Who needs those end of the year book-lists when you have a book and podcast list randomly in the spring, amiright?!
I’ve separated The List into three parts, with each entry in random order. Because I could no sooner choose a favorite star (bonus points if you catch that movie reference). This is just the stuff I love that I find myself sharing with anyone who will listen. I’m kind of like the dad on My Big Fat Greek Wedding who thinks all maladies can be solved with Windex, except that when you tell me your problem I will exclaim the solution is, “A BOOK!” Or, in this case, a podcast.
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). I’m going to use Amazon links (because Prime & real life), but feel free to search out any of these titles at your local bookstore!
- Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch This is my favorite book on leadership (although Henri Nouwen’s In The Name of Jesus is a close second). Basically, I now stalk Andy Crouch online and read anything of his I can. He is SMART and engaging and can break down a complicated concept into a 2×2 like nobody’s business. He has a new book coming out in a couple weeks called The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place that I am already praising God for and I haven’t even read it yet.
- You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith I’ve read this book almost three times in the past year. Twice so I could steep in its profound wisdom enough to distill it into this review for The Well: Orienting Desire: Training for the Good Life. Then once more so I could lead discussion on it for a leadership group I’m a part of at our church. It’s short and, while admittedly not a beach-read (unless you’re a nerd like me), I think it’s an important read for any believer concerned with doing discipleship well.
- A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot This is a dense biography, but don’t let its size intimidate you. Amy’s story will pull you in from page one and keep you turning pages late into the night. Amy was an Irish missionary and writer who spent fifty-three years in India working with orphans. I borrowed this one from our public library, but I’ll likely end up purchasing it. It was that good.
- The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer This classic has been called a “devotional masterpiece.” It has nearly five stars on Goodreads with over 38,000 ratings, so you don’t have to take my word for it. Tozer writes in the beginning that he’s writing because, though others “have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.” Maybe just the spark you need?
- Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey My favorite books tend to take me down the rabbit-hole to finding other great books (like Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior) and this was no exception. Yancey’s immersive storytelling style is on display in these mini-biographies-meets-memoir that each left me wanting more. Already I’ve read two books from people he profiles (Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton and Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen). I still can’t believe I’ll get to hang out with him in Alaska this September for the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop! Remind me to tell you the crazy story of how God provided for that sometime…
- Cultivated: A podcast about faith and work This is put out by the good folks at Harbor Media. I listened to the entire first season and I can’t wait for season two. The interviews are insightful and inspiring, and the guests are diverse. From think-tank types to writers to rappers, and trying to cover every square inch of creation in-between, this podcast has something for everyone.
- Pass the Mic “Dynamic Voices for a Diverse Church” This is the podcast of the Reformed African American Network. Are you curious about racial reconciliation, but feel a little overwhelmed in finding a starting point? Me too. I’ve found this podcast to be both nuanced and unapologetic in its approach, and a safe space for someone like me to ask questions and be confronted with my blind-spots in this area. Highly recommend.
- The Calling An interview show put on by Christianity Today with: “One church leader, one calling, one honest conversation.” Richard Clark or Kate Shellnutt ask great questions and really draw out peoples’ stories in unexpected ways. I’ve been surprised by some of the answers even familiar leaders have given. It never fails to inspire me, with God’s sovereignty on display in the divergent stories of His people seeking to follow Him. (If you’re a woman in leadership/ministry you won’t want to miss the most recent interview with Jen Wilkin).
- Quick to Listen Another podcast from Christianity Today (which I want to emphasize says something about the quality of work CT is putting out–in a world of “fake news” and sensationalism they’ve become one of my go-to’s for their commitment to Beautiful Orthodoxy). In this show co-hosts Morgan Lee and Mark Galli (shout-out to original co-host Katelyn Beaty!) are joined by a guest to “go beyond hashtags and hot-takes and set aside time to explore the reality behind a major cultural event.” I’ve found the discussions to be challenging and helpful for me to sharpen my own thoughts around a popular topic. I especially love the “Gut-check” segment at the beginning where everyone lays out their initial reaction to the issue at hand–a practice I’ve stolen and found works well in discussions with youth group students.
- Persuasion with Erin Straza and Hannah Anderson I could listen to these two talk about ANYTHING. For reals. Pick a random or familiar topic and they will hold it up to the light and display a facet of it you have never considered before. (This podcast is put out by Christ and Pop Culture, who also have an awesome online community worth checking out). Host Erin Straza describes the aim of Persuasion on her blog: “Our goal with the show is to offer feminine insight on culture, theology, and everyday minutia—without reducing it to a podcast about “women’s issues.”” I have found myself so deeply engaged in their discussions that more than once I have replied out loud to them as I’m folding laundry.
Bonus: Books By My Friends!
This is NOT some attempt to smush in all my author buddies at the end just-because. This is because I have been blessed with some crazy-talented friends who are putting out first-rate words into the world. I promise I would not waste your time with books I didn’t back 100%. I’m just putting the ones I’ve read here because I couldn’t bring myself to choose between them for the books section above.
- Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson
- Assimilate of Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield (You can read my review of this one for Christianity Today magazine here)
- Moments and Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith by Michelle Van Loon
- Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You by Dorothy Littell Greco (favorite marriage book by a landslide)
- Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas by Leslie Leyland Fields
- The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us by Erin Wasinger and Sarah Arthur
- Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit by Whitney R. Simpson
- No More Fear: 40 Days to Overcome Worry by JoHannah Reardon
- Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline by Catherine McNiel
- Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home by Jen Pollock Michel
- Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives an anthology by the Women of Redbud Writers Guild (SO stoked to have one of my essays in here!)
And these are just the ones I have in my possession right now! I hope this list motivates you to explore some new titles. Because whatever your issue, I’VE GOT A BOOK FOR THAT!
THANK you for this trove of goodies!! The books you’ve mentioned are all excellent (and some are on my must-read list as well.) Especially grateful for the podcasts you listed. I’ve been needing some better content. Looks like you got me there!! Thanks Aleah!!
You’re so welcome, Leslie!