Best Books I Read in 2015

Thursday, February 04, 2016


I love reading! It doesn't feel like a proper bedtime in our house unless I snuggle under the covers and pull out my Kindle (or, on occasion, one of those strange paper books!) for a while before drifting off to sleep. Out of about 40 books (!) that I read in 2015, here are my favorite five:

Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero
by Henryk Sienkiewicz (1895)
Former InterVarsity president Alec Hill, on whose glowing recommendation I picked up this book, sums it up well: "Written by a Polish author in 1985 – and the basis for his receiving the Nobel Prize for fiction a decade later – the plot is set in Nero's Rome. Sienkiewicz tells the story of a Roman aristocrat who falls in love with a Germanic Christian princess. Historically accurate, beautifully written and brutal in its recall of Roman persecution of early Christians, Quo Vadis is deeply inspiring." A superbly written story that also challenged and grew my faith, Quo Vadis has become my favorite novel.

Joy in the Journey: Finding Abundance in the Shadow of Death
by Steve and Sharol Hayner (2015)
This book is a collection of CaringBridge entries from Steve Hayner's final year of life, as he battled pancreatic cancer. As we journey with Steve – whose work, health, and life itself are being stripped away from him – we are given an honest and holy glimpse of the unshakeable hope and joy that are found in Christ, even (especially!) amid life's greatest struggles. This book is a treasure trove of wisdom and perspective; but more than mere words, Steve and Sharol's very lives are a compelling picture of the daring truth they claim: "When Jesus is all you have, you soon discover that Jesus is all you really need."

Les Misérables
by Victor Hugo (1862)
Les Misérables is the opposite of all those cheesy Christian novels or movies with their cardboard characters, forced plots, terrible writing, and beating you over the head with their message. Instead, Hugo offers up a cast of complex and fully fleshed-out characters woven together through an intricate plot that takes its time as it explores themes of justice, mercy, poverty, and redemption. Along the way, Hugo illustrates several beautiful, profound Christian truths (the famous bishop and candlesticks scene is just the beginning), giving a spiritual depth to this rich and epic story.

From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions
by Ruth Tucker (1983/2004)
This book is a collection of short biographies of missionaries from the church's birth through the present day. The sheer scope of the book (across time, geography, and cultures) provides valuable perspective on Christians' varying approaches toward fulfilling Jesus' Great Commission. But what I appreciated most about the book was that Tucker shows us these saints' failures as well as successes, their character flaws as well as godly qualities, and their family lives as well as ministry work; I learned at least as much from these missionaries' mistakes as I did from their accomplishments.

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart (2007)
A quirky, entertaining, puzzle-filled adventure about four brilliant orphaned children who are brought together by the benevolent Mr. Benedict and sent on an undercover mission to save the world from a mysterious threat. This story is very original and just plain fun! Endearing characters, a creative world, and a good dose of mystery often kept me staying up well past my bedtime, wanting to find out what would happen next or puzzling over riddles along with the children in the story. If you like this book, there are also two sequels and a prequel to enjoy.

What were some of your favorite books last year? Leave a comment if you have a moment.

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