My goal for 2019 is to read (really, to experience) 30 books.
If a book captured my attention and held me captive for days (and sometimes even for months after I finished it), I will list it here. You’ll see some of my favorite novels, but I will also include my favorite nonfiction, self-help, and spiritual books. Typically, books on this list swooned me, challenged me, and/or changed me.
I love to talk in general, but I especially love to talk about books! Please connect with me on my Facebook page and tell me all about your favorite books.
Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale – I am a huge Kerry Lonsdale fan. She captured my attention with her Everything series, and she has done it again with this book. Last Summer is a thrill ride from the very first page. Why can’t Ella Skye remember her pregnancy, or the baby she tragically lost in an automobile accident? What is going on with her husband Damien? It seems like he is processing more than just grief over the loss of the baby and his wife’s memory. This unputdownable book is full of drama, love, lust, and plenty of questions to keep you lost in its pages until its surprising end.
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center – If you loved Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, you will enjoy this book. Katherine Center draws you in with her captivating voice and keeps you turning the pages with twists and turns, gut punches and questions, and stellar storytelling. You will not be able to put this one down until you learn whether Margaret Jacobson, aka Maggie (the main character), is able to walk away.
Tiger Drive by Teri Case – This novel is a gripping, thought-provoking family drama about addiction, abuse, poverty, and trauma. But more than that, this is a story about hope in the face of adversity: hope that, no matter what we face, we can and should still follow our dreams. Teri’s real-life characters will disappoint you and inspire you at the same time.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – What can I say about this mind-capturing book that hasn’t already been said on the internet, in book club meetings, and around kitchen tables and water coolers? Delia Owens has created a work of art that lives, breathes, and has its own being. Grab a copy of this book and become one with The Marsh Girl, Keya. Explore the hidden beauty of her simple yet complicated life. Feel the angst from her loneliness and others’ betrayal. And pay close attention as the story unravels clues to the murdered body found in the thick mud of the marsh.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim – This beautiful, difficult whodunit mystery totally got to me! Who doesn’t want to fit in, to feel “normal,” to be accepted into a group? Kim places us in a courtroom—and inside her cast of characters’ heads—as a mother stands trail for the murder of two innocent victims, one of whom is her autistic son, who died when a controversial hyperbaric chamber exploded. But was the explosion really the mother’s fault, or was she caught in the middle of the lies and betrayals of other patients who sought a “cure” on that fateful day? Miracle Creek is more than just a courtroom drama. The true story at the heart of this book is about the choices we make just to fit in.
When Light Breaks by Patti Callahan Henry – Escape into this sweet love story about following “the hints of your heart” and not everyone else’s expectations. This great light read is set in—my favorite—a charming Lowcountry town, and riveted me with its love triangle, a fast-approaching wedding, the reappearance of a first love, and sage advice from an elderly Irish mentor confined to a nursing home.
Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry – A book about grief, love, and doing what makes your heart happy. Ellie Calvin has just lost her (controlling) mom, Lillian, when her ex-boyfriend Hutch shows up at the funeral and informs Ellie he is doing a documentary on her mom and the work she did with the Civil Rights movement. This is a side of her mother Ellie never knew. Then, while cleaning out her mom’s closet, Ellie discovers a journal in a locked drawer and the mystery of her mom’s past begins to reveal itself. Ellie partners with Hutch to unravel the secret life her mom stored away inside her heart. Coming Up for Air is another beautifully written, layered tale by Henry!
Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey – A captivating tale about three sisters that return home to the strength of their mother’s self-reliance and the healing-nature of her love. Slightly South of Simple, the captivating first novel in the Peachtree Bluff series, will have you turning pages to see if infidelity is forgiven, a secret is revealed, and love truly does conquer all. You are sure to see a review for The Secret to Southern Charm (the second book in this series) on this list.
The Art of Keeping Secrets by Patti Callahan Henry – This is a late-night, just-one-more-chapter, did-he-cheat-on-her-or-not kind of book! Annabelle Murphy lost the love of her life two years ago. Knox Murphy was a devoted husband and loving father, but the wreckage of his plane was just discovered with an unknown woman’s body inside. In The Art of Keeping Secrets, Annabelle unravels the mystery of the unidentified woman on her husband’s solo hunting flight. Was this woman her beloved husband’s mistress, or was their relationship something else entirely? You will have to read this page-turner to find out.
The Bookshop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry – I’ve found my new favorite author after reading this layered tale about love, loss, and finding yourself in the midst of it all. Her beautiful writing is captivating! Patti created a world with characters that I had to follow to the end. The Bookshop at Water’s End will keep you up late cheering for a woman struggling through divorce, aching with a young adult through growing pains, hoping a doctor won’t let one tragic mistake destroy her passion, and sitting with a friend processing past trauma and current pain. You are sure to find more of Patti’s books on this list in the future.
Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry – You’ll love this gripping story rich in characters struggling with grief, regret, shame, and letting go to love again. Catherine Leary’s father passed away and left his daughter with one request: scatter his ashes in the Seaboro River. A simple request on the surface, but a monumental task for Catherine, as the Seaboro River is the place of a childhood tragedy. Henry weaves together the past and the present in an unforgettable tale about lies and love, heartache and healing. I am officially proclaiming Between The Tides as my all-time favorite novel.
Driftwood Summer by Patti Callahan Henry – What did I tell you about my new favorite author? This novel will suck you into the life-like drama of three sisters as they fight to save the family bookstore, take care of their sick mama, and release perceived wrong doings from their past. Driftwood Summer is told in alternating points of view between two of the sisters that fell in love with the same boy many summers ago. This love triangle will keep you flipping pages to find out who (if either of them) wins his affection in the end.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – This explicit nonfiction book reads like fiction (and, in my opinion, borders on erotica). It stayed with me for weeks after I read the last page, tormenting me to figure out why. Then it occurred to me: sex is something that Christianity and the broader culture teach women not to talk about, and definitely not to desire—which is why I believe this book is a must-read for every woman. Taddeo explores the depths of women’s desire, from the judgments we place on other women for craving fulfillment to the all-out lengths we will go to in order to feel loved ourselves.
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell – I did not see this one coming! This gripping nonfiction book about O’Farrell’s lifelong struggle with mortality will definitely take you on an emotional journey. O’Farrell captures you in the first chapter when, on a remote mountain, a man steps out from behind a rock and blocks her path. The buildup to the ending is pure authorial genius! If you are a writer, buy this book and study its structure. If you are a reader, buy this book and immerse yourself in the struggle of the human condition. I Am, I Am, I Am is a life-affirming read.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend – Do you give until it hurts? Do you sacrifice and take on more than you can handle because, well, aren’t we supposed to display Christ-like behavior? It’s time to stop being a slave to others’ demands and guilt trips. It’s time to stop fretting, worrying, and exerting all of your energy trying to make other people happy. It’s time to transform old ideas of Christian servanthood into a confidently voiced “no.” Get your hands on this book and let Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend illuminate what drives our boundary-less lives, guidelines for breaking unhealthy habits, the biblical basis for self-love (aka, the confident no) as stewardship, and real-life scenarios that illustrate how to establish healthy limits in all areas of our lives.
Writing Craft/Creative Work
The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield – Anyone involved in creative work would benefit from this easy-to-read guide. Pressfield cuts through the layers of our resistance and uncovers the core of our fears, empowering us to move beyond needing the world’s applause and approval and into our own heart’s desire.
Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience by Dan Blank – Connect with your tribe and inspire people with your creative ideas with the help of this book. I just love Dan Blank. I’ve learned so much from him by reading his weekly newsletters (link) and following him on social media (link), so I knew I had to read his book. Be The Gateway is a quick read, full of actionable steps for connecting with your audience. Dan is a kind, easygoing soul that knows how to cut beneath the social media facade and down to the core of true connection.
Heart’s Cry: Principles of Prayer by Jennifer Kennedy Dean – “He whispers, and it echoes in your heart.” This quote from page 137 sums up this book’s message. Heart’s Cry is an excellent book on prayer and filling up the empty spaces inside our hearts with the deep comfort and connection we long for. If you want to dive deeper into your faith, explore the mystery of prayer, and challenge and expand your beliefs about prayer, pick up one of Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s books. She is a skilled master on the cry of the heart.
Too Blessed to Be Stressed: A Journal by Debora M. Coty – An inspirational devotional that infuses humor with real-life anecdotes and Biblical truths to help you de-stress and find peace and comfort in all the many blessings we have already been given. Deborah M. Coty is a master storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and having read it, I feel more equipped to hand over the steering wheel of life so that I can live in a state of intentional peace.
Live a Praying Life: Open Your Life to God’s Power And Provision by Jennifer Kennedy Dean – We all know how to pray. It’s pretty simple, right? You just put your hands together, bow your head, and ask away. My dear friends, there is so much more to prayer. Jennifer Kennedy Dean will open your eyes with her exploration of why we should pray, how we should pray, what we should pray for, and what we should really expect from the act of prayer. Trust me when I say that prayer is not just another thing we need to do. Prayer is not just asking for things and feeling frustrated when our pleas go unanswered. Prayer is transformational life work.
So Long, Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us by Beth Moore – This book will take you on a deep dive into the many defeating facets of insecurity. Moore arms us with knowledge of how this emotion looks on us, what we do to each other because of it, why we do it, AND—the best part—how to overcome insecurity and live secure in our own skin. no. matter. what. A must-read if you are a parent!
The Daniel Key: 20 Choices That Make All The Difference by Anne Graham Lotz – A Christmas gift given to me by a dear friend and faith-warrior partner, explores the story of a man from the Bible. This book is about the choices Daniel made to honor his faith, and the risks he was willing to take for this same faith. Daniel’s legacy was written into the greatest book of all time, and through Daniel’s legacy, we learn more about the character of God. The passages within The Daniel Key are short and inspiring enough to be read as daily devotionals. The last entry is the best: it illuminates how Daniel’s legacy lives on in the people of today who are going to great lengths for their beliefs.
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