My Top 10 Reads from 2015

For the past several years, I have tracked the books I read. This year I was able to complete 41 books total (which completely smashed the previous years’ reading records). I selected 10 books that were my favorites from this year.

To get on this list, the book must have:

  1. made a lasting impact on my thinking or way of living
  2. presented its message beautifully
  3. left me ready to re-read it immediately

Here are my top 10 reads from 2015 (by author’s last name):

The Clown in the Belfry: Writings on Faith and Fiction by Frederick Buechner

Genre: Essays

I had the privilege of meeting one of my favorite writers this year, who gave me the following advice: read beautifully written books and pattern your writing after them to help shape your voice. One of the authors she recommended was Frederick Buechner. This essay collection wrestles unashamedly with hard questions and points to Jesus. Through mediations on pain, Flannery O’Connor, and a man standing on his head in the top of the church, Buechner celebrates “the rapturous shenanigans and holy abandon of faith kicking up its heels”. This book expanded my heart to love God more excellently and honestly in writing.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Genre: Memoir

I have been encouraged by Dr. Butterfield’s testimony and perspective for several years, but had never actually read her book, until I listened to the audiobook during a trip this year. Hearing her voice enhanced the honesty and fervency she has in sharing God’s transforming work in her life. Through the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit, she was converted from an atheist, self-sufficient, lesbian English professor to a follower of Christ. I especially appreciate her heart for ministering to the people the church often ignores (to our shame). Her story gave me hope for my own struggles with sexuality, while also pushing me to greater faithfulness in serving God and others.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Genre: Non-Fiction (Psychology)

I also listened to this as an audiobook. An introvert herself, Cain explores the development of extraversion as the ideal of Western culture and how that ideal has caused an imbalance in our society. She explains the biological basis for high sensitivity and the unique contributions introverts can have in a loud world. As I listened, I thought, “Someone gets it!” and “Yay, I’m normal!” Although I’ve been studying personality types for a few years, Quiet helped me to truly celebrate the way God has wired me.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

This was an unashamed audiobook binge–one after the other. If you also enjoy dystopian fiction, and have not read these yet, you should. Unlike in many recent teen-dystopian series, Collins created three-dimensional, breathing characters with major flaws, nervous breakdowns, and a conscience in taking human life. The protagonist and narrator, Katniss Everdeen, is a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in a cruel society that demands its children’s blood in exchange for peace. Collins did not make her the ideal heroine. Rather, she is the protagonist that is easy to both love and hate. She does not shy away from hard aspects of war like propaganda, post-traumatic stress, and the death of loved ones. These books remind the reader that there is no true winner, but many casualties, in wartime.

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

Genre: Memoir

I gave this to a writer friend for Christmas, telling her “this is one of the most beautiful books I read this year”. In this memoir of her youth, Dillard writes with both childhood wonder and an adult self-awareness. She recalls moments of discovering life-long passions with startling immediacy and reflects on childish pranks with a sly smile. My imagination was captured from the first sentence and was not released until long after completing the final page. Dillard’s writing showed me how to show a story in my writing and reflect on a happening while still reliving it with the reader. She also reminded me of the layers of meaning time gives to memory and the value of returning to the past with fresh eyes.

True Woman 101: Divine Design by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian

Genre: Christian Living

I had the benefit of going through this book twice this year–once on my own and once with the ladies from my church. This book explores God’s design for women and men as presented in Genesis. The authors seek to confront beliefs about womanhood that originate in our culture with truth from God’s Word. They confront abuses of male authority, domineering women, weakened masculinity, and the cheapening of a woman’s worth with equal grace and boldness. The Holy Spirit used this book to help me to see my value as a woman made in the image of God and to also value the unique ways He has designed men as well. Although at points I was angry at what I read, in the end, this book’s message was healing to my heart.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

Genre: Christian Living

I purchased this book after hearing the author interviewed on the Art of Simple podcast. This book made such an impact on me that I’ve given it away and repurchased it twice this year. And . . . I purchased and read her other two books as well. Her writing is full of breathing space and wonder. In this book, Freeman defines art as doing what God has made you to do. She explores the art of music, train-making, mothering, and even plumbing as God glorifying. She encourages her readers to release fears that are preventing them from embracing their calling and to boldly live their art. After reading this book, I was able to finally say “yes” to writing as my calling when God gave me the opportunity. I would not be pursuing full-time ministry if it was not for this book.

Notes From A Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider

Genre: Memoir/Christian Living

Tsh Oxenreider blogs at The Art of Simple, where she encourages her readers to “live holistically with your life purpose”. This book is essentially her living manifesto of that statement. She shares her family’s journey of learning to be intentional in their food choices, work, education, travel, entertainment, and rest, as they travel to and live in several different countries. Her writing style is both engaging and practical as she switches between story-telling and giving advice to her readers. This book encouraged me to think more deeply about my everyday choices and to boldly follow the Lord in every area of my life, from the spectacular to the mundane, especially when it opposes the expected.

The Song of the Wren-Falcon by Mary Ruth Pursselley

Genre: Fantasy

This book is actually a friend of mine‘s first novel, but it is included on this list by its own merit. The story surrounds a prophecy, a young woman named Orienne, and a battle between kingdoms. Any lover of the Lord of the Rings will feel at home in this book. I am usually skeptical of Christian fiction, but this book had wonderfully flawed characters and real pathos written into it. One character in particular is forced to confront his demons and walks away with a new identity. The scene of his transformation made me think the author had looked into my own heart. Her writing displays a mature understanding of human nature while displaying hope in dark places.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

I left this book in tears over its painful beauty. This is a World War II story narrated by Death. Even though the reader knows from the beginning that the protagonist dies, the story of her life draws the reader in as it is told both cruelly and poetically. I winced as Liesel was beaten, I cheered when she stole her first book, and I sobbed as Death described carrying her away. I normally love books about this era, but this one stands apart for its creative storytelling and the author’s ability to narrate detachedly but engaged with the horror of the era.

What were your favorite reads of 2015? I am always looking for a good book! You can email me your thoughts here. Happy reading in the new year!