I read 95 books in 2023. My goal was 100. GoodReads responded by saying,”Better luck next time.” Work on your bedside manner, GoodReads! But I digress.
Whether you have a lofty goal—I’m still aiming for 100 books this year—or you are throwing out book challenges all together as some are advocating, I’d love for you to consider a few fantastic reads that filled my 2023.
Here are 10 books to add to your TBR stack based on six different categories—although some overlap. I linked to Amazon for ease but you can get these at the library, a thrift shop, audible, or if you are local I can loan many of them to you!
Heartbeat by Sharon Creech. I picked this book up at a library book sale. It surprised me because poetry moves the story forward. You’ll meet characters like protagonist Annie and her running buddy Max. You’ll spend time with her aging grandfather and celebrate the birth of her new sibling—all in poetry form. It’s a quick, delightful read.
After Prayer by Malcolm Guite. This is a collection of very moving poems by a brilliant poet, theologian, and priest. I have a line from one of his poems above my desk. He writes, “The pen is poised above the page. There is nothing left but to begin.”
Essays of E.B. White Though some may argue this is not really memoir, White is hands down one of the greatest observationists of all time. He writes about every day life—his life mostly—and brings to our attention the beauty of the mundane. I laughed often under the spell of his witty phrases. It was fun to learn he had a farm with a pig he nursed to health and earlier in life a friend named Wilbur.
All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore. She shares moving stories from her life, the ever present nearness of God in even the most difficult situations, and leaves you crying and laughing at the same time. When I wrote about this book last year, I concluded, “Beth writes with a painful honesty that many of us wish we could master. May we learn from her example to admit our brokenness, share our stories, and look to Jesus for hope both now and in the life to come.”
Undistracted by Bob Goff. I think all Bob Goff books should be listened to by the author—which is what I did with this one. TWICE! I love his stories and simple truths. I highly recommend the whole book but chapter 6: All Access Pass and Chapter 11: Serial Reject are truly worth the cost of the book! Be encouraged and challenged to focus on the right values and lose distraction from your life.
How to Human by Carlos Whitaker. This book is part memoir but wholly a challenge to be human in our interactions with others. Both people with whom we look like and agree with and those with whom we have nothing in common and may even vehemently disagree on major issues. Carlos says, “We don’t stand on issues. We walk with people.” What I love about this book is that he is speaking to believers and nonbelievers alike. That’s a hard task. How do you remain committed to the non-compromising values that Christ demands we uphold while also demonstrating love to those who don’t believe. In his epilogue which I highly recommend you read first, he challenges Christians to look like Jesus—echoing James’ admonition that salt and fresh water can not flow from the same spring (James 3) In other words, if we call ourselves Christians we should be the most HUMAN people on the planet. We should live as people who bear God’s image, yes, but we must also treat all the people on the planet who—regardless of whether they’ve become a Christian or not—also bear the image of God. As such, they are valuable and worthy of love and respect regardless of whether we agree on—anything.
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger is a great read about a man who almost drowns and suffers from amnesia as a result. He lives above a movie theater he apparently runs, gets caught up in the story and life of an old man who flies kites, solves a mystery, and there’s a little romance thrown in too. It’s a gorgeous read as Enger’s books tend to be.
The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo. I’m a Kate fan through and through. Her novels for the “eight year old” are lovely, cathartic, and breathtaking. This book starts with a head-butting goat named Answelika, a misfit priest, and a girl who can’t remember her name or where she belongs. It’s lovely and inspiring. And although it’s a children’s book it’s worth reading at any age. Again. And again.
Bearing God’s Name by Carmen Imes. I actually read another book by Imes this year called Being God’s Image—which I loved and also recommend. But Bearing God’s name focuses on the time at Sinai and the in-between on the way to the promised land. One element that continues to stick with me is the concept of liminal space—the time between. Like sitting in an airport between flights or standing in the doorway of a house, you are neither where you were—or—where you will be. Sometimes the space is brief and other times there are delays. Regardless the length of the liminal space, the time spent there matters.
Nobody’s Mother by Sandra Glahn. Glahn gives a historical background of Artemis of the Ephesians. This is the same Artemis that Paul references or alludes to in his letter to the Ephesians and to Timothy. She is the same Artemis that Luke details in his historical account in the book of Acts (Acts 19). Glahn writes, “The goal of considering the identity of Artemis Ephesia at the time of the earliest Christians has been to provide a context for exploring the influence of the Artemis cult on Paul’s first letter to Timothy..” You’ve likely heard the term “context matters.” Glahn brings to light the context we’ve been missing when considering how Paul chose his words throughout 1st Timothy to respond to the very present Artemis cult practicing in Ephesus. I wrote my thoughts about this book HERE.
The Lower Lights by Morgan E. Underwood. This short story is haunting and precise. Every word is carefully chosen and just lovely. It reminds me of the writings of contemporary writers like Leif Enger and Anthony Doerr but also has the undeniable echoes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s whimsy. Check out an audio form of her short story and more of her writing on her website.