If you’re like me, you want to jump straight to the top 15 books! A few disclaimers, I’m sorry (but not really), I’m a non-fiction nut!!! The new-to-me fiction this year was okay, but not many were list worthy. So, fiction nuts, we need your recommendations in the comments. Also, it is clear that I’m drawn to books that are related to history, people and culture, God, and improving leadership or relationship skills. Finally you’ll notice several of the books I read were recommended to me, keep ’em coming!
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare—”Orphaned Kit Tyler knows, as she gazes for the first time at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home will never be like the shimmering Caribbean island she left behind.”
Why I like it: How did I miss this Award Winner? We read this in Young Adult novel in the Velvet Ashes book club and I think I was one of the few who had never read it before. Great cross-cultural themes and reminded me of childhood favorite, The Secret Garden. If you haven’t read This classic, it is a must read for 2017!
A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neal MacGregor—”MacGregor, director of the British Museum, takes readers on a tour of the world by way of its material goods. MacGregor shows that the things humans have left behind are often as rich and informative as written texts. MacGregor skillfully weaves each one into the fabric of the society that it came from. In that sense, the book is much more than a museum catalog: it’s a hundred keyhole views into a hundred different societies from around the world and throughout history.”
Why I like it: It combines history, culture, and MacGregor chose an interesting array of objects. Also, can be read by object, the kind of book you can put down and come back to.
The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church by Felicity Dale and others—”The Black Swan Effect equips both men and women to bring an informed and positive contribution to the increasingly crucial conversation on gender in the church.”
What I like: This is “approachable academic” work. Two of the articles I recommend are the one on cross-gender friendships and the women mentioned in the New Testament.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell—”Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, suffer from a disability, lose a parent, attend a mediocre school, or endure any number of other apparent setbacks.”
What I like: I’d read this book before, but this time I took three pages of notes in the notebook I record my reading. Of particular interest is the “Inverted-U Curve.” For those with too little or too few (i.e. small elementary class size, those with money, or those with power), more does make a significant different. But for those with too much, it can end up being a disadvantage (think rich kids). Surprisingly, for the majority in the middle, more doesn’t make much difference.
Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant—”A look at why our interactions with others hold the key to success. For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others.”
What I like: People are givers, takers, or matchers. Givers are “the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expected anything in return.” I want to be more of a giver. A huge takeaway for me was the importance of weak ties. Strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties provide bridges. Also, giving is contagious.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson—”Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.”
What I like: This book changed me. I had assumed most on death row are there for horrible crimes. Of course, some are, but far too many had terrible representation, are mentally retarded, or disadvantaged in other forms. We need prison reform in ways I had no idea before I read this book.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown—”The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.”
What I like: This quote. “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives.” Yes, what if we did?
The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More-Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist Fierce Convictions by The enthralling biography of the woman writer who helped end the slave trade, changed Britain’s upper classes, and taught a nation how to read. The history-changing reforms of Hannah More affected every level of 18th-Century British society through her keen intellect, literary achievements, collaborative spirit, strong Christian principles, and colorful personality. She was also a leader in the Evangelical movement, using her cultural position and her pen to support the growth of education for the poor, the reform of morals and manners, and the abolition of Britain’s slave trade.”
What I like: I am a fan of biographies and Hannah did not disappoint. If you are a fan of William Wilberforce, Hannah was his friend and has an equally compelling story.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio—”I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. It begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.”
What I like: Well written and engaging. I love books that leave me better than they found me. This was Velvet Ashes book club choice for September. Here’s an interview with a doctor who works with these patients and a post by a friend in Velvet Ashes with a son with this condition.
The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs by Peter Enns—”Combining Enns’ reflections of his own spiritual journey with an examination of Scripture, The Sin of Certainty models an acceptance of mystery and paradox that all believers can follow and why God prefers this path because it is only this way by which we can become mature disciples who truly trust God. It gives Christians who have known only the demand for certainty permission to view faith on their own flawed, uncertain, yet heartfelt, terms.”
What I like: Generally speaking, Protestantism has focused so much on correct thinking and beliefs we can miss the WHO. Who are we trusting or believing in? Enns suggests when a passage talks about belief to substitute the word “trust” (both often work in Hebrew and translators had to pick one). I keep thinking about this book and my own spiritual formation.
Consider the Birds by Debbie Blue—”Highlighting 10 birds throughout Scripture, author Debbie Blue explores their significance in both familiar and unfamiliar biblical stories and illustrates how and why they have represented humanity across culture, Christian tradition, art, and contemporary psyche. With these (usually) minor characters at the forefront of human imaginations, poignant life lessons illuminate such qualities as desire and gratitude, power and vulnerability, insignificance and importance—and provide us with profound lessons about humanity, faith, and God’s mysterious grace.”
What I like: This is the kind of book that helps you tune into your life; it was a Velvet Ashes book club pick. Whenever I blog through a book chapter-by-chapter it slows me down to pay better attention. For the first time, with two others, I wrote a free bible study to go with it. Downside . . . you might start to care about birds :). Though it may also be good.
When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning—”When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned 100 million books. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks for troops to carry in their pockets and rucksacks in every theater of war.”
What I like: I like reading books about a part of history I never even knew existed. Of interest was not only the role of books in the war, but also paper rationing and the move from hardback to paperback books. My sister ordered one of these pocket books off of Amazon. So cool to see! It really could fit in a pocket and was far more readable than I was imagining.
Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer—”An inspiring look at the creative process C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings met each week to read and discuss each other’s work-in-progress, offering both encouragement and blistering critique. How did these conversations shape the books they were writing? How does creative collaboration enhance individual talent? And what can we learn from their example?”
What I like: Granted, any one of the Inklings was without a doubt, talented. This book showed, though, they were better together than apart. They cared deeply about each other—though that didn’t mean they were drawn to each member’s writing style or area of interest. It’s helpful to see a healthy model and think through how I can (and am) incorporating this type of collaboration into my life.
The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero—”The Emotionally Healthy Leader shows leaders how to develop a deep, inner life with Christ, examining its profound implications for surviving stress, planning and decision making, building teams, creating healthy culture, influencing others, and much more.”
What I like: If you have read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, you might wonder if there is anything fresh to say. I would say, this is Scazzero’s best book yet. It is a must read for anyone in full-time ministry—and the only books I’ve read that address singleness on equal footing with marriage. For others, the first 25% might not apply to your context, but the rest of the book (and the examples he uses) will be of value to you. Buy this book. Right. Now.
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman—”A thought-provoking, accessible, and essential exploration of why some leaders (“Diminishers”) drain capability and intelligence from their teams, while others (“Multipliers”) amplify it to produce better results. Including the five key disciplines that turn smart leaders into genius makers.
What I like: This book helps the read both to be better and to understand experiences you’ve had. We’ve all worked for multipliers and diminishers at one time or another. I want to be a multiplier, not a dimisher and this book equips anyone to take a few more steps in their multiplier journey.
Whew! There are so many good books, aren’t there? What did you read in 2016 that was a keeper? What are your reading goals for 2017?
Happy Reading! Amy
P.S. Descriptions from Amazon