2019 Best Books I’ve Read

Categories: Book Reviews

This year, my reading was affected by two knee replacements and the accompanying medication that made it hard to concentrate. But I still managed to squeeze in over 100 books. I already wrote about the Chronicles of Narnia that I listened to and reread after my first surgery. They will always be at the top of any list I create.

Here is a list of some of the books that ministered either to my heart and my spirit, or challenged my thinking. I’ve included a quote from each to give you a flavor of the content. The books are listed in the order in which I read them. I hope you will find your next read among them!

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan

C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and I have read several biographies about his life. I was a little hesitant to read this book since as a work of fiction I was concerned that it would distort Lewis’s life and character. But persuaded by others who love Lewis, I took the plunge and enjoyed this book for what it was. I don’t know how accurate all of it is, but it felt authentic to the man and certainly made his relationship with Joy more lively and her more of a real woman than many biographies do.

“What on earth would become of me if I should ever grow brave?” Joy asks in this novel, and Callahan shows well her path of suffering and joy.

 

Confessions of St. Augustine

Of course, everyone says they want to read this book but who other than the scholarly actually does? I’m not sure what motivated me to try reading this at this time, but I am glad I did. I discovered that this book really is not challenging or obscure…it is warm and intimate and real, and similar to reading the psalms. I read the Modern English translation by Baker House.

“You light my candle, O Lord my God. You cast a beam through my darkness. You gave us of all that You are, and You are the true Light. You blaze the way before every human that walks the earth. In You we see no shades of gray. In You are seen no shadows of change.”

 

Why I love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons by John Piper

Many people find the Apostle Paul dry or too intellectual; I know I felt that way too at one time. This book give you a fresh look at all the amazing ways he has blessed and encouraged John Piper. Did you ever notice how Paul always travelled with companions and missed them when they were gone? Piper calls this Pauls Passion for Precious Community. This book makes a great devotional for reading with the Epistles and discovering more treasures about the author.

“But in spite of the complexity and profundity of Paul’s reasoning, the emotional maturity and full humanity of the man shine through the depth and tenderness and intensity of his emotions, which (like his own imperfections) he was willing to reveal. “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thess. 2:7–8)”

 

Lab Girl by Hope Jaren

This autobiography captured my interest because of Hope’s unusual career focus and her honesty about herself. As a child, Hope spent hours in her father’s college lab and found a sanctuary there from a difficult relationship with her mother. Her love of science reveals secrets to the germination and growth of seeds in different types of soil…as she wrote lyrically about the power of life in seeds, the parallels with Jesus parable of the sower came quickly to mind in a fresh and dramatic way.

“A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the old oak is growing; they are both just waiting. Their waiting differs, however, in that the seed is waiting to flourish while the tree is only waiting to die.”

 

The Road Trip that Changed the World: The Unlikely Theory that will Change How You View Culture, the Church, and, Most Importantly, Yourself by Mark Sayers

After listening to a couple of Mark Sayers’ podcasts, I decided to read one of his books. This one is a cultural analysis of life since the 50’s using  Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road as the paradigm for the modern world view.

“In the culture of the road our true broken selves are never revealed, because when things become difficult, when our hurts and pain are revealed, when individual wills are challenged, we physically or mentally move on.”

 

Finding Hagar: God’s Pursuit of a Runaway by Michael F. Kuhn

Michael Kuhn takes a fresh look at a woman in the Bible often dismissed and finds a beautiful story of God’s pursuit of a fugitive who falls outside the line of his chosen people. The book combines scripture, illustrations, imaginative storytelling, and thoughtful commentary to make Hagar’s story come alive, and bestow honor on the only woman in the Bible to give God a name.

“In a narrative where Hagar appears as a cog in the wheel of domestic servitude and exploitation, she now manifests a unique power, issuing from her encounter with the living God. She bestows a name upon divinity. It is a type of resurrection – a transfer from helplessness and passivity to initiative, action, power – resulting from the encounter with Yahweh.”

 

Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague by David Randall

David Randall shines his light on a little-known episode in California history. At the turn of the century, a Chinese immigrant in San Francisco dies of the plague, and rather that rushing to find a solution, local press, railroad barons, and elected officials attempt to deny the possibility of an epidemic in order not to damage tourism! In this scenario Rupert Blue, a federal health officer, becomes an unlikely hero in an unfolding battle for truth and protection of the public. I love reading books like this one that help me realize that politics in California have always been crazy and it is only by the grace of God any of us are still alive and healthy.

 

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior

Hannah Moore rose from a somewhat obscure background to become the friend of many of the well known social and intellectual leaders of her day, but her closest friendships were with the members of the Clapham Sect that gathered around William Willberforce and whose united effort brought an end to the English slave trade and positively influenced the life of the poor and oppressed throughout British society.

“It should be held as an eternal truth, that what is morally wrong can never be politically right.”

 

Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Hymns by Robert Morgan

Robert Morgan provides a hymn for each day of the year selected because of some connection with the date in history. With the hymn is interesting information about its background, author, or composer of the music. You will discover, for example, that the woman who wrote these familiar words was bedridden for 30 years:

“He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.”