2022 has been a year which has, in a sense, rekindled my reading life, and awoken my academic self in a tangible way. I highly recommend beginning your year with study and new perspectives. The five weeks I spent at school last winter had rather far-reaching effects, from developing a passion for Beauty, to expanding my social connections. In retrospect, 2022 was a year of growth. It’s been a year of change as well, but change seems to be inevitable when you are twenty-something. In fact, change is inevitable if you are human.
In ending this year and beginning a new one, I am going to share some book recommendations with you. It is perhaps difficult to know which books will deeply impact each of us, for we have different experiences and are living different stories. Yet, we are all within the story of humanity. May these books (and the books you read in the next year) help to lead you on a Good path.
- Aggressively Happy, by Joy Marie Clarkson. This one I keep returning to; it is not a book to read once and never pick up again. I know the reading world might be divided on how to engage with books, but I believe in underlining and wearing out the pages, and this is a book that deserves that kind of attention. Joy is vulnerable and real- and happy. Yet not the kind of happy that feeds my cynicism, but the deep kind that has lived hard and come through strong. The advice she gives is practical, as well as being wise. Five stars for sure.
- This Beautiful Truth, by Sarah Clarkson. I read this one earlier this year, and am listening to it again on audio. This book is for the disillusioned, the struggling, the fearful and sad. Sarah’s story is one of incredible hope, and I certainly need hope around Christmastime. She could be an older sister, one who has already dealt with brokenness and holds out her hand to help others through the same darkness.
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Yes, it’s a classic, and when I read it for the first time probably five years ago or so, I was shocked by the story. However, sometimes a book deserves a second chance. I gave it a second chance and listened to the audiobook (I listen to a lot of audio in this season of my life and work), and it was different this time. I think it helped that I was already familiar with the storyline, so there wasn’t the element of shock. Also, I have lived quite a bit of life in the past several years, and could perhaps sympathize with Jane in a way that would not have been possible before. She does deserve to be a literary heroine; goodness, doing the right thing can be hard.
- Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot. Like Jane, Maggie has a crazy path to walk, and she deserves the reader’s sympathy. The plotline raised a big question of morality for me, and I literally didn’t know how I wanted the story to end. The conclusion took a turn I was not expecting, yet under the circumstances, perhaps it was the best way. This is not a happily-ever-after tale, but it is thought provoking and touching; just go into it expecting the unexpected and preparing to be “considerably rumpled in spirit.”
- Where is God When it Hurts? By Philip Yancey. This book was a perspective changer for me last winter, and I think it helped to point me in a better direction. “[Jesus] is not asking me to go through something that He has not felt Himself. He is not asking me to walk through anything alone. And He cares about the hurt so much. He cares about me so very much. God is a good God. He is not up there taking away all the joy from my life and keeping my dreams from coming true. He is, however, cheering for me to be victorious.” (quoted from my written response paper of the book) It is difficult to say how much of my changed perspective came from the book itself and how much came from the people I was surrounded with during that time, which could be an important point: if you find yourself needing to read a book like this, maybe you also need to be experiencing vibrant community.
- To Hell With the Hustle, by Jefferson Bethke. We live in a world of climbing ladders, of hurry and rush, of constant stress. Let’s not. I love the idea Mr. Bethke has of Jesus being more concerned with the people we are becoming rather than what we are accomplishing. As someone who derives my feeling of worth as a human mostly from what I do, and from the affirmation I receive from others by doing those things, this is an important truth to settle in my soul. Maybe living unrushed is best. Maybe being ordinary is better than being a world changer. Perhaps it is the ordinary people who are the world changers today, refusing to buy into the lie of success.
- The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy. This book holds beauty, both in the simplicity of it and in its profoundness. It’s a story that can be read to a child, but also one for those who are “old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (C.S. Lewis) There are charming themes within, of home, of life with friends, of courage, and of cake- all quite appropriate for my own life.
It’s been a year that has given me newness in literature, and also the gift of revisiting the old. Both have value, for ‘tis unwise to become stagnant in thought, and also, “you can never step into the same book twice, because you are different each time you read it.” (John Barton)