The Best Books I Read in 2016

One of my favorite parts of December is reading everyone's best-books-of-the-year lists. Sure, I love the lists by authors, theologians, and friends I respect, but I will read pretty much anybody's list. Probably because I'm nosy and like to know what people are reading.

In that tradition, I want to share my own top books list (in no particular order).

Note: These aren't all books that were published in 2016, just ones that I read this year.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin: I read both of Jen's books this year, 'Women of the Word' and 'None Like Him'. Each was fantastic in its own right, but 'None Like Him' shone the brightest for me. I can't praise this book too highly. Beautifully written, accessible yet theological, I want every woman to read it.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things No One Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (my review here): This is perhaps the best book on creativity I've ever read. It's fun, unconventional, short, colorful, and tremendously wise. If you're a writer, you need to check it out. Read it in an hour or two and then pick out your favorite quotes and save them.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller: This was a remarkably profound book. My mom read it first and kept talking about it, so I picked it up and had my mind blown. When a woman who's been married almost 25 years and a single 19-year-old both rave about a marriage book, you know there's something to it. Keller is a masterful writer and has so much wisdom in this book. I will definitely be reading it again.

Holiness by J.C. Ryle: It would not be an understatement to say this is one of the best books I've ever read. Ever. Ryle is fantastically readable yet a brilliant expositor of God's Word. This treatment of sanctification is just wonderful.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson: This year was explosive in the conversation on race. I read a few different books on the subject (including Ta-Nehisi Coates' oft-talked-about 'Between the World and Me'), but this was the best one, in my opinion. Incredibly written and absolutely devastating, it opened my eyes to a whole world I am unfamiliar with - systemic injustice, mass incarceration, and racial strife.

Dispatches From the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World's Difficult Places by Tim Keesee: I read this book in just one day, because I couldn't stop reading. Tim shares amazing stories from his mission work all over the world. It's impossible to not feel encouraged after reading this. He shares a quote from a pastor in India named Aashish that ministers to me almost daily: "Focus on making God big. If you do, everything will fall into place. Focus on making yourself big and everything will fall apart."

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney: Practical, theological, absolutely soaked in Scripture, this is a must-read for every Christian.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (my review here): This is the best biography I've ever read, hands down. From my review: "A lot of reviewers will tell you not to give this book to your children. They are very right. 'Unbroken' is a disturbing story. Louie's time as a POW was sickening. But I think you should consider giving it to your teenagers - and everyone older than that. The themes of courage and fear and friendship and hope and desperation and loneliness and dignity and humanity and compassion and camaraderie weave together a story (a true one) that will change their lives. I don't say this lightly."

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Tim Keller (my thoughts here): This is one of the few books I have read multiple times and will continue to read multiple times. When I wrote about it on the blog back in May, I said this: "I read it in one sitting and when I reached the end, my heart just ached. The conviction and fresh clarity had kind of hit me over the head. One notable writer said that when she finished it, she could only sit there and weep."

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett: The book of prayers that rocked my world. You need to read it. That's all I can say.

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl: For me, this was the year of the food memoir. I read close to a dozen different food memoirs and more than a dozen cookbooks. I've become so much more passionate about cooking this year and exploring the subject of food in general - nourishment, traditions, nutrition, community, hospitality. 'Tender at the Bone' was the memoir that really stuck out to me, filled with beautiful writing and delicious food.

The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson: People complain that the Puritans are too hard to read. When they do, I point them to this book. I found Watson extremely readable, practical, and pastoral.

Faerie Gold: Treasures from the Lands of Enchantment edited by Kathryn Lindskoog and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker: This is a collection of fairy tales, most of them not well known. Written with warmth and imagination, this book oozes wonder and delight. This would be a marvelous addition to a children's library. It would also be a marvelous addition to an adult's library. After all, as C.S. Lewis so famously said, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”

For a complete list of the books I read this year (for you fellow nosy readers), you can check out my 2016 Goodreads list here.

What are the best books you read this year?