My Favourite Book of 2011
Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle – If you are a writer or an artist that follows the ways of Jesus, this is your book. I believe I may have underlined almost every page in some way. This has been my Year of Madeline L’Engle. Her words have been with me throughout so much this year. I’ve devoured many of her books, even returning to old faithfuls like Wrinkle in Time. I have adopted her as my patron saint.
Favourite Memoirs (my one weakness):
The Crosswicks Journals: A quartet of books by – you guessed it – Madeline L’Engle, writing through her life as a mother and an artist. One of my favourite posts this year (In which these are the tired thirties) was inspired by her work here. Although some of them are out of print, they’re easily found used. The books in this series of memoirs are A Circle of Quiet, The Irrational Season, Two Part Invention and (my least favourite of them) The Summer of Great-Grandmother.
Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Right Questions by Rachel Held Evans. Truly a gift to me, this book felt like it mirrored my own story in many ways. Off the page, Rachel has become a friend; she is generous, inquisitive, smart and funny. But even before I liked her, I loved her book. Authentic faith is open to serious questions.
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber: Most conversion memoirs I read have an inspiring story but this one rises above the others because it’s always well-written, intellectual and interesting; I couldn’t put it down until it was done. I tend to dog-ear pages when I like something on the page and underline mercilessly (my books are well-loved, to say the least) and I found myself marking up many of her words, many of the poems that she chose to mark her conversion. When I closed the book, I found I was impressed by one thing in particular: what a deep role Christians played in her conversion. All too often, we act like Christians are the thing we have to “get over” to get to Jesus. We act like we found Jesus in spite of the Christians. Instead, the Christians in her tale are wise, loving, deliberate, compassionate, challenging in the best ways, well-read, intentional and intellectual. In a way, it’s as much a love song to the universal church and friends that loved her well, making the path clear for her to the great Love of her life. Her chapters after her initial conversion, following a rhythm of tide in and tide out is honest in the wrestle of her new identity and priorities, particularly as an introvert, an intellectual, a literature-lover. I closed it with an appreciation for the world she’d opened me to, the Christians I’d met and her words to believe wisely.
Favourite Faith and Spirituality Books
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. No doubt this title will be on many “best of 2011” lists but it’s for just cause. I jointed the 1000 Gifts community at Holy Experience a few years ago and, let me be honest, it has deepened my life, my life parenting, my marriage even, because the practice of eucharisteo (thanksgiving) has given me eyes to see the gifts. Her beautifully written book helped me recapture joy in my life. It’s not so much that I am “more present” as much as it is that I have invited and welcomed His presence into every aspect of my life.
Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell. The book that may have been the biggest publishing story of 2011 was, to me, beautiful. I wrote openly this year about our struggles with much evangelical thought on these subjects and the catalyst for those conversations was this very book. It is hopeful, challenging and a conversation-starter.
Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. During Lent last spring, I picked up this community prayer book. I don’t make a big rule out of it – I’m not much for rules or “should do” in my faith – but almost every day, I read the day’s prayers. Some days, I do all three prayers for the day – morning, midday and evening – but typically, I do only the morning prayers. I love it and it has tremendously impacted me.
Favourite Fiction Books
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A total departure for me in taste, this novel is fast-paced, un-put-down-able, unique. I can’t remember the last time since Harry Potter that I was up all night finishing a book. The following two books are also good but the first one captures not only a great story but a commentary on violence and survival.
Favourite Parenting Books
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. You’d think by my third baby, I’d have it down pat but I learned so much from this book. It helped me immensely and was instrumental in our decision to plan a home birth for Evelynn Joan.
The Ministry of Motherhood and The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. True wisdom, gentle parenting, strong convictions. I felt convicted and challenged (but in good ways) by these two titles. Much of her wisdom has woven its way into my parenting, particularly in the challenging days. I remain very thankful for the influence of these titles in our home.
Honourable Mentions Completely Worth Your Time
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James
So tell me, friends, what was the best book you read in 2011?