The last few years I read roughly 60 books. This year I only got through 50. Maybe it’s because I’m busier with my little granddaughter. Or perhaps because I’m finishing my own book about Post Traumatic Growth that will be released in February. I was pleased with the majority of books I read. Many have my comments from Goodreads, but a few have the Amazon description. At the end of this list I will share my favorite five.
I hope you’ll share your favorite reads from 2017 in the comments. Happy 2018!
- How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields – As someone who reads positive psychology books all day long I didn’t learn anything new or earth shattering but I enjoyed this because of the way Fields wrote it. It’s free.
- Essentialism by Greg Mckeown – An interesting easy read. Nothing earth shattering but still glad I read it.
- The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian – Chris Bohjalian is my favorite fiction author. This may have been one of my favorite of his 19 books. His name might sound familiar. He wrote Midwives, one of Oprah’s bookclub picks. You’ll never forget his characters. He is truly an expert at his craft. Here’s the storyline: When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee’s disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee’s husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs’ Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee’s disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?
- The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker – This is written by the man Oprah calls the nations leading expert on violent behavior. Even though it’s 20 years old it’s up to the minute in regard to its cautionary tale. Women, especially, are trained to be sweet and smile even when they feel something is wrong. This book tells you how to spot the danger signals in human beings, and how to respond to nefarious behaviors. This book might save your life. At times this book bogs down (I feel like it needed a good edit) but it’s a powerful read.
- Emotional Agility by Susan David, PhD – This book was excellent. I almost didn’t read it because I was kind a bored by the cover but I’m very glad I did. Landmark research with excellent anecdotes. Not just for work, but for life in general. I wrote a blog about it here.
- The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking – Years ago I came across the Dutch word gezelligheid. It’s similar to hygge. I wrote a lot about it in my book Renewed. All my life my favorite word has has been”cozy.” I’m 51 so that’s saying’ something! When my family and I went to Amsterdam after I wrote my book, and after my youngest graduated from college, we were sitting on the train and the newspaper had a headline with that Gezellig word. I asked a lady nearby what it said. She read the translation: “Train travelers want more coziness.” That made my day. On that same trip we were sitting on in our hotel overlooking the ramparts of Rothenberg, Germany, listening to music, sipping wine. I wanted to savor the moment forever. A young woman opened the shutters. I asked, “Oh sorry, are we being too loud?” She breathed in the air and said, “No my girlfriends and I are having a self-care weekend.” Selfcare is the broad theme of my book. This is a special book. I kept googling the various things the author mentioned (lamps, teapots, candles, recipes, etc).
- The Family by Jack Balswick – A textbook I used for a class at Colorado Christian University.
- The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Gary Chapman – I read this book for a course I’m teaching at a local university. The information was good and Chapman keeps it interesting with stories, but I didn’t read anything earth shattering maybe because I’ve been married for 30 years.
- The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp – New York Times best-selling author of One Thousand Gifts Ann Voskamp sits at the edge of her life and all of her own unspoken brokenness and asks: What if you really want to live abundantly before it’s too late? What do you do if you really want to know abundant wholeness? This is the one begging question that’s behind every single aspect of our lives — and one that The Broken Way – also a New York Times bestseller – rises up to explore in the most unexpected ways. This one’s for the lovers and the sufferers. For those whose hopes and dreams and love grew so large it broke their willing hearts. This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.
- The Dry by Jane Harper – I don’t read as much fiction as non-fiction, so I’m not an expert reviewer in this department. I was intrigued by this book when I heard that Reese Witherspoon bought the movie rights before the book even released. This is a who-done-it murder mystery, set in Australia. There is a drought in this small town and you can feel the heat crackle on every page. Many people say this is an incredible piece of work considering it is Jane Harper’s debut novel. “It’s not the first time a reviewer has been struck by the maturity and sleight of hand in Harper’s first fictional work, which she wrote after taking a 12-week online writing course. She credits that to more than a decade as a reporter, most recently at The Herald Sun. Here’s a short synopsis: After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.
- Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa – This book is hard to read. Not because of the writing but because of the topic. Two researchers using questionnaires from 28,000 Kaiser patients found a surprising and gigantic connection between certain painful childhood experiences and later debilitation of physical health. They make is sound as if having a 3 or 4 was on the high side. I had a 7 and I was being conservative about my experiences. It could easily have been a 9. That’s why it was painful to read. Yet, I’m glad researchers have made the connection. “Your biography becomes your biology. The emotional trauma we suffer as children not only shapes our emotional lives as adults, but it also affects our physical health, longevity, and overall wellbeing. Scientists now know on a bio-chemical level exactly how parents’ chronic fights, divorce, death in the family, being bullied or hazed, and growing up with a hypercritical, alcoholic, or mentally ill parent can leave permanent, physical “fingerprints” on our brains. When children encounter sudden or chronic adversity, stress hormones cause powerful changes in the body, altering the body’s chemistry. The developing immune system and brain react to this chemical barrage by permanently resetting children’s stress response to “high,” which in turn can have a devastating impact on their mental and physical health as they grow up.” I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor and have done a lot of emotional work to heal my own childhood traumas. Anyone who has had trauma in childhood needs to read this book. Here’s the blogpost I wrote.
- The Music of Silence by Andrea Bocelli – I go through through these phases where I suddenly wonder about a person or an issue and then I research it to death. Right now I’m in my Andrea Bocelli phase. The Music of Silence is Bocelli’s autobiography that deals with his childhood, family, blindness, growing up, dating life, and his rise to fame. It’s a beautiful book and when you finish you’ll feel like you know the man. What I found most interesting is that there was barely any mention of Bocelli’s blindness. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that Bocelli lost his sight. He never mentions having to rely on others for help or assistance other than the stories he tells of his mentors and his parents who loved and guided him with his studies and purpose. The Music of Silence brought me to tears several times. Bocelli writes from a deep place within his soul. The kind of place we all feel when we are waking early in the morning but one we rarely share with others. Bocelli’s freely shares his thoughts on vocation, desire, lust, shame, sorrow, death, and love. Just for kicks I googled his little town of Lajatico, Italy—right there in the middle of Tuscany—and discovered he does an annual concert back in his hometown at the Teatro del Silenzio. Of course it’s an extravagant fantasy to imagine myself there, but I did it anyway. It didn’t cost me a penny to dream. During the night I dreamed about his music and the little village where he grew up. Last September, when John and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary our group stopped in Volterra. This was part of the Rick Steves Villages of Italy tour. The guide told us Volterra was near where Bocelli grew up. I’ll never forget our bus driver putting the song “Time to Say Goodbye” on the stereo as we wound up the hill into town. Beauty in any form is something that drives my life.
- Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner – I’ve never heard of Erin Loechner, but according to her bio I probably should have. She’s been an art director/stylist and mega blogger with millions of followers. She’s done two seasons on HGTV and been showcased on some major online magazines. She is a woman of multiple talents. Not only can she make everything look pretty and perfect, she can write about it in a captivating way. At times I felt nauseous, literally, by the way life was so staged. I guess that’s the point of the book. As an author, blogger myself I felt tons of pressure. In fact, by the end of this book I never wanted to interact on social media again. The author is authentic, but at times I felt myself cringing because she was so good at her job and so able to detach from her family. I guess that’s exactly the point she wanted to make. Ultimately it’s a good cautionary tale, like the one of the Mexican fisherman we’ve all heard about.
- Messy Journey by Lori Wildenberg – This book is an invaluable resource for Christian parents who have children making choices that grieve them. It’s not a how-to, as in how to change your children and make it all better. It’s a book about unconditional love. It’s a guide, with many stories of successes and failure. It has stories from the prodigals and from the parents. There are specific prayers and tips so you don’t feel alone.
- The Cozy Life by Pia Edberg – Short, sweet, and very similar to the famous Hygge book (The Little Book of Hygge). This was the first book ever written about hygge in the world. A classic treasure that feels like an old book from times forgotten, with cream coloured pages and hand drawn illustrations. Not only is this book about Hygge, it ‘feels’ Hygge. This is the original and first published book about Hygge that started it all. In today’s world, we’re constantly rushing from one thing to the next and are struggling with information overload. We’re more disconnected from ourselves and our loved ones than ever before. Rediscover the joy of the simple things through the Danish concept of Hygge in The Cozy Life. This book will inspire you to slow down and enjoy life’s cozy moments. This charming little book, filled with hand drawn illustrations, beautifully addresses that yearning we all have for a more authentic life, created by ourselves instead of external forces.
- All The Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth – This is the exact kind of book I like to read. I heard about Edie in my Hope Writers online writing group. I bought the book many months ago but finally picked it up while on vacation in Mexico. Every day, I couldn’t wait to get back into it. My poor book: it’s covered in margarita splashes, sunscreen, and pool water. I did bring it back to the states and I’m trying to figure out exactly who to give it to. I don’t want to just give it to a random person. It’s sooooo good. I think I learned that Edie hired a professional to help tell the story just right. Edie has such a hard story to tell, and yet it goes down easy because it’s written so well. She is an inspiration. Pick it up today!
- Before the Fall by Noah Hawley – On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family. Was it by chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something more sinister at work? A storm of media attention brings Scott fame that quickly morphs into notoriety and accusations, and he scrambles to salvage truth from the wreckage. Amid trauma and chaos, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy grows and glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, morality, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.I gave up on this one 1/3 of the way through. Maybe I’d like it in a movie. Maybe I didn’t give it a real chance because of the distractions: Trying to figure out where I was on my Kindle, barking dogs, airplane distractions. This one just didn’t do it for me. It’s story driven, not character driven.
- Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant – I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor, part-time teacher at Colorado Christian University, and published author. I live in the Columbine neighborhood and worked with police and firefighters at Ground Zero so healing from trauma is of huge interest to me. I’ve spent the last four years researching and writing about the powerful topic of Posttraumatic Growth. (I wish I could tell you the title of my book but it remains in the hands of agents and publishers. I hope it gets to be born someday.) In the meantime I want to shout hurray and yeehaw on almost every single page of this book. The smashing point of this book: All people can heal, and some people are even launched to a more meaningful place after experiencing trauma; clinical research shows how. Growth is actually more common than the much better known and far better studied posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The challenge is to see the opportunity presented by seismic events. After trauma, people need hope. In the aftermath of the tragedy, people need to know there is something better. Following a traumatic experience, most people experience a range of problems: Trouble sleeping, nightmares, agitation, flashbacks, emotional numbness, avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, anxiety, anger, guilt, hyper-vigilance, depression, isolation, suicidal tendencies, etc. Until recently the entire discussion of the human response to trauma ended with a summation of the hardships incurred by trauma. But as it turns out, a traumatic event is not simply a hardship to be overcome. Instead, it is transformative.Trauma survivors and their family and friends need to know there is another side to trauma. Strange as it may sound, half of all sufferers emerge from the trauma stronger, more focused, and with a new perspective on their future. In numerous studies, about half of all trauma survivors report positive changes as a result of their experience. Sometimes the changes are small (life has more meaning, or the survivor feels closer to loved ones) and other times they are massive, sending people on new career paths. The worst things that happen to us might put us on a path to the best things that will ever happen to us. A brush with trauma often pushes trauma survivors to face their own mortality and to find a more meaningful and fulfilling understanding of who they are and how they want to live. To be clear, growth does not undo loss, and it does not eliminate adversity. Posttraumatic growth is not the same as an increase in well-being or a decrease in distress. And even for those who do experience growth, suffering is not mitigated in the aftermath of tragedy. Growth may make the pain meaningful and bearable, but it does not deny the hurt. For decades, nearly all the psychological research into trauma and recovery has focused on the debilitating problems that people face, but Option B speaks of the paths people can take to heal from their experiences and discover new meaning in their lives. Just this morning a blog reader wrote to me and said she feels stuck because of her father’s suicide many years ago. The first thing I did was tell her about your book. I have been, and will be, recommending this book to friends and clients.
- A Family Shaped by Grace by Gary Morland – Last summer I was hanging out in a Colorado hotel room while my husband attended a conference. I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw that a literary agent friend of mine had recommended a group called Hope Writers. I immediately joined the group. As an author, I felt bummed that so many people were already part of this group and I had never heard of it. Hope Writers is a forum for writers to learn more about the craft of writing and marketing. It’s hosted by four people: Sisters Emily P. Freeman and Myquillyn Smith (The Nester), their dad Gary Morland, and author-mentor Brian Dixon. We learn from the blog posts, online discussions, podcasts, and videos they share.So in November, I went to a Hope Writer’s conference in North Carolina. That’s where I really got to know the four people I mentioned above. They are the real deal. A quad of four talented, deep-thinking, generous people. So now back to the book: In this book Gary describes growing up with an alcoholic father. He describes the misery he was in while trying to parent his own children without any healthy role models. He noticed how tense and unhappy things seemed to be with his own wife and children but didn’t have a clue how to change things.The book begins, In 1985, my wife’s husband is thirty-four years old and an alcoholic who drinks three quarts of beer a day and falls asleep on the floor every night by 7 p.m. He’s a college dropout with no training or skills, no ambition, and no motivation.Then three things happen: Gary stops drinking, Gary comes to believe in Jesus, Gary meets a mentor named Harold. That was many years ago. If you could meet Gary and his daughters you wouldn’t believe this was their history. The theme behind A Family Shaped by Grace is how to create a healthy family. But the great news is this is not a book that overwhelms and shames you if you want to improve the state of your own family. Nor is it a tome with deep psychological material. Instead it’s a fun, easy, playful (but not shallow) book with interesting stories. You’ll hear Gary’s gentle voice saying, “I didn’t know how to do . . . so I asked Harold . . . and then I tried this…and this is what happened.” If I were to summarize the book in two words I would choose Gentle Guide. One idea that stands out is the metaphor of a river. Gary helps you see why creating a healthy family matters so much. Generations before you shaped the family you were raised in, and those people shaped the way you behave in your current family. But even more importantly, what you do today matters, for down the river future families are being shaped you. This book includes a Family Satisfaction Assessment and exercises to help you understand which areas you want to change. It has a Family Peace Polestar that serves as a guidepost so you know which way to go. Gary describes Everyday Tactics of Family Disharmony that destroy peace and happiness, and then he offers the Timeless Tools of Family Peace. I marveled at Gary’s transparency. He gives a lot of detail about his relationship with his wife. He reveals the ways he messed up his marriage. This isn’t self-deprecation that is intended to make him look good; this is a humble guy showing you the way. You’ll be grateful for the specifics he gives. If you met Gary and his family, you would definitely want to know how they became the caring close bunch they are. This book traces their path.
- At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider – In her late thirties and as a mom to three kids under age ten, Tsh Oxenreider and her husband decided to spend a rather ordinary nine months in an extraordinary way: traveling the corners of the earth to see, together, the places they’ve always wanted to explore. This book chronicles their global journey from China to Thailand to Australia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, France, Croatia, and beyond, as they fill their days with train schedules, world-schooling the kids, and working from anywhere. Told with wit and candor, Oxenreider invites us on a worldwide adventure without the cost of a ticket; to discover people, places, and stories worth knowing about; to find peace in the places we call home; and to learn that, as the Thai say, in the end, we are all “same same but different.”
- The Airbnb Story by Leigh Gallagher – Many people have heard the story about Brian Chesky and those rented out air mattresses that lead to a company now worth 30 Billion dollars, but most people don’t know how millennials changed the hotel industry. My history with Airbnb went like this: My husband and I were trying to find a hotel in Munich. I had the filter set wrong so it was searching during Oktoberfest and prices were outrageous.I started searching on something called Airbnb because my grown kids had told me about it.I daydreamed about a beautiful apartment in Munich where we would have a more authentic experience.I thought to myself, if I’m looking for something like this on the other side of the world, maybe there are people on the other side of the world looking for this in Denver. I sipped wine on the deck and told my husband we should become Airbnb hosts. I was just being silly.I began to research it.I emailed a host 1/2 mile from us and asked her if I could treat her to lunch in exchange for information. She told me she rented out a room to help pay for her children’s college tuition. She surprised me by saying most of her guests were young women who didn’t like to stay in hotels. My husband and I stayed in an Airbnb bedroom at the apartment of a young couple in Breckenridge, CO. It was cheap, comfortable, but most of all, an adventure. I listed my house on Airbnb because of the site’s friendly interface. It took less than 15 minutes.I had my first booking in less than 24 hours. The female guest showed up at 8 p.m., heated up some soup, went to bed, and left by 6 a.m. She didn’t even want a shower or a cup of coffee. My grown kids lectured me and said millennials don’t want to meet you. They just want a bed.My husband and I hosted people during the summer of 2016, mostly Red Rocks concert attendees. We put our site on hold for the winter but just re-listed it for the summer concert season.After listening to this book it helped me understand what I couldn’t put into word: Airbnb is about a unique experience, one that hotels can’t give you. Airbnb offers you a human experience that is intimate, something tech savvy youngsters are craving. Now it’s not just for the young people—people of all ages are trying Airbnb.This book is unbelievably interesting. Even if you are not an Airbnb user or host, you would learn much about the world of hospitality and how it has changed in the past decade.
- Your Keys, Our Home by Michael and Debbie Campbell – I heard about this couple while listening to the audio version of The Airbnb Story. As Michael and Debbie Campbell prepared to retire their daughter encouraged them to see the countries on their dream list of places to visit. They didn’t think they could afford to do that but their daughter thought they could, using the inexpensive means of Airbnb. This book is the proof they made that happen. So far they’ve visited 152 cities in 50 countries and stayed in 110 different homes. In fact, I emailed the couple and found them in Zanzibar! This fun read tells how they selected which Airbnb’s to stay in, and describes the adventures of finding the places in real life. They tell about the kind owners who took greeted them in the various countries. They give tips for being a good guest and a good host. For those with wanderlust, this is a highly entertaining and informative book.
- Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller – I loved this memoir. I’ve ordered all of Fuller’s other books. How have I never heard her name before? If you’ve read the book Glass Castles you’ll get a feel for this one. Set it in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Africa. In the midst of war, she tells of her family’s adventures and tragedies. She does so with no judgement, even for a bipolar, alcoholic mother, and a John Wayne type of father. Never have I read an author who could write the tastes, smells, and imagery she experienced while growing up.
- On My Worst Day by John Lynch – I’ve been “friends” with John Lynch on Facebook for several years. My friend Shelley Hendrix told me about him four or five years ago. She didn’t tell me much, she just mentioned something called True Face. I’m still not sure what that is. I always enjoy John’s stories on Facebook. I could tell he was a humble man who loved people and God, but I guess I didn’t realize he was a pastor, writer, and speaker. He never really talks about that. Last week he mentioned this title: On My Worst Day so I googled to see what it was. I ordered On My Worst Day and spent the afternoon reading it. It was delightful. John speaks of the God and grace I know. Thankfully. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who was presented with Christianity that wasn’t about doing and being (although I had that in my youth). Mostly, I’ve gotten to tell my story, even the ugly parts, and experience love and acceptance from my community and from God. Twenty-five years ago I was living a wild and reckless life, a reaction to loss and trauma early in life. I met a funny, authentic pastor near the lake where I ran each day. (At this point I always think of that scripture that says, “It’s your kindness that leads to repentance oh God.”) This pastor knew God’s kindness and offered it to everyone he met. I knew I wanted what he had. I gave my life to Christ. Reading John Lynch’s book reminded me of the ups and downs of my own spiritual journey. I resonate with his stories of feeling of messing things up, and witnessing God’s ever faithfulness even when the story looks different from how I want it to be. Every time a read a book I think about who I want to pass it on to. With this book I had so many people on my list. I may need to order a few more copies.
- Chemistry by Weike Wang – I chose this book based on Ann Patchett’s online recommendation. It’s a short sweet novel with a voice unlike any I’ve ever read. I noticed myself laughing out loud while my soul ached. It’s about a girl in graduate school studying chemistry. She is struggling to figure out what she really wants for a career. This is is an uphill task considering her Chinese immigrant parents have directed her path thus far. She lives with her boyfriend and she almost seems autistic; all of life is seen through the prism of science. After a personal crises, and a breakup, her heart begins to thaw with the help of a counselor and a friend who has a baby. This was a sweet ride.
- Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre – A friend of mine from Great Britain told me to read this book. It was incredibly interesting. A story about a dead man that was used to fool the Nazis and help win the victory. I generally don’t read war books or history, but this subject fascinated me. My only complaint is the author was so incredibly detailed that I had to skim past the parts that seemed extraneous.
- Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller – A child of the Rhodesian wars and of two deeply complicated parents, Alexandra Fuller is no stranger to pain. But the disintegration of Fuller’s own marriage leaves her shattered. Looking to pick up the pieces of her life, she confronts tough questions about her past, about the American man she married, and about the family she left behind in Africa. Fuller soon realizes that what is missing from her life is something that was always there: the brash and uncompromising ways of her father. “Tim Fuller of No Fixed Abode”—familiar to readers from Alexandra Fuller’s New York Times–bestselling memoir Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight—was a man who regretted nothing and wanted less, even after fighting harder and losing more than most men could bear. Leaving Before the Rains Come showcases Fuller at the peak of her abilities, threading panoramic vistas with her deepest revelations as a fully grown woman and mother. Fuller reveals how—after spending a lifetime fearfully waiting for someone to show up and save her—she discovered that, in the end, we all simply have to save ourselves.
- Like Me or Not by Dawn Owens – I read the author’s copy which is soon to be published by Worthy Publishing.
- A Fierce Love by Shauna Shanks – Wrecked with news of her husband’s affair and his request for a divorce, Shauna finds herself urgently faced with a decision. Does she give up and divorce her husband and move on, or does she try to fight for her marriage? The former choice seems to contradict God’s plan for how to love, such as “love never gives up,” “love is patient,” and “love is kind.” Taking God at His word and assuming the love chapter was really meant to be followed literally word by word, she not only finds herself falling in love with her spouse again, but also falling in love with Jesus, which changes everything. First Corinthians 13 presents an audacious, illogical, and irrational context of how to love, meant to be applied to every marital context not just the fairytale marriage. If God’s instructions seem illogical and audacious, you might just expect the same kind of results in return! This book is not air-brushed. It was written in the midst of the author’s deepest trauma, and she purposefully did not edit out her mistakes and failures during that season. This book will resonate with women who do not feel like the picture-perfect Christian woman with the fairytale life and marriage. A Fierce Love is the story of a train wreck and reaching out to God not in the calm but in the chaos and finding hope for the future.
- You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott – This book held me from Page 1. I’ve read most of Abbott’s books but this was my favorite. The story takes place in a family whose key member is a teen gymnast. The family swirls and finds its being around her. As a counselor I liked the way Abbott paints a picture of Family Systems. Like a car engine with one part malfunctioning, it affects all the other parts. There is tension and dread on every single page.
- Destination Simple by Brooke McAlary – I listened to this lady on a Tsh Oxenreider interview. She sounded like someone I would like. I guess she has millions of blog followers. I ordered the book. It’s gorgeous. Lovely cover with a hardback, small and beautiful. I sat down to read and it took me about 10 minutes to skim. There was nothing new here: slow down, pay attention, be grateful. I wish I had my $8 back.
- Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – A lot of people recommended this book. That’s why I picked it up. It’s the story of a young woman raised in Minnesota. She enjoys the freedoms of her father’s college science lab, but suffers under the coldness of a Scandinavian mother. She finds safety in the predictability of science. This is a memoir told through the lens of a plant scientist. You’ll learn what it’s like to struggle for grants and what it’s like to experience those “eureka” moments of discovery. As someone who loves research, I identified with the author. Yet, at times I must admit I skimmed through the detail of her experiments. What you’ll find is that this scientist has lots of joy and warmth to share about her unique life.
- Tapping In by Laura Parnell – Never has it been so effortless to activate your inner power and resilience than with the remarkable technique known as “resource tapping.” Tapping In makes available for the first time a self-guided program for learning this revolutionary EMDR-related method. With step-by-step instruction in bilateral stimulation (a core component of EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Tapping In teaches you a clinically recognized system for tapping both sides of the body to overcome trauma, boost confidence, calm the body on a deep, physiological level, and to respond better to stress.
- Hourglass by Dani Shapiro – Hourglass is an inquiry into how marriage is transformed by time–abraded, strengthened, shaped in miraculous and sometimes terrifying ways by accident and experience. With courage and relentless honesty, Dani Shapiro opens the door to her house, her marriage, and her heart, and invites us to witness her own marital reckoning–a reckoning in which she confronts both the life she dreamed of and the life she made, and struggles to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become.
What are the forces that shape our most elemental bonds? How do we make lifelong commitments in the face of identities that are continuously shifting, and commit ourselves for all time when the self is so often in flux? What happens to love in the face of the unexpected, in the face of disappointment and compromise–how do we wrest beauty from imperfection, find grace in the ordinary, desire what we have rather than what we lack? This one just made me sad. As a therapist I wanted to offer her counseling so that she didn’t view her current life through all the tragedy of her parent’s accident. She’s a gifted writer but I wanted it to find more hope and meaning.
- Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro – A totally accessible user’s guide from the creator of a scientifically proven form of psychotherapy that has successfully treated millions of people worldwide. Whether we’ve experienced small setbacks or major traumas, we are all influenced by memories and experiences we may not remember or don’t fully understand. Getting Past Your Past offers practical procedures that demystify the human condition and empower readers looking to achieve real change.
Shapiro, the creator of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), explains how our personalities develop and why we become trapped into feeling, believing and acting in ways that don’t serve us. Through detailed examples and exercises readers will learn to understand themselves, and why the people in their lives act the way they do. Most importantly, readers will also learn techniques to improve their relationships, break through emotional barriers, overcome limitations and excel in ways taught to Olympic athletes, successful executives and performers. An easy conversational style, humor and fascinating real life stories make it simple to understand the brain science, why we get stuck in various ways and what to do about it. Don’t let yourself be run by unconscious and automatic reactions. EMDR is one of the most popular trauma treatments. You can see more here.
- Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown – I gave this book five stars because as usual Brown has done her research, and she is a masterful storyteller. These are the two passions of my life: research and storytelling. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor and an author, so I devour Brown’s books. My favorite is The Power of Vulnerability. I have watched her TED talks probably a hundred times. I tell every one of my clients to read her books and watch her videos. I’m a huge fan. However, this book wasn’t fun or pleasurable the way her other books have been. I listened on Audible and felt pained much of the time. Part of that is because I identify with the ways I’ve armored up after the 2016 election. I lean conservative and have tried to share my views with civility and have always encouraged people to respectfully share theirs. Yet I’ve been called every name you could imagine. Sadly the worst offenses came from my Christian brothers and sisters who see things differently. One of the cruelest people was an author who wrote a book (that I purchased) about how we need to listen to peoples’ stories so we can understand their points of view. Oh the irony. I finally reached a place where I lumped all of them into a group of haters. I stopped listening and stopped caring what the opposing side had to say. With that as my history, I found Brown’s research about dehumanization helpful. I needed her information about what helps people who are in heated debates. When I’m in the counseling setting this is easy for me to do. I love to hear all sorts of views, even ones I disagree with. I want to know how and why people see the world the way they do. But, experiencing our country so divided, I admit I had armored up and sided up. I will definitely seek to apply parts of Brown’s book to my life.
- Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth by Andrew Greer, Randy Fox – Rich Mullins was a once-in-a-lifetime singer/songwriter whose impact on Christian music and the church is still felt today, even twenty years after his passing. His words and music softened and inspired the most hardened hearts to believe. His was a ragged and raw faith of a pilgrim, poet, and prophet. Now more than a dozen of today’s singers, songwriters, producers, and authors gather to share never-before-heard stories and lessons that continue to influence their music and ministries today. These lessons, gleaned from Rich’s own struggles and pursuits, are combined with lyrics from unreleased Rich Mullins songs that will inspire longtime Mullins fans, new Christian music followers, and spiritual seekers trying to understand the reckless love of God.
- Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith – I’ll try to finish because someone in our book club recommended. I’m about 1/3 of the way through and find myself wanting to quit. There’s a little bit of good information if you’re wanting to explore the National Parks, but mostly this book is filled with snark. At first I thought it was self deprecating humor but then I realized this is who these people are. They like to steal things from hotels, make fun of others, and take advantage of any situation they can. They seem self centered and uncaring. Selfish. I don’t enjoy hanging out with them even if it’s in a book.
- Yes! I Said No! by Barbra Russell – Yes! I Said No! gives you specific tools to set healthy boundaries and re-take control of your life. You will learn how to do what YOU want to do. Without drama. Without anger. Without fear. A series of simple-to-follow examples and clearly stated tools will help you invest in yourself, will help you say YES when you want to and say NO when you need to.You will learn how to: * say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away * stop being a people pleaser * care for people without carrying them * restore healthy relationships Barbra Russell’s expertise in helping others take charge of their lives stems from a long successful career as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Her fresh and engaging style of communication and unique step-by-step process has helped thousands of people step up, move forward and be who they’re meant to be. Whether from negative family patterns or a mistaken belief that pleasing others is a spiritual gift, this easy-to-read guide will free you of Approval Addiction. You will re-claim your life and enjoy the freedom that comes with declaring Yes! I said No!
- The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath – One of my all time favorite books is Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. I read it many years ago and yet I could tell you twenty stories from the book that would make you want to read it. So, I knew I would love this book too. Chip and Dan use their skills as researchers to tell you why some moments stand out and others do not. You can use this information in your day to day life, with your family, or in your work place and deliberately make moments memorable. They make the research super interesting by telling stories that make you remember the clear points. A special surprise for me was at the end where they talk about Post Traumatic Growth. This has been an area of research for me during the past four years. In fact, my current book that is being published is about this topic. At the end of the book they have incredible resources that you can print off. I will be using these ideas in the bible study I teach and with my family at Thanksgiving. Don’t you love the cover!
- Killing England by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard – So much research went into the details of this book. I grew up in Colorado so the battlefields of America’s revolution are unfamiliar to me. I’ve spent a day or two in Boston, and D.C., but American history, sadly, is a weak spot in my knowledge. After reading this book I want to tour all the sites mentioned. I wish every American citizen over the age of 15 would read Killing England. It’s written in language simple enough for anyone to understand, and told in a thrilling way. I imagine anyone who reads this book will lean less towards apathy. He or she will want to do anything to protect our country and its history that is being rewritten.
- Three Man Game by Jim Jarrell – This book is written in such a way that you’ll be pulled in immediately. You will want to read it in one sitting. Jim tells the story of his wife’s diagnosis with cancer, and the painful journey that ensued. But it’s a hopeful book. You’ll see life doesn’t end. In fact, it was still good despite the painful loss of a wife and mom. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor. I’ve spent years researching and writing about the topic of Post Traumatic Growth and this book is a perfect addendum to my Post Traumatic Growth library. I’m telling friends and clients about this book.
- Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks – This was the perfect book to take on a recent vacation to Mexico because it was light and entertaining. Uncommon Type contains 17 fiction stories. I’m so curious to know more about what inspired each of these. I guess I’ll do some digging. Hanks writes the way you would imagine he would. Each story is evocative and tender. My favorite was the one about the young boy whose parents divorce. He lives with his dad, stepmom, and step siblings. But one day he gets to go home to his mom. The story is told from the vantage point of a child trying to make sense of the world, which still contains good things like apple juice and airplane rides, but it’s not the world he once knew. I don’t know much about Hank’s childhood, but it almost made me believe it was a story about himself. There was one story I couldn’t make sense of, but I just skimmed it, and moved on. The title is Stay with Us. The other fun thing is that Hanks is apparently a collector of old typewriters. There is a nod to typewriters in each story. Each chapter has a photograph of a typewriter. About halfway through the book I started wanting one. But then I wondered, “What kind would I get? How would I use it? etc.” Fortunately there was a story written to a young woman that answers all those questions. That chapter is called These are the Mediations of My Heart.
- Let Trump Be Trump by Corey Lewandowsky – This book is well written with all the details you want to know. Like how Donald Trump acted in private. Did he sleep? Did he eat? What kind of music did he listen to? What were his ordinary conversations like? How did he treat those closest to him? Did he know he would be President? Every paragraph has details you may have wondered about but didn’t know. That’s what makes the book so much fun to read. I promise it’s not a boring political book. I think people on all ends of the political spectrum would be interested enough to read. I got on the Trump bandwagon about a year before he won the election. Mostly because I had been to several conservative summits and had heard people like Peter Schweizer talk about the Clinton’s pay-for-play scandals. And I’m 52, so I’ve been around long enough to follow all the Clinton scandals. I knew our country could not withstand four more years with a liberal at the helm. However, I can tell you the exact day I became a political junkie: I was in a beautiful rental house in the San Juan Islands of Washington, overlooking an ocean where orcas swam by. That was the day the Benghazi story broke. From that moment on, I watched news non-stop. One of my gifts is being able to take complicated stories and make them simple. That’s what I did for my Facebook friends, most of whom are busy moms and dads trying to raise families, and they are too busy to follow all the shenanigans of the Washington elites. A few months before the election a friend invited me to a Trump rally. I saw people helping each other, letting others step in front of lines and crowds, folks offering each other food, blankets, coats. I saw people of every demographic: blacks, whites, Hispanics, old, young, fat, short, tall, men, and women. After that rally I knew Trump would win. I came home and wrote a blog post describing what I saw. Many people re-shared my post. A few nights before the election I couldn’t sleep so I wrote another post that over 800 people shared. It didn’t pertain as much to Trump as it did to Hillary and all the reasons we should not vote for her. My friends and family will tell you once I got on the Trump Train I never worried about him losing. I had one or two days where I felt concerned. So you can imagine how happy I was to watch the news late into the night of election day, and early into the morning after. I wouldn’t even taste a sip of wine or beer because I wanted to be fully aware of the earth shattering moment of Donald Trump’s election. I’m a Christian author, and have many friends who are Christian authors, but I can’t tell you the number of people who told me I was a racist and bigot for my views. I always respected their views and tried to be polite at all times. Many people messaged me privately to say I was brave and to say they were afraid to speak out in support of Trump. I still see it today. At my yoga class my instructor will make a snide comment and everyone will pile on, and I will say, “Ah, well I’m rooting for our President” and I will get a dozen dirty looks and boos. I don’t care. I’m paying attention and so are millions of Americans who saw how the powerful elites were stealing this country. So . . . back to the book. Get it. You’ll enjoy every page. I just hopped online to buy a few more copies for family members.
- The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori – Was your mother preoccupied, distant, or even demeaning? Have you struggled with relationships—or with your own self-worth? Often, the grown children of emotionally absent mothers can’t quite put a finger on what’s missing from their lives. The children of abusive mothers, by contrast, may recognize the abuse—but overlook its lasting, harmful effects. Psychotherapist Jasmin Lee Cori has helped thousands of men and women heal the hidden wounds left by every kind of undermothering. In this second edition of her pioneering book, with compassion for mother and child alike, she explains:
- Possible reasons your mother was distracted or hurtful—and what she was unable to give
- The lasting impact of childhood emotional neglect and abuse
- How to find the child inside you and fill the “mother gap” through reflections and exercises
- How to secure a happier future for yourself (and perhaps for your children)
- Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly – I heard about the book from Modern Mrs Darcy (What Should I Read Next podcast). This book is short but rich. It might be my new favorite book. The author is a poet, so every word is potent. It’s a book of memoirs, some as short as one sentence. Even though I’m not as gifted with words, I’d like to try to emulate this idea, just for fun. She writes in the raw, truth telling style of Ann Lamott. My favorite story was the one about the $50 bill hidden in a book. I laughed out loud and read it to my grown up family members while we cooked Christmas dinner. Some of the memoirs are sad, like the one about her mom putting her profile pic on an online dating site. I won’t spoil it. I’m passing copies of this book to friends because I know they’ll love it just as much.
- Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg – Twenty years ago Natalie Goldberg’s classic, Writing Down the Bones, broke new ground in its approach to writing as a practice. Now, Old Friend from Far Away—her first book since Writing Down the Bones to focus solely on writing—reaffirms Goldberg’s status as a foremost teacher of writing, and completely transforms the practice of writing memoir. To write memoir, we must first know how to remember. Through timed, associative, and meditative exercises, Old Friend from Far Away guides you to the attentive state of thought in which you discover and open forgotten doors of memory. At once a beautifully written celebration of the memoir form, an innovative course full of practical teachings, and a deeply affecting meditation on consciousness, love, life, and death, Old Friend from Far Away welcomes aspiring writers of all levels and encourages them to find their unique voice to tell their stories. Like Writing Down the Bones, it will become an old friend to which readers return again and again. This may be one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read. I’m not even interested in writing a memoir, but the exercises that help you tap into memories and sensation are helpful for all types of writing.
Okay, I promised my five favorites: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Option B, The Power of Moments, Heating and Cooling, and Chemistry.
Check out my 2016 list here.
Don’t forget to share your favorite books in the comments. And please sign up to receive my monthly newsletter. Just look for the windowsill on the right of any blogpost and enter your name and email address. I only share posts related to physical, emotional, and spiritual selfcare.
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."