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My Top 20 Favorite Reads in 2012

As most of you know, I love to read. I learn so much through books. Some books challenge my worldview and beliefs. Other books inspire me to be more intentional in how I live my life. Some books I read just because I enjoy a great story. And some books are a mix of all three things!

I was excited to have read over 130 books in 2012. My goal was to read 125 books, so I’m pretty stoked to have passed the goal by a little bit. Of course, it helps that I include ebooks and audiobooks on the list, too, though! 😉

(For those of you wondering about when I have time to read, you can check out these posts: Q&A: How Do You Find Time to Read?, Change Your Life and Challenge Your Mind By Making Time for Reading Good Books, and 7 More Ways to Find Time to Read.)

Since I’m always looking for great books to add to my to-read list, I thought I’d share my top favorite 20 books read in 2012 for those of you who are making a list of books you want to read in 2013 — or who are just always on the lookout for good book recommendations!

In the next few days, I’ll also be sharing my list of 24 books I plan to read in 2013, too. Stay tuned for that!

Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro

I’m not even sure where I heard about this book, but I somehow stumbled upon the title and thought it looked intriguing so I requested it from the library. I’m so glad I did as I found it to be highly encouraging and insightful. Even though Wayne is a pastor and much of what he shared was from the experience of leading a congregation, I felt the principles would be applicable to most anyone in a leadership position.

Wayne shares candidly about his own experiences with burn out and exhaustion — how the downward spiral happened, when he finally realized that he’d hit bottom, and the measures he’s taken to recover and aim to prevent future burn out. One of the most helpful exercises I found in the book was to make a list of what energizes you and what drains you. In doing this, I realized that I was doing too much that was draining me and not enough that was energizing me. As a result, I’ve made some changes in my day-to-day life to provide a better balance and to make sure that I’m refilling my tank on a regular basis.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

I kept hearing great things about this book. The title alone was enough to have me intrigued, but the rave reviews convinced me to buy a copy. And I’m so glad I did. Jen Hatmaker is an engaging, funny, and convicting author. This book chronicles her seven month seven-things experiment. Each month, she chose a different area to focus on and then pared down the excess in that area.

For instance, the first month, her focus was food. So she limited herself to just eating seven different things during that 30-day period. Yes, only seven foods. The second month she only wore seven items of clothing for the 30-day period. And so on.

Try to step back and just think for a minute what it would be like to only eat seven things or only wear seven clothing items for 30 days. For more of us, that seems almost impossible to even imagine. And yet, think how many millions of people around the world would consider it a luxury to have a choice of seven different foods each meal or seven different clothing items.

Jen didn’t set out on this experiment just to have great book subject matter; she did this seven month experiment because she wanted to challenge her own long-ingrained entitlement mentality. In this book, she writes candidly about her experiences–victories, failures, and hilarious stories along the way!–in order to challenge others to take a step back and really examine our own hearts when it comes to needs versus wants and what truly matters in life.

The book is thought-provoking, for sure, but it’s not guilt-invoking. And it’s well worth the read.

From Dust and Ashes: A Story of Liberation by Tricia Goyer

I met Tricia Goyer at a MomLife event in January of this year. I’d heard of her before, but I’d never read anything she’d written. We talked books a little and I confessed to her that I didn’t like fiction.

She suggested that I just try reading this book anyway. Because I respected her as a person and really enjoyed spending time with her at the event, I went ahead and read this book. To my great surprise, I really, really loved this book. In fact, I couldn’t put it down!

As is evidenced by my list of books read in 2012, I’ve sort of changed my longheld stance on fiction this year. 😉 And I have Tricia Goyer and this book to thank.

Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free by Amy Lynn Andrews

I re-read this ebook again a few months ago and was re-inspired all over again by it. If you’re struggling with your schedule and time management, I’d highly recommend this ebook. It’s a quick and thought-provoking read that packs a punch.

Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen

It took me a few tries to really get into this book. In fact, I didn’t think that I was going to like it after reading the first two chapters. But I’m glad I persevered, because I ended up really being blessed and inspired by it.

This book is the story and Jennie and her family’s bold prayer that they would do anything, go anything, and give up anything that God called them to. In many ways, I could relate, because that’s been my prayer over the last two years and it’s meant going and doing many things I felt very inadequate to be going and doing (hello, public speaking and media!). However, there has been so much blessing in following God’s call in my life and in being willing to trust Him for one step at a time.

I appreciated Jennie’s authenticity in sharing about the struggles that resulted. Saying “yes” to God didn’t mean that life was smooth sailing. In fact, they experienced some of the roughest waters in their marriage, home, and family. But, as she shares in the book, it was worth it.

Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola

While not the most compelling fiction story ever, I found this quiet story very inspirational as a mother and homeschooler. Karen Andreola shares how to weave in nature study as part of your everyday life. She leaves you wanting to read classic literature to your children and feeling excited about living a lifestyle filled and brimming full with rich creativity and learning alongside your children.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins

I discovered Jeff Goins earlier this year and have since read three of his books. He is inspirational, creative, and thought-provoking — and an excellent writer, to boot.

Wrecked resonated with me on a deep level. Probably because much of the story is similar to my own story from the last few years. God has shattered my once-fiercely-held package of legalistic beliefs and has been knitting the pieces back together into something that is much different than I ever imagined — but something much more beautiful and whole than I ever was before.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff

I’m not even sure where I first saw Love Does mentioned. I think it may have been one that Amazon recommended I’d be interested in, based upon other books I’d purchased from them in the past. Wherever it was, the first time I saw the book, the title and description immediately drew me in. And so, in an uncharacteristic move, I bought the book.

I’m so glad I did. Bob Goff is a unique, one-of-a-kind man. You’ll pick up on that just by reading the introduction. He loves life, he loves people, and he’s not afraid of outlandishness or extravagance when it comes to showing love to others. His big heart is contagious.

I often plow through books at a very rapid pace. But I slowly worked my way through Love Does, often reading just a few pages or less at a time. I was touched, inspired, challenged, convicted, and blessed.

Loving others isn’t just words we say; it’s the life we live. It’s giving of ourselves, it’s bringing joy to others, it’s being available to others, it’s dropping everything to be involved in others’ lives. It’s caring, it’s giving, and it’s sometimes doing crazy stuff, all because we love someone else.

If you have a chance to read Love Does, I’d highly recommend it. You might not agree with all of the finer points of Bob’s theology and you might think he’s a bit over-the-top, but I can almost guarantee you can’t help but be challenged to examine how you love others.

Try Giving Yourself Away by David Dunn

My mom picked up this book at a thrift store a number of months ago and loaned it to me. I was so motivated to look for and take advantage of opportunities to bless others in simple, practical ways. Just taking a few minutes to drop an email or pick up the phone or say an encouraging word to someone can often mean a great deal–and you’ll likely find that you’re blessed in seeking to be a blessing!

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not a book with lots of practical, hands-on advice, but it’s a book the deals with the heart issues we moms face.

I didn’t agree with the author on all points (I’m not really sure that I ever do, though!) and think we have to be careful when reading parenting books because what works for one family or one child isn’t necessarily what will or should work for another family or child. That said, I was convicted, and inspired by Loving the Little Years.

It made me really step back and re-examine my own heart and how I am responding to and discipling my children on a daily basis. Sometimes, it’s easier (in the moment) to just slap band-aids and quick fixes onto behavior and attitude issues, instead of really taking the time to deal with the heart issues and struggles our children are facing.

Loving the Little Years challenges moms to really delve down to the heart of the matter. As the author says, “The state of your heart is the state of your home.”

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa Terkeurst

I’m pretty sure I’ve been living under a rock for years because Unglued is the first book by Lysa TerKeurst that I’ve read. And now I know why everyone loves her so much and what I’ve been missing out on for so long!

Lysa is real, she’s Southern (bless her heart!), and she calls it like she sees it. After you read her book, you just want to invite her over for a big glass of sweet tea and some girl talk. Because Lysa gets you. She doesn’t pretend to have her act together (I almost laughed aloud while reading about the missing toilet seat!) and her authenticity gives you hope and inspiration.

It just so happens that I read Unglued during a month where there were many extra burdens heaped on my shoulders — things I didn’t have control over and couldn’t just run away from, even though there were times when I really wanted to!

It’s easy to be all calm and smiles when life is going smoothly. But how do you respond when your boat is rocked and life is in upheaval? I got a whiff of just how much I need to work on patience as a result of some of that this month. It was humbling to have to go back and ask forgiveness from my husband and children time and again as I lost my temper or reacted out of frustration.

So Lysa’s words and encouragement couldn’t have come at a better time. I found it so beneficial to think through how I respond in different situations (Do I react? Or do I stuff? Or do I explode? Or somewhere in between?) and to seek the Lord to help me become more and more the woman who doesn’t come unglued in the midst of tumultuous times. I’m far from there, but it’s something that I’m working on — thanks to Lysa’s encouragement.

Energy Explosion: A 7-Day Guide to Jumpstart Your Energy by Arabah Joy

Are you feeling weary, exhausted, and burnt out? Could you use a shot of energy? Energy Explosion is a 7-day guide to help you jumpstart your energy. I purchased it a number of months ago, read it while walking on the treadmill, and loved it! (Do I get extra points for multi-tasking while exercising?! ;) )

It’s a quick read, it has lots of great suggestions, and Arabah is very inspirational in how she walks you through steps to achieve more energy. I love how she addresses exhaustion from the spiritual, emotional, and physical standpoint, and gives you very practical things you can do immediately to boost your energy levels.

You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be by Holly Gerth

A friend and I read through this together and I was so blessed by it. So much of the time, it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up when we see other women who are so talented and gifted, fit, beautiful… you fill in the blank. But the truth is, God has uniquely gifted us and created each of us in His image.

This book gives Christian women a much-needed reminder of who we are in Christ and how we need to walk in the confidence we have been given in Christ — instead of feeling insecure and inadequate because it seems like we don’t measure up to someone else.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

Since getting up early has made such a difference in my life, I was especially excited to read Laura Vaderkam’s ebook, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. It’s a short read, but packed with lots of inspiration as to how to use your mornings well.

It’s not enough to get up early, though, you also need to make sure that you wisely prioritize your time and energy in the early morning hours so that it effectively benefits your day — and your life. In this ebook, Laura shares a peek into the lives of some very successful people — and how they are structuring their lives to make the most of the morning hours. What works for them might not work for you, but I promise you’ll be inspired to make the most of your mornings — whether or not you are an early riser.

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

I read Choosing Gratitude when I was dealing with some really difficult and incessant allergy issues. It really helped me see how I was focusing on the things I was struggling with, instead of choosing to be thankful. And not only that, but I felt so convicted at how I was griping over something so petty.

Sure, allergies are no fun (as I’m positive many of you can attest to), but seasonal allergies pale in comparison to some of the life-threatening, debilitating, and/or overwhelmingly incomprehensible issues so many people are facing right now. And I have much to be grateful for — much that I’ve been taking for granted while I was having a pity-party for myself.

Because of Nancy’s encouragement through Choosing Gratitude, I started a Gratitude Journal and I’ve challenged myself to make a daily habit of waking up each morning and starting my day by filling out an entire notebook page with things I’m thankful for.

At first, it seemed rather daunting — especially since I’ve gotten out of the exercise of journaling the past few years. But you know what I found as the days went on? The notebook page started feeling smaller and smaller each morning!

There’s something about starting the day with counting your blessings that just helps change your whole attitude about the day. And the more I’m focusing on my blessings, the less my allergies and health issues seemed to matter. {By the way: I am so, so grateful to report that, after months of struggling, we’ve finally gotten to the bottom of the allergy issues and I’ve been almost pain and symptom free for the past two months! God is good!}

The Bootstrap VA: The Go-Getter’s Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant, Getting and Keeping Clients, and More! by Lisa Morosky

I cannot tell you how often I hear from people asking how they can start working online as a virtual assistant. On the flipside, I know there is a ripe market out there of online business owners who are desperate to hire good virtual assistants — I get emails from them all the time!

The problem is, most people who want to be virtual assistants, don’t know how to get started and find jobs. And most business owners who want to hire virtual assistants don’t know where to look to find good help. That’s why I am so excited about Lisa Morosky’s ebook, The Bootstrap VA. It has everything you ever needed to know about getting started working as a virtual assistant.

And when I say “everything”, I mean it. Lisa left no stone unturned in her ebook. She’s honest about the challenges, she shares many tricks and tips to getting good virtual assistant jobs and keeping them, and she also includes numerous extra links if you want to do additional research on any subject.

One of the things that I loved best was that Lisa interviewed a number of people who work as virtual assistants and those who have hired virtual assistants to share both sides and what others have found works best. There are all sorts of nuggets of wisdom in those interviews!

It’s not often that I get really, really excited about an ebook and it’s even less often that I give an ebook five stars. But I’d give Lisa’s ebook six stars out of five. It’s that thorough, well-written, and just plain excellent.

If you’re considering becoming a virtual assistant, if you’d like to hire a virtual assistant, or you or anyone you know has any interest at all in anything to do with becoming a virtual assistant, please do yourself a favor and get a copy of this ebook.

What The Most Successful People Do On the Weekends by Laura Vanderkam

This is another thought-provoking ebook by Laura Vanderkam challenging you to consider how you’re using your weekends. It’s not necessarily about packing your weekends full, but about being intentional to plan ahead and use them well — and not to just let them slip away with nothing to show for them.

This ebook profiles a number of busy executives and shares how they plan down time, family time, and refueling time for the weekends so that they can be productive during the week. Packed with good ideas and food for thought.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace by Jan Johnson

I loved this book. The cover and layout have an instantly calming effect and the author did a great job of challenging you to consider the rhythms of your life and whether they are in sync with the priorities you want to have.

She encourages you to not just strip your life of all the non-essentials and pare down to the basics, but instead to really examine why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you own what you own, and why you’re leading the lifestyle you are. This book is deep, rich, and soul-stirring.

The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg

I can’t believe it took me so long to “discover” John Ortberg. He’s a fantastic writer — profound, engaging, and funny. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this book wins the award for the “most passages read aloud to Jesse”. It was too good to keep to myself so I had to keep sharing parts of it with Jesse! I’m looking forward to reading more John Ortberg books in 2013.

The Redemption Series by Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley

At the recommendation of many friends, I read the first book in this series… and well, that was the end of that. 🙂 While parts of the series are a bit of a stretch (but that’s part of the fun of fiction, right?), these books are well-written, compelling, heart-rending, and filled with powerful messages of the redemption that can be found in the midst of the brokenness of this world.

What were your favorite reads from 2012? Tell us about them in the comments!

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  • I’ve been thinking about this, too! The ones I most loved on your list were Jen Hatmaker’s 7 and Laura Vanderkam’s 2 books. On my own list, Susan Cain’s Quiet was my very favorite.

    130 books is impressive! Way to go, Crystal!

  • Marija says:

    “The Book that Made Your World” is my favorite book of the year by far! So eye-opening!

  • Emily says:

    I read 43 books in 2012…thanks to your encouragement! I enjoyed nearly every book I read and am quite proud of myself for reading so much. It was also a lot of fun to keep track of all my reading. Here’s the final list:

  • 130 books is amazing! I’m just finishing up a post on the TWO books I read during December, and I was happy about those! Thanks for the list…I added several books to my wish list.

  • Laureen E. says:

    Oh I love the Karen Kingsbury stuff, you must read on though and finish the series! Glad to hear your recommendations, I’ll be checking those out!

  • Chantelle says:

    Thanks for your list! I loved 7, Pinecones and Ortbergs book! You’ll also enjoy his book called “When the Game is over it all Goes Back in the Box” (or something like that). Great writer. A couple I read this year that you might also enjoy are Momma’s Bank Account and The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio. Great books. Also Under the Overpass. I read that right after 7. Great follow up read.

    • Nichole D. says:

      I also loved the book The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio and then if you like movies I’d suggest the movie. Great story!

  • Lisa says:

    I love John Ortbeg! My favorite John Ortberg book is “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Gotta Get Out of the Boat”. I HIGHLY recommend it. It is probably his most humorous book but has a terrific message.

  • Amy says:

    Favorites from this year: The First Born Advantage, Genesis of a Legacy, Kisses from Katie, A Wife After God’s Own Heart, Unplanned, How to Lead Your Child to Christ (Ray Comfort), Radical, The Measure of a Heart, The New Birth Order Book, and Of Plymouth Plantation.

  • Kristin says:

    I love this kind of post! It’s so much fun to get inspiration from other people’s reading lists. I have a similar post up today with some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) reads from the past year:

    • Kimber says:

      Thanks for sharing! I looked over your list and made a few online library requests. :o) And it’s funny – I just finished the Emily series. I love those books! And if you’d like a recommendation from a total stranger … I highly recommend the book “An Old-Fashioned Girl” by Louisa May Alcott. If you love the Anne books, I think you’ll love this one. 🙂

  • Trish says:

    I kept coming back to Unglued all year last year. I am so glad you loved that one. As I was doing my 2013 list earlier today it went on it.

    And I LOVED You’re Already Amazing too. What a great heartfelt read.
    Platform was a great book that I read this last year.

  • Victoria says:

    I loved reading the redemption series it was one of the first fiction series I read after years of non fiction. I read it at a time in my life where I just wanted to escape from reality from time to time. Some of it though hit a little too close to home so I remember bawling through a few chapters of each one, but it was good to have that release too. I want to read “7” I have read so many good reviews on it.

  • Brandi says:

    I just pinned all the ones I want to read this year, thanks for the list!

  • Becky says:

    What Women Fear by Angie Smith. (I actually read it last year I think.) She is, my far, one of the most gifted authors I have ever read, and I am really picky! And she’s very genuine.

  • Steph says:

    Thanks to you this year I also made my own reading list; while I didn’t read every single book I originally planned, I did manage to read 35 books. I just posted a few of my favorites today on my blog.

  • A couple of my favorites made the list. Love Does, Unglued…I have Choosing Gratitude by my nightstand. I believe The Circle Maker released last year, but that book is a must-read. 🙂

  • Samantha says:

    I LOVE The Heavenly Man and From Dust and Ashes!! A few of my favorites is Things We Couldn’t Say by Diet Eman (Memoir of a Christian Dutch resistance member) I also loved Night Song by Tricia Goyer.

  • Becky says:

    Most thought-provoking book I read this year: Letters From A Martyred Christian (by H.L. Hussmann) — I highly recommend it. Two ebooks that weren’t at all what I expected but did help me process things I’d been thinking about: The Happy Housewife (Elizabeth Baker) and Holy Parenting (Benjamin Kerns). That last one could’ve used a bit more editing, and I found plenty I didn’t agree with, but a few major points from the book have been marinating in my brain in the two months since I read it.

    Again, I highly highly highly recommend Letters From A Martyred Christian. Really. If you’re reading this comment, you should go to Amazon right now and order it (hardcover or Kindle).

  • Arabah Joy says:

    Wow! What a great list and I was so surprised to see EE on there 🙂 I have so appreciated your free eBooks links and use it ALOT to find great stuff! Also, Choosing Gratitude is one of my favorite books. Can’t wait to read some great books in 2013!

  • Thanks so much for sharing these! I couldn’t even get through the list before downloading a few on my Kindle.
    Probably one of the most inspiring and faith-encouraging books I’ve read is “Evidence Not Seen” by Darlene Deibler Rose. A true story that can’t help but impact the way you look at your life and your faith.

  • Tanya B. says:

    The best books I read this year were by Dan Walsh. The first book he wrote was “The Unfinished Gift” and it was FABULOUS!! I couldn’t put it down! The second book is a follow up to the first and is called “The Homecoming.” I highly recommend them and everything else he’s written!

  • Thanks so much for this list! I had been eagerly awaiting it ever since you mentioned it would be a part of your end of the year posts. I am definitely adding some of these to my to read list. Starting with Unglued..tried the sample of it tonight read a couple pages and immediately purchased : ) My favorite book this year was A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker. Excellent read from a momma about faith and her transformation after her first child is born with Down Syndrome. 28 Days to Timeliness was my favorite practical get it together book. Excitedly looking forward to your 2013 reading list! (And looking forward to any and all new books from you coming out in 2013). Thanks so much for all you do!

  • Donna Plott says:

    The Circlemaker Mark Batterson

  • VelmaD says:

    I love reading, too, and you’ve definitely added to my list. I just requested Unglued and downloaded John Ortberg’s book from my local library, but several others also caught my attention. Great food for my too early, too often mornings. Thanks!!

  • Tabitha says:

    It’s hard to pick my favorite book because each one had insight and knowledge but to pick my top 5 they’d be: Organized Simplicity, 10 Habits of a Happy Mom, God’s Guest List, A Love that Multiplies, and Unglued.
    By chance, will you be doing a review of your favorite children’s books you’ve read this year? I’m making a list to read to my son and would love some more ideas!! 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks so much… i look forward to adding many of these to my reading list for 2013. i enjoyed Kisses from Katie, and all of Andy Andrews books!

  • Kellie says:

    oh my! i had a goal of 15 books and i think i might be one or two away and i thought that was alot! lol *gulp* i wish i could read that much! I love to read!

  • Lori says:

    Wow, 130 books in a year! I also love to read and look forward to being more intentional about it in 2013. Where do you download your audiobooks from and from where do you listen to them (iphone, etc.)? They are so expensive on Itunes. Thanks.

  • Beth says:

    I also read Unglued, and I think that was in my top two favorites for 2012. My other favorite was The Traveler’s Gift.

  • Two books I would highly recommend – Timothy & Kathy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. My husband and I wrote and led a Bible study to go along with it and the book itself is so different than most marriage books we’ve read. It is not a checklist, this is what you should do type marriage book but rather a this is what marriage ought to be kind of book.

    I also very much enjoyed The Cure: What if God isn’t who you think He is and neither are you? Being a person who is always wanting to please God and “work” at making my life better it was very refreshing to read. It includes a fictional character to help you walk through the points the authors are trying to make. Very easy to read but challenging to my thought process.


    • Monica says:

      Two of my favorite books from the last year are “To Destroy You is no Loss” (a true story of a Cambodian family during the time of the Khmer Rouge) and “The Pursuit of Elizabeth Millhouse” by Amanda Barber. Amanda is a new author and this is her first book to be published. . .it is an excellent read!!

  • aprild says:

    As an educator with a new curriculum this year I’ve not been able to get in any additional reading for myself; we’ve been reading plenty with my school aged daughter. I was just curious as to what was your allergy trigger. My husband has been battling some allergy issues the last few months and we’re starting to think its food related.

    Thanks for a great list. I keep a database of books I want to read so when I do have time I go to my list and try and check one of them out at our local library.

    • Crystal says:

      I have both indoor and outdoor allergies that were so severe they ended up causing issues with many different things health-wise. It took a number of visits to the allergist, dermatologist, and ENT, but we finally got it all sorted out and I am so thankful. I’d highly recommend visiting an allergist, if you haven’t already. I also found the ENT to to be invaluable.

    • Lora says:

      I’ve had indoor and outdoor allergies since childhood, and these had steadily worsened until, at 29, I was miserable most of the time. Then, in January 2012, I took gluten out of my diet and not only did my aches and pains disappear (I had suspected gluten was causing those), but my allergies disappeared. My eyes itched for a total of 3 days this year, while everyone around me was saying it was the worst year yet. We’ll see what happens this year, but I am quite certain that my allergies were food-linked.

  • I also love to read and have no clue how many books I read in 2012, but there are a few that stuck with me. I should totally steal your idea and do my top favorite reads. LOL! 🙂

  • Jillian Kay says:

    Thanks for the list. I haven’t read any of these.

    I think my favorite fiction of the year was The Book Thief and my favorite non-fiction was Quiet. I say I think because I haven’t done a great job of keeping track.

  • Amy says:

    I love to read and would read more, but how do you get access to so many books? I can’t buy that many, I don’t have an ereader, and our library never has any of these. It’s small and the selection is very limited. They don’t do interlibrary loan. Any suggestions?

    • Megan gerrity says:

      Wow. What state are you in? I go to my library weekly. I had no idea there were areas of this country that did not have great library resources. Can you do paperback book There you can trade books for just the cost of media mail. With swagbucks you could accumulate enough amazon for an ereader pretty fast. Maybe start a reading club in your town 12 people each buy 1 book and each month you meet discuss and trade. For the cost of 1 you get to read 12.

    • Lora says:

      An out-of-town friend and I use media mail to send books to each other, which keeps the cost very low. We always check with one another before purchasing a new book just to make sure that the other doesn’t already have it. I also put the word out years ago that I will always accept used books if someone is cleaning out. This not only gives me lots of reading material, but it gives me a stack of books to post on paperbackswap. I don’t often find books for myself on paperbackswap, but I find many books for my children on the site.

  • jo says:

    Wayne Cordeiro – great pastor and very funny guy – newhope Oahu.
    Bob Goff – Love Does- Just finished the book last week. And just saw him, he’s very funny and real. I passed this book along to my dad and will have him pass it back to my teenagers to read.
    Can’t wait to check out your list. Thanks!

  • Thanks for this list! I’ve been seeing “7” everywhere lately – it’s definitely going on my January book list! I had a goal of reading 24 books this year, and I read 19. Even though most books I read weren’t on my book list, I got a great mix. I read some theology, some historical fiction, some autobiographies, and some financial/home management books. In 2013 I want to still read 24 books, but this year I’m only going to plan 12 of them so I don’t feel bad about skipping scheduled ones to read new recommendations or books I find at the library. 🙂

  • Blessed Mama says:

    My very favorite books- that I read and reread all throughout the year! Such inspirations. These stay in my favorite book basket in my living room, so I can have access to them to reread frequently- that is how much they bless me to read!

    Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life (if you need encouragment for the value of homemaking, this book is awesome!)
    Money Secrets of the Amish (The Amish are AMAZING examples of being good stewards of the money God has blessed them with. This book greatly inspires me to not need so many things or to spend so much money. I love this book!)
    Simplicity Parenting (my FAVORITE parenting book- just love this one!)
    Home Economics: Vintage Advice for the 21st century household
    Money Saving Mom’s Budget by Crystal Paine (the best MOST practical $ book)
    Money, Possesions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn (great encouragement for storing up your treasures in heaven.)
    Created for Work (a book written for boys, but inspires me as a homemaking to do my very best)
    The Joy of Less
    Organized Simplicity: The Clutter Free Approach to Intentional Living
    Living Simply with Children
    Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life
    A Woman After God’s Own Heart
    Fascinating Womanhood (my FAVORITE wife book ever, and wonderful for encouraging women to be more feminine…and what that actually looks like. super practical book)
    Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping Home

  • Mary says:

    Hi Crystal,
    As I was looking through this book list, I was checking the prices of some of them and discovered that the Kindle version of Love Does is only 1.99 right now. Just thought some of your readers might be interested. (And thanks for the list… I’ve read many of your recommendations except the fiction ones because I’m not too interested in fiction, but maybe I’ll have to give it a try).

  • Tracy Hartmann says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your list! There are many titles on there that I need to try and read this year.
    The book that had the most meaning and helped me the most was Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst. I too, had never read her books before but a friend on Facebook recommended. Its changed my life and how I parent my children. I have the verse “Let your gentleness be evident to all” on a post-it-note in my kitchen as a reminder of how God calls me to act, talk, think.
    I also read “The Friendship of Women” by Dee Brestin and it helped me better understand the dynamics of friendships, their importance and how to be a good friend.

  • Megan says:

    My goal for 2012 was 24. I did about 3o. Many recomendations from you and one by you wink. Why wouldn’t ereaders and audios count? My goal for 2013 is 40. I have 2 recommendations – first is the app goodreads. I love tracking what I’m reading and keeping track of recommendations and even finding recommendations. 2 is an older book and harder to find but The Snake Has All the Lines by jean Kerr. It’s hilarious and what amazed me was it was written 50 years ago.

  • Heather says:

    I have been reading a lot this year also. I am loving the books on your list and will reading some next year. My favorite books this year were Crazy Love ( I am not sure who wrote it and it is not new but I loved it) and Messy Church by Ross Parsley. Thanks to you I have been inspired to read more books of intent. Can’t wait to see what is on next years list.

    • Angela says:

      Crazy Love was written by Francis Chan. It is a terrific book. A book goup that I belonged to at my church read the book. There is also a DVD based on the book that can be used for a small group.

  • Jamie says:

    Wow, 130 books is amazing. I can’t imagine that! I’m working on putting together my 2012 “finished” list up and I was excited about 20 or so! Way to go. My favorite books this year were “The Knowledge of the Holy” by AW Tozer (changed my life forever), “Living a Life of Fire” by Reinhard Bonnke, and The Circle Maker and Draw the Circle, both by Mark Batterson. Highly recommend them all.

  • Mama Murrey says:

    Blessing Your Spirit, by Arthur Burk. I thought it sounded strange, but decided to give it a try, and my life began to change! I try to read it aloud to my children each morning. It changes the atmosphere of our home, makes it more peaceful. My three-year-old son ASKS me to read this aloud to them.

    • Jamie says:

      Mama Murrey, I keep hearing about “Blessing Your Spirit” at my church. Haven’t read it yet but maybe I should! My spiritual mama and daddy just rave about it. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!

  • Sarah N. says:

    I highly recommend Amanda Barber’s book, The Pursuit of Elizabeth Millhouse. You can get it on Kindle too.

  • Claudia Matei says:

    Wow that’s impressive! My goal was 12, one a month and I nearly didn’t make it. I just finished my 12th book about a week ago. Go you!!! I’m still going to shoot for 12 next year since I know that there’s no way I’ll ever read 130 in a year haha 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Based on your review of “Love Does”, I HIGHLY recommend the book “Loving the Way Jesus Loves” by Phil Ryken. We are going through it in our Bible study group and every single chapter leaves me feeling convicted!

  • Michelle says:

    I’m not sure how many books I read this year but two really stand out. Kisses from Katie was an thought provoking and a real tear jerker. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, however, was one of those books that, after you read it, will stay with you forever. It’s the true life story of Lois Zamperini, Olympic runner and WW 2 POW.

  • Kim J says:

    I didn’t keep track (but I need to because I checked out a couple of books right before Christmas that I had already read) but I average 2-3 a week. Just to name a few… I read a lot of Jeannette Oke, several Amish-based series and several from the Tales From Grace Chapel series by Guidepost. I just finished reading Todd Burpo’s “Heaven is For Real” for the 2nd time and have Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven” on hold at the library that I will pick up this afternoon.

    Have added quite a few of the books listed here and I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone has on their list for next year!!!

  • lori says:

    Hi! Thought I’d mention that a few of Crystal’s books are available for FREE – $3.79 (kindle version) today on Amazon: Love Does $1.99, Unglued $3.79, Tell Your Time FREE!

  • Hannah says: is a great and easy way to organize the books you’ve read and want to read 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    I love this list and put a few on my list for 2013. I just finished reading a book called Providence, I think I got it from your other site. It was SOOOOO good. Oh I just loved it, I think you would like it too Crystal. Well written, great story line, well developed characters. It was so good, and I am a bit of a book snob 🙂

    Here is the link for it:

  • tracy says:

    If there was 1 book I would recommend it would definitely be: “the devil in pew number 7” you might need Kleenex and you probably won’t be able to put it down. happy reading

  • KimH says:

    I really appreciate your book lists.. Its always interesting to see what someone is reading and why. Over the past 2 years I’ve gotten some really great ones from your list. Thanks so much.

  • Florence says:

    This is a link to my Goodreads list of the 77 books that I read in 2012. Most have a brief review and rating.
    I am truly impressed by Crystal’s reading 125 books in 2012. Well done!

  • Marianne says:

    I first discovered John Ortberg with The Life You’ve Always Wanted, too. I’d studied spiritual disciplines before, but Ortberg made the subject so much more accessible, and I love how honest he is about his own struggles.

    I’ve also been wanting to read Love Does after listening to and reading an interview with Bob Goff from Relevant magazine/podcast. I clicked through from the article, and it’s only $1.99 on Kindle right now, so it’s a great time to snag it!

  • Mary Ellen says:

    Favorites this year:

    1. “Life is So Good” by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman – Wow! What an inspiring story of a man who learned to read at age 99.

    2. “The Kitchen House” – We read this in Book Club and everyone loved it. It is historical fiction.

    3. Anything by John Hart. He won TWO Edgar Awards. He is an amazing writer with three outstanding books published. My favorite would have to be “The Last Child.”

    4. “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. An eye-opening book about studies that have been published regarding children and success.

    5. “Learned Optimism” by Seligman – very lengthy and at first tedious read, but well worth the effort to understand what optimism is, what the benefits of optimism are and how to change your outlook on life to a more optimistic one.

    6. “While We’re Far Apart” by Lynn Austin – I really thought this book had great characters and a great story to tell.

    7. “The Outsiders” by SE Hinton – An oldie, and a classic, but a goodie. “Stay golden, Pony boy.”

    • Crystal says:

      I’m in the middle of my first Lynn Austin book and enjoying it a lot!

      • Carrie says:

        Lynn Austin is a great author–I just discovered her last year. So far I’ve read Wonderland Creek and A Proper Pursuit, and am have started Candle in the Darkness. (I received the other two books in the Refiner’s Fire series for Christmas.) And I have one or two of her others on my Kindle. 🙂 I also discovered Tricia Goyer this year, thanks to you! I read The Swiss Courier and Chasing Mona Lisa and loved them both. Hoping to read more of her books this year!

        Thanks for sharing your list . . . I was inspired by you and read more this year than I have for a while (45 books, and might finish 46 before the new year :)). Looking forward to another great year of reading in 2013!!

      • Mary Ellen says:

        This post within your blog reminds me of a poem my Emily Dickenson:

        There is no frigate like a book

        To take us lands away,

        Nor any coursers like a page

        Of prancing poetry.

        This traverse may the poorest take

        Without oppress of toll;

        How frugal is the chariot

        That bears a human soul!

  • Heather says:

    Thanks to your suggestions – I have read a few of these books – 7, Love Does, Unglued, to name a few. I also enjoyed 1000000 miles in a 1000 years – written by Donald Miller. A non fiction book I enjoyed was Unbroken – a true story of a man surviving POW camps in Asia. Thank you so much for doing book lists. It gets me out of the church library! 🙂

  • Robin says:

    I got “From Dust to Ashes” for free on Kindle back in 2010. When I saw your post I thought the cover looked familiary. Your post has inspired me to read it. 🙂 I may have to check out some of the others. Do you track your books on goodreads? I read mostly fiction, but you may find some non-fiction recommendations on my list.

  • Joy says:

    What a great list, Crystal! I am adding some of these to my list for 2013. The ones I loved most from your list were Anything {I agree it is difficult to get into in the beginning}, Tell Your Time, and Energy Explosion. My favorite read of this year is a book called The Power of Words and the Wonder of God. It is written by various authors including John Piper, Paul David Tripp, and Sinclair Ferguson. I was inspired and challenged by that book. Wow. Another honorable mention is Dancing With My Father by Sally Clarkson.
    Why did you stop with one of the Redemption series? I read the first one at the prodding of many friends, but I will not be reading any more. I DO typically enjoy a good fiction book, but I find that series a bit over the top and well, perhaps a little too sappily romantic. 🙂 Just my .02.
    Blessings to you! Can’t wait to see your 2013 list!

    • Crystal says:

      I agree about it being a bit sappy and over-the-top. However, I really enjoyed the series personally and I loved how she wove powerful messages into the storyline.

      I might go back and finish the rest of the series at some point in time… but I try not to get “stuck in a rut” and just read one kind of book or only books from one author. So that’s why I stopped after the first five books. I felt it was time for a break and something different for awhile. 🙂

  • tracy says:

    Well I’d love to know if you read it what you thought of it

  • Mary Ellen says:

    Afraid this might get lost in the replies 🙂 The Emily Dickenson poem even has the word “frugal” in it!

    There is no frigate like a book
    To take us lands away,
    Nor any coursers like a page
    Of prancing poetry.
    This traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of toll;
    How frugal is the chariot
    That bears a human soul!

  • shannon says:

    I was recently in the library and wondered, what should I check out. I walked out empty handed. Thanks for the list..inspiring me to be intentional (and get away from some of my computer time).
    Books I have enjoyed…”Fresh Brewed Life :A stirring invitation to awaken the soul” by Nicole Johnson…”The Power of Spoken Blessings” a short, great read by Bill Gothard and Warren Wiersbe’s “Be Patient:Waiting on God in Difficult Times”…historical fiction books by Michael Phillips.

  • Sarah says:

    I highly recommend Stressed Less Living: Finding God’s Peace in Your Chaotic Life. It gets to the root of why you are stressed and really walks with you. Tracie Miles is the author and she is a Proverbs 31 gal.

    • Beth says:

      I live in an RV and don’t have a mailing address to do book swaps, I do get to a public library to look and quickly download emails and browse magazines. I work 12 hour day and have very limited space for real books but love to read. Karen Kingsbury is good and just this week answered a survey for Jeff Goins’ new book due at publisher in a few weeks and read the except he included. Sure do miss reading, even smelling the books in a store. Thanks for the list. God bless.

  • Hilary says:

    I recommend the book The Prisoner in the Third Cell by Gene Edwards. I read this and it gave me a whole new perspective on God and His ways. I have to admit that at one point I wanted to throw it across the room but then I didn’t and let it soak in . I had let myself accept that yes, God’s ways are not my own and that brings much comfort. Short read and DEFINETLY worth it.

  • Valerie says:

    Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand was without a doubt the best read of the year – don’t miss this AMAZING story 🙂

  • You’ve given me some great books to add to my 2013 list!
    Here are my top reads of 2012:

  • Heather says:

    This may be a silly question, but how do you keep track of the books you want to read, have read, or just heard about and want to look into further? I always hear of so many books I’d like to read, but just end up forgetting or losing the list I started. I cannot figure out a good way to keep track of all of this information! Thanks!

  • Bev Colquett says:

    Now that you are reading fiction, you must read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. She is a great author. Other favorites from her: The Mark of the Lion Series, The Atonement Child, Her Daughter’s Dream and Her Mother’s Hope. Be sure to read Eve’s Daughter’s by Lynn Austin. If you enjoy Karen Kingsbury, read A Time To Dance and A Time to Embrace. Robert Whitlow is a Southern writer who writes great legal novels. Lee Strobel recently wrote a fiction book, The Ambition that is a great read.
    I’m looking forward to reading some of your recommendations.

  • Keren says:

    I posted about my top 10 (out of 101, not counting children’s books) here:

    But here they are in list form:

    1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)
    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)
    3. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (Timothy Keller, Kathy Keller)
    4. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids (Kim John Payne)
    5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Charles Duhigg)
    6. Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor (Robert D. Lupton)
    7. Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to “The Passion of the Christ” (Stephen J. Nichols)
    8. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Jennifer Worth)
    9. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Laura Vanderkam)
    10. How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family (Dan B. Allender)

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