Books are an important part of my life. I have always loved to read but in recent years have really become more of a consistently avid reader; there is always a mountain of various books on my bedside table. This year in Costa Rica, reading has become an even more vital part of my life. Spiritually, I’ve been challenged in ways that has produced a hunger to deepen my faith. So I’ve bought and read lots of books that are in the ‘spiritual’ category. I’m also always looking for a great story that transports me to another place, that is beautifully written (or at least well-written), inspires or intrigues me in some way, and expands my own view on life. With less recreation options here, novels have become perfect entertainment.
So here are a few of the books that have been especially meaningful, challenging, or just plain entertaining: (in no particular order)
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I just finished reading this novel while in North Carolina. I had never read any of Kingsolver’s books (she is probably best known for The Poisonwood Bible) but I fell in love with her exquisite writing and beautiful descriptions. The story takes place in a small southern farming town as well as the Appalachian woods and reading it gave me a little piece of the wilderness and nature that I so often crave here in the midst of the concrete of San Jose. Plus, the story weaves in information about the intricacies and fragility of ecosystems that I never would have thought to be so fascinating.
Radical by David Platt: the most recent book I’ve completed. Joe just finished it too. Totally challenged us and how we live out our faith. Do we really believe in what Jesus said, what he did, and who he was? Or “are we manipulating the gospel to fit our cultural preferences?”
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. A classic, gothic novel. A story of obsession and revenge. It was intriguing, dark, intense… I found Heathcliff to be the most despicable character ever. “And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”
Loving Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk. My favorite parenting book ever. This is a book I’m always going back to. Totally turns traditional parenting techniques on their head (especially Christian techniques) and shows parents how to raise their kids in the freedom of Christ.
Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Colin. Yes, I was addicted like almost everyone else who read these. The first is the best since it’s such a new, crazy concept.
If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn. Like most people, I struggle with the question, “why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?” Many atheists point to the evil in the world as the main reason why there cannot be a God. I’m still not finished with this book because it’s intense and heavy. But I bought it because I knew Alcorn would do an excellent job of addressing this question and backing up it up with scripture. Learning a ton…
Managing the Non-Profit by Peter Drucker. Joe bought this one on my Kindle, searching for some answers for some of the challenges he’s (we’ve) experienced while being at the Abraham Project. It’s been extremely helpful.
Culture of Honor by Danny Silk. An excellent book about leadership in the church, but it is applicable in many situations. Again, another book that has helped us navigate through our work at the AP. One of the main premises is that we cannot lead (or be in any healthy relationship) by trying to control the other person.
The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. One of the best, most memorable books I have ever read. It is Pat’s memoir about his time teaching on an isolated island off the coast of South Carolina to a group of completely ignorant students, due to their poverty, isolation, and a school district that is neglecting them. As a teacher, it was both inspiring and discouraging at the same time.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. Gorgeous writing. Intense story. “She had awakened something in me that had slumbered far too long. Not only did I feel passion again, I felt the return of hope and a clearance of all storm warnings in the danger zones of memory.”
Prayer by Philip Yancey. “Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn’t act the way we want God to, and why I don’t act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge.” I love anything Yancey writes. This is no exception. He is so authentic and honest.