If you know me at all, you know that I love books: I love to read them, to share them with others, and to talk about them. This is the time of year that many bloggers are putting out their “best of” book lists. I always review these eagerly and have already added some of those titles to my pending reading list. In the year-end spirit, I thought I would share a few of the books that touched my this year.
In reviewing the books I’ve read this year, I discovered that I actually completed 60. I use the word “read” loosely because I also listen to Audiobooks. About a third of the books were audio.
Books I read this year fall generally into three categories: history, fiction, and Christian/mission. This year, I read a lot of history, more than usual. As I am getting older, I am finding that well-written history is often more fascinating than fiction. I’m also realizing that I have a lot of gaps in my understanding of what has actually happened in the world.
For each category I list my top choice and a runner up. If you want to see more of my recommended books, check out my Book Review section.
Top choice goes to Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. Before I read this book, I knew that James Garfield had been a US President but not much more. Candice Millard has a way of weaving together many different threads in this profound study of a great man. You learn about Garfield, but you also learn about the social forces of his time, as well as the state of science. Garfield’s life intersects with that of Alexander Graham Bell and you will understand them both better after having read this book. Not only is this book an example of truth that is stranger than fiction, it is so well-written that once you get started you will be thoroughly captured by the story.
Runner up goes to Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King. This study of a court case at the beginning of the civil rights movement is a powerful reminder of just why that movement was necessary.
Top choice goes to Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. I don’t think anyone can read this book and not be changed, as Rosaria documents how patiently God called and led her to Himself. A lesbian professor at a secular college, Rosaria is definitely an “unlikely convert,” and her conversion and growth in grace will be an encouragement to anyone with loved ones that seem beyond reach. Her insights as a member of a marginalized group coming into the Christian community are articulate and thoughtful.
Runner up is Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt’s Garbage Slums. I have read previously about the Zabbaleen and also watched the film Garbage Dreams. But this book is so lovely it give you fresh hope for these difficult situations. As this article points out, a number of the young men beheaded by ISIS as Christians grew up in Maggie’s schools.
Top choice goes to Called for Life: How loving our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic by Kent and Amber Brantly. This book chronicles what happened to a special couple that said Yes to God. The story was especially interesting to me because Dr. John Fankhauser, a member of my home church Reality, was integrally involved in Kent Brantly’s struggle for life. But even without the personal connection, it is very interesting to read the story behind the headlines from the point of view of those who actually experienced it.
Runner up is Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti by Megan Boudreaux. This is one of those books that you think is too good to be true. But I have been following Megan’s ministry Respire Haiti and the work she started is flourishing under her direction. I never grow tired of stories where people simply say Yes to God and then watch Him do what is impossible.