Best on the Shelf 2018

These bookshelves contain something that:

  • sings
  • argues
  • tells a story
  • seduces
  • explains how
  • won’t shut up
  • keeps you awake
  • won’t be put down
  • recalls the past
  • can see the future
  • may not be seen again
  • says just what you’ve been thinking
  • transforms your bus ride
  • won’t disturb the neighbors
  • never gets tired
  • is wonderful

This is an adaptation of a list I found in a bookshop that now hangs in my library. There’s always been a sort of magic about reading for me, and the heroes and heroines tucked inside my favorite stories lend courage (and usually humor) to some pretty dark days.

2018 brought along some great additions to this bibliophile’s shelf. Out of the 44 books I dwelled in, here are the top 10 influencers of my mind and heart this year:

1. The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! This was my absolute favorite read of 2018. The writing is fabulous in this thematic walk through the calendar year. (I especially loved “September—When Seasons Change: Gathering in for Home and Soul.”) Rivendell, the burrow, and a hundred other homes that make you long for our real, true, ultimate Home all scatter their interesting character throughout the text. Once a month I’d pour a cup of tea and snuggle away with this mother-daughter team, finding comfort and peace in their words (and constantly thinking, “What a good idea!”). If you’ve been longing for a more intentional rhythm of life at home, look no further. This is gold, I tell you.

2. Nailed It: 365 Sarcastic Devotionals for Angry or Worn-Out People by Anne Kennedy

Granted, I bought this out of curiosity. But guys—she loves the Bible. And she loves the Jesus the entire Bible points toward. There really wasn’t as much saltiness as I expected; it turned out to be a lovely, raw parade of the gospel. Anne accompanies her readers from Genesis to Revelation, pausing at moments of particular beauty, confusion, or chaos. Warning: she covers the gamut. Some of my favorite verses are highlighted in her short daily blurbs, but some really painful and weird ones are in there, too. For those wanting to read through the Bible in a year, this would be a traveling companion worth taking along.

3. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman

This book is perfect for every Martha out there. (And I suspect the Marys would appreciate it, too.) I mean, I had my husband—who is naturally allergic to plans/details/lists—read a chapter yesterday, and he spent the following hour and a half voluntarily setting up a weekly time map. (You people don’t know how close to a miracle that is.) Matt gives a really solid perspective on time management, both the why and the how, and offers a wealth of helpful resources to make the most of our days. Feel like your schedule is out of control? Here you go.

4. So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore

I didn’t know how much I needed this book until I was a couple of chapters in. Guys. If a less-than-flattering comment can sink you to your knees (or launch you into bitterness), if you find yourself silently pleading for approval, if you check the mirror every time you’re near it (or avoid it at all costs), it’s time to pick up the freedom purchased for you. Think insecurity is something only young people deal with? Nope. Sorry. It’s a war, and it’s bloody. This is a sneaky enemy that hangs out with you at the dinner table. Before church. In the bedroom. God’s people have been hunted down by this ghost long enough. Let’s say, “So long, insecurity!”

5. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

This read provided real movement toward a more contemplative, authentic faith. Most of my life has been a trajectory along the path of learn and act, learn and act, learn and act. There hasn’t been a whole lot of priority placed on just be. Stopping long enough to rest? That’s crazy talk. How will I keep the world spinning? (Haha. But for real.) One of the most helpful bits of the book was a list of the top ten symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality, the first of which is using God to run from God. Dang it. I needed this kick in the pants to remind me of the inside-out order of the kingdom. I was never meant to learn or work my soul to death. Suffering, sabbathing, removing the masks—these are the first steps toward the healing I didn’t even know I needed.

6. What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms by Angie Smith

Angie is like the big sister you wish you had. She writes with a very down-to-earth style and a wicked sense of humor, but she’s not afraid (lol) to talk about hard things. The what ifs? Rejection. Abandonment. Betrayal. Being found out. Failure. Death. The past catching up to us. Insignificance. God’s plan. God’s existence. Women grapple with all of these fears and more, but thankfully, we don’t have to try to figure it out by ourselves.

7. Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

You know I love a book when I start making a playlist about it. (Here you go.) This story is an epic adventure that includes breathtaking imagery and leaves you longing for more of Jesus. Hannah provides an allegory of the Christian life, but it’s a really easy read. (You could even turn it into a family activity by collecting your own bags of rocks, making sketches of Much Afraid’s travels, or creating your own soundtracks for the journey.) You’ll appreciate the patience and kindness of the Savior so much more after reading this gem, and I guarantee it will build up no small amount of hope.

8. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp

If even one person relies on you for advice, you’ll benefit from this book. Whether you’re a friend, a parent, a pastor, a teacher, whatever—if you have any measure of influence at all, give it a read. Paul will fill your hands with the gospel for broken people, and it’s okay if you’re broken, too. (In fact, it’s better that way.) He covers how to build relationships, how to speak the truth in love, and how to live out of our identity in Christ. This one’s a game-changer.

9. No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd

A lady who takes other ladies seriously? Yes, please. Aimee argues that the “weak women” mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:6-7 are sitting in our churches today, and we have a responsibility to them and for them in building them up with solid teaching. Girl, preach it. She pulls down shallow faith and practice (bye, Bible art journaling—you were such a pretty thought) and urges her sisters to stand strong in the Word rather than just posting pictures of it on Instagram. I admit that she does go a little far by pointing out specific female teachers she doesn’t agree with, but as a whole, being challenged to invest in my girl brain restored some dignity.

10. Shame Interrupted by Edward T Welch

You know how when you buy a red car, suddenly you notice everybody has a red car? (I’m guessing. I drive a navy blue something or other.) I didn’t recognize the amount of shame in people around me until I started wrestling with my own oceans of it via this book. I’ve seen how the world deals with shame, and it’s nothing compared to the treasure trove of resources available in the gospel. Jesus absorbed every ounce of our shame so that we could run free in praise and joy, announcing His goodness to the world. Let this be the year you drop that extra emotional baggage.

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