2015 Book Review

Y’all…. I finished 12 books this year! And I owe it all the Good Reads App. I actually have always loved reading, but I have had a serious problem with finishing them. What I discovered was that as a visual person, if I could see the progress I was making I was more encouraged to finish the book and that I did! So here is a little review of the books I read this year. I hope you will find some to add to your reading list for 2016!

The Finishing School:
I have to start with this one, cause I am so proud of my sister. I got to read her manuscript early this year and plan to read through (an actually book this time, so I can keep it and highlight in it!) and go through it with everyone in her book club. I love how Val covers so many topics that we as Christians would like to grow in. It’s opened my eyes to areas of my life that I wasn’t even aware of that needed more effort and, in other areas, it built up confidence to continue. Although so many topics are presented, it is a perfect balance of depth without being too overwhelming. The practical tips and extra tools make it simple to remember and implement. It’s grown in me a beautiful picture of what a life well-learned can look like and gotten me excited to put everything into practice!

Women of the Word:
I’m so glad I rediscovered this book! I had read most of it, but just had a chapter or 2 left and as I finished it, I wanted to read it again! This book helps to guide you as you study the Bible and gives you steps (which I love). It’s great for people who are just starting out and for those who have been reading for a long time. Jen challenges you to look at each passage and see how it is a part of a a reflection of the redemption story of Jesus.

You and Me Forever:
A big theme for me over the last few years has been cultivating a heavenly perspective. When I think about heaven and what it means for our time on earth, my perspective on life’s circumstances dramatically shifts. So when I saw the description of the book was “Marriage in Light of Eternity”, I knew I would love it.  And as I studied the Bible and wrote “Wholeheartedly”, I discovered that marriage although a beautiful thing, was a temporary earthly relationship, so how do we create eternal significance with our marriages on earth. This book helped me reconcile why marriage on earth was a good thing and how to make it a God-honoring and eternity minded institution. I also, loved that the pages are soaked in Scripture!

Love, Skip, Jump:
This is a great, easy read that will encourage you to be open to what God might be inviting you to be a part of! Shalene tells tons of stories about when she said “Yes” to opportunities that God was putting in her path and what comes from those “yes’s”. You will be encouraged to look for opportunities to be a part of God’s big plan for meeting the needs of other people and not let those opportunities slip past. She shows how exciting a way of life it is to constantly be obedient to calling of Christ to be the hands and feet. Read this book if you are feeling a little bored with life or just wanting to figure out how you can make an impact in other peoples lives, for the Lord’s kingdom.

Scary Close:
I really liked this book! It was an easy read with lots of story, and it goes quick. Donald Miller talks about being authentic and open in relationships to create the intimacy and closeness that we all long for. I have often said that I am a very open and honest person, but it is up until a point where I still protect myself from being hurt or hurting others. “But here’s the other thing they offer, and I think it’s what helped me learn to be more true. They offer grace. I’m talking about the kind of grace in which they assume I’m really a great guy who’s just trying to figure things out, and they politely show me the error of my ways.” This is the kind of grace I want to show others and the grace I desire in relationships. A grace that allows people to be honest about our failings and shows support that we are all just journeying through life trying to live each day more and more like Jesus.

The Dating Manifesto:
I haven’t read a lot of Christian books on dating, so I wanted to give this a shot, especially as I prepared to write my next devotional in relationships. This was a fairly easy read, as I finished it in a day and I liked the stories she told and humor she added to a topic that some can be uncomfortable to talk about. That said, I didn’t love this book. The author shares that she is in her 40’s (I think) and still single. She opens up the book by encouraging women to take marriage seriously and pursue it. It came across that she believed if you were older and single then it was something you did wrong in your past, whether it was mistakes you made or or just not being open to the idea of marriage. (Although, it is totally possible I read too much into this, so if you got something different, then let me know.) She called herself a “cautionary tale” which I felt was degrading to herself and singles her age, and also said that she believed that people who married younger were probably the types who prayed about marriage and pursued it from a young age. She cautions against doing “big things” for God as it will delay marriage and even said that it was a selfish thing to do.  All in all I felt like she was encouraging singles to focus on marriage and pursue it or you might miss out on it. And that singleness was a punishment for not taking the right steps early on. There could be people out there who are single because they have been disobedient in the past (though I believe that the Lord can redeem anything), but there are also people who are single because God has called them to that life, for however long, for a reason we may never know on earth.  I believe that if you are like me and already struggle with feeling like you screwed up along the way, this book could do more damage than good by making you feel less than, because you didn’t do it the right way like all those “perfect, happy married people”.   It got better from there and I believe she shared some practical and good advice for dating, but the first few chapters had so much that I disagreed with and that wasn’t backed by Scripture that I had a hard time enjoying it.

The Fringe Hours:
I borrowed this book from Val, and wondered if it would apply to me, because it seemed like it was more for busy mom types. Knowing that I was in a season of needing to get things done, Val suggested I still read it. The author talks a lot about taking advantage of these pockets of free time that we have to do the things that mean something to us, whether its a hobby or just something that makes us smile. I do think that if I read this book, from a different stage in life I would have enjoyed it more and gotten more out of it. There were a ton of things that I couldn’t relate to as a single gal with no kids, and more time to myself than most! However she did present a few ideas that have helped me to be more useful with pockets of time, like carrying around the book I am reading and pulling it out when I have 5 minutes free instead of cruising Instagram.

The Meaning of Marriage:
I absolutely loved this book. Timothy Keller is a smart guy and his thinking is a little deeper and outside of the box which I really like. It wasn’t the same old stuff that you always hear about marriage, atleast I hadn’t heard it. He put things into perspective in ways that made me have “aha” moments all the way through and made me feel like … “If everyone knew this people wouldn’t be getting divorced!” He talks about the benefits of marriage, not it a way of how it brings me happiness, but in a way of how it brings me holiness. Which I think is a life, and relationship, changing viewpoint.

There are so many more things I could say, but I think you need to read this for yourself. He mentions that it is good for singles and married alike to read and says “it’s primary goal is to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible. That will help married people correct mistaken views that might be harming their marriage, and it will help single people stop over-desiring marriage or destructively missing marriage altogether.”

This was my first book on simplifying and being more content with the things I have and I thought it was definitely a worthwhile read. Jeff challenged us to really see how rich we are and recognize that the culture we live in is encouraging us to constantly get more. He shares why we struggle with consumption, the benefits of reaching a state of contentment and how to overcome it. It was an easy read and one you would want to keep around, for a refresher when you need it.

Sacred Marriage:
This was good book, but if you only read one book on marriage, please read Meaning of Marriage! I think Gary Thomas puts a little more emphasis on the need and the benefits of getting marriage than I see in the Bible, but he does make a lot of great points. Also, it may have been because it was like the 5th book I read on dating and relationships, but I found it a little harder to get through and that it was stuff that I had already read before. But still a great solid read and if books like Meaning of Marriage intimidate you terms of “thickness” (the length and the topics/information), then this would be a great read for you!

The Sacred Search:
If you read one of Gardy Thomas’ books, read this one! Because this topic is on the search for a spouse and the dating process I felt like it was more unique to me than Sacred Marriage.
Gary gives lots of different things to consider when deciding on the person you should marry. He covers a range of topics and encourages you to keep your standards high as far as the character and spirituality of the other person, but also reminds us that there isn’t any biblical backing for “soulmates”, so you can marry anyone who meets the standards he mentions. I probably have an opinion slightly different in that I believe that any 2 Christians could get together and have a beautiful, happy marriage, but that there are some who are more compatible and more designed for you than others. I also think it’s important, as you read through the standards, to keep in mind that you will never find a perfect person. The goal is to find an individual who is committed to the Lord and growing in that relationship and relying on Him for everything. But all in all, I really did like this book and felt like it brought up unique things that I hadn’t read in terms of the dating world and pursuit of marriage.

An Inspired Life:
This is such a sweet book, that is beautifully written. Katie shares biblical truths throughout the book that will challenge and encourage you. It’s not easy for a book to be both an easy read and challenging, but this was both! My favorite were the “prayerful prompts”. I’m glad she named them that because it reminded me to slow down and prayer before answering. At least on one of the days of prayer prompts the questions were EXACTLY what I needed at that moment and encouraged me to do something that I may not have had the courage to do!
*This book is no longer available, but Katie will be writing a new book soon, so stay connected through her blog!

Have y’all read any of these books?! What were your thoughts?
Also, if you have any other must read book recommendations, please share them. I am finalizing my list for 2016 (that I’ll share later this week) and would love to hear what books have been most life changing for you!

Also, go check out Val’s post to see what she read this year!!!
And stay tuned as we have posts every day this week to close up 2015 and look forward to 2016!!! 

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  • Thank you so much for including me in this round-up! So thankful! :)

    Also, I really appreciate all you had to say about The Dating Manifesto. I LOVED parts of that book, but I felt some of the same frustration you did about the author calling herself a “cautionary tale.” God has used her in some pretty mighty ways while she has been single, and I just can’t believe that is an accident, or because she focused on “doing great things” too much.

    I am a firm believer of fully embracing where the God has you, while still praying hard for future hopes and being open to new doors of opportunity. I can honestly say as a woman still single in her 30s, I have tried EVERYTHING I can possibly try to be ready and open for marriage. But despite all of my efforts and trying and striving, God hasn’t answered that prayer yet, and I certainly don’t think it’s because I focused on serving Him well in the midst of my trying and waiting.

    In my personal opinion, to focus solely on the pursuit of “getting married” is to miss out on some pretty big ministry opportunities as a single woman. Why can’t one be open to marriage, while also being open to living fully in the moment and pursuing some “big things” for God? I think we can! :)

    Sorry to write a book on the subject, but I’ve grown pretty passionate about single women waiting with purpose, rather than waiting passively. :) Maybe that’s the new writing I should pursue… ;)

  • Hey Nat!
    I loved reading this post:) My whole family is taking the personality test now and I have downloaded the reading app! Woohoo happy New Year’s Resolution to me! Love you!

  • I love reading other people’s book reviews! I’ve never read Sacred Marriage, but I have the devotional he wrote for it, and love it! It has 52 weekly devotionals to read through with your spouse. It’s a great (simple) way to keep some of those pre-marital counseling discussions going after you’re married. Since I know you’re engaged now, I’ll add that my favorite practical book that I recommend to engaged couples/newlyweds is “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married” by Gary Chapman. It touches on some topics that I find a lot of marriage books miss. :)