Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) by Kate C. Bowler – One of my most beloved books this year. Kate’s story is as powerful as her writing and that is saying something. 

A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle by Sarah Arthur – I mean, you know how I feel about Matron Saint Madeleine. If you’ve been even moderately influenced by her or even simply intrigued, this is a great perspective on her legacy.

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan – I have always loved her memoirs but this is something special. I found it wise, self-aware, strong, and helpful.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown – this is the book that my husband and shared in common this year. We could NOT put it down until we had read it all the way through and WHOA THOSE LAST THREE CHAPTERS. We were reeling. Incredibly powerful and necessary. 

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans – I love everything RHE writes but her newest book gives us so much goodness, creativity, and redemption. 

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy S. Woodley – This is a book that profoundly shaped me this year. I’m grappling with my notions of “the kingdom” ever since. It’s such a meaty, dense, wise, generous book.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover – You almost can’t believe this is a memoir, it reads like a novel. Fascinating and sparks so many interesting conversations. 

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer – beautiful and rich and deep, this is a book you could read and re-read for years. 

Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints by Christiana N. Peterson – I know very little about saints but I loved this book. Christiana is an impeccable writer and I really wish this book had a wider audience – it’s gorgeous and brilliant. 

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue – I am new to John O’Donohue’s work but after a visit to Northern Ireland, I picked up his work. This was a gift to me this year, almost like a lifeline out of the insanity and mud of the world.

Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Gregory Boyle – Oh, my goodness. This is a book that changes lives.

Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne by Dr. Wilda C. Gafney – This was my second book to read on Womanist theology and it was epic. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from it. And I’ll never be able to use the phrase “God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob” without adding “and Sarah, Hagar, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, Keturah..” too.

Honourable Mentions:

Becoming by Michelle Obama and Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mizra – I adore a juicy family drama with secrets and compelling, sympathetic characters! 

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline – my favourite from the Canada Reads competition this year. Indigenous youth centered dystopian future? TAKE MY MONEY.

Women Talking by Miriam Toews – I just finished this one and already knew it would go on this list. Devastating, wry, powerful, everything I love about every single thing Miriam Toews writes

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan – You know my weakness for WW2-era British novels with female-centric story lines…

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – No one writes complex women AND page-turners like Kristin Hannah. 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – incredibly written and a story that stays with you long after you close the final page.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – Time-travel + love story = a sure favourite

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – Imagine if Pride and Prejudice but with Muslim characters in modern-day Toronto and you’ll be as delighted as I was by this romantic comedy

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy – I do love adaptations and inspired-by books. This one keeps the spirit of the original and fills in back story for one of our most beloved characters. Particularly liked the glimpse of Marilla and Rachel Lynde’s friendship.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – A perfect winter weekend read with a house-as-character, overlapping stories, flashes forward and back in time, and a mystery to solve. 

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – She’s escapist fiction for me and a favourite for a weekend binge read with great character work and a kooky story. 
Kingdom of the Blind – the new Inspector Gamache book – by Louise Penny – I mean, of course. You know how I feel about Inspector Gamache.

And finally: the Bessey Family Favourites

My husband, Brian: A Place on Earth by Wendell Berry (you know his love for Port Williams…)
Anne (age 12): The School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani
Joseph (age 10):
Evelynn (age 7 and a half):
Maggie (age 3 and a half):

And what kind of a shameless self-promoting author would I be without adding my own two books to your wish list?

Hey, why not check out JESUS FEMINIST and/or


(P.S. These books may not have been released in 2018 but that was the year we read them.)

Sarah Bessey's 2018 Christmas Gift Guide to Empower!
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