I am, shall we say, an avid reader. I’ve always loved the chance to escape in a “good” book though my choices have not always been what I call good-for-me books. Yes, I have read my share of crime novels, chick-lit, and even, I confess, Twilight. (We get it, she loves him!) Here’s my list of books that I can whole-heartedly (or with a small disclaimer) endorse. Most of it will remain static but I promise to add to it as I come across other great-reads.

My favorite books…in no particular order:

1. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon…this made me laugh out loud. I haven’t read his other book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but I loved this one. I love the British-ness of it, the “series-of-unfortunate-events”-ness of it, and the redemption of family at the end. (I’m a sucker for a happy ending!)

2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin…I’m still processing this one and probably will continue to work through it. I found it challenging and inspiring (a combination I love–one without the other is just defeating, right?) I read a copy from the library but plan to get a copy for reference and to mark up. Can’t wait to read her second book.

3. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan…I laughed, I cried, I read large portions of this aloud to my sister. Need I say more?

4. Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore…I read this one a few years ago on the urging of two different friends. I was getting ready for a business trip and they insisted that I should read it on the plane. As a more realistic friend to you than either of my friends was to me at the time, let me echo their urging to read this but say this: read this in a private place where doing the ugly-cry will not draw the attention of strangers nor garner the concern of flight attendants or seat-mates. But you should totally read it.

5. Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had To Ask by Jancee Dunn…the same friend that urged me to read Same Kind of Different as Me, suggested this book, which I did, on a plane. And once again, I drew the attention of the flight attendant, but this time it was because I was laughing SO hard. She makes some life choices that I can’t say I condone but man is she funny!

6. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist…I first heard about this book just after it was published. I saw the adorable 30-something author pictured with her blond hair and blue eyes and thought, “She cannot possibly have any insight to share–she’s too cute.” I admit that it’s possible that I jumped to some conclusions based solely on her cuteness and being younger than me but already having three books out. I also admit that I was completely wrong. She totally gets me! In fact, I’m pretty sure if we ever met we’d be the best of friends. I read Cold Tangerines (her first book) and liked it but Bittersweet is my favorite so far. This spring her new book, Bread and Wine, will be available–can’t wait!

Update: It’s out and it’s fantastic. You can read about it here.

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte…I have been slowly making my way through the list of books you’re supposed to have read. This was one I started just so that I could cross it off my list but I LOVED it! Now one of my favorites.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee…Another one of those books that I somehow never read in high school or college, I finally got to it last summer (for book club–go LitChicks!) And again, I loved it. (Maybe there’s a reason these books are classics?) I was so afraid it was going to be dark and darker with a sad ending (remember the Oprah Book Club books of the 90’s?!?) so was thrilled to discover some hope and redemption among the sadness.

9. When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James…This is my favorite of her books. It’s a little challenging to get started but so worthwhile I think. I’ve been meaning to re-read it. This is another one you’ll want to own so you can mark it up. (Also be sure to check out The Gospel According to Ruth.)

10. Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning…He used to come and speak at chapel every year when I was in school and attendance was shockingly high whenever he was there. His books are overflowing with truths about grace and forgiveness. Who doesn’t need a little bit of that? Next on my list from Brennan is Ragamuffin Gospel.

11. The Land Between by Jeff Mannion…We heard Jeff speak at the Willowcreek Leadership Simulcast in 2011. Glenn wasn’t working and we were searching for what was next (is this beginning to sound familiar to anyone?) Jeff was one of the speakers and his presentation on the land between hit me right between the eyes, my weeping eyes. Simultaneously challenging and comforting, this is a book I keep coming back to.

12. Seven by Jen Hatmaker…Laugh out loud funny but pretty challenging if you want to go there. Jen drives your focus to areas of consumerism without pointing a finger or bringing out your defenses. You can follow her on Facebook for a regular dose of her fun humor.

Honorable Mention goes to these books for being engaging, entertaining, interesting, inspiring, lovely, humorous or just plain escapist…or some combination of those. (Still in random order.)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Likeness by Tana French

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

Until Tuesday by Luis Montalván

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

John Adams by David McCoullough

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

A Man Called Ove by Freidrich Bachman

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson



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