What Should I Read Next?

It seems everyone these days has a must-read book list. Seeing so many book recommendations can feel overwhelming to me–a natural rule-follower (give me the syllabus!). This is especially the case with nonfiction books, which are what I mostly read this last year. Here are fifteen must-reads on X topic! You’d better dive in. You’re already behind! It can feel paralyzing. How do I vet which books are worth my time? How can I possibly read them all? The short answers would be–don’t read so many lists in the first place, consider what you are trying to experience or learn from a book then choose it, recognize you can’t read everything, then just start reading.

With my limited time, I usually choose books from my growing to-read list. I take screenshots of books that sound interesting, transfer them to a Pinterest board, then browse the list when I’m ready to start a new book. I also add new titles and displace old ones at any time, so the list feels less like a looming assignment and more like a spontaneous buffet. I typically read a few books at a time, both in print and audiobook form. If I am in a reading slump, I read something short: a middle grade novel or a short story or essay collection. The high I get from finishing a book helps to grease the cylinders for more reading. I have also begun abandoning books at times, a practice I used to think somehow shameful but which doesn’t bother me now (some exceptions are books that I choose to slog through because a. I’m trying to develop reading stamina, b. I am working towards some goal, or c. I am reading it alongside someone else).

One place I like to go for new books ideas is a blog series called On My Shelf, which includes brief interviews with people about books that have formed them. Here are some posts I have drawn from: Jarvis Williams, Karen Ellis, and Thabiti Anyabwile.

To reading!

Five Calming Books I Read in 2020

These books were a comfort to me this year. In Handle With Care, Lore Ferguson Wilbert articulated many of my own thoughts on physical touch and writes with candor and warmth. Fred Rogers’ words in You Are Special were like the quiet encouragements of a patient counselor. In An Invitation to Silence and Solitude, Ruth Haley Barton was my personal counselor, allowing me see my need for a rhythm of silence. Anne Bogel’s book, Don’t Overthink It, made me feel less alone in my tendency towards decision fatigue and anxious spiraling. In Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund makes a compelling case for Jesus’ profound tenderness towards His children. These books were restorative and calming to me this year and I highly recommend them.

Five Books on Suffering and Grief

Several years ago, when I was grieving the losses of babies through miscarriage and wading through a season of unexplained infertility, I sought out resources to help guide me through my pain. Alongside the Bible, I read as many books and I could find on infertility, loss, and the meaning of suffering. Three books became pivotal to me during those years: A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (his wife died), Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller (cancer diagnosis), and The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts (terminal cancer). In the last year, I read two more books that I think would have also benefitted me back then, and that I would now add to the list: Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop (baby died) and Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot (widowed three times). In all five of these books, the authors do not shy away from the reality of their personal suffering. The way they render their pain gave me permission to acknowledge my own. They also describe how they coped, not with a quick, triumphal pivot but with humility and hope. Were I to write my own book on suffering, I would try to emulate these.