Last year I set a goal to read more, setting the bar low with one book a month. When I crushed that goal ending the year at 40 books, I recommended my top ten picks for the year. I completed this year with 15 books, spending a lot more free time diving into podcast. I need to kick it back into gear in 2019! But here we are, the end of 2018 and here is my top 10 list.

They are not ranked in any particular order, as I find it difficult to rank books across different genres. You will again notice my affinity for nonfiction. I can really enjoy a good fiction book just like the next gal. But after I invest hours into reading I find a strong desire to walk away with new knowledge, a changed perspective, or some other cognitive or emotional return on investment. Most fiction stories don’t do this for me. I enjoy them while I’m reading them, but when I’m done I feel like I’ve just invested hours into a story I won’t remember in a week. You fiction lovers I’m sure will recommend books to me that might change my perspective and I welcome those, but I think my preference will always be for non fiction. There’s too much in the world for me to learn and real people have real stories that are far more amazing than made up ones.

Another trend I realized after looking at my list is a faith based theme. 2018 had many highs for me but also a few lows. Through it all, I found myself digging deep into my own faith and making several pivots. I’ve really learned to let go of the “rules” of faith and hone in on the most important, simple task we were given which is to love God and love others. Period. This may or may not resonate with you and that’s ok. But maybe it will and these suggestions may be just what you need.

I mentioned last year that most of my “reading” is done through Audible. With 4 kids and a full-time job my “free time” is my commute, gym time, or sometimes cleaning the house. I’m still amazed at how fast I can crank through a book on headphones just by listening during those times. You can get a free audiobook the first time you sign up so check it out, maybe pick one of my books below.

My local library also has audiobooks available through it’s website (although I hate the Hoopla app that is required) and yours might too. I was also recently introduced to OverDrive, a similar app that allows you to share free audio content through your library. Free is always better, right?! This year I’m making myself check these places out before purchasing anything.

Here you are- my 2018 top 10 books:

  1. Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison. This was probably one of my favorites of the year. When I mentioned above there’s too many real people with amazing stories to share, this is one of them. The author shares his story from how living a glorious life as a high end night club promoter, filled with drugs, alcohol and prominence, lead him to the lowest, loneliest point in his life. He takes a year devoted to serving others, and learns of the nearly 5,000 children a day who die from drinking dirty water. He then goes on to become a social entrepreneur, founding Charity: Water, with the innovative 100% model- every dollar donated goes directly to the cause. Reading this book makes you feel like your part of this riveting story, digging wells in Africa and making a difference. And actually, you are, since all proceeds of the book go back to Charity: Water.
  2. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE- By Phil Night. This was recommended to me and initially I wasn’t interested, but it had great reviews. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed hearing the story of the man behind the swoosh, his beginnings, and how he grew his company to the vast brand it is today. It’s truly an American dream tale about a bunch of guys who loved running and refused to give up. Nike’s story holds its own, but Phil Night is actually a very good writer which really made this a page-turner. It’s a story loyalty, hard work, and standing up for what you believe in. And because Nike is such a household name, you feel extremely connected throughout the book. If you’re looking for a memoir this is my recommendation for you!
  3. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans. I heard this author interviewed on one of my favorite podcast and immediately connected with her story for many reasons. Evans grew up in a conservative Christian home, could practically quote the Bible, and was on the path of living her best life as a good Christian woman of faith. That is until as a young woman she dared to question everything. She wrestled with doubting the existence of God, whether or not the Bible was truly infallible, and how to make sense of God’s supposed inspired word (the Bible). I mean, did God really create the world in 7 days? Did Jonah really get swallowed by a fish and live? And those aren’t even the tough questions. Did an all-loving God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? Did a loving God Instruct the Israelites to slaughter entire cities including women and children after defeating them? These aren’t exactly the stories we hear in Sunday School as a kid. She dove deep into scholarship, literary expertise, history, and science to find answers. This book connected with me because I myself have these very same questions, and while I don’t agree with everything Held does, it feels really good to ask these questions openly and get different perspectives on them. I also have had several friends in the last few years “lose” their faith. I don’t think Christians do ourselves any favors by not addressing our doubts.  After all, isn’t our God big enough to answer our doubts and questions? This book is for anyone out there who has ever questioned this whole “God” thing or the Bible.
  4. Love Does by Bob Goff
  5. Everybody Always by Bob GoffIf Inspired helped me address doubts in my faith, Goff’s work reminded me of what the heck I’m doing on this Earth anyway. These books were written 6 years apart, but I read them back to back and it felt like one continuous book with the same message and I recommend reading them both. Goff is an attorney who’s spent the better part of his life-fighting injustices mostly across the ocean in places like Uganda and India. But as you learn about him, you’ll discover probably one of the most approachable people on the planet with more stories and connections that Forrest Gump. The premise if the first book is that love is action. Its something you do, no matter what. The premise of Everybody Always is love, the action, is to be applied to everybody. Always. No matter what. The chapters are short, witty and whimsical and these are super easy reads. It’s a FUN read. You feel like you’re listening to your uninhibited crazy grandpa who doesn’t have a negative bone in his body telling you stories of his life. You’ll be inspired to make the world a better place in very practical, tangible ways. Google videos or interviews of Goff to get a taste of who this guy is then read his books, you won’t be disappointed.
  6. A meal with Jesus by Tim Chester. I found this book on a personal quest this year to dig into the topic of faith and food. After all, God made us to eat and gave us the gift of food, right? In this book, Chester digs into how something as ordinary as eating together can be an extraordinary event. Food, real food, is a gift from God meant for us to enjoy. We were also made to enjoy it together. Chester dives into the life of Jesus and how much of his time on Earth was spent eating and drinking with others. Yes, he healed the sick, preached, and traveled, but did you know most of his documented life he was eating and drinking with people? Sharing a meal can be an intimate event and opportunity for true community with others. This book touched on another concept that resonates with me and that is why we substitute the amazing food God blessed us with for the cheep, man-made alternatives. See the blog post I wrote after reading. Any book connecting food and faith is my jam.
  7. Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. Sleep is one of the most common issues I address in my family medicine practice. Too many Americans are chronically sleep deprived and struggling with falling asleep and staying asleep. The easy fix is over the counter and prescription sleeping pills, which really are band-aids and do nothing to fix the actual problem or help you feel rested. Stevenson dives head first into the research on sleep. You’ll learn how important sleep is to your body and find practical ways to improve your sleep. Stevenson, a fitness and health expert, studied biology and kinesiology but found most of the information presented through deep study into the available research on sleep. He presents a ton of holistic advice, some of which I’m not 100 percent sure about, but nothing that’s harmful and far too much helpful advice and a complete understanding on what it takes to improve your sleep and overall health. And if a book on sleep sounds, like it would put you to sleep, I promise this one doesn’t! It’s a great guide for any insomniacs, night shift workers, or someone who desperately wants to improve their sleep. I recommend this book to my patients all the time.
  8. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You’re Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis. This was a New York Times bestseller last year and popular among young and middle-aged women. Technically a self-help book, this felt more like talking to a best friend or big sister giving you advice through some of life’s tough times. She outlines 10 different lies that people believe about themselves and how to overcome them, sharing funny and relatable stories about her life. It might make you laugh and might make you cry. There’s a faith component, but the applications are for everyone. The book didn’t change my life or anything like that but I liked it enough to recommend it. From the reviews, people either loved it or hated it (the majority loved it). It’s definitely pulling yourself by the bootstraps kind of advice. There’s a section about health and weight loss that I didn’t agree with and felt it to be insensitive to people who have struggled with dieting and weight. Her advice in that section is wrong and not evidence-based, so ignore that part if you read it. But, this was a light easy read and I do think it was inspiring. If you’ve got big dreams, feel like you’re failing as a wife, mother or friend, I think you’ll enjoy this book. In fact, it’s a good read to start off the new year with new goals. Overall I think Rachel Hollis is spreading a good message and her books are making an impact on women.
  9. Grit by Angela Duckworth. I thought this was a 2017 book but look like I finished it in January so it makes this year’s list. Duckworth is an extremely intelligent young psychologist-turn-grade school teacher who studied why some people succeed while others fail. Through independent research, she discovers talent and intelligence are not the most important influencer of success. Rather perseverance, commitment and passion are far more influential. As someone who was not always the most talented or smartest person in the room, but could outwork anyone, I completely related to this book and Duckworth’s research. Not interested in the entire book, check out Duckworth’s popular Ted Talk which essentially sums it up but I did enjoy the book.
  10. The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L Heuertz. Full disclosure, I’m not actually done with this book. I’m currently reading it with our small group. And it’s a little heady. Like pretty hard to read. But after learning about the enneagram this year I’m a little obsessed with it. I’ve never really gotten into personality tests but I find the enneagram fascinating. When you find your type, you feel like someone has read your diary. You learn about self and you learn about others, and it’s literally impossible not to become a better more empathetic human being once you’ve learned it. This book takes a spiritual handle on this ancient but currently trendy personality assessment.

Other books I’ve read this year:

  1. Remember God by Annie F Downs
  2. Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff by Chip Gaines
  3. Harry Potter 1-4 by J.K. Rowling
  4. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  5. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

What was your favorite book of 2018?