There are so many ways to spend our time today, and with shortening attention spans it seems that reading books is losing popularity. Yet the benefits of reading are documented and plenty. In short, reading is good for you. That said, I did not really discover an enjoyment for reading until I was in college. It wasn’t until my mid-30’s that I started to enjoy nonfiction. So it is with some irony that I am now writing an article about my favorite books of the past year.
To be fair, none of these books were released in 2017. But they were all new to me and good enough for me to pass them along with my stamp of approval and high praise. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Love Does, by Bob Goff. This is a fantastic book full of firsthand adventures and experiences about receiving and giving God’s love. It is hard to believe that one person can have so many spontaneous, off the wall, diverse, and inspiring stories. Goff’s personality is quite different than mine, and so part of the joy of reading this book was living vicariously through him. Ultimately, he invites his readers is to love on purpose and without limits. For me, it was a profound reminder that God is good, but he’s not tame, and Jesus was anything but predictable. In short, love isn’t an emotion, it’s a verb, and it does.
What To Say When You Talk To Your Self, by Shad Helmstetter. This book speaks right to one of the key issues I have wrestled with for a long time — negative self-talk. And it makes the case thatyou can take the negative and reframe it to be positive; in essence rewire your brain. Written in 1982, long before all the advances in modern brain science, Helmstetter proposes that the brain (as opposed to your mind) is simply a neutral computer that executes on the commands and programming with which it is provided. If you tell it negative it will execute negative. Conversely, if you tell it positive it will execute positive. The book is realistic — it does not drift into ‘you can fly’ or ‘walk across hot coals.’ But it does provide very real and practical guidance for how to identify what you say to yourself and then re-write the negative programing to be positive. I’ve done it, and it works.
Mud, Sweat, and Tears, by Bear Grylls. I have always been fascinated by this man and this autobiography did not disappoint. I enjoyed this book for a few reasons. First, it confirmed what I believed, he is the real deal. Second, while quite wild in his adventures, he is also very grounded and humble. Third, he showed another level of strength and courage by letting us see his fear and doubts. The format is short chapters forming a compelling story of the defining moments of his life. From boarding school, to the highly regarded SAS, to his harrowing summit of Everest, he keeps the reader engaged on this journey. And in the end, demonstrates that he’s the same off the screen as he is on.
The Listening Life, by Adam S. McHugh. This is an outstanding book. I have lamented, and written about, how we are losing the art of listening. So it was no surprise that the title of this book captured me. What I didn’t expect was just how compelling it was to read. McHugh does a wonderful job of establishing the importance and the power of listening. And he does so in a way that is inviting, not just another rant. McHugh is a passionate follow of Jesus and this book is written from that perspective. But it is also an invitation for all people to learn to listen, and in so doing discover more about ourselves and each other.
Father Fiction, by Donald Miller. Originally published as To Own A Dragon, Father Fiction takes the reader on a journey of what it is like to grow up without a father as a guide. Miller’s style is humorous, transparent, and often quite candid. And he paints a picture of what happens to boys when there is no father around to help shape them into men. Ultimately, (spoiler alert) he finds his way, but not without a lot of scars and some lingering identity questions. If this is your story, or if you have a heart for boys becoming men like I do, this is an excellent read. You will find something, many things probably, that will speak to you about the importance of the role of a father. And, if you’re open to seeing it, there is also excellent insight into the picture of God as our father, the one our hearts are truly longing for.
I would love to know your thoughts on these books, and any other you would like to recommend. Just leave me a comment below.