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I set a goal to finish 80 books in 2020. I ended up only finishing 67 books, but I read and listened to some great books, so I’m going to call that a win — even if I fell short of my goal!

I’ve loved using GoodReads to track my reading. It is really motivational to see my progress and to have a one-stop place to see all the books I read + my star rating of them.

Of the 67 books I read in 2020, I picked 10 favorites. These were the 10 that impacted me the most, that I enjoyed the most, that resonated with me deeply, and/or are the ones that I will carry lessons from for years to come.

Here are my Top 10 Picks (in no particular order):

The Giver by Lois Lowry

It’s rare that I re-read books, but every once in awhile, I enjoy a book enough to re-read it. The Giver was one such book. It’s intriguing and makes you think at a deep level.

I don’t know that “enjoy” is necessarily the word I would use to describe my feelings on it. Maybe “genuinely thought-provoking” would be a more accurate phrase.

Kaitlynn and Silas actually suggested that I read it aloud to them, so that’s actually what motivated me to pull it out. Silas hadn’t read it before and it sparked so many great discussions. And when I ended the book this time, I had a different take on the conclusion than I did last time.

Here’s my review that I wrote when I read the book back in 2017 and it’s still valid:

Finally, I read The Giver for the first time. And you guys, I don’t quite know what to say about this book. At first, I was so frustrated by the ending. That’s it?!?! No! There has to be more!

And then I had to ponder and ponder over the book. I couldn’t get it out of my brain. What am I missing? Why is it haunting me?

The more I pondered, the more I really started to love the book and the powerful way it reminds us that without pain and suffering, we can’t experience emotional connection or truly feel at a deep level. If we took all of the pain away from the world, it would also take away so much depth and the ability to experience life in full color.

I wished I would have read this book with a book club. And I totally understand why some people love it and some people don’t like it at all. Have you read it? If so, I’d love hear your thoughts on it.

Note: This book talks about things that could potentially be disturbing or upsetting to sensitive kids. I’d recommend reading it ahead of time and possibly reading it with them.

Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad

I knew within reading just a few pages of this book that I was going to love it. I’m only vaguely familiar with John Eldredge and had never read any of his other books, but I truly found this book valuable and inspiring.

In fact, I found it so helpful, that Jesse and I recorded a podcast together with some of my initial thoughts from the book last week. Then, we invited John to come do an interview with me where he shared even more about what first prompted him to write this book (he was feeling burnt out and addicted to his phone and email) and daily practices that have helped him to regain his perspective, renew his soul, and refresh his spirit.

We recorded the podcast episode with him today and I can’t wait to share it with you next week! I think you’ll find his thoughts on caring for your soul, the power of the one-minute pause, and cultivating beauty in your life to truly be an inspiration!

And, if you can’t tell, I also definitely recommend reading this book! 🙂

Get Out Of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts

Y’all! Do you know how much our thoughts can impact our life — for good or for bad? If we dwell on toxic thoughts, it can ruin so many things in our life — from our perspective to our relationships to our marriage and so much more.

If you struggle with insecurity, stress, frustration, or feeling like you are failing, this book is for you. If you find yourself doubting whether God is good or if He really cares about you, this book is a must read. If you feel like you are stuck, overwhelmed, or constantly frazzled, read this book.

I thought that the first few chapters were especially beneficial. Jennie Allen shares honestly about her own journey with getting stuck in unhealthy beliefs and thought patterns and then shares how she found a way out.

While some of the book seemed a little redundant and like there was some filler information (especially the second half of the book), I found her insights to be very valuable. My favorite part was the illustrations that gave tangible ways to change your thinking.

The Boy on the Wooden Box

We read this aloud as a family and it was a winner book — meaning, all of us enjoyed it and found it engaging. It is the true autobiographical story of Leon Leyson, a boy who survived the holocaust as a result of being on Schindler’s List.

While I’ve read a lot of books about World War II, this one brought insight and perspective on some things that I hadn’t heard before. I thought it was an especially good read for our current times as it reminds you of how much we still have, even though it can feel like there is a lot of unrest, unknowns, and upheaval in our lives.

It sparked a lot of great conversation and discussion around the dinner table. Do note that some of the material it covers might be scary or unsettling for kids who are especially sensitive. While it didn’t delve into the atrocities of war and concentration camps in really graphic terms, it did cover some of the hardships and brutality that the Jews suffered.

Raising Worry-Free Girls

Whether you have sons or daughters, I think this is a valuable read. Yes, all of her stories, anecdotes, and advice is more girl-driven, but I think much of it applies to boys (and adults!), too.

There is an epidemic of anxiety going on among our youth. This book will give you some starting places, great tools, and lots of food-for-thought to help you combat your kids’ anxiety.

I found so many new insights, wise advice, and practical ideas for us to implement in our home through the pages. This book is not a replacement for counseling or therapy, but it would be a fantastic starting place if you feel like your child might be struggling with anxiety.

The Whole-Brain Child

I honestly cannot stop talking about this book. Poor Jesse has had to listen to me rave again and again about it! 🙂

This was highly recommended to by one of our kids’ counselors and and one of their therapists in the past few years and I finally read it. It is packed with great suggestions and strategies for helping our kids process the world, relate better with others, and feel more loved and secure.

It is not written from a Christian perspective, but I found the sections on brain science to be fascinating and really enlightening. If you are a parent or work with kids in any capacity, I highly recommend this book to help you better love, understand, teach, and nurture the kids in your life.

Note: I would have given it 5 stars, but I disagreed with some of the points (and felt a few were not entirely Biblical) so I only gave it a 4-star rating.

Romancing Your Child’s Heart

Romancing Your Child’s Heart is a book I think every Christian parent should read. In fact, it’s one of the best parenting books I’ve read.

While some of the illustrations might seem a little outdated or not something that are relatable for your family (the author is very much an outdoorsman type of person and he and his wife raised their kids in the same vein), the premise of the book is something I think we all need to hear.

It’s so easy for us as parents to focus on rules-based parenting and spending our days correcting our kids instead of cheerleading them and learning to communicate well with them. And while boundaries and parameters are important, we can miss relationship in the process, if we’re not careful.

I love how the author really challenges parents to take the time and make the effort to build relationships with our kids, to listen to them, to embrace them for who God created them to be, and not to try to make them into something they aren’t or that we think they are supposed to be.

Catch Me If You Can

I can’t stop talking about this book! It is the fascinating story of Frank Abagnale who was a daring con man and imposter. I listened to the audiobook and kept having to stop it to share yet another unbelievable story with Jesse of something that he did.

Frank traveled all over the world posing as a pilot, cashed 2.5 million dollars in forged checks, and even worked as an attorney and medical doctor (when he hadn’t gone to school for either!).

If you need a good listen of a story that is almost so crazy that you can’t believe it’s true, I recommend this book. It’s also a good reminded that not everything is like it seems and we shouldn’t take everything at face value! It also was such a telling tale about how money can’t buy happiness.

I’m giving it 5 stars because I couldn’t stop talking about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it/listened to it.

Note: There is some language and some PG-13 topics in it.

Standing Strong

I loved this book and gleaned so much from it (as you likely know if you follow me on Instagram since I kept talking about it there!) This book is Alli’s story of struggling through some hard seasons and what she learned about trusting the Lord in the face of adversity.

Here’s one post I shared on Instagram as a result of reading this book:

You aren’t enough — in your own strength. But, in Christ, you can do ALL things!

As @alliworthington goes on to say in her new book, Standing Strong, “You may not feel able to stand strong. You may be filled with self-doubt. When you hear others talk about great women of God, you may say, ‘Oh, that’s not me.’

“But friend, it is you. You are more than you think you are.

“A superpower exists inside you. If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit lives in you. We can’t keep walking around feeling powerless like life is happening to us, like we are victims. The Spirit of God lives inside us, empowering us for greatness. We just have to tap into it.”

If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this book and hear some of the highlights, be sure to listen to my podcast episode with Alli Worthington.

Atomic Habits

This is, by far, my very favorite book on habits. James Clear, the author, does such a great job of unpacking why and how to build good habits.

I’ve read a lot of book on this topic and I feel like he has a very fresh and encouraging approach. The book is not written from a Christian perspective so I disagree with some of his worldview and conclusions, but there are so many great nuggets of truth and inspiration in this book.

If you feel like you are forever failing at follow through or you just can’t seem to stick with good habits, I highly recommend reading this book.

I listened to it about a year ago and loved it so much that I bought a hard copy and then slowly read it again this year. That tells you how valuable I found it!

Honorable Mentions

Five Days in November — A very intimate and personal look at what it was like to protect Mrs. Kennedy during the days leading up to and after President Kennedy was assassinated

Orphan Train — A must-read for anyone who is considering adoption or foster care. This is well-written and engaging and sheds light on the orphan trains (a part of history I hadn’t heard of) plus modern-day foster care struggles. Note: It contains a few sections on child molestation that might be triggering to some.

Forgiving What You Can’t Forget — A beautiful story of how to practical walk out forgiveness when it feels impossible. Listen to my podcast episode with Lysa TerKeurst on this topic here.

Coming next read: my reading goals for 2021 + a list of books I plan to read.

What were YOUR favorite reads in 2020? I’d love to hear!

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