Favorite reads of 2012

I am rather haphazard in my reading choices. So much of what I choose to read is a product of whim and availability. What do I feel like reading? What appeals? Do I have the book on hand? Can I check it out of my local library? Didn’t I just make an amazon order? Because of this rather arbitrary and random approach I am impressed by those of you who craft your reading goals–sometimes a whole year’s worth–with a great deal of thought and organization. However, after reading so many of your great “favorite book” lists that mark year end blogging, I may reconsider my selection methods!

Because my reading is admittedly haphazard, I find my personal end-of-year list of favorite books to be somewhat eclectic. That being said, here, in no particular order, are some of the books I most enjoyed this past year…

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke
A book on reading books? Yes, indeed! Whether you are a prolific or an occasional reader you will enjoy this look at the theology of books and reading. I love books that encourage a love of books and Tony’s does exactly that.

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
I attempted to read Faulkner earlier this year and upon giving up I tweeted the observation that all Southern stories are sad. In the ensuing twitter conversation, Boomama recommended I read Ellen Foster. I did and I loved it. I’ve since read other titles by Gibbons but Ellen is her best of what I’ve read. Boomama said she finished reading it with a “big ol’ ugly cry,” a fitting response to a beautifully written Southern story.

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson
What is gospel wakefulness? It is being utterly captivated and astonished by the good news of forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ. This book explores that concept by addressing the true gospel as well as brokenness, hyperspirituality, depression, gospel-driven sanctification and the gospel-driven church. How I want to be awakened to the glories of God in Christ and to live my life as a testimony of astonishment and this book encourages me to that end.

The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World by Melissa Kruger
This book will SO get in your business, but in the best possible way! In fact my effusion for this book was so pronounced that I was recommending it to every person I saw in the vicinity of the Christian Focus table at The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference. In fact the woman working the table suggested I work the crowd like a town crier carrying stacks of the book and extolling its merits for all to hear. She was joking, of course, and perhaps maybe even poking a little fun at me but don’t think I didn’t consider it. Read my more thorough review here.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
There are passages of this book so beautifully and heartrendingly expressed that they brought tears to my eyes. It’s a story about South Africa, apartheid, and poverty but it is also a story of fathers and sons, of love and grace, and of faith and friendship. Read it. I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
While I cannot admit to this book being a favorite in terms of sheer enjoyment, I will say that this is a book I will not easily forget. It is haunting and gripping, a grim book about desperation and survival. Despite such a sober description I will also say that I could not put it down. I read it in essentially one sitting! McCarthy writes with the sort of staccato prose that carries the reader along in the heart of the man’s (the unnamed protagonist of the book) struggle. At one point in the book I found myself holding my breath! It is a book deeply felt and heartbreakingly somber.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Last year’s surprising favorite was Bleak House so it seems only right that Charles Dickens earns another berth in the favorites list, this time with David Copperfield. I thoroughly enjoyed this semi-autobiographical, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic story and the ending was so sweet. Perhaps its rather pedestrian of me, but I do like a happy ending.

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
My friend summarizes her review in this way: this book should be required reading for all believers. I wholeheartedly agree. The last chapter on moralism is spot on and worth the price of the book and then some.

The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight by Dan Phillips
Have you noticed that three of my favorite books have “gospel” in the title? I suppose it makes sense because 1) I love the gospel and 2) I need to read and remember and read some more about the glorious truth that Jesus saves sinners like me. I downloaded this book when it was free for Kindle and, to be honest, I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did–which is to say I liked it a lot! A timely, well-expressed, engaging yet challenging look at the gospel and its implications for real life, this is a book I highly recommend.

The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund Clowney
I read this book in conjunction with teaching The Promised One by Nancy Guthrie. I had several reference books I used in my preparation each week but Clowney’s was the most readable and approachable and almost eager in its excited exposition of Jesus in the Old Testament. I plan to refer to it often as I teach Guthrie’s The Lamb of God this winter and spring. Another great resource was According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graham Goldsworthy

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
I feel a little badly about including a book I just read on my list of favorites. I mean, sometimes it is difficult to tell just how long or short lived a favorite status will be. That being said, I loved this novel. It is not only a laugh out loud comedy of manners but it proves Wodehouse a master of language. An absolutely charming novel that I highly recommend.

And, because I have a hard time making definitive distinctions, here are some other favorites:

The Hobbit by J. R. Tolkien
Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside by Greg Dutcher
A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering by Michael Horton
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything by Anonymous
A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything by Lydia Brownback
The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel by Margot Livesey
The Shuttle by Francis Hodgson Burnett
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty by Aaron Armstrong
Feeling For Bones by Bethany Pierce
The Distant Hours: A Novel by Kate Morton
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

So, there you go, some of my favorite reads of 2012. I won’t say the list is exhaustive because I read a lot of really good books that I liked and would happily recommend. You can look at my (newly updated) reading lists for the past year or so by clicking the “Reading” tab above. Also, check out my Goodreads profile and see what I’ve read, what I thought, and what I’m currently reading. In fact, some of my summary statements above I copied from my Goodreads reviews.

What about you? What are some of your favorite reads from the past year? Any books you highly recommend? Do you carefully plan your reading goals for the year? What are you hoping to read in 2013?


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

12 thoughts on “Favorite reads of 2012”

  1. I LOVE your eclectic mix. I've managed to spice my reading list up last year with come Flannery O'Conner and Chesterton, which made wonderful interludes. I need to get better at updating my Goodreads account–I'm way to slow on this whole social networking thing & I really need to bust a move! Thanks for the great mini-reviews, Lisa. I'm crossing my providential fingers that my book will make next years list πŸ™‚ Enjoy your Guthrie study!!

  2. I'm finishing up Lit! now and it has been very encouraging. Read The Road last year… it was one of those books that I had to make myself finish yet, like you, there were times I couldn't put it down (then I heard there was a movie version — no way I could watch that!). It's one of the few books with frequent profanity that I have allowed myself to read, but I can't quite decide whether I'm glad I read it. Without a plan, I tend to be very fiction heavy, so I'm working on balancing that this year. I'm participating in a reading challenge: read 24 books (real books and already owned) in 12 months. Not an overwhelming amount, except that I hope to make many notes along the way and will probably sneak in a few extras via the library.

  3. I tend to be very fiction heavy too, which isn't necessarily a bad thing I don't think, but I too would like to be a little more balanced. Your challenge sounds interesting!

  4. I can't wait for Aimee's book!I've already got many of your books on my list for 2013. I've made a list and I'm really going to try to stick to it this year. Wanting to grow in my reading. My list will be up next week.

  5. I always enjoy your book-related posts, and I do SO admire your ability to complete so many books! I just posted my reading goals for 2013, and it appears we have a similar approach to choosing books, and, as I've said before, very similar tastes.

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