Did you make it through my big list of 31 books I was able to read last year? That was one long post (I think that's a big no-no in the blogging world, but sometimes there's no getting around it!) - too long to add more at the bottom, but I did want to share with you my top 5 books from that list. These are the books that have stayed with me, that I learned or grew from, or that I know I will want to read again someday.
While it might seem like just more of the same, I hope you'll bare with me - this time I'm going to tell you what exactly made them my 'best of' books. Books that I think would be worth your time on some level.
My 5 Favorite Books Read in 2015
5. Boundaries – Henry Cloud & John Townsend
This is a book I know I'll read again - and one I'm glad Brian read with me. It's important to be on the same page when dealing with family or mutual friends. There really is a fine line between enabling and loving action and it's sometimes very, very hard to know the difference. But it's also very important - for everyone involved.
The authors give solid Biblical backing for why boundaries are important, how they are formed, and how to set them in your own life. They really helped to clarify for me that it is not selfish or unChristian to get your own life in order using boundaries.
This book explores how & why to say yes or no with regards to relationships: when you choose to say yes to something, are you saying yes because you feel an obligation to the person? Or are you afraid they will be angry if you say no or you will hurt them because they won't get to do what they want to do? Is your yes because you truly want to help out, or are you feeling resentful when you say yes to others? And most importantly, is your "yes" enabling another to be too dependant on you?
For me, the discussion on how to set limits (boundaries) with someone in a compassionate way that isn't condemning was super helpful. I truly think there are very few people who wouldn't benefit from reading this book!
4. Whistling Past the Graveyard, Susan Crandall
This story just grabbed me from the first pages and was hard to put down. It was in turns maddening, touching, scary, sweet, and ultimately right, good, and satisfying. It's a story of a 9-year-old girl (Starla) in the early 1960s who runs away from home with some misconceptions about her mom who lives in Nashville - hours away from where she lives with her grandma. As she walks, a black woman with a white baby picks her up and the story goes from one emotion to another throughout the rest of the book.
Over everything is the amazing - truly amazing - first person narrative of Starla by the author. Honestly, I was so impressed with how she got SO many things right - not only how a 9-year-old says things but what they say and think. I caught myself laughing out loud so many times. Other times I was horrified at the state of black-white relations in the 60s south, as well as the situations Starla found herself in.
And the ending is just perfection for these characters I came to love. I kept hoping and was so grateful when it ended right (so many don't...) with a type of family coming together despite racial and societal barriers. I've been recommending it to everyone - though I usually have to explain the title first!
3. Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
Yes, I found it weird and kinda sad, but how could I not put this on my top 5 list where I'm talking about books that moved me or made a difference in my life? There's no doubt that Marie Kondo's book (on many other top book lists, too, I'm sure) has made a difference in our lives. While I've always been a 'get rid of it' kind of person, this book (and all the talk about it) got me excited again to get rid of clutter for good.
Many people point to the "does it spark joy" part of the elimination process as the thing that struck them the most, but for me it's the idea of going through (or 'tidying' as the author puts it) all our stuff by category. Not by drawer, closet, or room as I had always done. It makes a lot of sense to me - when you've cleared out everything in a whole category, there's nothing left to migrate to other areas like often happened with the room-by-room approach.
Brian & I started with our clothes (the category we're encouraged to tackle first) a few months ago, and I tried folding my shirts on end in the drawer like the book suggests - just to see if I'd like it. It really is nice to pull the drawer out and see all the colors of t-shirts and tanks at a glance - I really do love it and have kept it that way since easily. We were able to get rid of all our 'seasonal' clothing boxes that were stored under our bed and now all my clothes are hanging or in my dresser (Brian kept one labeled box in our closet). I love that I can see it all and it actually made the fall transitional season easier to dress for, since I had tops that worked for our warmer days. I gave away a lot of clothes, shoes, and accessories, which always feel good.
In fact, this book inspired one of my 2016 goals: to "KonMari" our whole house using this checklist. That's pretty life-impacting, wouldn't you say?
2. Dear Mr Knightly, Kathrine Reay
It's been a long time since I found a fiction novel that I enjoyed so much and this also introduced me to Katherine Reay, an author I know I will continue to read (and enjoying an author this way also hasn't happened for me in a long time).
Why? Yes, it's light, 'chick-lit' fiction and so nothing really life-impacting comes from reading this. Other than the enjoyment of a well-told, clean, fun story. And that's exactly why it's on my top list - do you know how hard it is to find contemporary fiction that isn't dark, twisted, full of sex or glorifying values and ideas that I don't even want to know about, let along glorify? I have lived long enough that I do NOT see the value of exposing ourselves to everything out there in a quest of "knowledge." There are some images I have in my head from books read years ago that just. won't. leave. And NOT in a good way.
Honestly, it kinda breaks my heart to see the stuff we read (and watch) in the name of entertainment - completely forgetting the value of filling our hearts and minds with "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable..." (Phil. 4:8) So this book that has garnered so many good reviews and made it to other 'best of' lists with it's themes of redemption and healing of past hurts and characters that come alive through the pages without dipping into dark & twisted? That's why it's #2 on my list!
1. The Best Yes, Lisa Terkyst
I had seen a number of women talk about how good this book was since it came out in August of 2014 and I'm SO glad I finally read it. This is #1 on my list for a number of reasons:
- I think women in particular (though I see Brian struggle with this, too) have a hard time saying no, so this is a needed topic to explore.
- I loved the emphasis on YES (though the point of the book is that you DO have to say no to some things in order to say yes to the best things) - it really helped put it into perfect perspective for me.
- It spoke to me in the midst of my own 'endless demands' and so really, really impacted me - my thoughts, actions, and priorities.
- I WILL read this again - maybe even yearly!
While tidying may change the outside of my life, this book for me was truly life-changing: I will never think of "yes" and "no" in the same way again - and I'm grateful that it helped me take my eyes off of myself and realize that there are bigger things going on and God can work through my no's as well as my yes's.
What are the books that have impacted you? Please share - I'm always on the lookout for books to add to my list!