Last year my mother, homeschool-mom-extraordinaire, now homeschool-grandmother, sponsored a book-reading competition between the adults and children of our family. For the entire year, we wrote down the books we read, and competed for who could rack up the highest total. Thankfully, she counted books of the Bible as separate books, so I was able to cross into triple-digits.
I’ve collected a list of my favorites from last year, and hopefully it’ll help you find the next book to add to your list this year.
I’m including a description of each book, because I acknowledge that tastes in books are about as different as tastes in food, music, fashion or hobbies. Every time I make a post asking for book recommendations, most of the suggestions are not good fits for me. Even Audible’s, “because you read this…” suggestions are very hit-or-miss. But if I get a recommendation from someone like my friend James, who has extremely similar book preferences to mine, it generally gets added to my list.
If I had to describe the perfect book for me, it would either be a practical non-fiction about living life well as an evangelical Christian, or a science fiction that explores the change of civilizations over the course of an entire lifetime, or generations, or millennia.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – After reading all the “hustle” entrepreneur books there are, this book is a great correction to that mindset. This book by John Mark Comer is one of the books that had the most impact on how we live our lives in this house. We’ve almost completely eliminated the word “hurry” from our vocabulary, even as we try to get the family out the door and avoid being late to our appointments.
Margin – I will continue to read this book over and over every few years until it fully sinks in. Every time I put more margin in my life stress decreases and life feels more abundant and well-lived. If you’re a person who deals with stress and anxiety, I can’t recommend this book enough.
The Spiritually Vibrant Home – I want my home to be like the homes described in this book. I feel like I grew up in a spiritually vibrant home, but that I’ve got a lot of work to do until it’s a place that my kids describe as spiritually vibrant.
Habits of the Household – I feel like this book and the previous book go hand-in-hand. Households are life-giving because the leadership of those homes make intention decisions that oppose the default behaviors handed to us by the culture of the world. This book invites us to consider what we’re doing to take responsibility the spiritual growth of the people in our household.
Theology & Philosophy
Beautiful Resistance – Christianity is not just “your life plus Jesus sprinkled on top.” This book explores the ways that Christianity is diametrically opposed to the culture of the world, and what we as Christians can do to push back against the tides of culture instead of getting swept along with the current.
The Reset – If I had to pick one book for every worship leader in America to read this year, it would be this one. Jeremy Riddle writes about purity and purpose with such an intensity and longing. This is what the church needs more than anything else: true worshippers.
Man’s Search For Meaning – This book will give you a heavy dose of perspective. Highly suggest it for those dealing with depression, aimlessness and a struggle to find meaning in their disappointing circumstances.
Animal Farm – George Orwell tells a fantastic story about how good cultures can become eroded, and good people can become pawns for those who crave power. A very short read. I’ve gone through it probably 6 or 7 times.
The Screwtape Letters – Another book I reread every few years. I don’t think there’s a particular danger to the Christian man or woman that’s not covered by this book. We think we know what the strategies and best-case-scenarios for the enemy are, but Lewis has a fantastic perspective on what’s most important to heaven, and what’s most important to hell.
Treason – I love all of the Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card. He’s without a doubt my favorite writer of the genre. This book is super weird, and answers a lot of “what if?” questions that nobody’s asking. Definitely not suitable for all ages, and it’s certainly not a book for non-weirdos.
Maps In A Mirror – Discovering the short stories of Orson Card Card was one of my favorite experiences. As someone who prefers beefy stories that span multiple large books, I was always hesitant to read short stories. But reading through the 4 or 5 collections of Card’s stories, along with his commentary was super fun as a Card-fanatic. Some of them are super dark, so read the descriptions first if you’re worried.
Foundation – I reread the Foundation series this year, along with a few other titles by Isaac Asimov. Such a fantastic writer of thoughtful Science Fiction. Not just “cowboys in space” or “romance in space” or “comedy in space…” Asimov explores the actual implications of new technologies and what each new scientific leap means for politics and culture across millenniums.
Project Hail Mary – This was another recommendation from my friend James. It reminded me so much of the Bobiverse series, and not just because it’s got the same narrator. Man gets stranded in space, and has the nerdiest possible adventure.
Children of Time – Another book that has the sort of feel for me as the Bobiverse series. If when I say, “gigantic, super-intelligent space spiders” you don’t run screaming, you might like this one. It took me by surprise.
Thrawn – I’m pretty confident that this is the only Star Wars series I’ll ever enjoy reading. There’s a lot of logic puzzling and mystery unravelling that hits the spot for me here.
The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke – This one’s massive, and I didn’t actually finish it last year. After enjoying Orson Scott Card’s short stories, I tried this one out as another collection of Sci-Fi tales. The particular cadence of the narration and the structure of the storytelling made me lose track of the thread of the story on more than one occasion, so I use it as a way to fall asleep now. Works like a charm. Really good stories if you’re paying close attention though!
Those are my favorites this year. I’d love to hear any of your favorites as well, even if we have different ideas of what a “great book” is. I’m always looking for new books to read between the revisiting of old favorites.