Erika's Books of 2019

At the beginning of 2019 I set out to read more books and yesterday, on New Years Eve, I finished lucky number 13.  Last January, I didn't set a numerical goal, just more real-life dog-eared pages and paper spines. I know 13 is not a large number, I'm quite certain my university reading lists were along those lines per semester but for this season, it was a good and steady goal to work towards.  In the hardships of this past year, I have enjoyed the solitude of a book, it was so gratifying to invest time into something ‘else’ and I found finishing a book so satisfying compared to the mindless scroll of devices and blue-light screens. It was also so comforting to dwell in words, thoughts, and ideas, that overall nourished something in me deeply.  Despite only reaching 13, I think the books were pretty diverse: a few novels, memoirs, health and wellness, minimalism and simple living, Christian spirituality, and social justice.  Here they are, in the order I read them, along with the amazon link if you would like to add a few to your shelf for the new year.  HOWEVER, in trying to be mindful of waste, I highly suggest checking them out at your local library, borrowing from a friend, or staying on the lookout for them in thrift stores.  Pretty much the first half of the year, I borrowed exclusively from the library.  The others were primarily gifted or loaned from friends.

1.  The Year of Less (Cait Flanders) 
"Stand in the moment.  Pay attention to what triggered it...Feel things, and keep on living."
2.  The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)  This is a fast paced book that was great for a suspenseful story.  Once it finally hints at and I realized "who done it" it definitely gripped me to finish the read.  I don't think I'll read it again, but it was fun.
3.  Minimalism: Live A Meaningful Life (Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus)
"Minimalism in essence involves stripping away the unnecessary to focus on what's important."
4.  Clutterfree With Kids (Joshua Becker)
Joshua is primarily known for his voice and advocacy of minimalism but in this book, he narrows it down to the home, specifically life with children.  The spark for his journey into minimalism came out of the chore of cleaning out his garage with his 5-year-old playing nearby.  I really appreciated his perspective as a parent, and this was one of the first books I've read on minimalism that advocates serving together as a family in community life and beyond.  The 3 takeaways for me were:
-model it
-create boundaries
-help kids navigate envy
5.  Notes on A Nervous Planet (Matt Haig)  I loved this one.  It is a thoughtful read from a writer who has navigated anxiety and I identified with many aspects of his journey.  It is candidly, humorously, and beautifully written.  Fair-warning: there are some brief moments of adult language.
"But while choice is infinite, our lives have time spans...we need to find out what is good for us and leave the rest.  We don't need another world.  Everything we need is here, if we give up thinking we need everything."
6.  Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World (Brooke McAlary) I also identified with this author's personal journey.  It is honest, heartfelt, and leans into simplicity and minimalism specifically on the home-front, that is the life we share with those closest to us--our families.
"Modern connection technology has delivered us a paradox.  We have more connection and less humanity."
7.  The Rest of God (Mark Buchanan)  I really appreciated Mark's personal and theological insight into the topic of Sabbath rest.  I found it deeply hopeful, speaking as one who is in process, but yearning for the spiritual rhythm of rest in my life.  In an age where self-care is primarily focused inward, I really appreciated Mark's perspective of Sabbath as a posture and outworking of Shalom and new-creation.      
"Sabbath--it is not for creating but for re-creating.  To cease from that which is necessary to embrace that which gives life."  
8.  A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle (Sarah Arthur)  I am pretty easy to please when it comes to the person and work of Madeleine L'Engle.  I think what I appreciated the most in this memoir was the beautiful intermingling of it all: the outworking of her Christian faith and spirituality in her craft as an artist but also in the complexity and real-ness of her personal life.    
"Myth is for me, the vehicle of truth...Myth is our striving towards truth."  How we act is shaped by the narratives our family and/or community tells itself.  We are story-shaped people.
9.  Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (Michael Pollan)
This short book is a bit of a repeat if you have watched any of his food documentaries on Netflix (my personal favourite is Cooked).  In the swirl of personal choice that is the 'western diet' vs. health and wellness and the environmental impact of it all, I really appreciate the brevity and simplicity of his mantra: "Eat real food.  Mostly Plants.  Not too much."
10.  Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go (Richard Rohr)
This book greatly surprised me.  It was written and released in the 1990s and so deeply applicable to our times, I thought it was a recent work of his.  I was also deeply impacted by the way in which Rohr composed an overarching Biblical narrative of social justice surrounding the person of Jesus. 
"We notice there is a back and forth in Jesus' teaching: one time he the oppressors and another time to the oppressed.  Unfortunately, it's the 'victors' who almost every time reject and refuse him...All of us have evaded the unmistakable teaching of Jesus on poverty, nonviolence, loving your enemy." 
11.  I Really Like Baseball (Peter Fitch)
Peter's work deeply moved me and I found it tremendously hopeful and laden with compassion. 
"...This seemed out of line with the message that is at the heart of the Christian scriptures: the love of God reaching to include and care for the lost and the least.  Jesus shocked people in his day as he befriended those that others rejected.  Moral and ethnic and economic and gender barriers all dissolved before him." 
Since my time of learning at St. Stephen's University with Peter, I have also been greatly impacted by the voice and work of Desmond Tutu, whom he references in ways that were new for me:
"Stop in-fighting...get involved in healing the hurts of the world."
12.  Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone (J.K Rowling)
Nobody scoff at me, but I've never read Harry Potter.  A few months ago, we were in the thick of the flu as a family when I suggested to my 8-year-old daughter that I read it aloud together.  One chapter in and we were hooked.  We will most likely pause partway through the series as I have heard that it gets intense, but right now we are certainly enjoying the joy of a really, really good story read aloud and it's challenging me to work on my voice acting skills.  I totally got misty when Harry finds out that his mother's self-sacrificing love protects him from Voldemort's darkness.
"Your mother died to save you.  If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's love leaves its own mark...  It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good."
13.  Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)
This novel was the most beautiful of the year for me, I think I cried through the last 10 pages.  It is a stunning and meaningful piece.
"There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient."

First person to email me their mailing address will get Pollan's Food Rules sent to them.  Stay away spammers.  

I have a few already set aside on my bookshelf and on-hold at the library for the coming months, but I would love to hear what your favourites have been, this year and otherwise. So far, I'm leaning towards:
Educated (Tara Westover), 
The Best Yes (Lysa TerKeurst), 
The Boat People (Sharon Bala),
The Whole Brain Child (Siegel and Bryson),
Split Tooth (Tanya Tagaq),
Miracles and Other Reasonable Things (Sarah Bessey),
Beating Guns (Shane Claiborne),
The Biblical New Testament (along with Genesis, the Psalms, and major prophets if I make good time) and,
a number that focus on Ignatian Spirituality: Sacred Rhythms (Ruth Barton), The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.   


BetsyB said…
The Whole Brain Child is magnificent. Great parenting training, good psychology, good science, by a brilliant and personable Jewish dad (whose also a world famous neuropsychologist guy). Bartons book on Ignatius is also great! Betsy
Maggie K. said…
I found ‘Educated’, by Tara Westover a challenging read. I a like Sarah Bessy, but have not read her books. My book lost this year includes a lot of middle school books. I’ll share it with you.
Terri Wagner said…
I remember reading the first Harry Potter book to the girls when they were little. There was, and still is i believe, a lot of fear surrounding these books within the Christian community, and I received some negative stuff from people. We loved the book and like you found the themes of redemption, friendship, self sacrifice and good vs evil to be really powerful.