My Top 9 Reads of 2019

Confession: I missed my 2019 Reading Challenge goal by just two books.

I may have missed my goal but I still win because it was one of my best years of reading. It’s like scoring the dreaded 89 on a test …. yet still earning an A in the class.

In 2019, I followed the Challie’s Reading Challenge. I discovered more than a few gems that I never would have even heard of if not for a search on the challenge prompts. Here are 9 of my favorites from 2019 in no particular order other than that’s the way I arranged them to look pretty in the picture:

A biography of a Christian: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

A favorite quote: “This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”

Recap (Adapted from Back Cover of Book): Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance. In World War II, she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were sentenced to the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil. The Hiding Place, continues to declare that God’s love will overcome, heal, and restore and reminds us that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.

A book about Christian living: Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

A favorite quote: “To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness … Our minds have great difficulty in coming to grips with such a reality. Maybe our minds will never understand it. Perhaps it is only our hearts that can accomplish this.”

Recap (Adapted from Publisher): When Nouwen was asked by a Jewish friend to explain his faith in simple language, he responded with his greatest legacy, Life of the Beloved, which shows that all people, believers and non-believers, are unconditionally beloved by God. This sincere testimony of the power and invitation of Christ is indeed a great guide to a truly uplifting spiritual life in today’s world.

A book about theology: The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

A favorite quote: “It is confidence in the invariably overriding intention of God for our good, with respect to all the evil and suffering that may befall us on life’s journey, that secures us in peace and joy. We must be sure of that intention if we are to be free and able simply to do what we know to be right.”

Recap (Adapted from book): In a time when many Christians consider Jesus a beloved but remote savior, Willard argues compellingly for the relevance of God to every aspect of our existence. Masterfully capturing the central insights of Christ’s teachings in a fresh way for today’s seekers, he helps us to explore a revolutionary way to experience God – by knowing Him as an essential part of the here and now, rather than only as a part of the hereafter.

A humorous novel: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

A favorite quote: “You’d better not let me down,” said Rosie. “I’m expecting constant craziness.”

Recap (Adapted from Amazon): The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner. In the process, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie―and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.

A book recommended by a family member: Britt Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman

A favorite quote: “The winter requires whoever is doing the watering to have a bit of faith, in order to believe that what looks empty has every potential.”

Recap (Adapted from Amazon): Zany and full of heart, Britt-Marie Was Here is a novel about second chances and about the unexpected friendships we make that teach us who we really are and the things we are capable of doing.

A book of poetry: Uncaged Wallflower by Jennae Cecelia

A favorite quote: “Surround yourself with people who don’t just ask how you are doing. Surround yourself with people who make an effort to make sure they are part of the reason you are doing so well.”

Recap (Adapted from author): This is a poetry book for you to read and relate to in a way that makes you say, “Yes, I can be better, and I will.”

A book about holiness or sanctification: The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

A favorite quote: “There’s a fine line between idealizing or idolizing pain, and confronting it with hope.”

Recap (Adapted from Penguin): Any reader seeking a meaningful life will be inspired by Norris’s experiences among monks who are admirable bearers of tradition – incorporating in their lives the values of stability, silence, and liturgy that we so desperately need, yet relentlessly avoid. Gradually, she learns much about simplicity, patience, forgiveness, and the value of community. It is in the sanctuary of the cloister that she achieves healing – finding peace and gaining a new understanding of her challenging life in the outside world. Above all, she discovers the force of spirituality and the beneficial change it can effect – that “love can be the center of all things, if only we will keep it there.”

A memoir: Educated by Tara Westover

A favorite quote: “My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

Recap (Adapted from the author): Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.
            Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when Tara’s older brother became violent.
            Then, lacking a formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to BYU, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Educated is an account of the struggle for self. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with the sometimes necessary severing the closest of ties.

A book published by HarperCollins: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

A favorite quote: “Sometimes you simply need someone kind to sit with you while you deal with things.”

Recap (Adapted from Amazon): Meet Eleanor Oliphant: No one’s ever told her that life should be better than fine. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living.

NOTE: In 2020, I will be following the World Reading Challenge:

I may not read them all, but I’m in for the adventure. After all, I wouldn’t turn down a vacation to Greece just because it doesn’t also include a world tour!

I hope you’ll join me!