Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, let God be magnified. Psalms 70: 4

It is no secret that I am incompetent when it comes to technology.  I text with one finger, I thought the poo emoji was dirt, and, until recently, I didn’t understand what a GIF was or even how to pronounce it.  When something doesn’t work, my answer is to ask my husband, or any child within earshot, to show me, aka “fix it for me”.  This year, in spite of my technophobia, I discovered apps and have fallen in love with them.  I use them for all sorts of things; podcasts, shopping, exercise, finding new books, and setting goals.

One of my new favorite apps is Goodreads.  Every year, I set a personal goal of how many books I want to read and then record the books I read.  In years past, I have used an Excel spreadsheet my husband created to record my books.  The problem with that approach is the grid format instantly causes my blood to curdle.  I’m convinced Excel was created by accountants to frustrate spontaneous people like me!  Because of my strong aversion to Excel, I often forget to record my books.  Thus I find myself perpetually playing catch up and guesstimating the date I finished a book.  This year, with the help of the Goodreads app, I set a goal, scanned in the barcode of the book I was starting, recorded when I finished, and occasionally wrote a review.  Also, on my excursions to bookstores, I can scan in the book and put it in the file of books I want to read.  It has revolutionized my life!  Okay, maybe that is a bit strong, but it has helped me stay on track toward my goal.  I especially liked the confetti that sprayed across my screen when I achieved my goal this year.  Confetti, or glitter, is always a bonus!

What I didn’t know is that at the end of the year, Goodreads gives you a pictorial review of your reading habits.  It was insightful to look over the sixty books I read.  These books have ranged from being entertaining to delightful to informative and even to challenging.  In February, I finished a five-year project reading great biographies of each of the presidents.  I read a lot of Christian self-growth books, forcing me to examine my life, leading me to repentance and compelling me to grow.  I read a few great novels that have inspired me and some books on science that caused me to grapple with genetics.  However, I read one book that I despised, in spite of its brevity.  The author’s agenda aside, I finished the book and even managed to gain some insight.

A screenshot of my pictorial review on Goodreads.

I have been noticing on a lot of other blogs and websites the lists of the best books of 2019.  Often, I would peruse their lists and add some books to my app.  I decided to examine my list and share with you my top six books of 2019.  I have to admit this was far more challenging than I expected.  I kept looking at the list and wanting to add another, and soon I would have twenty books.  I also decided if it’s a book I have read before, it would not make my list, which eliminated three of my favorites.  Finally, I whittled the list down and came up with my top books.

1.  “The Gospel comes with a House Key” by Rosaria Butterfield: I heard Mrs. Butterfield speak on an episode of Focus on the Family and immediately ordered her book.  I’m still pondering the message of hospitality and how to implement it in my neighborhood.  She says, “Radically ordinary hospitality does not simply flow from the day-to-day interests of the household.  You must prepare spiritually.”  I would often close the book and fall to my knees, asking God to help me reflect the gospel in my community.

2.  “Rethinking Sexuality” by Dr. Juli Slattery: This book was a personal read, dealing with my own brokenness from past abuse and seeing the results of other people’s brokenness.  My heart breaks for our society and how, as Christians, we often don’t understand what God meant for us in our personal relationships.  Marriage was meant to reflect the beauty of God’s love for us in every aspect, including intimacy.  This was not an easy read, but profound and paradigm-shifting, not in my principles, but in how I present my principles.

3.  “Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction” by Asheritah Ciuciu: A dear friend, who is also a fellow bibliophile, lent me this book, I read it quickly and decided to purchase it.  I will be rereading it this January, journaling and more than likely blogging about the concepts in it.  It is not a food plan or an exercise regiment, but Ciuciu takes you on a journey of self-discovery.  Since I will be sharing more about this book in the future, the one message that resonated with me was to read the Bible differently.  In the past, I have focused on the principles and God’s message to me.  Now, I am reading the Bible to discover the nature of God.

4.  “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh: This is a short book, but completely delightful and it triggered some reflective journaling.  She compares seasons of life with different shells, pondering motherhood and beyond, and the various transitions in life.  I loved this book so much, I bought a copy for a dear friend whose son was getting married.  It is definitely a book I will reread!

5.  “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains” by Nicholas Carr: This book frightened me when I read that PHD students were no longer reading research completely.  Attention spans are being altered at a rapid pace.  It is not saying the internet is bad or that we should all boycott our iPhones, but it does make you examine your personal use and how you access information.  It has motivated me to keep on reading whole books and to be careful of my screen time.  I also learned about the 18th century habit of keeping a Commonplace Journal.  It inspired me to keep one myself and pass it on to my children, someday.

6.  “Destiny and Power” by Jon Meacham: This biography of George H. W. Bush emphasized the value of developing good character.  Throughout his life, Bush wanted to serve his country.  Meacham says, “Honor, duty, country” were his focus.  Bush was competitive, but, ultimately, he kept his priorities straight and didn’t compromise his character.  Whether or not you agreed with his decisions, he was an honorable person who served his country in many different areas.

Missing two books. Photo by Margaret Collins

I have to honestly say that this year, reading changed my life.  I have always been a reader, but God used books from all genres to challenge me to grow.  I felt His voice whispering in my ear as I read the author’s words.  He would quicken to my mind a scripture or even a Biblical story.  I heard His voice in almost everything I read.

Years ago, as a family devotion, we read “Lit: A Christian Guide to Reading Books”.  It transformed my reading habits, leading to me read different genres and to read more purposefully.  The author, Tony Reinke, says, “If a Christian reader is attuned to the whisper of the Giver, he will hear that whisper in some very unexpected places.”  My goal in sharing my list is to inspire you to dig first into His word, but also to challenge you to find God’s whispering in the books your read in 2020.  We should continually seek his presence in all that we do!

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