration - Amber van Schooneveld
This book is about poverty. It's more of a daily study than a book. I read it in preparation for going to Malawi. I've heard some people say they didn't connect with it, but for me, it was like water on dry ground. Coming from a hard-hearted perspective when I picked it up, each day was exactly what I needed to be reading. It softened my heart a lot as I thought through what I was reading. It was the perfect balance, for me, of challenging me without being condemning. If you are ready to open your heart a little more to the poor (or at all), consider picking this one up. It's not another guilt trip, but a genuine invitation to think differently.

Scars and Stilettos - Harmony Dust
Harmony is a phenomenal woman, former stripper, college graduate, and Christian. Her story is powerful, moving, raw, and hard to put down. I highly recommend it.

A Severe Mercy - Sheldon Vanauken
This is quite possibly my favorite book. I don't say this ever. It is a memoir and true story. It has made me reflect on love, on beauty, on community, on loss and grief. It has made me laugh, it has made me cry genuine tears of sadness. It has made me long for a bygone era of meeting to sit in living rooms, discuss books and symphonies, and be in genuine community with one another. It has made me ache more deeply for a life of meaning, but has made me reflect newly on what that means. It has made me think differently in some ways about faith. It is a truly beautiful masterpiece on the human soul, and I hope that every person who sees this will read it.

China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power - Rob Gifford
Rob Gifford shares his travels from one end of China to the other, interacting with locals, staying different places, and engaging with culture. Having spent time in China, this book was a deep comfort, an entertainment, and I felt an accurate poetic journey through the many cultures within the country. Beautifully done. It was just the kind of book I like to read for fun: authentic, true, socially minded, and compelling.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream - David Platt
Please read this book! I had to wait until I was ready for it, a time when I knew that what I was reading would not go through one ear of idealism and out the other but actually get traction in the way that I lived my life. Partially through this book, I realize that I am both powerless and, in Christ, completely capable. The pages here make me restless for deep change. Platt is spot on, and I pray that I not forget the words I have read here!

What's So Amazing About Grace? - Philip Yancey
This book very much challenged me. If you've been with me long, you know that I struggle so much against the idea that I cannot earn God's grace. It throws off all of my best laid plans! Grace exists in no small box, and Yancey's poetic and real description of it allows me to broaden my gaze. This book has helped me to see so many examples of Gospel-borne, inhuman, unimaginable grace lived through the lives of ordinary and extraordinary believers. I see grace anew, and continue to process how to both experience for myself and give the grace of Christ to others.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - John C. Maxwell
I really appreciated this book's insight. Each "law" is covered by a chapter, and each has practical ways to assess what you need to work on and how to improve. It's chock full of stories and examples. This and several other leadership books have really helped me grow in that area by consistently cementing certain paradigms of how good leaders lead. It's a great as-you-have-time read.

Love Is a Choice - Drs. Hemfelt, Minirth & Meier
Okay, so I was both proud and skeptical when I read this book's little synopsis.  It had very great reviews, though, so I went ahead and read it anyway. After reading it I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly. The book focuses on codependency, which describes to some degree almost anyone who has come from a family with baggage. It has helped me to see more clearly patterns in both my life and in many of the lives around me. It has shown me something in our culture that I fear is a major problem in how we learn (or fail to learn) how to relate to one another. It and a few other key books have really helped to shift my paradigms about what it means to value myself properly, value others healthily, and love the majority of our culture bound up to some degree by these issues. 

Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker
Aside from being the funniest book I have ever read (my roommate will testify to hearing me laugh endlessly from the next room while curled up reading it), the book has a lot of good, thought-provoking, spiritually sound truth to convey about the way we live our Western lives with far more than we need. Hatmaker reminds the reader about what's important, while definitely not failing to entertain. 

 The Reason for God, Timothy Keller.
This is a fantastic book, whether as a Christian or skeptical reader. It is full of wisdom, the tone is gracious and academic at once. A truly great essay.
 The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom
The true story of Corrie and her family of poor Dutch watchmakers during Hitler's occupation of Poland. Her faith, humility, and deep wisdom shine through this beautiful account, even as she herself was the only survivor from her family of the infamous concentration camps. She is candid, gracious, and true. Beautiful beautiful story that will challenge you.
 A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith Expectation and a Little Girl Named Penny, Amy Julia Becker
At first the premise of the story seems somewhat typical. A mother tells her story of having their first child be born unexpectedly with Down syndrome. But Amy Julia's narrative is powerful, moving, and consistently a theological challenge. She has a beautiful story to tell, and lots to make you think about. I highly recommend it.

 The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster
This is a very very rich book, one that I could (and plan to) read multiple times. New things will hit you each time. With wisdom, grace, and lots of practical knowledge, Foster goes through the disciplines of a Christian life, detailing thoughtfully how to go about them and why. Plenty to grow in, plenty to learn about. Very good read.

 Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
I haven't read this one recently, but I admit that Anne is a huge inspiration for me. The way she writes candidly and freshly about her life in hiding and the surprising reflections from all of it that she takes away captivate me. Truthfully, Anne has shaped a lot of my own writing and journaling, and her maturity as a young teenager is impressive.
 The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer
A more academic read, but full of wisdom, always pointing to the sovereignty of God. A good read and a good mental challenge.
 Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
I loved this book. Truthfully, his style is a lot more tedious than most can handle. But there is a deep, introspective richness to the way he tells this story that something in me really appreciates. Not a short read by any means, and not a light one either. But it is compelling and beautifully written.

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