It's 10pm on December 31, 2016. Fireworks have begun their rhythmic beats in the skies and I just finished reading my 50th book of the year. That's right, I snuggled up with my beloved copy of The Calvary Road tonight, making sure 2016 wouldn't leap over the finish line without me fulfilling my reading challenge.
This year was the hardest yet. Even so, I'm grateful for the company of books over the last 12 months. When I didn't have the ability or strength to leave my house, I was given the treat of words to take me on adventures. I went places I never could otherwise. And I learned things. Oh, how I learned things.
If one must have any sort of card to carry in their wallet, may it be a library card. That little plastic will provide you access to the hearts and souls of thousands. I'm indebted to the kind librarians who collected title after title on my behalf. I think my largest number of holds placed was 17.
Finishing this challenge was important to me. I wasn't sure I could do it because fatigue and cognitive impairment make reading feel impossible at times. But I pressed on and just kept flipping.
It was Anne Lamott who wrote, "Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul."
As we move into the coming year, I'd like to introduce you to the 12 books which expanded my understanding, creativity, empathy, and "sense of life" in 2016.
* If you have any recommendations, please do send them to me. I'd love to hear what you're enjoying these days.
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
This is an exceptionally intimate story set during WWII. I was left breathless and broken for those who have experienced the tragedy of war. Doerr has written a book unlike any I've previously read.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver
Although much of the food industry facts and details were lost on me, I thoroughly enjoyed glimpses of the Kingsolver-Hopp family's locavore year. My introduction to Kingsolver's writings was everything I'd hoped for.
Assimilate or Go Home
Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith
by D.L. Mayfield
I consumed all 207 pages in one sitting, fully captivated by D.L. Mayfield's essays. I hope to swoop her into a giant hug one day, thanking her for giving language to my unkempt thoughts, questions, and convictions on the gospel.
Behold the Lamb of God
by Russ Ramsey
As I wrote in my last post, this narrative reshaped my perspective on the Advent season and brought new meaning to our celebration and expectation. I'd recommend this at any time of the year, not just Christmas.
Bird by Bird
Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott
If you're a writer, I hope you're able to get your hands on a copy of Bird by Bird. I recently gifted my best friend with it, believing Lamott's instructions will profoundly touch her writing life. I know it did for me.
A Chance to Die
The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael
by Elisabeth Elliot
After reading raw and moving stories of Amy Carmichael, my love for missionary biographies only grew. I'm so thankful we get to learn from those who have given their lives to serve the Lord. You'll be challenged in all the right ways.
The Cross and the Switchblade
by David Wilkerson
A short, but powerful book. If you need reminding that no heart is too hard or addiction too binding, read this. My 11 year-old brother also loved it.
The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
Rich friendship, beekeeping, and lessons about prejudice, forgiveness, and a mother's love... what else could a novel ask for? Sue Monk Kidd writes in a way that is poetic, vulnerable, and educational. I also really liked The Invention of Wings by her.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini
This book covers thirty years of history in Afghanistan while closely following the lives of two women and the tragedies, losses, hope, and friendship they encountered. It's heartbreaking and enthralling. I plan to read The Kite Runner in 2017.
Walking on Water
Reflections on Faith and Art
by Madeleine L'Engle
Be forewarned, once you start reading these reflections, you might not be able to stop. You just might find yourself up till 2:30, soaking in every last word. Yep, don't say I didn't warn you. Artists, (or nourishers and creators as L'Engle would say), consider this a gift penned for you.
When God Weeps
by Joni Eareckson Tada & Steve Estes
I was so impressed by this book. Both authors take a delicate subject like suffering and instruct readers so well without compromising in compassion. I found it biblical, comforting, and a much-needed read.
Wild in the Hollow
On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home
by Amber C. Haines
Pain, questions, hopes, and desires are weaved through this memoir in a way that's enchanting and relatable. I saw how I tend to run from the things my soul really needs: church, community, and creativity.
All 50 books Erika read in 2016:
All In by Mark Batterson
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Assimilate or Go Home by D.L. Mayfield
Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Calvary Road by Roy Hession
A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot
The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna
Forgotten God by Francis Chan
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter
Hiroshima by John Hersey
If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story by Joni & Ken Eareckson Tada
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
My Name is Hope by John Mark Comer
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan
Scary Close by Donald Miller
Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Seeing Through the Fog by Ed Dobson
Seeking Refuge by Issam Smeir, Matthew Soerens, Stephan Bauman
Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
Silence by Shusaku Endo
Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada & Steve Estes
Wild and Free by Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan
Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines
Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
#1 Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket
#2 When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket
#3 Shouldn't You Be in School? by Lemony Snicket
#4 Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? by Lemony Snicket
はじめてのキャンプ by Akiko Hayashi