One of my favorite movie scenes in all of movies is when The Beast gifts Belle the palace library in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s iconic. Every bibliophile’s dream, right?
Books, glorious books. If you came over to my house, you would discover that books and words are central to our home and decor. I lovingly call my office, the library, and have lined it with bookshelves. Book stacks adorn our nightstands – and not just mine, but my husband and daughter’s too.
The following is my annual Top 10 list of the best books I read in 2022. A few of these are books I started in 2021 and finished in 2022. I am not a fast reader. I try to savor one longer book a month besides what I’m reading aloud with my 11-year-old in the children’s and middle grade categories.
I read a lot more than these 10, but these were the most meaningful to me in this season. I lingered over their pages and stories. I jotted down quotes. These books are ones I will carry with me into the future. That’s why I’m taking time to document them and share them with you today. I hope you will be inspired to pick up one or two of them yourself.
10. Sweet Like Jasmine:
Finding Identity in a Culture of Loneliness
by Bonnie Gray
Category: Personal Growth
The daughter of a mail-order bride and a busboy from San Francisco’s Chinatown, Bonnie Gray grew up never truly feeling beautiful or beloved. As an adult, she built her life to look pleasant and ordinary, with a wonderful husband, two amazing boys, and a thriving career. But despite these blessings, she still felt the tugging emptiness of a missing piece.
At 39, a long-forgotten birth certificate in an old file cabinet sparked a curiosity Bonnie couldn’t ignore. Determined to uncover her family’s secrets and understand the home she was born into, Bonnie embarked on a quest that would leave her forever changed. Returning to the culture, places, and stories that shaped her, her search led her to soul-shaking discoveries about her identity, human kindness and what it truly means to belong.
The profoundly moving journey of learning to embrace our true worth, Sweet Like Jasmine celebrates how God uses our unique and broken stories to create a beautiful mosaic of His love, one life at a time.
Quotable: “There will come a time when God will tenderly meet you in those hard chapters of your life so you can awaken your soul to rest and break free. The metamorphosis is taking place where others see only inactivity. Yet, God is at work with might and power” (p. 53).
9. I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet: Discovering New Ways of Living When the Old Ways Stop Working
by Shauna Niequist
Category: Self-Help, Motivational & Inspirational
Just after her fortieth birthday, author Shauna Niequist found herself in a season of chaos, change, and loss unlike anything she’d ever faced. She discovered that many of the beliefs and practices that she usually turned to were no longer serving her.
After trying–and failing–to pull herself back up using the same old strategies and systems, she realized she required new ones: courage, curiosity, and compassion. She discovered the way through was more about questions than answers, more about forgiveness than force, more about tenderness than trying hard.
In I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, Niequist chronicles her journey–from her life-changing move from the Midwest to Manhattan to the power of unlearning what is no longer helpful and accepting the unknowns that come with midlife, heartbreak, and chronic pain.
Quotable: “And if you’re in the midst of a painful season, don’t feel guilty for catching yourself feeling happy every once in a while. That’s not wrong. That’s not betraying loss. Let yourself be sad and then angry and then laugh really hard… This is how it is in the dark – confusing and circuitous and absolutely all the things sometimes, even in the same day” (p. 56).
8. Awake: Paying Attention to What Matters Most in a World That’s Pulling You Apart
by Anjuli Paschall
Category: Christian Living
You’ve felt it–the underlying anxiety that you’re missing out on the good life. So you zone out, swipe up, slim down, work hard, and spin in circles trying to get it.
Anjuli Paschall calls it carpe diem syndrome–the fear of not living life to the fullest.
But the full life isn’t found by chasing it. It’s found by coming awake to it.
As she puts it: “I want to be awake. I don’t want to nervously navigate my life one to-do list, email, and espresso shot at a time. When my life comes to a slow halt, I want to know I savored the small moments and watched the sky change color. I want to know I didn’t rush through life but received it. I want to know I came to peace with my weaknesses, loved people fearlessly, and walked with God faithfully. I hope I gave in to the audacious belief that I was loved and, miraculously, even liked.”
And now, Anjuli casts a compelling vision for you to live a soul-awake life too.
The invitation might be as gentle as a song–or as abrupt as a rooster’s crow–but God is always waking you up. You can have the life you really want, and you don’t have to lose your soul trying to get it.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Full life is right here.
Quotable: “God meets us right in the crevice of our greatest wounds and wakes us up to His presence. He doesn’t just meet us there but transforms us there” (p. 35).
7. Almost Everything: Notes on Hope
by Anne Lamott
Category: Spiritual Self-Help, Christian Self-Help
In this profound and funny book, Lamott calls for each of us to rediscover the nuggets of hope and wisdom that are buried within us that can make life sweeter than we ever imagined. Divided into short chapters that explore life’s essential truths, Almost Everything pinpoints these moments of insight as it shines an encouraging light forward.
Candid and caring, insightful and sometimes hilarious, Almost Everything is the book we need and that only Anne Lamott can write.
Quotable: “Some of us periodically need to repeat the joy training, rehabilitate the part of us that naturally dims or gets injured by busyness, or just by too much bad news to bear. Adults rarely have the imagination or energy of children, but we do have one another, and nature, and old black-and-white movies, and the ultimate secret weapon, books. Books!” (p. 64).
6. God Speaks Through Wombs:
Poems on God’s Unexpected Coming
by Drew Jackson
Category: Christian Poetry
In God Speaks Through Wombs, Drew Jackson explores the first eight chapters of Luke’s Gospel in a new poetic register. These are declarative poems, faithfully proclaiming the gospel story in all its liberative power. Here the gospel is the “fresh words / that speak of / things impossible.”
From the Magnificat (“That girl can sing! . . . She has a voice / That can shatter shackles”) to the baptism of Christ (“I stepped in / Committing insurrection”), this collection helps us hear the hum of deliverance―against all hope―that’s been in the gospel all along.
Quotable: “When God has promised / to change what’s been called / unchangeable, / to resurrect what has been / pronounced dead, / only those who believe / can be in the room / where it happens” (p. 148).
5. Growing Slow: Lessons on Un-Hurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl
by Jennifer Dukes Lee
Category: Christian Living, Spiritual Growth
We long to make a break from the fast pace of life, but if we’re honest, we’re afraid of what we’ll miss if we do. Yet when going big and hustling hard leaves us stressed, empty, and out of sorts, perhaps this can be our cue to step into a far more satisfying, sustainable pace. In this crafted, inspiring read, beloved author Jennifer Dukes Lee offers a path to unhurried living by returning to the rhythm of the land and learning the ancient art of Growing Slow.
Jennifer was once at breaking point herself, and tells her story of rude awakening to the ways her chosen lifestyle of running hard, scaling fast, and the neverending chase for results was taking a toll on her body, heart, and soul. But when she finally gave herself permission to believe it takes time to grow good things, she found a new kind of freedom. With eloquent truths and vivid storytelling, Jennifer reflects on the lessons she learned from living on her fifth-generation family farm and the insights she gathered from the purposeful yet never rushed life of Christ. Growing Slow charts a path out of the pressures of bigger, harder, faster, and into a more rooted way of living where the growth of good things is deep and lasting.
Quotable: “If I knew too much about what was to come, I would have resisted and manipulated. I would have rushed through the seasons that hurt the most, rather than staying in the rearranged places where God chose to come close” (p. 52).
4. Room to Dream
by Kelly Yang
Category: Middle Grade Fiction
Mia Tang is going for her dreams!
After years of hard work, Mia Tang finally gets to go on vacation with her family — to China! A total dream come true! Mia can’t wait to see all her cousins and grandparents again, especially her cousin Shen. As she roams around Beijing, witnessing some of the big changes China’s going through, Mia thinks about the changes in her own life, like . . .
1. Lupe’s taking classes at the high school! And Mia’s own plans to be a big writer are . . . stuck.
2. Something happened with Jason and Mia has no idea what to do about it.
3. New buildings are popping up all around the motel, and small businesses are disappearing.
Can the Calivista survive? Buckle up! Mia is more determined than ever to get through the turbulence, now that she finally has . . . room to dream!
My daughter and I read this one aloud. It’s part of the Front Desk series by Kelly Yang. We have developed such an affection for these characters and their lives. Mia is spunky, smart, creative, and one of those main characters who is authentic. You can’t help but root for her and learn from her.
3. WayMaker: Finding the Way to the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of
by Ann Voskamp
Category: Christian Living, Spiritual Growth
In WayMaker, bestselling author Ann Voskamp hands us a map that makes meaning of life and shows the way through to the places we’ve only dreamed of reaching. In the face of suffering through seemingly unbearable situations, we can rest in the fact that we are not alone. In her signature captivating poetic style, Ann reveals how God is present in the totality of our lives, making a way for the:
- Marriage that seems impossible
- Woman who longs for a child of her own
- Parents who ache for the return of their prodigal
- Sojourner caught between a rock and a hard place
- Wayfarer who feels as though there is no way through to her dreams
Deeply personal, Ann shares the moments of her life where the WayMaker transformed brokenness into beauty. Learn to encounter the WayMaker in surprising ways in your own life and begin to see Him working in every miraculous detail. Even now, the Way is making the way to walk through waves and into a life more deeply fulfilling than your wildest dreams.
Quotable: “Maybe life has no waiting rooms – life only has labor and delivery rooms. All our waiting rooms are actually birthing rooms, and what feels like the contraction of our plans can be the birthing of our greater purposes” (p. 118).
2. Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice
by Sistrunk Robinson
Category: Spiritual Growth
Our culture wants you to be happy. It rewards those who smile through the pain, who pretend everything’s fine, who compartmentalize grief and get on with life. But everything’s not fine. And God does not expect us to pretend it is. He wants all of us–including our pain.
Perhaps nowhere in Scripture do we get as full a picture of the heights and depths of the human experience as in the Psalms. The outpourings of emotion never shy away from the darkest moments of life, and yet they also point toward the light–toward the God in whom we place our hope.
Inspired by Psalm 37, Voices of Lament is a powerful collection of reflections from Christian Women of Color on themes of injustice, heartache, and deep suffering. Their essays, prayers, poems, and liturgies lay bare the experiences of the oppressed even as they draw us into deeper intimacy with God and a more fulsome understanding of each other.
For anyone who longs to better express and understand the beauty of lament held in holy tension with hope and love, this extraordinary collection presents both well-known and new voices from various ethnic and people groups and different generations, putting God’s faithfulness on full and glorious display.
Quotable: “We are called to orient our lives around God, knowing that God accomplishes the work of justice through God’s own Spirit and in God’s own time” (p. 54).
1. Let There Be Art: The Pleasure and Purpose of Unleashing the Creativity within You
by Rachel Marie Kang
Category: Christian Living, Creativity
Perhaps in no other way do we more vibrantly reflect our creator than with our creativity. Whether through music, writing, baking, painting, posting on social media, dancing, or any other form of artistic expression within our grasp, we were created to create. Yet, there are times we may be unsure about our art, times when our creating and making doesn’t feel possible or purposeful or practical.
Rachel Marie Kang wants you to know that your art is not peripheral to life–it is at the very heart of why you exist and what you have to offer to yourself and to the world. In Let There Be Art, she gives you permission to embrace the peace, pleasure, and purpose inherent in your art and in the process of making it. This passionate, creative, and cathartic journey invites you to create truthfully out of the broken and beautiful pieces of your life, as well as offer your heart and your art in hopes of helping a hurting world.
Quotable: “To see goodness is to seek goodness. It is a lifelong graspoing for glimpses of good things that ground us to God” (p. 34).
What are some of your favorite books that you read in 2022? Leave us a comment so we can add them to our list!
*Check out my Top 10 Most Meaningful Books Read in 2021 for more.