My top nonfiction books for the year
We’re at the end of another year so it’s time for me to announce my favorite reads for 2014!
This year we transitioned our blog from just fiction to focusing on all books that we carry at LifeWay Christian Stores. For the first time I’m excited to share with you my favorite nonfiction books in addition to my favorite novels (which I’ll post about tomorrow… so come back and see me!).
I gravitate to mostly fiction so this year I set a goal for myself to read more nonfiction. And I achieved it! Out of the several I read five books have risen to the top. They each challenged me in different ways. Some made me laugh. A few made me cry. And all drove home biblical truths that I’m constantly going back and reminding myself of.
So, in no particular order, here are my favorite nonfiction reads of the year!
I’ve been a Kelly Minter fan for a few years now having done a couple of her Bible Studies. Wherever the River Runs intrigued me from the first moment I heard about it. It is part memoir and part challenge to all believers. Kelly invites us to join her in a small boat as she floats down the Amazon River, ministering to people all along its banks. She has such an ease of writing that you feel like you are on the boat hearing the lapping of the water, and the gentle swaying of a hammock, all the while swatting at a thousand mosquitoes.
Kelly introduces you to lovely Brazilians whose love for the Lord and the Church drive them to walk countless miles just to hear the Word spoken. You’ll meet jungle pastors who give any extras they might have to members of their small congregations. There are women who have a hunger for the Gospel that will leave you examining your own thirst for the Bible. Through each of these encounters, Kelly begins to see the Gospel in new and life-changing ways. The course of her ministry has taken on a path that now winds through the Amazon. Her heart for these people is infectious.
If you are interested in missions or if you’re searching for new inspiration in your life and ministry, treat yourself to Wherever the River Runs.
There are some books that you think, “Well, it might be nice to read but I doubt I’ll get a lot out of it.” That’s kind of how I felt about Every Bitter Thing is Sweet. I’m not bitter. I’m not dealing with loss. Oh, how I was wrong. This was truly one of the most poignant books I’ve ever read.
Sarah Hagerty opens up her years of asking God “why?” and “how long?” to us and shows that in the midst of the seasons of barrenness, God is quietly orchestrating all things for our good. How can a marriage begin when it’s already a struggle on the honeymoon? How much longer must she endure baby showers when she herself remains childless? How can a life that has been diligently serving God realize one day that she doesn’t even know him?
Like God always does, He reveals through His Sovereignty that first, He hears, and secondly He is in control. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet was a turning point in my own walk. Through Sarah’s words and the many Scriptures she included throughout the book, God showed me a rather large bitterness I was carrying. Like He did with her, God broke me and tenderly revealed Himself even in the midst of a hurt I had been carrying around for several years. While I’m still processing it, I’m realizing that hope can be found even in unfulfilled or delayed dreams.
Every Bitter Thing is Sweet is the perfect encouragement for anyone walking through some of life’s hardships. Whether it’s on a big scale or just some of the day-to-day wear and tear on our spirits, Sarah’s sweet words will be a balm to your soul.
If you’ve been around Shelf Life long enough you’ll know I’m a huge Mark Batterson fan. I easily highlight 50% or more of each of his books because there are so many nuggets that I want to digest. The Grave Robber is an in-depth look into seven of Jesus’ miracles. Many of us are guilty of reading the accounts of miracles in the Bible and thinking that it could never happen today. Like God would really walk on water if I was on a boat in a storm in the middle of Lake Superior in order to rescue me. That’s just New Testament stuff.
Batterson shows us not only can He do it but He does perform miracles all around us… all the time. So why don’t we notice them? Maybe it’s because we’re not actively looking for how God is working around us. Maybe we’re not willing to go out of our way to where He is leading us. Or maybe we just don’t think God is that big. Ouch.
The Grave Robber expands your view and understanding of how God is just as much at work in the world and our lives today as He was back when he was turning water into wine, raising people from the dead, and causing the blind to see.
If you like doing books for your small group, The Grave Robber would make a great selection. There is also additional curriculum to complement the book.
I have followed Kara Tippetts blog Mundane Faithfulness for awhile now as she records her journey with cancer. Her posts take you on a roller coaster of emotions. One moment you are rejoicing with her as she’s having a day with more energy that allows her to do some cooking with her kids while another moment you are sensing her pain as she describes the relentless pursuit of disease in her body. I knew that The Hardest Peace would be a combination of those emotions and so much more.
I’ve never met Kara but after reading her book, I can say she is one of the most inspiring and courageous people I’ve ever come across. She’s honest about how hard and debilitating cancer is. She’s upfront about her fears for her precious kids. She shares her private thoughts about her marriage and wondering if her husband would remarry one day after she’s gone. All things that are hard to read but unimaginable to be living.
Though the war rages on, Kara is clinging to the peace that passes all understanding. She hasn’t found the reasons why she was given stage IV brain cancer and why her “littles” will one day be without their mother. She knows she will never understand. But she clings to the peace and grace that the Lord is showering on her life and family each moment.
I can only summarize The Hardest Peace as a beautiful testimony to the love and care that can be found in the Lord. Please read this one.
Like many long time Christians do, Angie Smith found herself bound by rules, regulations, and responsibilities but experiencing very little of God’s grace and freedom. Through all of her striving she began to hear a faint whisper. Stop chasing God. Those three little words changed everything for her.
Chasing God is packed with great reminders. We are to pursue God as the Scripture tells us. We’re to seek Him through Scripture, prayer, service to others, and fellowship with believers. But so many of us attempt to know Him only through church attendance, committee membership, and countless other ways. These are good things if done with the right motives, but a lot of times our motives are not the best. We are wanting, tired, and with more questions then we began with.
Angie reminds us that we have a heavenly Father who just wants us. All of our mess ups, feeble attempts, and good intentions are welcomed at the feet of the One who requires just one thing from us. Our heart. Such a simple reminder but one that we all need.
Coming up this week!
I’ll be sharing my favorite novels for 2014 tomorrow.
Then… our biggest giveaway of the year! I’ll be giving away ALL of my favorite books for the year on Thursday and Friday. You won’t want to miss this giveaway!