December 29, 2019

Ermahgerd, Berks!!! (aka Books I Read - The 2019 Edition)

Hey Sweet Readers! 
      Do you even remember me? 

Here we are at the end of another year!  Chances are good that if you are still here, then you were probably with me through most of 2018 as well. You may remember all the issues I battled with my eyes.  So, we know going INTO 2019 that reading all the things was not going to happen! You may remember the surprise I found when counting the books I read last year... even with months of bed rest and no eye strain, I managed to read nearly 20 books! I was hopeful that number would increase this year post-surgery if all went right!  I am happy (Blessed, fortunate, thrilled!) to report that all went right... and now we come to actually count the number of books read in 2019 to see if it increased or not!  Still,  --either way, you know how I love me some books... (or 'berks!' as in, "Ermahgerd! Berks!")

So this is the post where I take time to reflect back over the year and revisit some of my favorites! 

So, here's the deal: 
  I really didn't know how this year would go! 
I mean... I spent much of 2018 on bed rest and unable to read but still managed to read nearly 20 books... well, a handful were listened to instead, but still! 2019 started off with back to back eye surgeries and I'm not sure how much of that whole thing I actually blogged about but let's just say the first eye was miraculous and the second eye --not so much! (At least not right away... not for weeks and weeks and weeks!) But after all my recovery, I am now seeing better than I have my entire life --without the aid of contacts or glasses! (Well - this is real life and I am turning 50 in 2020, so I do use non-prescription Readers... but that's all!)
Still, I thought this list would be shorter because there were a couple of months I was most definitely NOT using my eyes... but it seemed as soon as I could, I was back to having a book in my hand...
I also spent some quality time in the library this year! (Storytime for Lil' Miss was a lot of fun and how could I not at least browse on our way in and out, right? I mean... I don't want to be rude!) Even with that increase though, I was also taking road trips and long walks and actually SEEING stuff for seemingly the first time! It's been such a huge gift and answered prayer!  
All of that to simply say this: I read more than I realized, especially because life has gotten increasingly busy this Fall and Winter --and yet, apparently, there is always time for BOOKS, right? (Say yes... you are, after all, my people!) 
So - I will list the books I read this year, but I won't go into all of them! Instead, I will pick my top ten and then simply list the titles/authors of the rest! All were good (except for the rare few that didn't grab my attention or heart so I either: 1. Put it aside to be read later --because I am a firm believer that books come to us for a reason... so maybe 2019 was just not the right timing! -or 2. I returned it to the library and simply moved on.  Those books are not included in this list!)

Here is a random list of books I read and loved this year, starting with my Top Ten! 

Top Ten Reads of 2019:

1. Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy

Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack (There is something so important about seeing the subtitles of books as well as the familiar main title that is in bigger, bolder type!)  "...while she goes into detail about sexual abuse, sickness, poverty, suicidal thoughts and attempts, mental illness, depression and being bipolar, she doesn't offer up solutions or quick fixes (because there are none!) or puts a band-aid on it all and says it's fine (because some days it's not!) or pretends to be on the other side of it all! And yet --from the messy middle, this is what Alia does: She makes room. That's the thing about Alia... She is always making room in the circle or around the table! 

She writes her own life stories in this book to reveal that this hasn't always been done for her. She's lived life on the outside... she's been short-changed, cheated, robbed, counted out, and sometimes been made to feel less than, not enough, or invisible. And maybe because of that, she goes out of her way to invite others in. 
Glorious Weakness offers Truth and Honesty and Hope that we all are in need of! 
It offers us insight and maybe the start of empathy and the beginning of understanding better our own battles and perhaps the battles that others around us are fighting, too. It is beautiful and brutal and poetic and powerful. 

I think it holds the ability to free us from the lie that weakness is something to be ashamed of, something to be hidden or denied or ran away from. Instead, we find that in the moment of our surrender and willingness to admit that we are weak is when His glory actually shows up and shows off!" (An excerpt from the official Book Review post.)

I actually wrote a couple of times about this book! You can read those posts in full, 
here and here.

For more info on the book, click here

2. The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman (Book Launch Team) 

The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions...
I mean...? What more do you need to know to need to know you need this book? My own copy of this hardback book (which is GORGEOUS, by the way!) is completely underlined, highlighted, and dog-eared!  

"It took me a little while to figure out why I so adore her voice -whether it is live at a conference, on video, in print, or in audio form but I did... and this is why: I love her voice because --well because it really is like an invitation to exhale... to slow and to savor... to breathe in deep and unwind and unclench and simply stop the striving and enter a bit of calm. Turns out... she really does do what her tagline suggests: She creates space for your soul to breathe! And then she does this Podcast that turns into a book that is all about Decision Fatigue and feeling stuck and being in the in-between..." (An excerpt from the full official Book Review post written for the blog earlier this year. You can read that here.)

For more info, click here

3. Taste and See by Margaret Feinberg

Taste and See: Discovering God among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers I was thrilled to do this study with a handful of women, gathering around a table for dinner once a week and digging in -figuratively and literally!- together! We loved the DVD sessions as well as the reading (and recipes! OH MY... don't overlook the recipes!!!) So good! Highly Recommend! It was like a book club/bible study/dinner club all in one! (And we continue to meet about once a month or so to stay connected!)

For more info, click here

4. Light From Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker (Book Launch Team) 

"I was not going to do anymore Book Launch Teams for awhile!  I had long been saying that I needed to add more fiction into my stacks of books and so I had already decided to pass on any invitations over the summer.  And then I saw this upcoming novel by Shawn Smucker and signed up right away!  ...I was hungry for a book that would draw me in and make me put off sleep for all the best reasons! So I had high hopes for this one, and Shawn Smucker did not disappoint! Light from Distant Stars is a great story, with twists and turns throughout! The characters are fast friends and you won't want to put this down until the last page! Even then, you just may wish for more! This novel is full of intrigue and mystery mixed in with some spiritual wrestling and family dynamics!"  (This is an excerpt from the official Book Review post I wrote earlier. You can read my full review here.)

For more info and to order, click here

I have some seriously well-read friends and several kept recommending books by Frederick Bachman. While on bed rest in 2018, I 'read' (listened to) A Man Called Ove and loved it... and I was determined to read more of his works in 2019! This book took me a little longer than I usually like to get into --but once I was in, I couldn't put it down and I was so sad to be done with it when I turned the last page! (Imagine my delight when I discovered 'Britt Marie was Here'!)

For more info or to purchase, click here.

6. Irresistible Faith by Scott Sauls

Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can't Resist -- I mean, when I read the title and subtitle alone, I knew it was going in my cart! Because --so much yes and amen!  Here's the thing: I adore Scott Sauls and read a lot of his posts on social media and so respect his Love of God and people... and how he manages to do it in a way that still upholds scripture. He is a lover of grace and extends it abundantly... without sweeping hard truths or unpopular old fashioned beliefs under the table! This is one that I will be skimming over again and again!
For more info on the book, click here

7. Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology had sort of low-key been on my list to read for a while. My Honey and I loved to watch King of Queens and we have a healthy (?) appreciation for sarcastic humor and I remembered all the press surrounding Leah's departure from Scientology.  I was super curious to learn more about Scientology in general and I started to watch the documentary she did about it.  I found it extremely disturbing and incredible that in this day and age of internets and social media that this is not something talked about more. When various denominations within the Church are (rightfully) being examined --and we know it starts with us, right? -- more closely, the truth of what is going on behind closed doors and in secret meetings in the name of religion in other religions needs to be exposed as well! I finished the documentary but was talking about how I had wished it had more of Leah's story in it! That is when I was directed to her book... where she very clearly, with much detail, lays everything out!  Written in her own voice --full of sass and sarcasm... it may not be for some, but I enjoyed it! It was a nice break from my 'normal' stack of books!

For more info, click here

8. Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

To be honest, I checked this book from the library thinking it was "Where the Crawdads Sing"... I know?! It happens sometimes! It's fine!  I couldn't remember the name of the book but had heard so much hype about it... I knew it was about marshlands or water... I knew it was about a girl who survived on her own... I was pretty sure that the cover had a canoe or boat of some sort on the water... so -- there ya go!

I'm realized my 'mistake' soon after I got home and yet the wait at the library for the other book was still so long, I went ahead and read this one first! Similar, but different.  It made me realize how much I had missed reading fiction! It made me love the beauty of words and how they stir up emotion and paint a picture and impact a soul. Beautifully and brutally written... Margo Crane (the main character) is with me still. That's what a great book can do!

For more info, click here

9. Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons (Book Launch Team) 

Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose --Again, the title alone lets you know I am going to love it! God has been speaking to me about rhythms of rest and renewal for several years! This is a powerful read that uses Rebekah's own desperate need, search, and discovery of 4 rhythms (Rest, Restore, Connect, and Create.) to equip us to live a life of peace and to be intentional in how we pursue and protect that!  She shares practices and tips and ends each chapter with 3 great reflective questions that help the reader to actually put into practice what he or she is reading! 

(I believe there is a free online Bible Study going through this book, starting Jan 20th. For more info, click here.)

For more info, click here

10. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

And finally... after a LONG, long wait through the local library, I got this book RIGHT before the holidays. Listen... I read through several different Advent devotionals and reading plans. Then there is just the reality of the bossiness of the Christmas season... I read a couple of chapters and put it aside. Then, two days ago, I remembered it was due back soon and I wouldn't be able to renew it (because --STILL! There is a LONG waitlist!) so I dug in. My poor new FitBit was having a fit... but I only came up for air, and snacks, and a little sleep! It was worth the wait!

Much like the book I read and mentioned above (Once Upon a River) --this is so beautifully written... so breathtakingly crafted... it made me want to head East and revisit the swamplands of the Carolina's and get caught up in nature and get a bit lost way back deep --where the crawdads sing! I highly recommend this read!  This is being made into a movie --but for the love... please read it first! You won't be sorry!

For more info or to purchase, click here.


...And Now: 
The rest of my reads, in no particular order:

The Middle Matters by Lisa Jo Baker (Book Launch Team) 
Once We Were Strangers by Shawn Smucker
Ekklesia by Ed Silvoso
The Complicated Heart by Sarah Mae
Letters to the Church by Francis Chan
Britt Marie Was Here by Frederick Bachman
Organic Love by M. E. Weyerbacher
Exstresso by Leah Whitton
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah 
Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander
On thin Icing by Ellie Alexander
Caught Bread Handed by Ellie Alexander
Fudge and Fury by Ellie Alexander
Long Way Gone by Charles Martin
Preparing for Christmas by Richard Rohr

Wow! So my total count for 2019 (to date, anyway!) is 32. I also re-read a few books this year as I led small groups, going through one thousand gifts, The Road Back to You, and Curious Faith, but those are not included in that count!

I somehow managed to read more than I ever had before. I loved that it was not only a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but it was also a mix of old and new - books and authors, of Christian and non-Christian...

I didn't realize how my eyesight was limiting so much of what I was taking in. Isn't that just how it is?

Reading and being willing to learn helps improve our vision! 
May we be open to hearing and reading different voices and different views --not for the sake of disagreeing or arguing, but for the sake of the world and getting a bigger (better?) perspective! 

And as this year winds down and a New one fast approaches, my cry for 2020 is, as our friend Jennifer Dukes Lee posted: 
"Open the Eyes of my heart, Lord! I want to see You!"
I hope you are declaring that, as well!

And my stack of Currently Reading is:

For All Who Wander by Robin Dance (Book Launch Team)

The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile

True You by Michelle DeRusha

More of God by Betsy de Cruz

The Art of Listening Prayer by Seth Barnes

God is Good by Bill Johnson


I managed to actually add more fiction in 2019 --which had been a goal for a few years but I just somehow never got around to it!

Some of the books read were just alright... enough to keep me reading and escape some of the stress and hard parts of 2019 but some --fiction and non-fiction alike, were so gorgeous and such a gift, it renewed my longing to write.  (I also started a job working at an office for the first time in over 20+ years... so that has made creating time and space to actually sit here and write more of a challenge! But I have hope for 2020!)

Did you read something (new or old) in 2019 that really stuck with you that is not listed anywhere in this post?  If so, you know I'd love to know that, too! What is on your stack currently --or in anticipation for 2020?

Leave the Title in the comments below so we can all start our new Must Read lists for the New Year!


  1. Where the Crawdads was one of my top ten too. It’s so beautifully written! I need to read more fiction too. I added Light in the Stars to the to read list. I also haven’t read A Man named Ove yet. I have an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I’m supposed to get books with it. I’ll have to do a year end post too.

    1. "I'm supposed to get books with it." is one of my all-time favorite sentences! lol!

  2. That's amazing. I set a goal for 12 and actually read 20!

    1. Wow! Good for you for almost DOUBLING your reading goal! That's amazing!


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