Top 10 Books of 2012

I wasn’t sure if I would make it to my final goal, but I finished book #100 for the year on December 21, and closed out the year with 101 books read (not including the books I read to/with my children).

It is difficult to say how much these 101 books shaped my life, but without a doubt several of my most life-challenging and life-changing lessons from 2012 have come, in large part, from these 101 books. Certainly, a few duds were included in my reading; yet overall, I think most of the entire list of books I read were quite good and challenged my thinking and living to new levels.

Looking back to this past year’s reading, here are the books I’ve selected as my top 10 books for 2012:

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)

I’m not the only who liked this book this year: Quiet made it to several “top books” list year, in addition to being a New York Times Bestseller. (Ironically, I never posted a review for this book, mostly because I wanted it to be the perfect review and herein, I let the perfect ideal to be the enemy of the good.)

Quiet examines the personality spectrum of extroversion and introversion, and everything in between (including one with a name: ambiversion). Cain explores how extroversion rose to become our contemporary cultural ideal, whether or not these are permanent personalities, how the extrovert preference has permeated the American Evangelical church (not a huge section, but one that carries significance for me and readers here, being one who makes up a part of the American Evangelical church at large), and even how parenting introverts and extroverts will look different in its application.  This book is a helpful read for anyone: for introverts, in understanding their value and that they are not as “alone” as society percieves them to be, and for extroverts to also understand the value of introverts and to see that many people are possibly more introverted than they let on.

I also benefited from the distinction made between introversion and shyness, and how the two are not always joined at the hip. (Personally, I was once both, but am still quite introverted while much less shy.) I also appreciated highlighting that for many introverts, interacting with people and crowds can be quite emotionally exhausting, even if an introverted person might enjoy such interaction; and for the extrovert, these occasions are oppositely energizing.

2. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Gretchen Rubin)

Sometimes you don’t realize how profoundly a book impacts you until it’s been given time to settle. In my case, this was one such book, and I’m glad I read it early in the year and reaped benefits through the year. I wrote a review of the book here, and reference it many times throughout the year.

I was delighted when Gretchen Rubin released Happier at Home, which carries the same theme in application at home, and again saw the continuing impact of The Happiness Project as I read her second work on the subject.


3. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (Timothy Keller, Kathy Keller)

If I could recommend only one Christian marriage book, this would be it. Tim and Kathy Keller delve into the complexities of marriage and marital commitment, and do so in a way that portrays a strong marriage as something more abiding than merely a series of “rekindling the passion.” (Though, Keller is not promoting a dull, romanceless marriage, either.)

I originally posted a review of the book here.


4. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids (Kim John Payne)

Parenting and simplicity were two themes that I frequently found myself reading about. Those themes converge in this excellent resource for any parent, but especially so in our busy, cluttered, excessive American culture. I wrote more abou this book in my review here.


5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Charles Duhigg)

Charles Duhigg explores the connection between habit and how we live life (and do business). From chain smokers and highly disciplined gurus, from Febreeze to Apple, this book explores how habit shapes our lives in more ways than we realize. This is both a fascinating and motivational book. I posted a review of it here.


6. Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor (Robert D. Lupton)

This is another powerful book for which I failed to write a review. This book was paradigm-shifting, convicting, and continues to shape my understanding of loving “the least of these” through community.

Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life explores the problems at just leaving mercy ministry at betterment, and shows why true, long-term compassion and justice pursues development. It also explains what betterment and development are and how they differ.

The book primarily deals with the fleshing out of this concept within urban and inner-city ministry, but has much broader application. For me, it was eye-opening and slightly paradigm-shifting. The book emphasizes Jesus’ teaching that the whole law hangs on the two commandments to love God and neighbor. Often, the simplicity of these commands is hidden beneath a lot of spiritual clutter.

Although I did not write a substantial review, I shared an excerpt from the book here.


7. Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to “The Passion of the Christ” (Stephen J. Nichols)

Stephen Nichols provides a helpful commentary and examination of how culture has pushed our perception of Jesus and Christianity into a cultural mold. I posted a lengthy review of this book here.


8. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Jennifer Worth)

In this fascinating memoir of her years as a midwife in London’s postwar East End, Jennifer Worth recounts the many fascinating stories and lives she touched during her years serving as a midwife with an Anglican order of nuns. More than just a collection of birth stories for birth junkies, this book portrays the difficult, yet endearing, life for those living in this time and place.

There were several stories that were difficult, and heart-wrenching to read. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as someone who has observed and experienced the joys, pains, and triumphs of natural childbirth, and as someone who enjoys anthropology, sociology, and even a bit of theology thrown in.

Jennifer Worth also wrote two other memoirs of her life as an East End midwife (Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End), and I equally enjoyed reading the other two, as well.


9. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Laura Vanderkam)

168 Hours was another book that took a little bit of settling time before I more fully appreciated the book. And although there are still parts of the book that rub me the wrong way, I realize how much of what was said here has lodged in my mind and frames the way I evaluate my use of time. I posted a review of this book here.


10. How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family (Dan B. Allender)

Contrary to the initial impression that the cover art and title may give, How Children Raise Parents is a book delving into many profound truths surrounding parenting. Written from a Christian perspective, the book explores how God uses our parenting experiences to mold, shape, and mature us. Too often, parenting is viewed from the perspective of what parents must do to produce wonder-toddlers and preschoolers, rather than seeing what God is doing in us. (At the same time, it does not neglect the important concepts of both sowing and reaping and God’s providence.) The books hones in on understanding the two core questions that both we as parents and our children are asking: 1) “Am I loved?” and 2) “Can I get my own way?” I posted a lengthier review of this book here.

5 Runners Up: (1) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Michael Pollan); (2) Washington: A Life (Chernow); (3) Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf ); (4) The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to a Love That Lasts (Gary Chapman); (5) I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy (Angie Smith)

Related: My top 10 book list from 2011. 

What were your favorites from last year? Tomorrow I’ll share 20 books I plan to read in 2013.

 

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Keren, I haven’t posted my top 10 yet, but we included several of the same titles. So now I definitely want to read the others on the list that I have not read yet. I actually just started The Power of Habit and I can already tell it is going to be excellent!

  2. 2

    says

    I also had Quiet and The Meaning of Marriage as top books for the year. 168 Hours & Call the Midwife missed the cut, but I did really enjoy both of them. And I loved the Happiness Project the year I read it.

    So you’ve given me some more to check out this year, since our reading tastes seem to match up fairly well. (Except for that Simplicity Parenting book. I wasn’t crazy about it.)

  3. 3

    says

    I love a good parenting related reading list recommendation. I’ve heard the book “Quiet” come up several times in the last month, so I’m going to go for that one first. As someone pretty far on the introverted spectrum, it sounds like a good read.

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