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It’s my goal each year to read at least twelve books. I’ve met this goal for the past several years, logging twenty this go-round, and I want to track and briefly review the books I’ve read for each year. Some books are great, some are not so great, but still were worth a read for me personally. I hope you’ll benefit from these micro-reviews.
Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss Many friends of mine had read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp over the past couple years. I can’t speak for or against that book, as I have not read it for myself, but it seemed to me that Choosing Gratitude was an attempt to produce a “more solid” alternative to Voskamp’s book on thankfulness. Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book was encouraging and scripture-based to be sure, but I did not find it to be mind-blowingly challenging. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if you’re looking for an easy-to-read study on thankfulness this is a great book for you. However, having just read Knowing God by JI Packer before picking this book up, I might have had my taste buds trained for more meat.
The Abolition of Man by C S Lewis This was an incredible read (or listen, rather—we have the audiobook). Lewis examines a concept of universal morality and then reasons from it to the existence of God, while also examining the effect on humanity when we reject these things and analyze and deconstruct everything in our view. Highly, highly recommended.
The Great Divorce by C S Lewis Packaged together in the same audiobook was this work of allegory. It’s a bit strange, and its setting is not intended to be taken as theological truth, though by use of its setting it certainly dabbles in it. This is an imaginative examination of people’s rejection of Christ and all that heaven offers. As with The Screwtape Letters, this book is a gem more for its insight into human nature than for its apparent theology—much license is taken in that regard.
Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne These two books come together in our Complete Collection of Winnie the Pooh, along with the collections of poems: When We Were Young and Now We Are Six. I’ve read these stories and poems to my children three times already, and we’ve actually just started through it all once more. Milne captures the wonder, imagination, and reasoning of a child beautifully on every page. Our family pretty much adores these stories.
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young Some will be surprised to see this on my list, but it was recommended to me by a friend during a very low point of struggle with chronic illness and depression. So at the time, it provided some needed encouragement, and I can see how many claim to have benefited from it. We need loving, encouraging words, and exhortations to trust in the Lord through our trials, but there is, sadly, great danger in the format. Putting words in Jesus’ mouth is nothing new, of course—even hymns have done this, even the Jesus Storybook Bible does this to some extent. But this is an entire book penned in Divine First Person. It may indeed provide some level of encouragement, but as far as being recommendable, I’d say no. You’d do much better with Keep a Quiet Heart by Elizabeth Elliott. (For a more thorough review of Jesus Calling, check out this one at Challies.com.)
The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballentyne And here I must now admit to my little paleo food detour. Having an autoimmune disease, I was excited to read this tome (seriously, all 400-or-so textbook-sized pages of it), because it dealt directly with the problem of autoimmunity, providing both understanding and suggestions for improving the condition with diet and lifestyle changes (The Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP). The elimination diet it proposes is extremely strict and limiting, and I know this by experience…
The Paleo Approach Cookbook by Sarah Ballentyne This is the cookbook that accompanies the more science-y text listed above. I’ve found it interesting, and I’ve certainly gained some new recipes from this book, but I would recommend steering clear of the “Hidden Liver Meatloaf”—yeah, the liver isn’t so hidden after all.
The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott This is another recipe book that falls in line with the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) outlined in The Paleo Approach. I think I actually use this cookbook more than the other. Each of them provide decent recipes with the very limited selection of foods that are on plan. I still use a handful of these recipes despite having thrown the AIP to the roadside because they are, indeed, very healthy, whole food recipes.
*Just a quick summary of my experience: The AIP didn’t reveal anything for me that a Whole30 hadn’t previously. I lost weight, some skin issues cleared up. But this time my bowels were in pain, far worse than before I did the AIP. I found things got way better after I reintroduced things like beans, and even grains. Being that my disease is in remission, it was difficult to say that the diet had any real effect on it specifically, so if you’re not currently facing the onslaught of your autoimmune disease, this may not be for you. If you do deal with daily debilitating pain or other continuous complications due to your autoimmune disease, it may be much more worth your while (maybe). My takeaway is that variety is a good thing. I may have some sensitivities, and I’ll watch for those as I move forward, but for now I’m enjoying all the food God has given me without major issues. I’d say the lifestyle factors of the AIP are more important for me than the dietary guidelines (though junk food is still clearly not helpful!).
Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard This is a wonderful book that makes a biblical case for both discipline and instruction. I love that it encourages using scriptural language as we correct our children, helping them to think biblically about their sin. Great read for Christian parents.
Diet Recovery by Matt Stone This was me rebounding from The Paleo Approach. This was a free e-book, and an interesting read. The main function in view here is restoring your metabolism after wrecking it on restrictive diets (especially calorie- and carb-restricted ones). I don’t think I wrecked my metabolism on the AIP, but I was looking for ammo against it as it had made my life pretty miserable (restricting a foodie is like taunting a pack of lions with fresh, raw meat—you will make them angry–strike that–hangry). The basic premise: EAT THE FOOD! Oh, and get LOTS of sleep.
A Faith to Grow On by John MacArthur I read this with my boys. It’s a good overview of the faith for youngsters, organized by theological topics. There are activity suggestions, but we didn’t do those as my kiddos are quite young. This is probably aimed more at kids from age seven to about twelve, so I will likely have my boys go through it independently when they are more established independent readers.
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien Can I just bask for a moment in the thought of this book? I remember my dad reading The Hobbit to me as a child of probably eight years. Riddles in the Dark was my favorite chapter then, as I loved the clever riddles exchanged between Bilbo and Gollum. I can’t believe I had never read this classic tale for myself until this year!
Shopping for Time (How to Do It All and Not be Overwhelmed) by Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, and Janelle Bradshaw This was a decent book on time management. The title still makes me laugh, though—in part because I am not a “shopper” and in part because the promise of not being overwhelmed is a bit audacious! All in all, this was a good, short read, though I found that it didn’t have much new content in it for me, just a reminder to do what I already know to do (that is the hardest part, now isn’t it?).
Hope in God: A Bible Study on Depression by Kristie Gant If you struggle with depression or anxiety, or someone you love does, ignore everything else on this list and get this study!!! It is formatted to be used independently, or in counseling or a group setting, with options for a “quick study” through each section’s content or going deep and hitting all of the material in each lesson, whichever you are currently capable of doing. Each section covers what the scripture has to say on a particular topic, such as depression, anxiety, bitterness, and suffering loss, as well as one of the names of God, highlighting who He is and how we can hope in Him despite our circumstances. There is also plenty of soul-searching, in which God’s word was made to apply to the particular wrestlings of my heart. In my own struggle with depression, this has been one of the best tools for helping me to think biblically and rest my hope in the right place.
The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard This book was recommended to me along with the Hope in God study. It is an adaptation of two of John Owen’s works, Indwelling Sin and The Mortification of Sin. Indeed, thinking rightly about the sin in our own hearts is important to aligning our hearts with God’s word and finding the peace we long for in Christ our Savior. I found this a very helpful book, though most of its examples applied more readily to men than to me as a stay-at-home mom. I don’t fault the author for writing what he knows, and I still found it an incredibly useful book, making me want to read Owen for myself, but it has also sparked an idea in me of someday writing something in the same vein that applies more directly to the sins women struggle with most.
Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson This homeschooling resource has been around for something like 25 years. I have the updated version and have found it to be a huge help in fleshing out what homeschooling will look like in our home. I have read it through for myself and have been reading it through with my husband so that we can discuss it. Since Nathaniel was homeschooled with a very similar philosophy as what is presented in this book (discipleship focused, living books, etc), most of it gets a “Yeah, of course” response out of him, as if to say, “Why do we even need this book?” He probably doesn’t need it! But I do. And he sees that. Since I am coming at homeschooling without any experience with it, this book has been an invaluable inspiration and guide, and a great tool for discussing with my husband the holes in my understanding that I didn’t know existed!
The Happy Housewife’s Guide to Dealing with Picky Eaters by Toni Anderson I came across this ebook in one of those big bundles I purchased a while back. I found it a short, helpful read given our own experience with picky eaters.
Expert Lifemanship by Warren Wiersbe This was given to me by a friend who has struggled with disease and depression much like I have. She found it to be encouraging, and so have I. A lot of scriptural imagery is used both in the written encouragement and in the beautiful, full-page photographs. It seems a bit like a professional inspirational or self-help book of some sort, or at least like it is being sold as such, and then, surprise! It’s actually full of Bible.
The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo This was a much-needed book on parenting. The primary focus is on biblically dealing with anger in children, but it of course rightly identifies common parenting mistakes that can lead to anger in children, and this is where I found its application so personally applicable. Praise God I have pretty normal little sinners, and nothing too out-of-control as of yet, but I can see my own sins and shortcomings could cause problems in the future. Thus, The Heart of Anger is good whether you’re in the thick of it with an angry child, or as a preemptive consideration for young parents like me. I imagine this is one I will be revisiting for its clear application of biblical truth to the hearts of parents and children alike.
Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic This has to be the most frequently revisited parenting book I own. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it! The chapters are short, so it makes for a great bathroom book (you know, for when mommy needs to escape for just a few minutes). And each chapter, while humorous and encouraging, also works like a scalpel on my heart, helping me make sure I am doing rightly, loving fully, and seeing my children for who they are. LOVE this book!

How about you?  Have you read any of these titles?  What books have you found interesting in the past year?  Any that you’d like to recommend to me?