“Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”
~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Every year, I set a goal to read at least 25 books, an average of two per month. Often, I have more than two I’m reading at once. This is a list of the books I’m currently reading and recommending because they inspire me in some way. The lists are added to seasonally. Titles are linked directly to Amazon should you decide to give one or several a go. In full disclosure, I am an affiliate with Amazon, so if you click on a link, and make a purchase, I’ll receive a little change. Thank you!
On the Craft and Creative Life
Dani Shapiro is one of my favorite authors on the subject of writing. I led a small group of writers using Still Writing and re-reading the wealth of essays as a mental transition tool for writing my next book. Her writing is stellar, experience vast, and insight rich and meaningful. This book will inspire you to sit in the chair and do the work with expectancy.
Peterson combines memoir and mentoring as a songwriter/storyteller who is personable, authentic, and encouraging. Adorning the Dark is an arm around your shoulder, a kind voice, and inspiration to keep sharing your gifts with the world.
I re-read this book often for guidance and encouragement while invested in a big writing project. The Memoir Project is the best I’ve read on the topic. Smith’s frank enthusiasm is reminiscent of a teacher in front of a classroom of students. She maintains a posture of truth-telling while inspiring readers to be better at the craft simultaneously.
The title says it all Breath for the Bones: Art, Imgination and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith. If you are a creative or enjoy creative endeavors, as a Christian, this book is the perfect meld for inspiration, empathy, and encouragement. I return to it often.
From the Amazon description: Part memoir, part humorous and poignant defense of poetry, this is a book that shows you what it is to live a life with poems at your side. Megan is such a great writer, I read this in one day while on holiday in Canada. And I’m re-reading it now. The Joy of Poetry is an inspirational, helpful read for those exploring the riches of poetry
I’m reading a lot of memoirs as I write memoir for for my own book. Inheritance is a page turner, full of insightful, honest prose that holds up a mirror to the common struggle of belonging. A page turner for savoring on a trip!
I couldn’t put this compelling story down until my eyes were blurry. Educated is inspiring readers around the world to believe that your life is not dictated by your circumstances and providence requires risk.
Not only because Christie is a dear friend but because her writing is stellar, I highly recommend Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace because we all long to find that elusive place of belonging. I have numerous quotes copied in my journal from the pages of this wise and beautiful book.
Poetry to Calm Your Soul
I often read poetry on the weekend as a transition from hustle to a slower pace. And this one is my favorite. This Day turns your head and heart to the beauty and presence of God in nature. It’s a wonder. Highly recommended for Sabbath!
Oliver’s poetry is accessible and penetrating. A Thousand Mornings transports us to the marshland and coastline of her beloved home, Provincetown, Massachusetts. She has a keen eye for details in nature and manages to help us capture the mundane in a way that is vulnerable and dare I say, holy.
My son gave me gift card for book shops in London on my birthday, my favorite gift ever. I used it in Kew on The Peace of Wild Things and every time I read a poem, I think of Harrison. If I had to pick one of the poetry books I’ve recommended here, this one would be it. I re-read and savor his egrarian poems often. His poetry is calming to the soul.
I’m a huge Peterson fan and so, this book feels like icing on the cake of his eloquent prose and wise writing. Small enough to fit in a purse or backpack for commutes or the perfect companion for lunch at work. Holy Luck is a great gift.
I found this anthology of poems on the theme of trees at a book shop in Bath. It’s one of my favorites. Treelines: A collection of poems is the perfect gift for your nature-loving, literary friends. Maybe the perfect gift for yourself!
Though Word in the Wilderness is created for Lent and Easter, the poems and rich reflections are a go-to any time one needs a spiritual reorientation, clarity of focus, or hope during a wandering season. Each day is worth a second and third read. I will return to this book over and over again.
Developing Spiritual Practices
Willard’s writing is meaty and requires chewing and savoring in small bites. But of all his books Life Without Lack is the most accessible read. We’re using this as a companion to the Psalm 23 series in the Sabbath Society and his rich insights resonate well.
I’ve read all of Buchanan’s books and was honored that he wrote the foreword for my first book, Rhythms of Rest. But this book? Things Unseen is the perfect read for navigating uncertainty. I read it 14 years ago and am re-reading it again. His unique voice, storytelling, and biblical truth makes me cry and laugh, underline and highlight. He makes hope accessible in an uncertain world.
Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning has saved my heart from fear on numerous occasions, the first being our move to London and the second, my cancer diagnosis. He is a truth teller in a way that brings conviction, perspective and peace. We need people who have been faithful when times are rough as guides through the unknown and Manning’s voice is a kind companion.
I discovered The Inner Voice of Love in Tuscany by way of a spiritual director. It’s a compilation of intimate conversations Nouwen has with God and what he discerns as responses. Reflective, this book touches on the frailties common to our humanity and the truth of God’s love parts the clouds for perspective. It was published on the day Nouwen passed and the treasure he left behind for us is truly a gift. I often return to this one in times of doubt, fear, and loneliness.
Smith writes like a theologian/academic so his ideas need to be savored and read thoughtfully. He helps us think differently about spiritual habits. I have been both convicted and changed by You Are What You Love.
Amazon describes this sacred book best: “This anonymous fourteenth-century text is the glory of English mysticism, and one of the most practical and useful guides to finding union with God ever written.” The Cloud of Unknowing is cleverly written as letters by a monk to his student as a teaching tool. This tool for learning the spiritual practice of contemplation is (ironically) to be taken in small bites and savored.
Honest, humorous, wise, and inspiring you will read this one like a devotional. Also written in an epistolary style, her insights and wisdom give hints for the leadership calling God had on her life at an early age. The Reckless Way of Love is a window into our humanity and what it means to be surrendered to following Jesus.
I’ve read Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human more than twice and often refer back to it for inspiration. It’s about calling, purpose, and how what you do matters in the world. Inspiring and counter cultural, Comer is a master at making you see the familiar in a different way and he appeals to a young audience as well. My son is reading him!!
Comer is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. His quick, conversational style translates complicated theological questions into simple practical takeaways. God Has a Name is based on Exodus 34:6-8, turning one of the most quoted parts of scripture into a living, breathing, inspiring way to see God in your everyday life.
I realize I have a lot of John Mark Comer on this page. I promise I’m not getting kickbacks for promoting his books!
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is his most popular to date. In it, he talks about having a rule of life. As usual, it is thought-provoking, applicable, and inspiring. Highly recommended read, especially for people you know who are running on empty all the time.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality has been on my reading list for a long time. I wished I would’ve read it sooner because I put in the category of one of the most transformative, life-changing books I’ve read to date. Every Christian needs to read it. This is a topic that very few churches address and yet, it’s “impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”
In The Book of Waking Up Haines redefines sobriety and addiction in a way that is accessible to all of us (meaning me and you!), not just your stereotypical addict. He helps us to wake up to the pain we’ve fallen asleep to, identify our sneaky coping mechanisms, and reorder our lives back to Divine Love. Highly recommended read for those who want to be released from being stuck to grow and flourish.
Rediscovering the ancient practice of using prayer beads while Praying through the Psalms has been a surprising discovery in creating deeper intimacy with God. Contemplating verses, practicing adoration, and meditating on God’s character is a rich and meaningful process of releasing anxiety and fear while cultivating hope in the faithful, powerful presence of God. I highly recommend adding this spiritual practice as an everyday rhythm.
As an endorser for Everything is Yours, I read it twice. Once to write an endorsement and a second time because I needed the message. Ironically, I devoured Kris’s words on giving God your whole heart when my heart health was compromised by immobilizing palpitations caused by anxiety. Think of this book as an empathetic shoulder and a wise teacher that offers healing and wholeness for your heart.
I’ve been a big fan of Sara Hagerty’s writing for a long time and consider her a dear friend. I’ve had the privilege of reading an early copy of Adore and cannot recommend it highly enough. Consider this a companion to your everyday quiet time; an enriching spiritual practice that offers deeper intimacy with God in the middle minutes of your day. And it’s a beautiful gift to give someone you love.
Shameless plug for my own book based on the feedback I’m getting from lots of people using it for personal retreat. If you need a jump start on rest beginning the New Year or a reason to cultivate presence with people, Sabbath Roots is written to be savored alone or with friends.
Page Turning Fiction
A phenomenon happened when I read Hannah Coulter that’s never happened for me while reading a novel. I wanted to underline sentences and highlight whole paragraphs. Wendell Berry is already a favorite poet but this is the first novel of his I’ve read. I’m hooked! This book is beautifully agrarian and human. Told from the viewpoint of a woman in her 70’s and looking back on her life, she dispels into paragraphs how we feel about so many things but can’t put into words. Highly recommended.
Over six million sold–need I say more? Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautifully written tale about overcoming adversity to live into who you are meant to be. It’s about love and loss, disappointment and joy. All the components of what make a book hard to put down are in these pages.
I bought this book on a visit to Paris, at the famous American independent bookshop, Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank. But I didn’t read The Paris Architect until recently, years after that purchase. It was worth the wait, I could hardly put it down. Set in World War II, it is a harrowing tale of listening to your heart and acting in love.
One of my favorite reads of 2019, this book often comes to mind in conversations about aging. The story is haunting. How to Stop Time makes you think about what might really happen if you never aged. I recommend this one all the time.
I’m going to say it: This might be my most favorite fiction read ever! How did I live my reading life without knowing about Rosamunde Pilcher?! When a friend knew I was travelling to Scotland for the New Year, she recommended I read Winter Solstice. And she couldn’t have given me a more lovely gift. It’s English charm, heartwarming relationships, love, family, everything a fiction book should be. Grab a copy!
An international bestseller for good reason. The Island by Victoria Hislop is endearing and enlightening, putting isolation during a pandemic in perspective. Set in Greece, she transports you to the flavors and textures of the culture with vivid description. I learned so much about the realities of leprosy. This one makes Leviticus more tangible. Highly recommended read.
The Scent of Water was recommended by a well-read author friend and it doesn’t disappoint. As it says on the cover, it’s a captivating story filled English charm, luminous wisdom and astonishing spiritual insight. Elizabeth Goudge is a lovely writer and this one of hers is a great companion on a long winter day. Great one to read if you are in transition or longing for something new in your life.