Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Some of my favourite reads of 2017 - Non Fiction

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It’s that time of year when we reflect on some of the books that had an impact on us. I’m first cab off the rank and since I read more non-fiction that fiction (60/40) I was delighted to volunteer for this category. Andrea (tomorrow) and Iola (Friday) will feature some of their favourite reads of the year, most of which I believe will be fiction with a strong romance thread, but there might be the odd writing craft book featured as well.
I read a variety of non-fiction books in the broadest sense of the category. Most I would describe as Christian self-development but memoir/biographies would also fit too. I also read a lot of Biblical commentary/analysis and devotional-style books.
So here goes in no particular order:
Unseen by Sara Hagerty - here’s a paragraph from my review, the full version of
which can be found on ACW:
“I've been reading Sara's words for a few years now and start each day with the adoration scriptures she curates for her peeps. Sara has this wonderful writing style that combines the everyday happenings of her world with the grace and love of Jesus that make this book captivating. Her words lead you to Jesus, to His wonder, love and glory. Sara invites us into her journey into the hiddenness of parenting 6 young kiddies, most of whom are adopted, where she finds Jesus in all she does and thinks. Sara's discovered how to "listen for His heart and His soft whisper in His Word" in the everyday unseen moments. She's found a friend. Who happens to be her Lord and Creator.”
BTW, it's rating as a 5/5 on Amazon from 185 reviews. 
Who I am in Christ (Neil T Anderson) – as some of you know I’m working on a project about intimacy with God and so I’ve read a number of books that address this topic. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve come to fully appreciate who I am in Christ and it has only served to spur me to want more of Jesus. Hence, the project.
Anderson’s book is a devotional of sorts; 36 four-page entries on a Scriptural truth about His love for us and our position in relation to Him. I read one per day and found there is such good content that I needed to read it again. And then again.
Goliath Must Fall (Louise Giglio) – I read this along with watching 6 videos via Study Gateway that provided additional depth to the key points of the book. Giglio uses the David and Goliath story to address 5 common “giants” that wage war against Christians: fear, rejection, comfort, anger and addiction. He introduces three twists, to use his description, to the Goliath story:
1. In the story of David and Goliath, we are NOT David; Jesus is David,
2. Our giant is already dead. Jesus has already won the victory for us, and
3. David's motivation for taking on Goliath was the fame of God. We too are invited to be similarly motivated by God's honour and glory.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in particular, as a result of Giglio’s perspectives on David’s vulnerable self in tackling Goliath when we are prone to look at his heroic attributes rather than the Lord.
Invention (Justin Camp) – this is another in the “identity” sub-category. Camp, whose email devotional I’ve subscribed to for a few years now, has a ministry aimed at encouraging men to walk closer to the Lord. In “Invention” he starts by stating that humans are God’s greatest invention and as such He desires that we understand our identity and unique purpose in His Kingdom. Camp guides the reader through a practical Spirit-led self-evaluation to map out a blueprint for life. A blueprint that documents your talents, spiritual gifts, sense of calling and potential actions to take.

And Still She Laughs (Kate Merrick)I first came to 'know' Kate Merrick when I stumbled across her husband, Britt, and their church in Carpinteria, California. Soon thereafter I became aware of their daughter, Daisy's illness. And so I joined the global army of prayers that stood on the watchtower for dear little Daisy and this gorgeous family.

After a few years of immense struggle, dearest Daisy passed away in the arms of her parents and brother, Isaiah. The family held a wonderful memorial service for their little girl which those of us from far way were able to watch.

And then the family went off the grid. For years.

This is a book about so much more than grief and loss. It's also about the discovery of leaning into the mystery of walking with the lover of our souls, Jesus. It's a book that often brought me to tears but also made me laugh and laugh. Death of a loved one, especially one so young, doesn't make any sense. And even though Kate doesn't know the answer to why Daisy passed away much too young, she knows the lover of her soul is always close, always tender, always loving and suffered as much as Kate did.

Read this book especially if you're struggling with grief and loss but even if you haven't you'll find this a wonderful book that opens one's eyes to the immensity of Jesus' love for each of us and through all of life's ups and downs He gives us hope and a reason to laugh.

BTW, the Kindle version is only $2.27 on Amazon at the time of posting.

Jesus Journey (Trent Sheppard) For much of my life I think I believed that Jesus while on earth was some "superman", a super-human because he is God. And so relating to him wasn't so straightforward because of his divinity. However, in recent years I've found my early beliefs to be flawed and have marvelled at Jesus' humanity. He isn't just our Saviour and Lord but also our example. He lived the human life that we live.

This marvellous book outlines how human Jesus really is and is an excellent resource to better understand his humanity. And, as Trent Sheppard outlines, it's important for us to really understand his humanity because it helps us to better understand him and ourselves.

Sheppard highlights the relational aspect of God by revealing the humanity of Jesus. And he is God who wants an intimate relationship with us. And as Jesus demonstrated in his own life, we can have an interconnected and intimate union with God just like he did.

The Furious Longing of God (Brennan Manning) This is a wonderful quick read. We are God's beloved ... and 'His desire is for us." These words can take a while for us to believe. Yes, we can understand them with our mind but it's when we choose to believe them with our heart that our perspective of God can change.

We don't typically get taught this message in church. And Manning only discovered it himself through great hardship and his battles with alcoholism. God loves us all, ragamuffin, or otherwise. Irrespective of what we've done, what we do and what we're going to do, His love for us doesn't change. It's constant and ... furious.

11 very short chapters including a story, one from his own life or someone else's, sprinkled with some great insights/soundbites from various mystics and other people Manning admired, Manning shares various attributes of God and His furious love for us.

I’m on a bit of a Heidi Baker-book-binge this year. This is one of three I’ve read or am reading. The Bakers outline the early days of their relationship, their awakening to Christ's incredible love for them and the start of their ministry work in Mozambique. Heidi asked for a nation to minister to and the Lord gave them Mozambique. Their story demonstrates that old chestnut that the Lord simply desires those who are available. Those who make themselves available will be used and through daily surrender will be used extraordinarily.

It is a powerfully convicting life the Bakers are living. The power they experience but also the battles, the personal illnesses and devastation that the enemy throws at them like hundred-year old floods that set the country back decades. But through all of it we see an immense love, the Bakers for Jesus and Jesus for the Bakers. I want what they have.

Not By Sight (Jon Bloom) – Jon’s the President of Desiring God, John Piper’s created ministry. I read everything Jon writes. In this book Bloom takes stories from the Bible and writes a short imaginative vignette of the behind-the-scenes of what we don't get to read or "see" from the Bible. Whether it's Levi's surprise to being approached by Jesus to come "follow me", Peter walking on water, or Zacchaeus knocking on the door of someone whom he "repaid" what he'd taxed them, to mention three of the 35 stories, Bloom gives the reader a "fly on the wall" experience of the story.

Each story is no more than three pages, all reflect a theme relevant to us today, and the learning is easy to discern but sufficiently powerful that the lesson lingers with you during your day.

I recommend this book as it's easy and so enjoyable to read but stirs your heart to go deeper with Jesus.

I’ll leave it there. I’ve probably read 50 others, most of which I could also include here. I’d love to hear about some of your favourite non-fiction reads.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, Ian--I'm in awe of the number of excellent non-fiction books you can get through in a year. I love the sound of so many of these and have recorded a couple once again in my 'Mum's List of Desired Books' doc which my children raid when they can't think of anything else to get me! I love Brennan Manning's honest writing and plan to get hold of Trent Shepherd's 'The Jesus Journey' very soon. Re my own reading, we moved house this year, after thirty-two years in the one place, so I am still trying to surface from all that and get back to reading some great non-fiction. I am currently reading a biography of C S Lewis, which I am enjoying, and plan to read--wait for it--Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Big Magic' next, just because I'm curious!

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    1. Thanks, Jo-Anne. I too want to read ‘Big Magic’ for the same reason you mention. So people have said how good it is for our creative types. Let us know what you think when you finish it in due course.

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  2. Thanks for sharing, Ian! As you know, I'm not a big non-fiction reader. I sometimes get annoyed when browsing the Christian non-fiction shelves, as a lot of it seems self-serving, as though Christianity is some kind of bless-me club.

    I'll check these out. I like the idea of short but impactful chapters that don't have to be read all at once (you know, like we read novels).

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    1. Thanks, Iola. Many non-fiction books are getting into the short chapter thing. I’m reading one now that has 3-4 page chapters which is an enjoyable way of grabbing important points.

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