Five-Star Books of 2013

This year, I read a record of 36 books. (And am hoping to finish a couple more before the year is over.) Of those 36 books, 13 received a 5-star rating. Some are classics; some were published this year. Most were new, though a couple were rereads. I thought I’d list some of my top books of this year:

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
I have been a fan on the BBC rendition of this beautiful memoir. The first of a series of three (all worth reading), Jennifer Worth really captures an interesting transition to public healthcare in 1950’s London. Worth’s writing style creates an amazing empathy with the people living in the slums of the West End.

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee
No matter what your views are regarding marriage equality or whether being gay is a “sin,” this book is a must-read. It explores the journey of one young man coming to terms with his sexuality. It is well-written and gracious to his life experiences.

Baby Meets World: Suck, Smile, Touch, Toddle by Nicholas Day
A history of parenting, this book put me at ease about any parenting compromises I’ve made with Bea. (Why worry about a pacifier? She’ll find a way to soothe herself.) It’s fascinating to see how the trends in parenting have changed over the years and how resilient the human race is. Even if you’re not a parent, it’s a fascinating look at how philosophies of children as a group have changed.

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules edited by David Sedaris
I love short stories in general, but this collection of David Sedaris’ favorite and/or influential authors was wonderful. It’s a great mix, including Flannery O’Connor, Alice Monroe, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Seemingly unrelated, it’s an interesting glimpse into the authors who have influenced Sedaris’ funny and unique style.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon
What a beautiful story of friendship! Not only an interesting look into the world of publishing and politics, it’s a journey of two strangers becoming lifelong friends. When I finished, I hoped my friendships would last as long as Julia and Avis’ and be as open and meaningful.

I have a few more books I’m currently reading and hoping to finish before the year’s end, two of which I’m certain will earn 5-star ratings. Check out my Goodreads profile for all 13 5-star books, as well as the other good 3- and 4-star books I read this year.

What amazing books have you read this year? How many books do you read, on average?

What book got you reading?

I am a reader. It’s always been an outlet for me; a chance to travel to new cultures, worldviews, and adventures. I’m part of three book clubs and also read a couple additional books on my own each month. Recently, I read two 5-star books in a row: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. They earned their stars for different reasons, but both books kept me enthralled and I learned so much about life through each.

It’s so exciting to see Bea already taking an interest in books. She loves classics like Goodnight, Moon, The Snowy Day, and Madeline, but also loves a series of art history board books and Jennifer Adams’ Baby Lit series. We will sit for long stretches, reading together. Mostly she loves snuggling and being read to, but sometimes she loves reading on her own or to her dolls.

Frank and I were talking about that one book that made us readers. The book that opened that door and introduced reading as a pastime. His book was A Farewell to Arms, when he was in high school. It was hard for me to come up with mine. Some of my earliest memories are reading with my parents and grandparents. I would fall asleep listening to the Miss Know-It-All series and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Later, on my own, I loved Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. I have read and reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird is dogeared and taped together. As an adult, I have shifted more toward nonfiction. Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage remain favorites.

All that to say, I don’t think I could choose just one book. I don’t have a memory of not reading. Give me a title and I could tell you how that particular book has shaped my life, but I couldn’t give that honor to a single book.

What book got you reading? Or, what books shaped your outlook today?

Jesus Feminist

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

In middle school, I would write letters (actual, handwritten, stamped, Post Office, wait-weeks-for-a-reply letters) to a missionary friend of our family’s. Ruth and I met in England, where we had gone for Christmas when I was 10. My dad was speaking at a Winter Camp organized by Ruth and her husband. Since that Christmas, Ruth began mentoring me through letters. I would write my seventh-grade thoughts and questions and she would faithfully respond. In high school, I saved my babysitting money and allowance and flew to Estonia to visit Ruth and Ron for three weeks. Ruth showed me the power of listening to others’ stories. She showed me that marriage is a partnership – that she and Ron have different gifts and talents and they used them wisely. She showed me that women in ministry are people in ministry – meeting the needs of their community.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

In high school, my mom used the education budget to get her Master’s degree in counseling. After working as a paraprofessional in the public schools, she decided to get a degree in a field she was passionate about. She attended classes on the weekends and during the summer. She worked during the week and continued to help my brother and I navigate middle school and early high school. She showed me that it’s never to late to return to a dream. She showed me that women in ministry are people in ministry – and that ministry doesn’t always happen in a church, but often in a public school setting.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

During my first semester in college I lived with Sue and her young family in the suburbs of Paris. Sue was a stay-at-home mom with two sons born with a life-threatening disease. She studied French to take care of their daily lives, but also learned medical vocabulary and how to advocate for her sons in a country foreign to her. She studied the Bible and gave sermons on social justice. She showed me that stay-at-home moms are not simply housekeepers but advocates for their children. She showed me that women in ministry are people in ministry – educated and passionate about redemption.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

I am a mother of a daughter. By the time she is old enough to understand labels, I hope she will not need this one. I hope that our church culture will have evolved enough to not see women in ministry as anything but people in ministry, using their gifts and passions for the Kingdom.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

I hope Paul’s letter to the Galatians is truly lived out: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (3:28)

I have been following Sarah Bessey‘s blog for years. Her first book, Jesus Feminist released last Tuesday. Since I have been quietly following her thoughts on faith for so long, I thought I’d join her synchroblog in support.