I am a passionate bookworm, and even though I’m in school and don’t usually have time for pleasure reading, I still squeeze it in when I can. Being in Bible college points me to some pretty good reads, too, which is a plus! I thought it would be fun write a few short little reviews about the most impactful books I read this year.
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay is about a orphaned young woman named Sam, who has always used books as a way to escape real life, so much so that she often finds herself acting like her favorite characters rather than herself; she hardly knows who she truly is. But when an anonymous person, choosing to go by the infamous title of Mr. Knightly, offers to pay for her schooling on the condition that she writes letters like journal entries to him, she finds herself processing things she’s been hiding from for years, and discovers things hidden in the depths of herself and other people. The book is formatted like her letters, and I honestly still feel like I’m friends with her even though I finished the book almost a year ago. I don’t re-read books often, but I know I’ll being doing so with this one. It was such a delight for me; it brought me into a period where I was better at journaling frequently and honestly.
The End of Sexual Identity by Jenell Williams Paris is a heavy but important book. I know it’s not at all a book that people would see and think, “Ooh, I should read that!” But when I was working on my term paper about the church and homosexuality, it was such a helpful, insightful, raw perspective to have. It not only helped me with school, it helped me process my own thoughts. If homosexuality and being better informed about it is something that deeply interests you, I would very much recommend this book. It has information about history, culture, psychology, anthropology, and various other important factors when seeking answers. The concept that our identities are much too special to define with isolated aspects of ourselves changed my life, especially in the way I see others and the way I treat myself.
Love Is An Orientation by Andrew P. Marin is another book I used to research for my term paper, and was also life-changing for me. I wasn’t able to completely finish it because of deadlines, but what I did read of it did not feel like research– it was a message I needed to hear. Again, if you want to become more informed about homosexuality and what it should mean for you as a Christian, read this book. You’ll get to hear perspectives from homophobes, former homophobes, the gay community, and everyone in between, and it will help you see the humanity in each person you meet. The way of love is glorious, and this book will help you see it a little more clearly.
Love Does by Bob Goff is the most impactful book I read this year. It changed my heart and the way I think in so many ways. I can’t recommend it enough, I think everyone should read it! I want to live the way this book says I can live, and the best part is the book’s main premise: I can. I wrote a full post about it earlier this year, which you can check out here!
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller is a sort of memoir about a man who struggled with religion until he was able to internalize the love of God. I love reading testimonies, and Mr. Miller’s is full of thoughts and ideas, which I also love hearing and weighing. He uses quite a bit of sarcasm and I didn’t pick it up at first, but other than that I really enjoyed reading this book. Seeing experiences through his eyes and even being able to sometimes find a kindred spirit in him was comforting and felt natural. His perspective is very real and honest. I made a few quote photos from this book because I think they’ll be the best recommendation.
A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman was a book the Lord wanted me to read, and the second most impactful of the year. He gave me so much guidance and confirmation through Mrs. Freeman’s words and truths. I wrote a full review of it here that I would love for you to read. I recommend this book so very highly.
Nine Things a Leader Must Do by Dr. Henry Cloud is a completely unexpected gem. Not only was it easy and fun to read, it was so very insightful and spoke into my situation with nearly every chapter. The title fooled me; it isn’t as much about leaders as it is about people who strive to be successful and live abundantly, whatever they do. This book (and the class it was for) helped me understand that a leader isn’t someone in charge of a large group– a leader is someone exemplary. This book shares encouraging and challenging truths to use in order to navigate life with grace and wisdom.
The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander is a book that was turned into a horrendous Disney movie in the 80s. But for some reason when I saw it in a thrift store, I decided to get it and see if it was better– and it was! It’s about a boy named Taran who wants to be seen as a hero. He ends up becoming part of a colorful troupe searching for the dreadfully powerful black cauldron so they can destroy it, but on this journey the temptation to feel heroic fights his ability to be truly brave and selfless. He has to learn from both an admirable king and an darkly oppressed prince that being a hero is not about glory, but about giving yourself for others. I really enjoyed reading it. Magic, quests, quotable statements about being brave in every day life– it’s a book that, had I read it as a child, I know would be an incredible source of nostalgia and wonder today.
Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo is a beautiful book. I didn’t learn until afterwards that there’s a children’s version as told by Colton (the little boy who visited heaven), and I really want to find it now because hearing his stories was my favorite part of his father’s book. I would probably prefer that version, actually, because the first half of this book was background stories. But, I did really enjoy it! I truly do believe that Colton got to see heaven, and hearing even the tiny hints about what it’s like and what Jesus said to one of His little children renewed my love for Him. Colton’s story is a vivid picture of child-like faith, and illustrated it to me more clearly than I ever understood it before. It reminded me that heaven is indeed for real.
From the Adventures of Ellyora Greenleaf by Lael Silver is the first book in a series a friend of mine is writing! The second book is already out and I’m a horrible friend because I haven’t bought it yet, but the first one is great. If you’re into slightly allegorical fantasy, check out the Facebook page for the series and hook yourself up! There are creatures made by a girl’s imagination, warrior angels in disguise, supernatural war between fantastical kingdoms, unresolved mystery… I don’t know why I haven’t bought Book Two yet because I am itching to go back to this world and see what happens next!
The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway is a classic I read for a literature class and ended up loving. It’s about a fisherman who spends many days attempting to catch the same fish. But the fish is beautiful and majestic, and it hurts the man’s soul that he has to kill it. In the end he pays an even greater price than he thought he would, and his reaction makes the reader wonder how he truly feels about life and glory. I read it in a day, which I think helped me enjoy it more because I could see the parallels and foreshadowing. I think the main thing I saw in it was a reflection of us. How often do we do things that hurt our souls simply because that’s what we think we have to do? There are countless interpretations of this story and it’s significance, which is why I like it, I think: it’s thought-provoking and stays with you. That, and Hemingway’s prose sounds like poetry.
What did you read in 2014 that impacted you or stuck with you?