Thursday, January 07, 2010

2009: The Year in Books (Nonfiction)

I tend to read a whole lot more nonfiction than fiction. Most of that has traditionally been Christian books, in the spiritual growth/Christian living genre, but in 2009 I tried to read a broader range of nonfiction. Here's my list, with the same rating system:

***** - Loved it. Excellent, worth another read.
**** - Liked it. Very good, would recommend.
*** - It was decent.
** - Didn't really like it.
* - Ugh, this was terrible.

In 2010, I'll rate the books as I finish them. I didn't do that with this list, so I left a few unrated since I don't remember clearly enough to give a fair rating. Anyway...

One Ministry of the Word – Mark Mann
I went to Mark for counseling several times during my struggles with postpartum depression. He's also the one Steve and I sought for advice when we were making a decision about church. While his book got repetitive, if I recall correctly, he makes a really compelling case for the importance of counseling and one-on-one ministry in the life of the church.

Because He Loves Me – Elyse Fitzpatrick*****
Beautiful gospel encouragement; Elyse Fitzpatrick has become one of my favorite Christian nonfiction authors.

The Prodigal God - Tim Keller*****
Astounding. Steve and I bought this after hearing Keller speak in January and fought over it, both of us finishing within a week. We keep having to buy new copies because we give ours away.

In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan*****
We've made a lot of changes in the way we eat this year, largely because of what I read here. See my full review.

It Sucked and Then I Cried – Heather Armstrong**
I totally love, but I didn't really think this book was worth the money. I definitely enjoy Heather's writing, so I hate to give it only two stars. But the book was almost all recycled blog material, so I'd read it before, and I think it worked better in blog form.

Grace Based Parenting – Tim Kimmel**
Vague and kind of sentimental/superficial; he threw around the word "grace" way too much without really making it clear what grace is and how it applies to parenting. I didn't find this nearly as helpful or inspiring as the many women who rave about it on my mothering message board.

Death By Love: Letters from the Cross – Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
I don't really remember much about this one. It seems like I didn't find it as wonderful as I expected. It was still good, though--I did finish it.

1920: The Year of the Six Presidents – David Pietrusza
Swiped this one off my brother-in-law's bookshelf. History fascinates me, and I should read more of it. This one was dry at times, but an intriguing glimpse into politics and the lives of past presidents (I was stunned by all the adultery).

A Hunger for God – John Piper****
Really helpful book about the benefits of fasting.

Do Hard Things – Alex & Brett Harris****
A very quick read, but I found it inspiring. While geared to teenagers, much of it applies to almost anyone, especially moms.

3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men Who Fought It – Sean Flynn***
Swiped this one off my firefighter brother's bookshelf. Sobering and made me proud of my brother, and a little scared for him, too.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time – Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (audiobook)****
Downloaded this for free thanks to and their deal for This American Life listeners. I can't really speak to the quality of the writing, but it was an inspiring, fascinating story. Mortenson, not Obama, should have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families – Philip Gourevitch****
I've had a keen interest in Rwanda and the 1994 genocide ever since watching Hotel Rwanda a few years ago. This account was difficult to read, but worthwhile.

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat – Elyse Fitzpatrick*****
Hugely convicting and beneficial for me--though I have never struggled with being overweight, I've absolutely had out-of-control eating habits and a sinful relationship to food. Elyse doesn't mince words, but she saturates the book with the gospel so that you're led from your sin to the beauty and mercy of God.

The Cross Centered Life – CJ Mahaney (reread)*****
I've blogged about this one many times before (here, here, here). This short book has so profoundly influenced my life, it was worth a reread this year.

Children of the Living God – Sinclair Ferguson****
A simple little book reminding us of our incredible identity as sons and daughters of God--I pulled out lots of great quotes (it was required reading for my class).

Biblical Parenting – Crystal Lutton**
Some good stuff here, but also some significant worldview differences that made me wrinkle my nose at the advice/perspectives. Helpful for me in clarifying my thinking, but I'm not sure I'd necessarily recommend it widely.

Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me – Samuel Martin***
A free PDF book analyzing various Scriptures related to parenting. Valuable in helping me begin to think through some issues.

God is the Gospel – John Piper****
I talk about gospel-centeredness all the time...this Piper book helped correct and magnify my understanding of exactly what's good news about the gospel: the gift of God Himself.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart – Tedd Tripp****
While I have a few significant concerns with Tripp's teaching, the good in this book outweighs the questionable. Lots of wonderful, gospel-saturated insights for parents.

Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling Through the Lens of Scripture – David Powlison*****
I've already talked your ear off about how brilliant I think Dr. Powlison is. This was the textbook for my biblical counseling introductory class in the fall, and I highlighted about half the text. Just phenomenal.

I started a few other books this year, some of which I abandoned (at least for now) and a few of which I am still in the middle of, very much enjoying. For 2010, I hope to read more creative nonfiction/memoirs, and I also want to be more intentional about reading books by authors I anticipate disagreeing with :)

How about you--what nonfiction have you read and loved this past year?


Donna G. said...

A bio that I enjoyed reading in 2009 was "Mrs. Astor Regrets" by Meryl Gordon - Bio of Brooke Astor.

Some other favorite non-fiction:
Taking Retirement by Carl H. Klaus
The Undercover Revolution:How Fiction Changed Britain by Iain H. Murray
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Two Gardners edited by Emily Herring Wilson
True Happiness by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

lydia said...

I want to discuss your questionable finds in Shepherding a Child's Heart, in hopes that this conversation will help fine tune my own thinking.

Danielle said...

Just started my first Elsye Fitzpatrick book, "Comfort from the Cross" and it's really good. I definitely want to read more of hers.

"The Prodigal God" is at the library and I intend on reading it this year.

Some friends of ours talked up "Grace Based Parenting" as a balance to "Shepherding a Child's Heart," which I also have significant differences with, although like you, the basis I agree with. We did hear him speak just this past fall and it was excellent! It actually surprised me. However, the content was mostly from a newer book called "Instructing a Child's Heart" and it seemed to be a different focus than his earlier book and one I agreed with more.

ReaganF said...

Hi! I've been a lurker on your blog for awhile now! I too have been reading a lot of non fiction lately and I really enjoyed There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Greene. It's a biography (mostly, with some really thought provoking chapters on the African AIDS epedemic too) about a woman who because of personal pain and loss, started accepting Ethiopian orphans into her home when they had no where else to go. There are also stories of several of the orphans in her care, where they came from, and how they were adopted into loving homes. It's inspiring and beautiful, although heartbreaking at times too. I highly recommend it!

ReaganF said...

Also, if you are looking for an excellent memoir, I recommend First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung. She lived through the Kumer Rouge regime of mass murder and genocide in Cambodia. It's a very tough read, but worth it.

She has a follow up book that I haven't read yet in which she chronicles her life in America and her sister chronicles her life in Cambodia. I'm hoping to get my hands on that one this year!

Susanna said...

Thanks for sharing these recommendations! I too regularly read Living the Cross Centered Life (and have given away many copies), so I was interested in your other suggestions! You might really enjoy reading The Seamstress - an autobiography on a holocaust survivor. I really appreciated it and it's very well written. Got it thru the library.

zz said...

Wow, I have a few goodies from yours and your commenters' lists to choose from. So many books, so little time! Ai, yai, yai.

The most captivating one, per your review, sounds like The Prodigal God.

Anna said...

I've always read more fiction than non-fiction, but my favorite non-fiction read this year was "My Heart, His Home," a biography of the missionary Ann Judson, by Sharon James. So inspiring and highly recommended!