How I chose which books to read in 2015

The long road to Fort Scratchley lighthouse at Nobby's Beach, Newcastle. Image source: My camera.

The long road to Fort Scratchley lighthouse at Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle. Image source: My camera.

The end of the year is a great time for reflecting on our habits from the year and how they changed us as a person. Here is just one snippet from my reflections on my habits in 2015: How I chose which books to read during the year.

It’s an important topic. The books you read are part of the inspiration you get, and that shapes who you become as a person over the course of a year. We’re always changing, and the input we choose for our hearts and minds is a huge part of that.

What does the Bible say about the input you should give your heart and mind?

Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of your life and everything you do flows from it.”

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about those things.”

(author’s paraphrase)

So in short, in 2015, I let God choose.

While standing at the shelves of my favourite bookshops or poring over new releases on my favourite online bookshops, or even leaning against my own bookshelves and wondering what to read next, I asked the Holy Spirit. I asked that God would reveal what book would help me the most in this season, or what book would give me encouragement, give me a laugh, show me afresh His power, or give me the key to spreading His power to others with my life.

Here’s my list of books read, how the let-God-pick method went, and the themes that emerged in what I read…

Themes in what I read

I only read about 80 books in 2015, but it’s a varied list. As I look through the list I can see a number of themes emerging in the types of books I read:

  • Devoured books on prayer and tapping into the power of the holy spirit, including inspirational biographies of those who have gone before in faith.
  • Loved the new Christian fiction I tried. It seems to have improved a lot since the last time I tried the genre.
  • Pored through a huge pile of “relationship” reads as we entered our second year of marriage.
  • Piled into the kids’ books, with very few regrets. Helped me stay young at heart. 😉

Sadly, with a few of the books that I picked up because I knew they were perfect for that season, I didn’t finish reading the book in time to get the full benefit of their teaching and encouragement during that season. It’s a pity – but it taught me a valuable lesson.

When God points you to a book, read it immediately, and read it quickly. Then re-read it over and over until the message from God sinks in.

About 20 of the books were re-reads, old favourites that I returned to because I knew that they would perfectly suit the mood I was in. Nothing wrong with that – they were equally what God wanted me to read.

I think God doesn’t always lead you to something new, but he always shows you something new through it, or reveals the same message afresh, as if it was once again new to you.

Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (ESV)

The best books I read in 2015

Non-Fiction

Scary Close by Donald Miller. Amazing reflections on how to have a healthy relationship in the modern world, follow God, and love another person. It’s hard, and Don shows the difficulties from his own experience! He’s such a great writer that you’ll find yourself swept along the journey and into the principles he outlines for becoming a person who is safe to be around other people.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Life-changing. Corrie lived in Holland and was part of the Resistance movement during WWII, smuggling Jews and other vulnerable people in and out of the “hiding place” in their home, until she and her family were imprisoned by the Germans. In the concentration camps, she and her sister Betsie ran church services in their dorms and work stations, leading many people to Christ and helping many more, in spite of the threat of death or torture. Afterwards, she made the choice to obey God in the unimaginable, by forgiving the guards and officials who had persecuted her and her loved ones.

Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth by Dutch Sheets. In Christian circles we often hear a lot about prayer – how important it is, etc. etc. – without receiving any tools to pray more effectively. This book revolutionised both the way I pray, declaring the touch of heaven on earth, and the way I think about how God answers prayers. I first read this in 2013, and spent most of this year re-reading it, taking notes, and praying constantly for whomever God brought to mind and whomever asked for prayer. I am no longer the same as the pre-2013 TJ, because of reading this book.

Releasing the Spirit of Prophecy: The supernatural power of testimony by Bill Johnson. I mention this purely because it introduced me to a new concept. I’d always thought of testimony as just your story, which you share with others to inspire them. But this book says it is so much more, that you can actually speak your own testimony of God’s power in your life over another person, and God can do the same miracle for that person. Your testimony of God creates and becomes their own testimony, which they can then share with others.

A commissioning service I visited for those going to spread God's love in practical ways with Teen Mission International. Each team member lit a candle in the dark until the entire hall was filled with light. Praise God!

A commissioning service I attended this year for those going to spread God’s love in practical ways with Teen Mission International. Each team member lit a candle in the dark until the entire hall was filled with light. Praise God!

Fiction

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar. A moving and informative retelling of the Biblical story of Ruth and Boaz.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Kate Rorick and Bernie Su. A hilarious and heart-warming retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If you haven’t watched the YouTube series that this book is based on, go watch it now. You won’t regret the time spent.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Engrossing historical fiction about the rise of the anti-segregation movement in the Southern states of America. A book about the relationships between black and white women and their children.

Children’s Fiction

Staying young at heart at Gateway Baptist Church's women's conference. Image source: My camera.

Staying young at heart at Gateway Baptist Church’s women’s conference.

Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery. Loved this tale of a young woman becoming a writer and overcoming the opposition of others, from the author of Anne of Green Gables. So many tears, and so much laughing – in one book! Montgomery’s granddaughter wrote the introduction and said Montgomery’s life was probably much closer to Emily’s than to Anne’s, with more turmoil and more seasons of challenges.

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park. I’m a lover of many things related to Japanese culture, so reading about the Japanese oppression of Korea during WWII was fascinating. I learned so much about Korean culture in this gripping tale of a young Korean girl and her family, and I love that it is written for children or teen readers, not for academics.

 

What did you read in 2015?

(C) This post is copyright 2015, TJ Withers-Ryan. Reblogging is fine, as long as you credit me as the author of this work.

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5 thoughts on “How I chose which books to read in 2015

  1. I wish I could say I read a lot this year. I took the year to dive into some good Bible studies. In regards to guarding your heart, I couldn’t agree more. It hit a chord, and I felt the need to comment based on that. This year I picked up a book my daughter was reading, shes 13, and although it came from the teen/youth sections, it had things that made ME blush. Needless to say, we had a lot of talks about guarding our hearts. I am so glad to hear others doing that when it comes to fiction. My daughter wasn’t happy, but until she can care for her heart, it is up to me.

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    • Golly, well done there! It is hard when you’re a teen to judge what’s okay, especially when your friends are reading absolutely everything. I don’t have kids but I try and keep up with what my youth girls are reading these days, John Green and the like; it brings up some amazing opportunities to speak into each other’s lives. But thank God the days of the Twilight era are winding down in the publishing world, I have to say!

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  2. Thanks for sharing Tirz. Dutch Sheets and Bill Johnson appear to operate on a level reminiscent of New Testament Christians. Very inspiring.

    My reading has stopped for the last 3 months, but a brilliant book I read at the start of the year is “Non-Violent Communication” by Marshall B. Rosenberg who sadly passed away this year. I highly recommend it.

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  3. Pingback: Best books and media I’ve found in 2016 so far | TJ Withers-Ryan

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