A lot of you have been patiently waiting for me to put together this post on my Top Reads from this Past Year! Last year’s post on my Top 10 Reads from 2015 was one of my most popular posts. So I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer!
I find it interesting that people are so interested in what I read. But then I remember that I LOVE these types of posts on other people’s blogs, so it’s no wonder! Avid readers are always looking for new great book recommendations, aren’t we?
Part of me feels like I can’t really classify myself as an “avid reader” — if you just take this last year into account. You see, I read 45 books this year — which is about half the number of books I’ve averaged over the past 4 years. This includes 5 chapter books I read aloud to the kids + 4 books I listened to on audio.
Many of you have wondered where my book posts have been and have asked me to please write more about what I’ve been reading. The truth is: I didn’t read as much in 2016 nor did I set any reading goals because I let myself have a lot more time to rest, feel, think, process, sleep, and just slowly go through one or two books at time.
I also left a lot of time in my schedule this past year for quiet. Not only because I knew my brain needed a break, but also because I wanted to see what that felt like! I’m usually a person who always wants to fill up the nooks and crannies of my life with good podcasts or good books so that I can always be learning new things, stretching my mind, and challenging myself.
But this past year, I learned that some quiet in my day was good for my soul and helped me to really be able to think and work through some hurts and things in my past that I’d stuffed down deep and ultimately be able to live a much more whole and healed life.
It was so good to do for a year, but I’m really anxious and ready to get back to more reading and having a few books going at once! (I’ll share my reading goals at the end of this post!)
Of the 45 books I did read in 2016, here were my top 8 favorites:
1. The Happiness Dare
This book changed my life this year. And it’s one of the reasons I’m having a Year of Yes!
I loved Jennifer’s encouragement to start looking for shots of happy in the middle of the mundane, cultivating cheer in the midst of the messes, and celebrating the gifts and wonder and beauty to be found all around us!
As Jennifer challenges us, let’s “refuse to join the chorus of negativity, stop sleepwalking through life, boycott cynicism, and wring the joy out of ordinary days.” We were made for more!
I loved this quote:
We can stop trying to be someone we’re not. Happiness begins in that moment, when we look within and say, “I was not created to be her; I was created to be me”. Happiness is an inside job. You don’t find happiness by being the best version of someone else; you find happiness by being the best version of you.
As I’ve been taking the Happiness Dare, I’m realizing that there are so many beautiful things all around us, but often, I’ve been too busy and focused on productivity that I’ve missed them. This dare has really challenged me to look around my world and find the happy. To add more shots of joy into my every day life. To wring the delight out of what might seem ordinary.
I’m letting myself take time to slow down and enjoy a bike ride, to buy those discounted flowers, really be in the moment in a conversation, to savor the beauty of the ocean, to slowly enjoy books, to wear colors I love, to stop saying to myself, “That’s not who you are!”
2. Finding Spiritual Whitespace
This book wasn’t anything like I expected it to be, but it was everything that I needed to read. It was so good and messed with me in such a profound way!
Bonnie shares how she had to go back to the broken places in her life and work through and heal those before she could find freedom from her intense anxiety and panic attacks. As someone who has experienced anxiety since the time I was a young child, I resonated with her journey so much and this book was a big piece of my own healing journey this year.
If you feel like you’re running on empty with no time for rest, no time for yourself, and no time for God, I think you’ll be blessed and challenged by this book.
3. Present Over Perfect
This book is one I savored slowly and it was the perfect book for me during this Year of Rest. This book resonated with me at such a deep level.
I feel like Shauna and I have been on parallel slowing down journeys… And I could have written almost every word she’s written in this book. (Only she expresses it much more poetically and beautifully than I ever could!)
I shared a lot of what I learned from this book on Instagram and other places online. Here was one of my favorite quotes:
Remember this: you don't have to say yes. You are not a slave to your calendar. Other people's expectations are not the boss of you. Just because you *can* do something doesn't mean you *should* do something. Know your priorities. Know your season. Know your capacity. And then think carefully and prayerfully before committing to anything today. Give yourself permission to say "no" if it's in the best interest of your health, your sanity, and your soul. #presentoverperfect #HappyMonday #quotes
If you are struggling to get off the exhausting hamster wheel of life, if you feel like life is beyond crazy but you can’t figure out how to slow it down, or if you just wonder what it would be like to not live life at breakneck speed, I highly recommend this book.
I slowly savored it like a cool, refreshing drink of water and have re-read so many parts of it because it’s been such a balm to my soul!
4. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
I’d had this book on our shelf for a long time, but honestly, the cover just looked boring so I didn’t pick it up to start reading to the kids. I’m glad it was assigned reading in our Sonlight homeschool curriculum last year, or we would have missed out on this gem of a book.
Yet another great example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover! All three of the kids found it very engaging and attentively listened when I read it and always begged me to read more when I’m done.
Before I left for my trip to Israel and Italy, I had ordered the book, Presence, by Amy Cuddy. I’m not even sure where I heard about this book, but it was the best thing I could have read on the plane. There was so much in the book that really challenged me.
The thing she said that impacted me to the core was about the “impostor syndrome”. She explained this is a complex we develop when we go into situations where we feel that we are an impostor. Like we’re the only one who doesn’t really belong and if other people found out how scared or unqualified we felt, they would find out we were just an impostor.
This really hit me hard, because I had felt exactly like that going into the trip (and in many, many, many other instances in my life!). A few days before we left for the trip, we were given the bios of all of the people who would be on the trip. The group was made up of some amazing individuals who had done incredible things with their life. They had huge followings, had won major awards, they were well-known, well-qualified, and well-experienced.
When I compared myself to the others who were there, I felt like I didn’t belong. But I realized that I probably wasn’t the only one who felt like this going into the trip (and I found out through conversations with some who were there that that was indeed the case!).
Every time I would start to tell myself how out of place I was among the group, I would make myself say, “I belong here.” Not in an arrogant way, but as a reminder that I was asked to come on this trip and that, as such, I was not an impostor.
I might have less life experience or fewer connections, but I had something to offer and bring to the table. So I would hold my head up high, remember that God had allowed this opportunity for me, and remind myself that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
If you struggle with insecurity or feeling like you have something to offer or bring to the table in settings with others, I would highly recommend this book. It’s packed with lots of practical advice — some of which I will carry with me and follow for the rest of my life!
Read my post here where I share more about how this book impacted me.
6. Johnny Tremain
This was our second top pick for a read aloud this year. Such a fascinating story that we all enjoyed!
I listened to this audiobook and now know why so many people have raved about it! We went to the movie back at the end of 2014 and I’ve wanted to read the book ever since! And the book was definitely every bit as good as the movie. Such a powerful, powerful true story of courage and forgiveness.
8. Good News for Weary Women
I just finished this book and it was SO good! Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“You don’t need to learn secret steps, try harder and harder, wear yourself out in an attempt to be beautiful, snag Mr. Perfect, or raise perfect children. You are already welcome, loved, forgiven, and completely okay.”
This. This is the message of the Gospel. This is redemption. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “it is finished” while dying on the Cross.
The Gospel is not about what we do, how we measure up, or our good deeds. It is about Jesus and what He has *already done* for us.
Our one job is to live lives of worship and love to Him, resting in His grace, relying upon His strength, and living in the knowledge that — in Christ — we are loved, we are redeemed, we are beautiful.
There is no condemnation in Christ. None. So stop beating yourself up over what you haven’t done or aren’t doing. Start living in the joy, rest, and forgiveness He is freely offering you!
My Reading Goals for 2017
As I told you yesterday, one of my goals for 2017 is to read 48 books I already own. I picked out a stack of 12 books that were old Christian reprints, a stack of 12 books that were story driven, a stack of 12 books that were about improving your life, and a stack of 12 books to encourage me in my Christian walk. My plan is to try to read one from each stack each month. We’ll see how it goes!
I’ll be sharing updates on what I’m reading and what I’m planning to read each Sunday in my new Peek Into My Life posts where I’ll be sharing snippets from my life — what I’m reading, watching, listening to, working on, pondering, etc. 🙂 Look for the first post tomorrow!
What were your top reads in 2016? Tell us in the comments!
Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
- My Top Reads from 2015
- My Top 10 Reads from 2014
- Books I Read to the Kids in 2014
- Books I Read in 2015
- Books I Read in 2014
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