My Reading List from 2019

Despite having a lot of homework last year, I still managed to read a handful of really great books! I am a pretty avid reader (and writer I suppose) and I just don’t feel right if I’m not reading something. Lately I’ve been really interested in personal development books or books with a spiritual focus. I wanted to share some of my favorites from the past year:

  • Dare to Lead – Brené Brown

Everyone should read this book! (Yes, I said it!) I had never read any of Brené Brown’s other books, but this book gives a good summary and builds upon things she has talked about previously. My main takeaways from this book were 1) Making your list and 2) Choosing your Core Values. Your list is a small (1 inch by 1 inch) piece of paper with names of people whose opinion of you matters – the idea is that you should not worry about what everyone thinks about you (you will be crippled with anxiety) but you should also not disregard all opinions of you, for fear of turning into a person you don’t want to be. We all need a core group of people to hold us accountable to being the person we want to be. These people could be mentors, role models, family members – anyone whose advice you value and that knows you well. The “choosing your values” exercise required you to look at a list of about 50 attributes, and choose 2 that you felt embodied you and that you wanted to live into. These values define every choice you make. It is hard to narrow it down – but I ended up choosing Honesty and Making a Difference as my two values. It has empowered me to make hard decisions as I view life through this “lens.” There are so many more good things about the book that I don’t have time to talk about – read it, you won’t regret it. I have a quote from the book written on my white board at work:

“If you choose courage, you will absolutely know failure, disappointment, setback, even heartbreak. That’s why we call is courage. That’s why it’s so rare.” 

  • Boundaries for Your Soul – Alison Cook & Kimberly Miller

This book was a recommendation from my counselor that I really enjoyed. The subtitle of this book is “how to turn your overwhelming thoughts and feelings into your greatest allies.” I, for one, deal with overwhelming thoughts on a pretty consistent basis, though I tend to keep them in check (most of the time). What I loved about this book was that it asked you to not judge your thoughts as good or bad, but to lean into them and try to understand why you were feeling that way in the first place. For example, if I am feeling angry, the anger is there to try to protect me from a more vulnerable feeling, such as fear, anxiety, or shame. I need to allow my anger to move away so I can deal with the root problem. This book also included a spiritual component which I thought was pretty cool – it asked you to try to allow Jesus to be with your vulnerable emotions, to comfort them, in a way personifying your emotions. It provided a unique imagery in thinking about how God works through our emotions. This book is based on the IFS model of therapy, which I did not know about until I was 95% done with the book. If you deal with what we typically label “negative” emotions such as anxiety, shame, anger, or grief, this book may be helpful for you.  

  • Soul Feast – Marjorie J. Thompson

Soul Feast was a motivating book on spiritual disciplines. I have read spiritual discipline books before, and what I liked about this one was that it was not presenting them as a checklist of things you “should be doing.” It offered practices as different ways of enhancing your spiritual journey and connection to God. I was very interested in Sabbath and Rest as a spiritual discipline, as well as Hospitality. This is not a newly published book, I think it was first published in 1995, but if you haven’t ever read it, it’s worth picking up. 

  • Crucial Conversations – Kerry Patterson et al.

The library I work at chose this book to read for a departmental book group, and I thought it was really great. The thing I loved most about this book was the idea that you can always be both honest AND respectful with anyone you talk to. It is a myth that you have to make a choice between the two. (Since honesty is one of my core values, this book resonated a lot with me.) It gives great tips for how to have difficult conversations with people – I found it applicable not only to the workplace, but to my marriage and other personal relationships as well. It has similar themes to Dare to Lead and is another great choice for reading!

  • Think Good – J. L. Gerhardt

This was a book I picked up over a year ago and only got through a few chapters before putting it aside. I had just started grad school, and I think got a bit overwhelmed. For whatever reason back when I first started it, I was not bowled over. But a few months ago I decided to try it again, and I guess I was in the right frame of mind, because it really spoke to me in ways I did not expect it to! This book inspired my blog post Peace in Uncertainty that I wrote not long ago. This book encourages you to take stock of your thoughts, and to be more active about thinking positively. It encourages you to be present, to have an open mind, and to have faith in God over the things you can’t control (which ends up being a lot of stuff!) There are reflection questions and exercises in each chapter if you’re the type who likes that kind of thing. 


I’ve got a few books on my 2020 “To Read” list – any suggestions from the audience?

  • In His Image – Jen Wilkin
    I did a summer bible study over Genesis by Jen Wilkin that was very good. This book was recommended to me by a friend who described the book as helping you be less worried about making the exact right choices (am I in the “right” job, the “right” city, etc.) and be more concerned with emulating God in the things you do every day.
  • Rest – Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
    (Also recommended by a friend) I mentioned that I was intrigued by the spiritual discipline of Sabbath and Rest. I want to continue looking into how to do less and simplify my life. This book is timely for me as I have finished grad school and hope to be in a season of “less.”
  • Prayer in Practice – J. L. Gerhardt (reading currently)
    This is the same author as Think Good, I liked that book so much I thought I would read another by the author. Also, prayer is something I have been thinking about and wanting to participate in more actively. This is a workbook-style book, with the goal of getting you to just start praying.



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