Are these going to be the best books I read 2022? I don’t know, but these are the ones that have stuck with me, that I have cried through and that have touched my heart, that I have begged friends to read so we can discuss, that I have underlined in and highlighted and will keep on my bookshelf. So I will call them worthy, and in no particular order, I will recommend them to you:
+ Freedom of Simplicity. Long before the current minimalism trend hit, Richard Foster was writing about simplicity from a spiritual discipline perspective, which for Christ-followers, is far more compelling when faced with materialism, the accumulation of wealth, and worldly attachments. He writes with humility, not as one who has mastered the discipline, but who is also on the journey. His suggestions are subversive, convicting, and practical.
+ Sheltering Mercy. This is an artful and poetic devotional, written prayers inspired by the first 75 Psalms. Having spent countless hours in the Psalms through deep grief over the past year and a half, it was nourishing for my soul to pray alongside these treasured psalms. When my words have been few in prayer, Sheltering Mercy has served as a beautiful companion, leading me to the heart of God.
+ Little Pilgrim’s Progress. I collected this stunning version when we were in the States last Christmas, Helen Taylor’s original with piercingly beautiful illustrations by Joe Sutphin. The girls and I read through it as part of school in the first months of 2022, and we were all engrossed with the story. I have never loved Bunyan’s original, but this retelling captivated my heart, and the hearts of my daughters. The plentiful themes of journeying the Christian life were relatable for children, and poignant for me as an adult, and provided countless opportunities for discipleship. The tears streamed down my face in the last pages, picturing my nephew walking through the waters of death into the arms of Christ. We will likely reread soon, and it will become a family classic in our home.
+ A Whole in the World. I had been anxiously awaiting this book, having preread a chapter over a year ago, and waited until I could hold the physical pages in my hands before reading. Amanda Held Opelt has walked through the waters of deep grief, and her writing is authentic and vulnerable. Her own story is stunningly woven throughout this exploration of how generations before us journeyed through suffering. This exploration of grief rituals of the past provided a path through the pain for her, and as I read slowly, tearfully, thoughtfully, I felt as though I was joining arms with the masses of women before me who have lost, survived, and continued to live.
+ The God of the Garden. I devoured this beautiful memoir by Andrew Peterson. If you love trees, or even if you don’t, Peterson reflects on them to draw out rich theological truths of God’s work in the world and in our lives. As I journey into midlife, I find companionship in others who have wrestled with aging, time, and the brokenness of the world, and emerged glorifying God. Peterson does, and gives us a renewed sense of purpose and significance for the journey.
+ Everything Sad is Untrue. This book has been everywhere, and for good reason. Daniel Nayeri writes a young adult style memoir, but with such feeling and prose that I laughed and I cried and I laughed again. He weaves his story with the ancient stories of his homeland, and we are left all the better for it.
+ The Time Quintet. This is technically five books, but I wanted to highlight more than just Madeline L’Engle’s first and most famous, A Wrinkle in Time. I reread A Wrinkle in Time for a bookclub this year, and so loved it again that I kept going through the rest of the series. They were lovely night-reading companions, and I enjoyed so much. These are strange, science fiction and fantasy, middle grade novels but the themes of sacrificial love and bravery and growing into oneself are unmatched. We’ve read A Wrinkle in Time together, but I can’t wait for my girls to read the whole series soon.
+ Pilgrim’s Inn. I’ve been on an Elizabeth Goudge kick for a few years, and basically, anything she writes is golden. Pilgrim’s Inn is another stunning novel by this underrated author, a story that drew me in and held me tenderly, with lines so memorable I underlined them (yes, it’s a novel). Though I went through a phase while reading where I was ready to open a B+B, I came out grateful for the home we have and thoughtfully considering how to open our doors even wider to those around us (yes, it’s still a novel).
+ Different. I’m grateful for this book this year, as we have faced some new challenges in parenting. I’m grateful to know we are not alone. I’m grateful for Sally and Nathan Clarkson sharing honestly, the good and the ugly, the struggles of family life without the sugarcoating of some of Clarkson’s previous books. I can imagine the difficulty of running a family ministry while struggling so much at home, and appreciate that they have now taken the time to let us in, to share insights from the journey, to walk alongside the many of us who have out-of-the-box children, and struggle to know how to best love them.
+ Cry, the Beloved Country. What can I say? This is an important read, especially for me as we live in South Africa. I have had it on my bookshelf for six years, but never felt robust enough to delve deeply into it, until this year, when our bookclub selected it. It was hard, so hard. I cried, I hated a lot of what I saw. And yet, I feel I have a better grasp, a deeper understanding, more vocabulary in which to interact. It’s a classic, deeply important, and it will change you.
Bonus: Yet We Still Hope. I felt conflicted about including this book on the list, as I am a contributor, but it was most definitely a worthy read for me. These are recent stories of modern women on cross-cultural mission fields around the world. The stories are raw and honest, full of pain and loss and fear, much of what accompanies every woman living outside her home country, and each one points back to God’s sustaining love and unending faithfulness.
Here’s to happy reading in 2023!