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My Top 7 Favorite Books Read in 2011

Looking for some good books to add to your booklist for 2012? Here are my top seven favorite books from the 60 books I read in 2011:

Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment — I loved this book and would whole-heartedly recommend it to any Christian woman who is struggling with anxiety, fear, or worry. Very thought-provoking. I benefited so much from it that I put two of the author’s other books on my 24 books I plan to read in 2012 booklist.

ReWork — Hands down, this is one of the best business books I’ve ever read. I read it in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. The premise? Break all the rules of the “experts”. Think way outside the box. Be a teacher: if a business idea works well for you, share your secrets and people will respect you more. Stop worrying about your competition and start being a trend-setter. Keep your company small for as long as you possibly can. Don’t grow until it hurts.

Now, do note that this is not packed with specific step-by-step ideas for starting a business. It’s moreso an outside-the-box business book to challenge the status quo. And since I tend to be a very independent thinker, I loved that. Other people, like my friend Catherine, didn’t find the book as helpful (read her review here).

(Note: There is a quite a bit of language in the book and I was disappointed because it somewhat hampered my excitement about the book. And I know some disagree with me, but I always find four letter words in books bothersome because I feel like they are unnecessary and crude.)

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By a Relentless God — If you’re a Christian, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If there’s one book outside the Bible that you read this year, read Crazy Love. It challenged me to pull out of my complacency as a follower of Christ. I’ve stayed in my comfort zone for a long time out of fear — fear of failure, fear of what others would think of me, and fear of stepping out in faith and doing what God has been calling me to do.

I read one chapter each morning for two weeks and then would spend time reflecting and praying about it during my morning run. There was much I processed during those times — and I will be processing it for many weeks and months to come. God used this book to change my outlook on many things and to light a fire of love in my heart to live a life sold out for God. I want to follow where He leads, at any cost.

Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time — This book is jam packed with practical ideas for prioritizing your time and life so that you make the most of your days. One of my biggest takeaways from the book was the challenge to start the day out by doing the things you like least first, you’ll get them out of the way so you can enjoy your day more and be more productive and fulfilled. Read more about some of the things I gleaned from this book here.

Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Achieve Tomorrow’s Success — If you want to make the most of your days, Today Matters will give you practical, step-by-step help and inspiration. The author makes a case for why today is your key to success and outlines 12 decisions and disciplines you should implement into your life and work toward mastering in order to achieve greater fulfillment and success in life.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think — We all have exactly the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day, 168 hours in each week. We all get to choose how we’re going to use those hours — whether wisely or frivolously. Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours, is based upon the premise that, if we were to step back and look at our week as a whole, we have more time than we realize. And we are probably squandering more time than we think.

This book gives real-life, practical examples for becoming a better manager of your time. It profiles a number of different individuals in different situations and shows how they are using their time well or specific ways they could improve their time usage. This book is not about stuffing our lives more full with longer to-do lists and more responsibilities, but about focusing on a life well lived. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to better steward their time or find more fulfillment in how they spend their 168 hours.

Kisses from Katie — This book rocked my world and left me profoundly moved and challenged. It has caused me to step back and examine how I’m living my life and whether I’m truly giving in a way that costs me something dear. I’m still processing much of what I read and praying about specifically what I am supposed to do in response to the burden it placed upon my heart, but I am left forever touched. If you want to be motivated to live a life out of your comfort zone, read this book.

What were your top reads in 2011? I’d love know!

Setting Goals and Saving Money

The following is a guest post from Joy of Vim and Vigor:

source: RikkisRefugeOther

Whether you are a mom of one or of seven, whether you hare just married, or whether you are single, the demands of life are many. You know the old saying, “A woman’s work is never done.” That is so true!

Amidst the meal planning, dishes, work schedules, cleaning up of spills, errands, and laundry, we are real women with real needs–spiritually, physically, and emotionally. If these areas are being neglected in our lives, it affects us as woman and those around us.

Crystal has been such an inspiration to me in setting goals and accomplishing them. Seeing her lists of books to read, projects she wants to try, and also her monthly financial goals has been very motivating for me. I especially like how she doesn’t overload herself. Instead, her goals are doable.

One tangible way Crystal inspired me was to write down a budget for our family. To be honest, it was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done. I think less about money now, because I know how much I can spend in each area of our lives. I don’t have to wonder, “Do we have enough money in the bank to cover this check?”

Creating a budget was like getting a raise: we can save so much more since we now know how much we can spend! And one goal I have regarding our budget for the New Year is to look at each category and see how I can spend less.

Here are some of the ways I am cutting back:

Clothing:

I have decided (for the time being) to only shop for myself at re-sale shops and rummage sales.

Cosmetics:

I have replaced my expensive, high-dollar face cream, and instead have started using a baking soda and water exfoliate. I’m also using avocado oil on my face, which is an inexpensive, natural and superior moisturizer. I now wash my hair with baking soda and rinse with vinegar. It cleans my hair, instead of stripping it, and it works wonderfully!

Beverages:

I had was in the habit of keeping a variety of store bought drinks at home–pop, juices, coffee, etc. However, I’ve decided we can easily save hundreds of dollars per year by choosing to drink water and milk. Juice is now a treat, and purchased only when on sale.

Eating Out:

One way we can save a ton of money is by setting a budget for eating out–and then sticking to it! If we go over budget in this area, I really feel it is my own doing.

I am the one in charge of meal planning, and I am now trying to have a few “fast food” meals handy in the freezer for those nights I don’t want to cook. (Crystal talks a lot about freezer cooking, which has been so helpful for me.)

It really is the little things that can make or break a budget. And as we approach another New Year, I hope this will be a springboard to help you think of a few areas where you too can cut back, so you can do more with your budget, and bless your family in this way.

Have you recently cut anything out of your budget?

Joy is a 33-year-old homeschooling mama to six kids. She is married to her wonderful husband, who lovingly looks past all her faults, and loves her for the wife, mama, and child of God she is striving to be. Through the trials and triumphs of marriage, having a large family, and living as naturally as possible on a budget, God is in the midst of it all. You can read about all the journeys Christ has been bringing this family through, and to be encouraged in your mothering on Joy’s blog.