Welcome to the 2019 round-up of my favorite books. People occasionally ask me for book recommendations, and I love to give them. So each month I include the books I’ve completed in my monthly newsletter. If you want a more exhaustive list throughout the year, with a little bit of commentary, be sure to sign up to receive those emails.
I didn’t set a goal for how many books to read this year, but I did branch out from my typical non-fiction genre, and kept at least one fiction book going at all times. This meant I didn’t read very much fiction, because I always pick those up at night, and sometimes only get through a few pages before falling fast asleep. Praise the Lord for my Kindle, which makes it much easier to read in bed.
In no particular order, here are twelve favorite books I read in 2019:
Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships / Catherine Parks
I couldn’t put this book down. Catherine’s instruction about biblical repentance and the implications it has on our relationships was compelling, convicting, and encouraging as I move forward in some deeper friendships.
The Promise is His Presence: Why God is Always Enough / Glenna Marshall
Glenna’s writing continues to stir my affections for Jesus, and this book was no exception. She tells the entire story of the bible in these pages and weaves in her own stories of suffering, but the central focus of the entire book is God. We all need a theology of suffering, and this book provides just that.
Flourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self-Focus / Lydia Brownback
God continuously reveals my tendency to wallow in self-pity, think far too highly of myself, and far too much about myself. It affects everything. Lydia’s book is a biblical reminder of Who should receive all of our focus and attention. A 30 day set of questions is provided in the back of the book, and I’m looking forward to slowly working my way through this one again.
Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ / Andrew Naselli and J.D. Crowley
I picked this up at a conference last fall, after reading a great recommendation by Emily Jensen, co-founder of Risen Motherhood. We live in a time where culture is doing most of the conscience shaping, even in the church. I found this book particularly helpful in understanding that our consciences need to constantly be recalibrated so they align with God’s word. There’s a chapter devoted just to people serving in cross-cultural ministry, so if you serve in this capacity, I’d specifically recommend it to you. Many of the practical implications from this book have come up multiple times throughout this past year.
(A)Typical Woman: Free, Whole, and Called in Christ / Abigail Dodds
I consider Abigail Dodds as a type of present day Elisabeth Elliot in many ways. She’s speaking into issues of womanhood in a way that our culture needs right now, saturating our thoughts with gospel truth about what it looks like to embrace the way God has made us — as women — and to live for him in every aspect of our womanhood. Be prepared to feel convicted, but also encouraged and sharpened by her words.
Married for God: Making Your Marriage the Best It Can Be / Christopher Ash
Solid marriage books are scarce these days, and I’m constantly on the search for ones that provide a biblical approach. If you’re engaged, newly married, a long-time married person — this book is for you. Being reminded of the purpose of marriage always helps to put the daily practices of husband and/or wife into proper perspective.
If you’re in any kind of regular ministry — professional or voluntary — this is a must read. I find myself constantly trying to discern how much ministry is ‘too much’ in this season of life raising young children, and this book was helpful in learning how to live a life of ‘sustainable sacrifice’. I’d highly recommend this one. It might be helpful for you to know that I also read this book in its entirety one Sunday after church.
Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments / Laura Wifler & Emily Jensen
No one needs to tell us that motherhood is hard. But we do need someone to help us apply the realities of the gospel to every challenging moment. By using the four elements of the gospel story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation, Laura and Emily show how various aspects of motherhood are met and fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Beneath A Scarlet Sky: A Novel / Mark Sullivan
Based on a true story of a man who helped Jews escape from Italy during WWII, this book was hands-down my favorite novel in 2019. It’s heartbreaking, inspiring, moving, and will make you want to travel around Italy. There are so many things we don’t know, will never understand about our world, and quite frankly will probably never have to experience. You, and your husband, will enjoy this one.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street / Karina Yan Glaser
I cannot keep up with my girls’ reading lists, but I grabbed this one right before Thanksgiving, and it was delightful. I fell in love with the five siblings in the story, and their commitment to one another, tradition, and stability was moving. The book takes place during Christmas week, so if you need a light and wholesome book to read over the holidays, this would be a great choice.
Educated: A Memoir / Tara Westover
I have never read such a heartbreaking and wildly unbelievable story as this one. Overcoming hardships, breaking away from your past, and learning to understand the realities of your family and upbringing are some of the major themes I noticed. You might cringe your way through this one, but I think it’s helpful to read stories we might never be able to relate to in order to understand those who differ from us.
Bradley recommended this one to me after he couldn’t put it down. A son decides to have his father — a woodworker — help him design and build his coffin. Interesting, and odd, yes, but this book is more about loss and grief, how a young man dealt with many in his life, and the story is quite moving. If you appreciate a moving memoir, this one should go onto your list.
What were your favorite books from 2019?