Another year gone, can you believe it? Christmas break has been a great time of reflection and rest, but all the same I feel like I’m limping across the finish line of 2019. The worst part of that feeling is I know the starting line of 2020 is coming quickly–with a whole set of different challenges and pressures in tow! But, as my mom wisely reminded me earlier today–“Different pressures. Same God.”
So I thought in the spirit of wrapping up the old year and celebrating the new, I’d share the five books that meant most to me over the last twelve months. For the first time since 2013, I did not finish my regular 50 book goal. I did manage to scrape past the halfway mark and read 26 books, but that’s all! I guess I can’t apologize, since this time last year I did say I would read whatever I felt like reading without setting a formal goal. Oh well–every year can’t be a banner year for reading goals, I guess!
You can check out the full list of books here, but here are my top five in the traditional, New Year’s Eve countdown style.
Five: A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
I read three different Mary Oliver books this year, two of poetry and one of essays. This collection of poems stood out to me for her simple style and keen eye for nature. If you’re new to poetry and want something approachable but thought-provoking, I suggest this collection.
Four: Discernment by Henri Nouwen
This book was a deep dive into the principles of spiritual discernment. I read this book as my Advent devotional, approximately one chapter per day, and it didn’t disappoint. I love Nouwen’s emphasis on discernment in every area of life.
Three: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
H is for Hawk is one of those bestsellers I’ve been seeing around for ages, so I finally decided to give it a try. As is so often the case, I wondered immediately why I didn’t read it when it first came out! This is a book about hawks, literature, loss, and grief; it is moving and beautiful. The audio version is calming and an easy listen if you’re in the market for a good audiobook.
Two: The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane
This is one of the few books I did write about over the course of the year, and I recommend it for any nature-lovers, globetrotters, or other wanderers who may be looking for a book about the power of place in our lives.
One: Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray
Though I read this book way back in January, it has stuck with me as my favorite of the year. Murray’s short devotional is full of big ideas and big truths. I am planning on reading it again this January–perhaps that will be an annual tradition!
So there you have it–the five books that meant most to me this year. I’m a little surprised that no fiction titles made the list, though I would give Where the Crawdads Sing and The Horse and His Boy honorable mentions if pressed for fiction recommendations. I’m wrapping up The Goldfinch now with mixed emotions. Let me know if you’ve read any of the above books or if you plan to add them to your 2020 list!
Next, in no particular order, are some songs I’ve really been clinging to lately. Hopefully they inspire and encourage you as much as they have me.
- All Things Together: Andrew Peterson
- In the Meantime: Jess Ray
- King of Kings: Hillsong
- I’ll Give Thanks: Housefires
- Way Maker: Leeland
- Seasons: Hillsong
- Carry Me: Audrey Assad
- Dimensions: Jess Ray
At the moment I’m not completely sure what my reading/blogging/writing goals will look like for 2020, but that’s okay! I still have a few hours to figure it out. 🙂 I’ll leave you with this little prose poem from A Thousand Mornings and a quote from Discernment that sum up my feelings about this new year:
All night my heart makes its way however it can over the rough ground of uncertainties, but only until night meets and then is overwhelmed by morning, the light deepening, the wind easing and just waiting, as I too wait (and when have I ever been disappointed?) for redbird to sing.
“A Thousand Mornings” by Mary Oliver
So much is going on in our lives: new directions, old fears, apprehensions, and great uncertainties. Always, there is sadness and joy, fear and love, resentment and gratitude; there is nervousness about next week, next month, next year. Yes, there is so much going on beneath our feet that we are wondering if we can keep walking on all these waves. But Jesus is with us here and now…Jesus calls us to look up and forward to the one who stands in the midst of the storm. He is with us now, he will be with us tomorrow, and he will still be there in our near and far future. In the midst of all the storms, he is the quiet presence; in the midst of all our doubts and fears, he is the safe dwelling place, in the midst of all our restlessness, he is our home.
Discernment by Henri Nouwen (p. 129)
Wishing you a safe and happy 2020!