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Of the 50 books I read this year, it seems I enjoy memoirs the most. I do love hearing people share their stories and how they process those stories. With all my attempts to read widely, I always seem to end up selecting similar authors and style. I want to share my list of top 10 books read in 2012. Most likely their impact has had more to do with the timing and context in which I read them. I would love to hear your recommendations as well!

Andi Ashworth, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring
I’ve waited for a book like this to be written for years. Andi gives a voice to the value of relationships and care-giving. We have opportunities to reflect the creativity and love of our God in small meaningful acts of worship as we take seriously our call to show hospitality, build community, and meet needs.

Michael Pollan, In the Defense of Food
I believe what we eat is important. Often Christian communities are guilty of elevating certain virtues such as frugality above others, resulting in unhealthy, unethical, and harmful lifestyles. God cares about where our food comes from and how we fuel ourselves. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of Pollan’s conclusions, books like these are incredibly important for us to consider. Taking a journalistic approach, he shows the errors of food science and shares more holistic examples of how people can embrace real food and enjoy the good gift of the table.

Makoto Fujimura, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture
This book is soul-medicine. It is rare to find a true artist who can articulate how faith informs his craft. He opens our eyes with him to see our Creator and this world in new ways. Quoting the book, “The world needs artists who dedicate themselves to communicate the images of Shalom. Jesus is the Shalom. Shalom is not just the absence of war, but wholeness, healing and joy of fullness of humanity. We need to collaborate within our communities, to respond individually to give the world our Shalom vision.”

Jan Johnson, Savoring God’s Word: Cultivating The Soul-Transforming Practice of Scripture Meditation
Based on the ancient Christian practice of Lectio Divina, this book is the next best thing to having a personal Spiritual Formation director. It serves as an introduction and manual for those desiring historical rootedness in Scripture meditation. I am attempting to use her outline in my private study and meditation on Scripture, but would welcome going through them with others!

Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Finding Happiness in Your Most Profound Relationship
I was only married a couple of months when I read this early in 2012. Keller does not attempt to give a prescription for how to make your marriage look exactly like his, nor does he elevate his own personality as the standard for godliness in marriage. Rather, he shares Biblical principles while thoughtfully engaged with our cultural context. To quote my husband’s review: “I think it emphasizes that none of us can assume that a good marriage just happens automatically, and neither can any of us assume that a great marriage is out of the realm of possibility.”

Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians
Peterson walks through the life of David, giving gritty perspective on what it looks like to trust and follow Jesus as embodied people. It is strong encouragement especially for anyone who wrestles between the promises of God and present “wilderness.” I personally learned a lot about the role of lamenting in my worship. We often attempt to override our complaining with praise, instead of recognizing our God encourages us to bring those complaints to the right place — before him.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I remember hearing my parents read this book aloud to us as children, but decided this was the year to finally read this book for myself. It is excellent story-telling, transporting me back to Middle Earth with old adventures. Having recently read a biography of Tolkien, I especially enjoyed thinking about this professor held up in his study with a fire on cold winter nights allowing his imagination to run wild.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe
A good friend of mine lives in Kabul which has driven me to read several books on Afghanistan. It is a place often stereotyped, feared, and misunderstood by the West. This book humanizes the stories of those often seen as “other” to us. But, it is also a great inspiration to see how the entrepreneurial spirit of one young woman during the time of the Taliban developed and thrived under impossible odds.

Rigoberta Menchu, I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
Although this book has had controversy surrounding the falsification of some of her personal accounts, I’m glad to have read it. It seems Rigoberta gave testimony to her people, but wrongly claimed some of the stories as her own. Regardless, it is a window into the Mayan culture and the Civil War that devastated Guatemala for 36 years. Anyone desiring to understand the context of current events in Guatemala would be served well by reading this book.

Kent Annan, Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously
This is an account of a couple who wanted to make a difference in impoverished Haiti. It is an honest wrestling between the desire to live in solidarity with the people while being faced with their own privileges. A wonderful read for all of us idealists who face a broken world with injustice everywhere.

My Top 10 list for 2011.