Good Books for Your Heart and Soul (And Your Funny Bone)

September 20, 2013 | 13 comments

“We need more shelves,” I tell my husband.

We’re on opposite ends on the couch, reading. The books are taking over — stacked in corners, jumbled in baskets, teetering on bedside tables,  embraced in hands, rooting in hearts.

I could give the books away, but I can’t bear to part with some of these soul-stirring words away that I will surely return to again and again.

But … I also can’t bear to keep these good word-finds a secret. Below, you’ll find what our family is reading this fall.

Tell us: What one (or two) books has most impacted you in 2013? What book is next on your list?

Jennifer’s Picks

Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You’re More Like Jesus Than You Think

Prototype by Jonathan Martin
I am the world’s slowest reader, but simply couldn’t put this book (by Jonathan Martin) down. I inhaled it, underlined it, out loud “Amen”-ed, and drew smiley faces in the margins where this pastor made me laugh out loud.  As Steven Furtick wrote, Martin is both “measured and unfiltered… searing and soothing… articulate and accessible. Jonathan has written a book designed to body-slam your presuppositions, bear-hug your insecurities, and shake the contents of your heart with a gentle violence. It’s not every day you get to meet David and Goliath and it’s the same guy.”

This book? Will help you rediscover — or discover for the first time — how beloved you are, and how that can really change everything.

jonathan martin quote, prototype

jonathan martin quote, prototype, lion and lamb

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
This book is a feast, and I’m lingering a while at the gorgeous table set by Shauna Niequist. Her book is a delightful collection of stories about food and fellowship, and the importance of the table. She found the words to accompany the way it feels when I invite best friends — or casual acquaintances — through my own front door, leading them to a candlelit table and finding that the main course isn’t what I pulled from the oven, but what came bubbling from our collective souls. (Hopefully, said bubbling is not a result of indigestion…) 🙂

bread and wine, shauna niequist,  table

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas

the greatest gift, ann voskamp
Ann Voskamp has done it again, stewarding her God-given talents by writing this beautiful new book. But this book is much more than breathtaking writing. Readers will meet Jesus on these pages.

So many of us joined Ann when she led readers into a journey of counting blessings with her bestselling book, One Thousand Gifts. And now, in her trademark poetic voice, Ann offers up brand-new material, inviting us to unwrap the greatest gift of all —  Christ Himself. I look forward to re-reading this book during the Advent season.

Next on my list:

Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live.   For more details — and if you feel you have nothing to offer the world — please see Ms. Emily Freeman on her blog today.  




My Favorite Farmer’s Pick

Dad is Fat

Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan, clean comedian
So. We love theology.  And candlelit tables. And Christmas books about the coming Savior.

We also love to laugh. A lot.

This book? This is the one that had my husband howling with laughter on the other end of the couch. A Wall Street Journal headline called Jim Gaffigan “the king of (clean) comedy.”

Highly recommended by Mr. Scott Lee.


Lydia’s Pick

The Mysterious Benedict Society series

mysterious benedict society


Lydia is 11 years old. She has returned to the pages of these books many times, lured by the dramatic plot twists and unusual characters.



Anna’s Pick

T.J. and the Time Stumblers

Time Stumblers


Our friends at Tyndale Publishing gave this book to Anna, age 9, when we stopped in for a visit to meet my editorial team in July. And she is loving the stories, the mayhem, the characters, the time travel.

The series is written by Bill Myers.




And finally: Two videos.

The first made me ponder. The second made me cry.

Both made me grateful for the gift of this life.

(If you have trouble viewing the videos from email, click here:

Have a fantastic weekend friends. I’ll be shopping for a new bookshelf. 🙂

by | September 20, 2013 | 13 comments


  1. Karrilee Aggett

    I love this list… (I am reading this list!) – I am looking forward to Emily’s new book too…and I am reading Sarah Bessey’s new book right now and loving it too! And Dad is Fat… on the wait list at the Library right now! 😉

  2. JulieS

    Oh, I can’t wait to read Bread and Wine! That sounds exactly what my heart is craving… ever since I read this book last year: Sabbath by Dan Allendar.

    Thanks for the kick to keep reading! It’s so easy to get in a rut.

    Oh, and I’m going to check out Dad is Fat for my hubby — not that he is. 😉

  3. Megan Willome (@meganwillome)

    Since you’re limiting me to two, I’ll pick one fiction and one nonfiction. The fiction was recommended by both Dena Dyer and Tina Howard: “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple. Funny and moving and excellent plotting. Nonfiction, “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. Amazing story of the Great Migration told through three people’s stories. Some of the best nonfiction I’ve ever read.

    Next month at THC, the book that really probably saved my life: “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry.

    Just finished–today–“Paddlefish” by Christine Warren, which I highly recommend. It’s the fall selection for One Book One Waco . So, now I need a new rec.

    (See how I got four in there?)

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for the recommendations, Megan. I especially need to add fiction to my list. I’ve been immersed in nonfiction and study the last month or two.

      • Lisa @ FSL

        Oh I agree Where’d You Go Bernadette was fantastic… I was a bit upset with the last chapter… and The The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry… oh yes! I also thoroughly enjoyed The Light Between Oceans.

  4. Holly

    I have a few books started, but have not really jumped into many. I am definitely going to read Emily’s book when it comes out!

  5. dukeslee

    So, I’m really curious to hear readers’ thoughts on the jelly bean video. I love the premise: live each day to the full, invest the hours in the best ways possible.

    But ….

    I wonder if it compartmentalizes our life in a way that’s unfair? The last part shows our “time that is left,” after you take out the sleeping, eating and working. And I wonder, does this somehow disregard the potential beauty of our work lives? Hopefully, those work hours are wonderful, productive hours. And if they aren’t, how can we make them more beautiful, as a part of our high calling? And those eating and cooking hours? Those are among my most favorite hours. Some of my best memories have been born in a kitchen, or around a table.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts …

    • Lisa @ FSL

      Hmmm… I thought that taking care of loved ones was a little low… I’m positive I’ve already spent over 500 hours taking care of loved ones… ;-D

      Years ago I tried to quit giving hierarchy to my life and live it more as a mobile. (Yes, that thing that hangs in a crib, or is full of stars and planets.) A “mobile” life that is all integrated and depends on the other pieces to keep me balanced. It’s not easy, but it does lend itself to less compartmentalization and more free integration to do everything as my “high calling.” I guess the video at first left me in awe, but then a bit sad. I don’t want to live a compartmentalized life that only has a tiny piece of what I love. I kind of want everything I do to be something I can find love in, and love.

  6. Bonnie

    The book that really tripped my trigger this year was Jen Hatmaker’s 7.

    You and I must have similar tastes, because I have Bread and Wine but haven’t read it yet, and will def be pre-ordering Ann and Emily’s.

  7. rickd3352013

    Just ordered Prototype, and while I was at it, ordered Pastrix and Discernment – Amazon loves me 🙂

  8. Kel Rohlf

    I devoured Bread and Wine before our vacation and copied down some of her recipes to try on our boat…the dark chocolate salted toffee turned out pretty well in my little galley…I just read the War of Art, which I saw on Lisa-Jo Baker’s reading pile pictured at her reading tab on her blog…very good ammunition against writer’s block or creative block…(warning some of the language and content is PG-13)

    I am going to check out A Million Little Ways!

  9. Laura Rath

    Hi Jennifer,
    I love to read and always have a list to-read list that is longer than I can possibly get to. So…I just continue to add to it. lol

    The quote about communion from the book Prototype…wow.

    The book I spent a lot of time in this year is Godspeed by Britt Merrick. It changed the way I now see missional living. I also wrote for 3 weeks about it to go with a sermon series I helped plan.

    “Being on mission is the paradigm shift of a lifetime. The greatest adventure is to hear the invitation and respond. The greatest tragedy is to ignore our calling and go on living life as usual.” – Britt Merrick, Godspeed

    I also loved Embracing Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs.

  10. Ayo

    Hi Jennifer,

    I’m Ayo and you can find me at @ayostephens on twitter.

    On your list, I have read Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist and Gods at War by Kyle Idleman and loved them. I have heard a lot about Prototype by Jonathan Martin and really can’t wait to check it out.

    Two books that have stood out for me this year are ‘Turnaround God’ by Charlotte Gambill (powerful read!) and ‘A Grace Revealed’ by Jerry Sittser. I am currently reading ‘You Will Get Through This’ by Max Lucado also a great one.

    Thanks for the great work and discussions you do over here at your blog




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