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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!

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  • Tracey says:

    Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss was my favorite read of 2011. It convicted me and challenged me to die to self more each day, while living with a view of eternity. I plan to read the book at least once a year so that I can keep its lessons fresh in my mind.

  • Wow, I have never heard of ReWork! I’ll have to put that one on my list! But I really liked 168 Hours (looking forward to her book on money coming in 2012!) and Kisses from Katie is also on my 2012 list.

    My favorite reads for 2011 were Half the Sky, A Jane Austen Education, Unbroken, and an old Eleanor Roosevelt book called You Learn by Living.

  • Christine says:

    My top 5 books read in 2011:
    1. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
    2. Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman
    3. A Love that Multiplies by the Duggars
    4. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
    5. The Money Saving Mom’s Budget (Your Book!)

  • Gina says:

    My favorite book of the year was Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I never knew his whole story, so it was very interesting to read about how involved he was in trying to rescue Germany and the surrounding nations from Hitler’s evil grasp. He loved God immensely, preached powerfully, and cared deeply for the Jewish people. Will be reading it again and assigning the book as required reading for my teenagers. Loved it!

  • Oh, I was so moved by Kisses from Katie! I read it on my own, and then read it aloud to our girls (age 13 & 9) for Advent. Even our 6-yr old listened in often. We were all profoundly affected and are deciding as a family what steps to take next.

  • I also loved Crazy Love! Reading that book I had many, many wow moments. I realized that I had only been giving a part of myself to God and that realization has caused me to begin a new journey in my relationship with Christ.

    I also read Developing the Leader within You by John C. Maxwell. I really enjoyed it alot and gleaned alot of insight so I am going to see if I can find the Maxwell book you recommended.

    Besides Crazy Love the book that has had the most impact on me this year was Volunteer Revolution by Bill Hybels. Loved it!

  • Katie says:

    I really enjoyed Calm My Anxious Heart as well. I read it while going through my third miscarriage and it really helped me to understand that I’m not in control and find the peace and joy that brings. My favorite read of this year was Serve God, Save the Planet. It was an awesome look at how, as Christians, we are called and chosen to care for the earth. My full review of it is here.

    Thanks for the other great book ideas! I want to run out and get Crazy Love and Kisses from Katie! They both look excellent.

    • Ac says:

      Katie – just said a prayer for you. I’m so sorry for the hard road you have had to travel and inspired by your attitude and peace in the midst of the storm. Hugs to you!

  • Jamie says:

    The best book I read in 2011 was probably The Power of the Praying Wife. It was eye opening (more re: myself than my husband!) and it has made life in our house easier and better for everyone. 🙂 I hope to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families in 2012 (among others).

  • I loved Kisses from Katie, too. Thanks for the recommendations!

  • Thanks for the list! I’ve put Eat That Frog, Rework, and Today Matters on my hold list at the public library. Unfortunately they don’t have 168 Hours in their collection, so I’ll have to try interlibrary loan or (gasp!) buying it. You have great reading suggestions – thanks again!

  • Bethany Bergen says:

    I would also recommend ‘Calm My Anxious Heart’ and ‘Crazy Love’- 2 good reads from this past year! I am excited to start reading ‘A Scandalous Freedom’ that I received as a Christmas gift.

  • I read the 168 Hours book and while I liked it, I found myself getting sort of annoyed with the author when she talked about homemaking, probably because I view homemaking as much more than just cooking a meal or doing a load of laundry.

    • I really liked the concept of 168 Hours, but like you, some parts of it drove me crazy.

      She kept talking about “outsourcing” all of the tasks at home – from laundry to food to childcare…and on and on. I kept thinking, “Ummm…no, as the wife and homemaker, those tasks are MY JOB! That’s the exact reason I’m reading this book!!”

  • Carrie says:

    It’s good to see your review on Linda Dillow’s book. I received that book for Christmas and I’m looking forward to reading it this year. One of the best books I’ve read this past year was Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas.

  • Lisa K. says:

    Hands down, one of the best books was Radical by David Platt and I think your readership here would appreciate it as well!

  • Anna says:

    Calm My Anxious Heart and Crazy Love are both really good reads.

  • Laura says:

    Oh, you inspire me. After this comment, I’m off to craft my 2012 Book List! But, I wanted to add two of my favorite books from this year: “Church Planter” by Darrin Patrick is so thoroughly insightful about who a “Christian” is, in general, that the book could be great mandatory reading for the Church. The title and cover are misleading: the content is brilliant. At the other end of all spectrums, “Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl” by Debra Ollivier was precisely the inspiration I needed when I was feeling dry this past month. God used it to remind me to LIVE: to enjoy people, stories, food, and celebrations. I was reeling from a particularly “American” spurt of production and I needed to spend time with the Latin-inspired French -girl to remember that I’m not a machine… I’m a human being.

  • Becky Beckham says:

    I am fairly new to your site, so forgive me if you’ve already answered this question. I am using many of your 2011/2012 books for my reading list. Since many are Christian books, I’m thinking my public library will not have many of them. Where did you get them without spending a fortune on books?

    • Crystal says:

      Our library has many of these titles. I’m not sure if most public libraries carry all the Christian titles ours does, but it’s definitely worth checking into. If your library doesn’t have the book, you can see if it’s available through interlibrary loan or you can put in a request for them to order the book.

      In addition, here’s a post I did on five ways to get books for free:

    • Melanie says:

      Also, keep your eye on Amazon, or some of the Christian publishers. A lot of times they’ll release ones for free for a few days in e-format. That’s how I got Calm My Anxious Heart, Margin, and Money, Possessions and Eternity (among others). Crystal is pretty good about posting when they’re available too.

      (For instance, Left Behind is currently available on Amazon for free. I’m not a fan of it, but if you click through to the title, there may be other free books on the “people who purchased this one also got” list.)

      I’m not a huge fan of e-format books, but when they’re free, I can deal.

    • I live in a town of 900 so our library is TINY! However, they have an awesome Interlibrary loan system that I use. I have 36 books (many are Christian) on my 2012 reading list and every one of them is available through the loan system at my library.

  • I couldn’t agree more with Calm my Anxious Heart. It was so moving and such a winderful read. There were so many incredible scriptures and quotes in it that I often find myself going back to it to reflect.

  • Rachel says:

    I’m working on Eat that Frog right now thanks to your recommendation and finding it very helpful!! My favorite reads from 2011 were “the scent of water” by Naomi Zacharias (challenged the way I view people and my sinful tendency to judge others), “Womanly Dominion” by Mark Chansky, and just for fun, “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell ( a contemporary of Jane Austen, very good in that genre). Can’t wait to get reading for this year :)!

  • Tiffany says:

    Hands down, Kisses From Katie. I got a necklace from Amazima ministries for Christmas and it was my absolute favorite gift!

  • Melanie says:

    I also LOVED the Dillow book. Currently I’m halfway through Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn and am enjoying it, but it might have to count for 2012. 🙂

    I liked The Help. I liked Nurtureshock by Po Bronson, and I found The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout to be wonderfully therapeutic after a nutsy childhood. (Those last two are pretty dry, really.)

  • Lizzie says:

    Crazy Love is an amazing book. Francis Chan says what all pastors SHOULD be saying.

  • Ace1234 says:

    Calm My Anxious Heart is $5 right now at

    Including link to be helpful… delete if you’d like, Crystal.
    So looking forward to the blessings of MSM in 2012.
    Thank you!

  • Angie W. says:

    Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman
    anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours by Alicia Britt Chole
    Seven Days That Divide the World by John Lennox

    Thanks for sharing your list! Looks like some good choices for 2012 for me.

  • Keren says:

    I just posted my Top 10 for 2011 here, with brief explanations as to why.

    I’ll also list 5 picks (without explanation):

    1. King’s Cross by Timothy Keller
    2. Generous Justice by Timothy Keller
    3. Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon
    4. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
    5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

    Thanks for sharing! I find these lists fascinating and helpful as I prepare for my reading list for the year. Of your list, I’ve read the books by Dillow and Chan. ReWork is on my list for this year.

  • I’m reading Kisses from Katie right now…and WOW! It seems to fit right up there with Radical in terms of challenging me to question my own status quo and seek to really follow where God’s leading me and our family.

  • I started following Katie Davis about 3 years ago and decided her blog (long before her book) should be required reading. The next year I was wrecked by Crazy Love and then Radical. We could not sit in our comfort zone any longer. God stirred our hearts and broke our hearts for what breaks His, namely, the orphan. In 2011 we brought home a 4 yr old girl from Ethiopa.

    Great book choices!

  • Shannon says:

    Crazy Love was definitely one of the best books I read last year, but another Linda Dillow book was equally good and eye opening: “What’s it like to be married to me.” Very, very good, very convicting read. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp was also a good one for me.

  • Debbie says:

    Thank you so much for suggesting “Calm My Anxious Heart”! It has helped me so much. I read “Crazy Love” a couple of years ago but its on my list again this year along with “Radical”. Thanks for encouraging us all to keep our minds learning and for setting a great example! I appreciate you!

  • Lauren says:

    Truly blessed by the following three books in 2011– “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love” by Leeman, “Don’t Waste Your Life” by Piper ,and “Money, Possessions and Eternity” by Alcorn.

  • Love your booklist – Linda Dillow is amazing and Katie Davis and her blog have changed my outlook on so many things. Look forward to checking out some of the other books that you loved!

  • Jeff Crews says:

    I definitely am interested in reading “ReWork”. Just added it to my Kindle Fire wishlist. I have read “Crazy Love” and am a huge fan of how God uses Francis Chan. Have you read “Radical” by David Platt?

  • Natalie says:

    Anyone have Kisses from Katie Kindle edition and want to loan it to me?? I would be so grateful!!


  • Oh, Crystal (and now everyone who has left comments with additional books), you’re killing me!! My to-read book list is completely out of control. LOL. But I like it-I used to be such an avid reader, then after three kids, well….most hobbies just get thrown to the back burner. I am REALLY looking forward to delving into some more books this year, and am even hoping to talk about some of my favorites on my site (more for my own accountability than anything!). 🙂 Thanks for some more great recommendations!

  • Wendy says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. This is a great list for me to begin reading for this year.

  • Ashley says:

    The Eat That Frog Kindle version is only 99 cents today on amazon! Just got it!

  • Leanne says:

    I’m reading Kisses from Katie….I can’t put it down… I think that book may change my whole life☺ thank you for sharing it!!

  • I have to say, the book that most impacted me this past year was The Bible in 90 Days. I had never read straight through the whole Bible, despite being a Christian for over 20 years. This was just what I needed to keep up my enthusiasm for the reading. And I learned SO much!! I have started again, and I am excited to make my way through again.

  • Tonya says:

    The Kindle edition of Eat that Frog! is only $0.99 right now! I got Calm my Anxious Heart when it was free, and I started reading it but never finished. Thanks for the reminder to pick it up again!

  • Jennifer says:

    Today (1-3-12) “Eat That Frog” is a Kindle Daily Deal. It is only 99 cents!

    Just downloaded it. Now I have to work on not procrastinating on starting it 🙂

  • Marlana says:

    Kisses from Katie is my number one favorite book of ALL TIMES! I am 26, and live oversees wherein I keep kids. I totally understood what she was saying and have seen what she’s talking about on many levels, and it ministered to my heart exactly where I was at…and her testimony is pushing me to dream bigger and push myself in bigger ways. On the best level, she also taught me to let it go and realize that God just asks us to love what is in front of us.

  • Florence says:

    Oh so many good books, so little time!! I will add several to my 2012 Reading List. I read Today Matters by John Maxwell years ago and it had a tremendous impact on both my personal and professional life. Time to read it again.

    Here are my top 7 from 2011:

    One with Christ by Hudson Taylor (Very thought provoking; a small book but best read very slowly, a bit at the time.)
    The Greater Journey by David McCullough
    Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
    The End of Normal by Stephanie Madoff Mack (I’ve been intrigued by the Madoff family from the beginning of their financial meltdown.)
    Lucy by Ellen Feldman (Historical fiction about FDR and Lucy Mercer)
    That Used to Be Us by Thomas Friedman (He is spot on about the problems we face but not the solutions.)

  • Kim says:

    I’m not too much of a book reader but I’m thinking that might change soon. I absolutely loved Heaven is for Real – quick, easy read and so comforting.

  • Pam says:

    Great list – I’m adding them to my 2012 reading plan!!!

  • Marie says:

    I used to read and then I had twins and now a baby! However, I’ve wanted to get back to reading so within the last few months I’ve managed to read I Will Carry YOu by Angie Smith. It’s an amazing story. Having lost 4 babies it really ministered to me. And just this week I read Choosing to SEE by MaryBeth Chapman. Oh, and Crazy Love!!!
    Thanks to all the suggestions on your blog I have a long list waiting for me of others I’d love to read.
    I really want to read books on parenting, marriage and spiritual things. These are my goals for 2012. I want to be a better mother, wife and woman of God.
    Thanks for all the encouragement on this site!!! I follow it daily!!

  • Leanne says:

    Kisses from Katie is changing my life and my heart! thanks for the recommendation!!

  • Catie says:

    This is a great list. I just love checking out what other people are reading–especially those who’s blogs I love. 😉

  • angel says:

    I’ve loved EVERYTHING I have read by Francis Chan, but Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman is also so awesome and life changing anout taking your walk with Christ seriously!

  • Kim says:

    An oldie, but a goodie, my favorite of all time is “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon. It is where the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” originated from. You will be moved to question all that you do. It is fictional, but moving.

  • Sheena says:

    We did a class at my church on Crazy Love and I am forever changed! Hands down one of the BEST books I’ve ever read. Period.

    Instead of leaving inspired after reading that book, you leave challenged and convicted! Complacency in this Christian walk is no longer an option!

  • Toby says:

    My favorite this year is Amish Peace by Suzanne Woods Fisher. Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World. The book quotes Amish proverbs and pairs them with scriptures giving similiar wisdom. It then examines how we can apply that wisdom to our lives no matter where we live. This book became a part of my permanent library as one to read and re-read.

  • Nicole R. says:

    My favorite non-fiction reads of 2011: Organized Simplicity; Jesus for President & Shiny Objects. These each challenged my thinking in different areas.
    My favorite fiction books of 2011: The Hunger Games trilogy, The Restoration Series, 13 Reasons Why & Shadowfever.

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