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The Top 4 Books I Read in 2018

Want to know what my Top Favorite Books were that I read in 2018? Well, of the 70 books I read, I picked 4 favorites. These were the four that impacted me the most and are the ones that I will carry lessons from for years to come.

By the way, I realized in looking back over the books I read this past year that I didn’t do a good job of tracking all of them that I read… and that this was the first year where I didn’t feel like I had hard time narrowing the list down to only 10 titles. In fact, as I looked over all of the books I read the past few weeks, there were only four titles I knew needed to for sure be on this list.

I’m not sure if I only came up with 4 titles because I didn’t track what I read as well as I usually do so I’m forgetting about a few titles that I read (but I feel like if I’m forgetting them, then they likely didn’t deeply impact me, right?), or because I didn’t read self-help books, or because I read fewer books this past year than I often do, or because I just picked lots of meh titles?

At any rate, in 2019, I’m finally switching over to using GoodReads to track my reading. I’ve been really impressed with it so far and am excited about using it to keep a log of what I’m reading, my thoughts on the books, and to see my reading progress.

I’m not sure if my account is public? If it is, you can see it here. (I decided that I don’t think I’m going to accept friend requests on it, just because I don’t want to use it like social media, but just to track what I read. Can you see my profile page if you’re not my friend? I wasn’t sure on that. Let me know — I’m new to GoodReads, clearly!)

1. Mom Set Free

This book is SO good. I slowly savored it — reading just a little bit every day — to make it last as long as I could and to really soak in the truths from it.

If you struggle with Mommy Guilt or feel like you are always failing or never doing enough or just can’t get it right as a mom, this book will encourage you in powerful ways!

I shared more how this quote impacted me on Instagram:

It’s not the perfect parenting book. Or the right chore chart. Or whether we feed our kids enough organic food. Or if we homeschool. Or if we give our kids enough opportunities. Or if we protect them enough…

We can’t save our kids, bubble wrap our kids, fix our kids, or transform their hearts.

We can sure exhaust ourselves trying, though. We can stress and worry over them. We can feel frustrated and overwhelmed by their actions. We can live in fear over their futures.

But none of that accomplishes anything worthwhile.

There is one thing we CAN do and that is to pray. And I believe it’s one of the greatest things we can do on behalf of our kids

Because — as I am learning anew — prayer changes us. One thing I try to do almost every day is to I start my day on the treadmill running & praying over the day and praying for Jesse and each of my kids.

It’s an important piece of my day… to acknowledge my need for God’s help in my parenting, to pray for specific areas where my kids are struggling, to thank God for how He’s working in their hearts, to release my stresses and frustrations in parenting to God, and to ask Him to give me grace to love each of my kids in a way that makes them feel loved.

I’ve noticed that this time in prayer for my kids not only calms me and helps me to rest in Christ’s finished work on the Cross, it also changes my heart and attitude toward my kids, too. You see, I’m much more apt to respond to them in grace and love when I’ve just prayed that I can love them well and walk with them well! 😉

Here was another quote I loved that really impacted me and here was yet another quote. Suffice it to say, this such a good read and one that I highly, highly recommend!

Note: You can listen to the podcast episode the author and I did together here on The Secret to Being a Happier Mom.

2. Chasing Excellence

I randomly picked up this book called Chasing Excellence from a search on Amazon. I didn’t even know who Ben Bergeron was when I bought the book.

I just was so inspired by watching the athletes at the CrossFit Games that I went on Amazon and searched for, “CrossFit athletes”. It pulled up Tia-Clair Toomey’s book and then Chasing Excellence was recommended, too.

It’s rare that Amazon steers me really wrongly, so when I read the premise for Chasing Excellence and thought it sounded intriguing and worth reading, I bought the book.

Little did I know that this book was going to become the basis for my word for 2019!

This book was one of those that you wanted to read both quickly and slowly. Quickly, because you wanted to gobble it all up as it was so good. Slowly, because you wanted to savor it as it was so good and you didn’t want it to end.

For those who are unfamiliar with the author like I was, Ben Bergeron, is a coach to some of the world’s most well known CrossFit athletes. If you love CrossFit, you must read this book. But even if you don’t care a tiny bit about CrossFit, this book is packed with nuggets of truth and inspiration.

The entire time I was reading Chasing Excellence, I was so inspired and moved and challenged. And instinctively, I knew I wanted to pick the word EXCELLENCE for 2019.

But it also scared me a lot. Wouldn’t this go against everything I had been learning and growing in? Wasn’t my heart’s desire to continue to work on savoring life, not living life at breakneck speed, and not feeling like I needed to hustle and climb a ladder to success?

And yet, I couldn’t get this word out of my mind and heart. So I took September and October to mull over it.

I realized there were many areas in my life where I was settling for mediocrityI wasn’t intentionally pursuing excellence; I was just doing what I’d done for a long time because it was getting me by.

I had gotten stuck in a lot of ruts. They weren’t terrible ruts; but they were ruts and I wasn’t seeing a lot of forward momentum. I also wasn’t feeling super excited and motivated in many parts of my life — especially as a business owner, in some of my personal disciplines and habits, and when it came to growing as a person.

Yes, I wasn’t failing (in most areas). Yes, I was doing a decent job (in most areas).

But do I want to just do a decent job at life? Or do I want to pursue excellence?

Y’all, I want to pursue excellence. And so, it was decided: My word for 2019 is EXCELLENCE. And I’m really excited about it!

Note: Read more about why I chose the word excellence and how I want to walk it out in my life here.

3. Sacred Rest

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. It addresses rest from a very different perspective than other books I’ve read on this topic and I loved how it wasn’t just about getting more sleep or slowing down or taking a Sabbath.

This book is written by a doctor (Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith) and I thought the author’s medical background shed a lot of wisdom on the topic of rest and how being well rested impacts our lives.

However, what really stood out to me in this book was the author’s differentiation between the types of rest we need — physical rest, mental rest, emotional rest, spiritual rest, social rest, sensory rest, and creative rest. I had never heard rest and our need for the different kinds of rest broken into these categories and I found it very insightful.

In fact, it helped me to understand why I can feel drained sometimes — even if I’ve been getting plenty of sleep. I might not be rested in other areas such as getting creative rest or sensory rest or social rest.

And I loved the practical suggestions that the book gave for ways to recognize which kinds of rest you are lacking in and how to get more of each kind of rest in your life.

Note: Listen to the podcast episode I did with the author on The Real Reason You’re So Tired.

4. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

My friend, Melissa, gave me this book and said it had really impacted her life. I hadn’t heard of it before and wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it.

Then I started reading… and within a few chapters, I knew it was going to be one of those really life-changing books. The book is all about how our emotional and spiritual health are so tied together and how we often overlook this.

The author talks about how often we seem to think that our past and our baggage and all the things we try to pretend don’t exist or stuff down or not deal with won’t affect us in the long run… but it will!

There are so many things I gleaned from this book and so many sections that challenged me in deep ways. I feel like I will be processing its message for a long time to come.

One of the areas in the book that really encouraged me was to recognize how much the changes I’ve made in the last two years to slow down and savor life more. I realize how these changes have truly allowed me to become so much healthier as a person — physically, mentally, and spiritually.

There were numerous quotes that I loved from the book, but one that I shared on Instagram was this:

“True freedom comes when we no longer need to be somebody special in other people’s eyes because we know we are lovable and good enough.”

In Christ, we are enough. We are loved. We are redeemed. We are forgiven.

When we live in light of this truth, we can walk in amazing freedom and confidence — and we can love other people so much more deeply and authentically.

I’ll be back in the next week to share my list of 40 books I plan to read in 2019. Stay tuned!

What were YOUR favorite books from 2018? Any books you really think I should read in 2019? I’d love to hear! Tell us in the comments!

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48 Comments

  • Denise says:

    Your Goodreads profile is private :(.

    I’m with you. I use it to track and review books. I don’t really do much on there socially.

    But I’d love to be able to follow what you are reading!

  • Carrie says:

    I am a *huge* Pete Scazzero fan (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality). I’d HIGHLY recommend his podcasts if you aren’t already listening to them. He brings such a sense of calm into my world. I tremendously appreciate his insights.

  • Katie says:

    I am so glad you will be using Goodreads! I have enjoyed many of your recommendations from past years.

  • Bethany says:

    I mainly read fiction, so not sure if you’d enjoy my recommendations, but here are a few books I loved this year:
    -Beartown by Fredrik Bachman (contemporary lit)
    -Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins (women’s lit)
    -Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts (women’s lit/romance)
    -The Magedeline series by Kristen Ashley (romance)
    -Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas (YA Fantasy)

    My goal this year is to read at least 3 Stephen King novels.

  • Marisa Lucas says:

    I HIGHLY recommend “Sensible Shoes” by Sharon Garlough Brown. Its Christian fiction, but so many Biblical truths and Spiritual disciplines tucked in. “Sensible Shoes” is actually book 1 in a 4 part series. It was one of those that I wanted to just keep reading and not out down, but then found I really wanted to just mull over some of it. I read the whole series last year and plan to reread this year but more slowly and really taking the principles to heart. I havent read a book this good in years!

  • Laura says:

    I’ve been using Goodreads for a few years now and love it…not only to track my reading and be able to easily reference a book that I want to recommend to someone but also to keep my ongoing “want to read” list. I use to have lists everywhere of books that I wanted to read….on my phone, on amazon, etc. Now I always just add them to goodreads.
    One of my favorites from this year “I’m Still Here” by Austin Channing Brown

  • Carrie says:

    If you haven’t read The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais, I highly recommend it, especially since you have recently traveled to India! It was one of my favorite books I read this past year. Although I did enjoy the movie that is based on the book, the book is so much better!

  • Guest says:

    It’s so funny you say you didn’t read self-help books because I was just thinking that all four of your books are self-help books. Now I’m curious how you define self-help!

    My favorites from 2018:
    – A Gentleman in Moscow
    – The Awakening of Miss Prim
    – Almost Everything: Notes on Hope (note: Anne Lamott and I likely could not be more different politically and how we view many aspects of Christianity but I always learn so much from her books)
    – Simple Acts of Kindness: 500+ Ways to Make a Difference (a great way to generate ideas for us to serve others!)
    – Secret Daughter
    – An Irish Country Practice
    – The One-in-a-Million Boy
    – How to Find Love in a Bookshop

    All fiction but the Anne Lamott book and the Acts of Kindness book. Enjoyed them all for different reasons!

    • These were mostly in the Inspirational category. I decided to define them as any book that was categorized as self help on the back of the book (all books have a category on the back with their ISBN number) or any book that would put a burden on me to make me feel like I need to DO MORE, be more, etc. Mom Set Free, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and Sacred Rest were extremely grace-filled books. And Chasing Excellence was much more of a story-driven book.

      I hope that helps to clarify!

      • Guest says:

        That does help clarify, thank you! I look at any book that is specifically to help you grow/develop/solve personal problems, etc. as self-help and haven’t paid attention to formal categorization. That said, your definition of Inspiration absolutely makes sense – the desire to focus more on the being instead of the doing. Glad you found books that inspired and encouraged you without adding to the piles of “must-do” most of us put on ourselves already!

      • April says:

        I thought this too! All her books are self-help! Thanks for clarifying.

        I loved Lila by Marilynne Robinson.

  • Kristi says:

    I have broadened my reading selections by doing reading challenges. There are lots out there but I’m doing one by Modern Mrs. Darcy for the fourth year. She posts 12 categories of books for each year. A couple from this year include “a book from a genre you usually wouldn’t read” and “a book written before you were born.” It had forced me to read books I would have never read otherwise. Last year I completed it in July so I found another challenge and ended up reading 30 books.

  • I really liked Chasing Excellence too!

    My top nonfiction read was Everybody Always by Bob Goff. It was one of the books I read in 2018 that led me to choose the word Love as my word for 2019

    I read 2 what I would call autobiography style books that really got me thinking about forgiveness and love. One was The Waiting –oh WOW what an emotion-filled read, such a life, such a legacy.

    The other was The Shift, which is about a lady who gives up her six-figure business to serve the homeless of an area of Vancouver.

    One last book that I would say is in my top 4 for reads in 2019 is Under A Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry.

    If you like fiction that touches your heart and makes you think there are several books by Chris Fabry that do just that and Under A Cloudless Sky is certainly one of them.

    His books are often offered through My Reader Rewards.

    Sometimes he throws in stuff that seems a little off the storyline but all in all, I love the message of his books and the unexpected twists and turns they take. It is rare for me to find a fiction book that contains an ending I don’t expect–and Chris Fabry novels do that again and again.

    • I was halfway through Everybody Always when my audiobook loan was up on Libby. I hope to finish it this year! It WAS good!

    • Natasha says:

      Hi Victoria, I really enjoy reading autobiography-style books, but wasn’t able to find the two you mentioned here – could you please let me know the authors? Thank you,
      Natasha

      • Here are the full titles and authors.

        The Waiting: The True Story of A Lost Child, A Lifetime of Longing, and a Miricle For A Mother Who Never Gave Up by Cathy LaGrow

        The Shift: The True Story Of How One Businesswomen Left Everything Behind And Changed The Lives of Thousands by Maryanne Connor (this one is in Kindle Unlimited if you have a membership to it)

  • Melissa says:

    I read a fairly diverse selection of books, and I think a few of them that I adored, probably aren’t books that you would enjoy – but some of the books that I would endorse are:

    -Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis) – one of my personal favorites, I recommend it to everyone.
    -The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
    -The Year of Less – Cait Flanders
    -Church of the Small Things – Melanie Shankle

  • Anna says:

    I really want to read Mom Set Free now! It looks so good!

  • Laura S says:

    Crystal I have been waiting years (8 maybe?) for you to join goodreads! Your book recommendations (from your blog) were some of the first titles on my to-read list. 😉

  • Natasha says:

    I love most of your book recommendations and they usually go straight onto my want-to-read list (on Goodreads or otherwise, haha).

    Some of my favorite recent reads include:
    – Passport through darkness by Kimberly L. Smith *a hard read, but worth it!
    – The worn out woman by Dr. Steve Stephens & Alice Gray
    – Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? by Eugene Cho

    My top-5 life-changing books EVER! (that I just have to recommend to everyone)
    – Too small to ignore: why children are the next big thing by Wess Stafford
    – Under the overpass: a journey of faith on the streets of America by Mike Yankoski
    – Walking miracle by Art Sanborn *impacted my faith hugely
    – The book that transforms nations by Loren Cunningham
    – Eternity in their hearts by Don Richardson *an oldie, but so so fascinating!

    Also, I’m not sure if your kids might be interested, Sweep by Jonathan Auxier is a YA novel that is being highly recommended by Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival.

    • I LOVED The Worn Out Woman. It’s been awhile since I’ve read it. Thank you for the reminder of that book — and thank you so much for all of these other great recommendations!

  • Deanna says:

    I read the biography The Lady of Arlington last year. So good. I knew nothing about Robert E. Lee let along his wife, Mary. She was one strong lady.

    LOVED Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus and Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. They were both eye opening – learned so much about the Bible.

    Different by Sally Clarkson was encouraging. Also enjoyed her book Own Your Life.

    I read a few marriage books – Marriage by Paul David Tripp was my fav.

    Just Mercy was a good/hard read.

    I really enjoyed most of the books I read this year. I went back at re-read some children’s literature I enjoyed as a kid and that was a lot of fun. I think they were better than I remembered!

  • Rachael says:

    My three fav books last year were

    * Walk to beautiful by country singer Jimmy Wayne
    (he lives in Nashville and is a motivational speaker also. He grew up in the foster care system…defiantly insightful and worth the read).

    * Mom Set Free ( as per your recommendation)

    * Before we were yours – Lisa Wingate

    Sooooooo excited to have you on goodreads! I always am adding books from what you have read to my ‘to read list’.
    I couldn’t see what books your planning on reading though…have you added anything?

  • JJ says:

    Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic

    This book is so practical and lays out real-life examples from real families who applied principles taught in this book. I’ve already seen it positively change my parenting and my children’s responses to me!!! I feel like I’m winning the hearts of my children without wanting to bash my head against a wall. When I was real and raw with a friend about my insecurities of motherhood and the current struggles, she asked if I had read this. I’m not done reading it, but it has already been a game-changer in our family!!!

  • Wendy Gunn says:

    Crystal, I really like Good Reads, too, and it helps me stay caught up with the many titles I’m currently reading. I love the above quote you mentioned, “We do our best parenting through prayer,” and find it more true now that we have grown children, even, then when our children were small. Blessings, Wendy

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