I'm sure no one's surprised to know that my favorite book of the year was Brene Brown's newest, Daring Greatly. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for? I have two copies--I'll loan you one. More research and more inspiration to live with courage, compassion and connection in the face of vulnerability and shame--I loved it and I've seen the difference it has made in my friends and clients.
This was my second favorite read this year:
Yes, I know it has bad words in it. Yes, I know the art isn't very good. Yes, I know it has a lot of stories about dogs and I'm not really a dog person. This book is so funny that I could only read one story at a time (and also, I didn't want it to end). Allie Brosh writes one of my favorite blogs (by the same name) and it was fun to have some of her stories in book form. I needed this book.
This was my favorite professional read this year. Brief solution-focused therapy is a lot harder to do than it sounds and it's never going to be my primary approach but this book was a great reminder to pursue solutions over insight and to keep things as brief as possible. The stories in the book mostly fall into the too-good-to-be-completely-true category but they're inspiring as well and I use the techniques and some of the underlying philosophy on a daily basis. I recommend this book especially for pastors who do counseling and for coaches. The approach won't be a perfect fit but the skills and the perspectives will all apply.
All the hospitals in New Orleans experienced chaos in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. At only one, however, were patients euthanized or left to die. This book is written by a journalist and gets a little bogged down in the details of who said what when. However, it's a fascinating study of systems theory and especially the effects of chronic anxiety on a system during a crisis. For all of you who have heard me teach on how anxiety makes us stupid, this is exhibit A. This is also a cautionary tale about leadership. Toward the end of the book, the author compares the horrific experience at Memorial with the stories of two other inner-city New Orleans hospitals who also went through the Katrina crisis. With a different history, different systems and especially very different leadership, the other two hospitals didn't experience the level of dysfunction that Memorial did and one of the hospitals actually thrived, recording its finest hour. The effect of anxiety and the power of leadership . . . that's not what this book is about but that's what I got from this book.
This is the book from 2013 that I'm already rereading because I'm sure I didn't get it all the first time. The story is pretty familiar--girl grows up in church, girl rejects everything and goes off into life of drugs and promiscuity, girl meets boy and ends up in seminary and becoming a Lutheran pastor. If you like Sara Miles and Rachel Held Evans, you'll like this one. The stories of redemption are great but the part that really got to me was the way she puts them in the context of resurrection, which is my life-word for 2014, partly because of reading this book. It's not a masterpiece but it meant a lot to me this year.
Other good nonfiction this year:
- The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran is a really fascinating study of odd stories of brain damage and repair that tell us about how the brain works and sometimes how to heal it.
- The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon, et. al. It's sad that we need a book to teach us how to be good neighbors but this is a good book to teach us that. It was very inspiring during our move.
- Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church by Todd Billings is a little book that is hard to read because every single sentence requires me to stop and think. I picked this up when a friend recommended it in response to my request for a good book on Reformed theology and I would recommend it to others.
I guess this is a point for an important disclaimer . . . although that's not really the right word because I don't want to distance myself from what I've written here. Anytime I review books, I hear from people (sometimes second-hand) that they are disappointed in my choices because there was bad language or the author "doesn't believe like we do." Right. I like a wide variety of books, I like to be exposed to different points of view, I'm not offended by cursing, especially if it's well-used and sometimes I just read a book because I want to. So this list hasn't been "sanitized for your protection," and you'll just have to take a chance or not. Getting to know books is a lot like getting to know people that way.