My Favorite Books

I don’t usually track the books I read, but this year I decided to use Goodreads to keep a record of my reading.
I finished 95 books this year.
Yes, I was tempted to speed-read five more to make it an even 100. I decided that probably wasn’t in the spirit of the thing.
I did include chapter books I read aloud to my children. I did not include picture books I read.
As I looked over the list, I noticed that my list was more fiction-heavy than usual. It was just that kind of a year.
My normal reading diet of theology and spiritual formation sorts of books just seemed to take more effort to get through and I felt more drawn to losing myself in a good story.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. A good story can sometimes reveal deeper truth than the thickest theological tome.
I want to get back to more of a balance this year. And if it’s another story-filled year, I won’t berate myself.
I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite books from the year.


Acedia and Me – Kathleen Norris
This book named a feeling I have fairly regularly. I wrote about it here: I Don’t Care
The Magnificent Defeat – Frederick Buechner
I love Buechner’s style of writing and the way he speaks of theological matters.
The World According to Narnia – Jonathan Rogers
I have always loved the Narnia stories, and Rogers’ book showed me even more of the truth contained within them.
This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into our Darkness – Sarah Clarkson
Clarkson writes of the beauty is God with us in the middle of suffering. As someone who struggles with mental illnesses and studies theology, she is well equipped to speak to this. She also writes beautifully.
The World Ending Fire – Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry keeps me rooted in this good world God has made and in the common sense we all need. This book of his essays addressed everything from caring for our earth to the importance of place in our physical and spiritual lives.

For My Kids

Growly series – Philip and Erin Ulrich
A fun book series that all of my kids (ages 6-13) loved about a bear and a monkey and a sweeping adventure.
Just David – Eleanor H. Porter
This is by the author of the more famous book, Pollyanna. A really good story that also shows the importance of beauty and art.


Piranesi – Susanna Clarke
Absolutely my favorite fiction book I read this year. It was beautifully written, had a completely unique setting, and contained such depth in its plot.
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
I read several this year by this author and loved all of them. This particular book was a beautiful example of the way a story about one thing can really be a story about something completely different.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson
I always love historical fiction. This one tells the story of a blue-skinned (true!) librarian who rides all over the hills of rural Kentucky in 1936, delivering books and more to the impoverished mountain folk.
The Gown – Jennifer Robson
Another book of historical fiction. This one weaves together a couple of different time periods (1947 and 2016) with the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown. I loved learning about the way these famous gowns were made.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
A beautifully written story full to the brim with magic and enchantment.
Madness of Crowds – Louise Penny
I love everything written by this author, and this is her most recent book in the Inspector Gamache series. It is rare to find a current author who is skilled at beautiful writing, interesting plots, and character development all at the same time. I will give one warning: this story is set in a post-Covid world, when everything has gone back to normal, so if that seems too hard to read, you might want to wait.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow
This story pulled me into a world that was so real it felt like a memory when I emerged. Another book where the writing, characters, and plot are all so very well done.
Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner
A story about life and friendship and marriage. Wonderfully written in a way that made me care deeply about the characters.

What Do You Want?

I love to read.

Many of my family and friends have funny stories of me reading books in odd places while I was growing up. 

And maybe a few stories from after I had grown up.


I love words and books. Fiction and non-fiction, modern mystery and classic literature, books about God and books about art and books about technology and books about history and books about…

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote “It’s the words that sing, they soar and descend…I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down.”

This is me.

I’ve been discovering lately, though, that this is not always a good thing.

As much good as can come from reading, my books can also take me away from God.

I read to learn but I also read to relax, to be refreshed, to be fulfilled.

Don’t fret, my fellow bibliophiles. I’m not about to tell you to burn all of your books in the name of Jesus.

The trouble comes when I begin to think that I need my books, that I deserve my time to read…and then get angry with whoever stands in the way of that.

When I turn to books to satisfy myself, to fill myself up, when I begin to have arguments with myself over whether to spend time with God or go read my books, that is when my warning lights begin to flash.

When I desire my books more than I desire God, then my books have become an idol.

I know that I am not alone in this. We all have something that tries to take the place of God. 

What is it that you cling to? A parent, child or friend? Food or drink? Money, your home, a car, new clothes?

It is hard to understand why clinging to good things can be bad. How could my love for my child possibly be a bad thing? 

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, when talking about Mother-love, says this 

No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.

Isn’t that true about anything here on this earth, that only in their relation to God are they holy or unholy?

My love for reading can be holy or unholy depending on its relation to God.

Why is it that we think we need something other than God to fill us up, to make us satisfied?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? ~ Psalm 42

Sometimes we feel empty because we are clinging to something other than God. 

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Sometimes we have to let go before God can fill us up.

Letting go is scary. It takes courage, trust.

Can I tell you something? Something that I know beyond a doubt?

God will not let you down.  He really is enough.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

You will not feel a lack of anything when you are truly desiring God above all else in your life. His love, His mercy, His company, His spirit…He is our breath, our life, our food, our drink.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

We don’t need other people, we don’t need other things. God is gracious and gives us people and things to surround us, but we don’t need them to be satisfied or content, we don’t need them to give us comfort or protection.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. 

God is enough.

Ask Him to help you search your heart. What is it that you desire more than God? 

Ask Him to help you to desire Him above all else. Out of His infinite grace, that is a prayer that He will always answer!

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

photo credit for final photo: SP Veres