Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Emily's Most Meaningful Reads of 2014

I took some time to consider which books I read this past year have most impacted my way of thinking about God, myself and the world in which I interact with him and others. Not all of these were published in 2014, but this is the year I got a hold of them. These are my top picks, with links to my blog posts about them:

Two books that most impacted my personal journal entries:
Bernadette Noll's Slow Family Living has a great list of 6 questions to help guide journal entries that I've used dozens of days in my times of reflection.Teresa A. Blythe's Fifty Ways to Pray is a treasure chest of prayer techniques from a variety of Christian traditions that has really made my quiet time feel like an adventure. Despite having this book for most of 2014, I've only mined a little of its richness and plan to keep on digging into it in 2015.

Book that fed my inner-foodie:
Hands-down, Barbara Kingsolver's memoir of her year living off local, homemade foods was enjoyable, eye-opening and motivating without being preachy. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is both intimate and journalistic, humorous and thought-provoking.

Best library find:
Kingsolver's mention of her friend and mentor Wendell Berry piqued my interest in this Kentucky author and activist. I found several volumes of his poetry in my local library, and really enjoyed the collection of poems in Given, which focus the heart God-ward through observations of God's creation.

Two books that made me a feminist:
Christians often bristle at the term feminist because it conjures up images of angry, bra-burning women who shirk domestic responsibilities and belittle those who find meaning in them. But that feminist is really a straw-woman. This year, I've come to realize that feminism is an important, even godly cause. Half the Sky by Pulitzer-winning husband and wife team Nicolas Kristof and Michelle and Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey are the two books that sealed the deal for me.

A book that gave me space to doubt without fear
I like Greg Boyd's methodical, brainy writing style, which is on full display in The Benefit of the Doubt. This book argues that doubts about the peripherals of faith don't need to undermine our core faith in Jesus. The freedom that comes with this outlook has been a balm to my heart, mind and soul. 

Best book-club read
Seeing as my friend and I only read two books this year, it might seem that my choice holds less weight. But Kisses From Katie, the memoir of an upper-middle class Nashville teen who traded her shiny future for life as an adoptive mother and relentless activist in Uganda would make my list for best reads against any odds. This is a moving book that made me reevaluate my priorities and reconsider my needs and redirect my prayer life. Best of all, Davis's love for Jesus is infectious.

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