2018 has been quite a year! My family has seen more positive change and growth this year than at any other time. I am thankful in a million ways. One way God has grown and changed me recently is through BOOKS.
Any fellow bookworms out there?
I’ve been an avid reader from the womb. Seriously, it is in my blood. But for years now, I have slacked in the reading department because life just became too crazy. I got distracted with all the other things, and let this vital part of myself slip. I could see clearly how my mind suffered from this lack. So I decided things needed to change! This past year, I started reading like a crazy person. Well, sort of…
See, I have this problem. It’s called sleep deprivation. It’s a fairly common occurrence in parents of small children. I am currently five and a half years behind on sleep, and counting. Because of this, despite all my good intentions, every time I sit down to read a book, I am sound asleep by page three.
This year, I started listening to audiobooks. It’s definitely not my preferred method of reading…I love the feeling of a hardcover in my hands! But for now, audiobooks have given me the means to take in a LOT of literature while fully awake. I listen constantly, while doing the dishes, folding laundry, driving, etc. Anytime my children are asleep or doing quiet time, and I am alone, I have an audiobook on. Because of this, I’ve been able to read/listen to thirty books in 2018! (At the end of this post, I’ll share a link for the audiobook app I use, and you can sign up to get two free months!)
The books I’ve listened to this year have truly changed me and shaped my mindset. I am so grateful to the authors who have put in the hard work to bring this literature into the world. So, without further adieu, I would like to share my top twenty books of 2018. The first ten are in no particular order, but get honorable mentions for being brilliantly written and thought-provoking. The next ten are the books that have been the most impactful for me this past year.
My Top 20 Books of 2018
20. A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken (A beautiful tear-jerker about love, beauty, and loss, all covered by the mercy of God. Do not read this without tissues nearby.)
19. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo (I loved Marie’s ideas for decluttering and creating a space filled with only things that bring you joy.)
18. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance – Barack Obama (Whatever your political leanings, this is a fascinating autobiography from a brilliant man.)
17. At Home in the World – Tsh Oxenreider (An inspiring travel memoir.)
16. Tramp for the Lord – Corrie ten Boom (This woman was AMAZING. She lived with such confidence in God!)
15. Of Mess and Moxie – Jen Hatmaker (Inspiring. Funny. Light-hearted.)
14. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (I don’t read fiction very often, so it has to be GOOD. I cannot express how brilliant this book is. Definitely a must-read.)
13. Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity – Jen Hatmaker (I’ve been on this “comfort-wrecking” journey for 10+ years now. Anyone else?)
12. Brainbook – Kalyn Brooke (This is the book that got me started on bullet journaling, which has hugely improved my life and made sense of my brain!)
11. Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson (A very important and easy-to-read memoir about growing up as an African-American girl in the United States. A good one to read with older kids!)
10. The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
This was a fascinating read, all about how habits are formed, how they affect our lives in ways we may not even recognize, and how they can be changed. It left me feeling more knowledgable and empowered to take control of the habits in my life.
9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
Introverts unite! We are not broken! We don’t need to change and become more outgoing or boisterous in order to be important to society! In fact, society NEEDS us and our particular gifts and abilities. This book was massively helpful in understanding myself, and others in my life. If you’re an introvert or you love an introvert (that’s everyone!), “Quiet” is well worth reading.
8. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own – Joshua Becker
Minimalism is a lifestyle concept that has fascinated me for a while, and this past year I have felt a deep need to simplify our life. Jordan and I went a little crazy. So far we have donated FIVE truckloads of stuff to thrift stores, and taken several more to the dump! We feel like we are just getting started. This book is a very helpful resource, and gives a great perspective on the “why” of minimalism.
7. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess – Jen Hatmaker
Can you tell I was on a Jen Hatmaker kick this year? Why has it taken me so long to start reading her books?! I feel like I’ve discovered a long-lost big sister. “7” took my rampage on the excess possessions in our home, and deepened the whole process. Jen provides valuable research on how our excess in seven different areas affects our lives, the environment, and our world. It’s information I can’t ignore. I love books that bring on the growing pains!
6. The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd
As I said, I don’t read a lot of fiction. When I do, it must be well-written, contain strong characters and a brilliant storyline, and it has to teach me something valuable. “The Invention of Wings” hits all those marks. It is based on the true story of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, two sisters from a wealthy Charleston family who rejected their way of life to become instrumental in the early abolition and women’s rights movements in the 18th century. I learned so much about this period of history, including a deeper look at the horrors of slavery, and was left inspired in my mission to stand for what is good and right, even when it comes at my own personal sacrifice.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
This is a classic I should have read decades ago! However, this was a great time in my life to read it, as I am constantly exploring and educating myself on our country’s REAL history. This look at the Jim Crowe South, a young girl’s perception of the world, and a humble man’s courageous stand for truth and justice, was both inspiring and heart-wrenching. You can’t read this book and walk away untouched.
4. For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker
That’s right, Jen’s got four books in my 2018 Top 20. “For the Love” is the first one I read, and it is SO. GOOD. The themes of my year have been freedom, mercy, truth, and justice (I know, lighthearted, right?). Jen eloquently and hilariously brings important truth in this book. If you come from a place of impossible standards in your life, whether those imposed on you by a church, family, society, or those you place on yourself, this book offers freedom. It’s a much-needed breath of oxygen.
3. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be – Rachel Hollis
There is a reason this book hit all the bestseller lists this year! It is powerful. Rachel Hollis dives into twenty lies we believe about ourselves, and why they are not true. Again, bring your tissues to this party. Spontaneous dancing and shouts of “Preach, sister!” and “Take that, Satan!” may also ensue. This was one of the most impactful books of the year for me, as it inspired much deeper introspection and action in my life. If you haven’t read it yet, it would be a great way to start 2019!
2. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
I will be honest — this book is not light. It is not short. But it is incredibly important and well-written (the author won the Pulitzer Prize for a reason!). I received a good education in high school, but I never learned a thing about this massively transformative time in American history, and most people I’ve talked to say the same! Between 1915 and 1970, more than six million African-Americans moved out of the South to escape oppressive Jim Crowe laws, and settled in other parts of the country. This well-researched book left me with even more heartache over the way our country has treated African-Americans throughout history. I knew about the slave trade, the horrific centuries of slavery, and the civil rights era (at least the parts conservative white historians wanted me to know about). But I never learned about all the times in-between. It’s this “in-between” that is opening my eyes to so much truth, and making our present situation painfully clear. “The Warmth of Other Suns” gets my #2 spot because it taught me more than almost anything else I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
1. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson
I do not even know what to say about this book. It’s the first one I recommend to anyone asking for book suggestions. It’s the first one I think of when I consider the stories that have impacted me, not only this year, but throughout my entire life. Bryan Stevenson presents a painfully truthful look into our country’s justice system, and calls for mercy in the way African-Americans are disproportionately incarcerated, prosecuted, and put on Death Row. He shares the story of how he started the Equal Justice Initiative as an idealistic young lawyer, and then went on to defend many high-profile cases where black men and women were charged with crimes they did not commit, or were given sentences far too extreme for their crimes. The most moving element of this book, for me, was the way Mr. Stevenson presents all the facts, not from a place of resentment and anger, but through the eyes of a just, merciful God who faithfully defends the oppressed. If you choose only one book to read from my list of twenty, please let it be this one. It could change your life.
There you have it! From “A Severe Mercy” to “Just Mercy”, 2018 has been a year of massive learning and growth for me. I am so thankful for every word I have read, and the impact these incredible authors have had on my life.
And just in case you’re thinking, “Geez, Charlotte, that’s a lot of heavy reading. Don’t you ever let your brain relax?”, let me reassure you. I watch Brooklyn 99, Psych reruns, and SNL highlights religiously. I may use my reading/listening time to fill my mind and heart with knowledge, but I use my screen time to turn my brain into happy mush with dumb comedy. Ha! The beautiful balance that is life, people.
As promised — here is a link to the book app I use to listen to all this glorious literature! I got a free trial of Scribd months ago, and was hooked. Click this link to try it out free for two months! —> https://www.scribd.com/g/6nqy0c
Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite books? What should I add to my reading list for 2019? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy reading, friends!
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