1 : one that is treated or regarded with special favor or liking
In early December, the Ish Girls (my Bible study, named after the book Ish and our desire to be Christ-ish) got together to share our favorite things. The rules were simple: buy something you love - one of your low-cost favorite things - for each of the other seven women. We started this tradition last year and loved it so much that we did it again in the spring, without even having Christmas as an excuse. Both times previously, I knew immediately what to give. I had clear cut favorite things. This time, I struggled to find something. Not because of the price limit, but because I simply couldn't think of anything that delighted my heart. And I wanted these gifts to be from my heart.
One night, less than a week before our gift exchange, I was telling J my dilemma. "Your favorite thing?" he asked. "That's easy. Buy books." He was right. 2012 has not been an easy year. I've struggled and continue to struggle. But books have been a constant. They've been a source of comfort, encouragement, companionship or escape. So I went through my Goodreads list and selected several 5 star books to share with my friends.
Writing has been a struggle, too. I haven't wanted to be negative and have felt burdened by the old Southernism "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." There have been many days when I haven't felt like I have anything nice to say. So I've chosen silence. But I think I need to write. I need to begin again and find a way through, by putting some of my thoughts and feelings into words. I'm not much for resolutions, but I think I know myself well enough to know I need to make time for some creative outlets or I will implode.
As an attempt to step forward in faith that I will eventually find writing to be a gift and not a burden, here's my first post of 2013: my favorite books of 2012. Links will take you to my Goodreads review of each book.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson - I went to an Enneagram conference in September and heard Russ Hudson speak. I immediately came home and requested every book of his that the Nashville library owned. This one did not disappoint. If you've read other books on the enneagram, but haven't made the time for this one, I highly recommend it. It will leave you understanding yourself and others better.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom - I read this book right around the time we sold our house. It was a stressful time of getting our house of ten years emptied and show-ready, so this memoir of a brave Dutch woman during World War II helped me try to keep my own struggles in perspective.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - a lush, magical book. I can't think of this book without having vivid black and white images scroll through my mind. It's a visual feast wrapped in a fascinating story with an unexpected ending.
Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr - I expected this book on contemplative prayer to give me pointers or direction on how to be more contemplative in my prayer. What I got instead was affirmation. Much of what Rohr described was (at that time) my own experience.
Why I Wake Early and Thirst by Mary Oliver - poetry is not my first love. But I fell in love with Mary Oliver's poems. She talks of the love of God and the love of nature having a long conversation in her soul. These books will forever describe the spring of 2012 for me. They were lenten companions that described and affirmed my own experience.
Wonder by RJ Palacio - an unexpected book about a startling subject. A boy with severe facial abnormalities enrolls in public middle school. His experiences are as stunningly difficult as surprisingly sweet. Wonder reminds us that life is about both beauty and pain.
No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel - how powerful are words and stories? If you tell yourself something vehemently enough, does it become your reality? This novel set in WWII tells the tale of a village who chose to pretend the war was not raging around them. Would the lie spare them pain or cause them more?
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - one of the most honest books about life and how to live it I've ever read. The subject matter is hard - teens with cancer - but Green treats it with an authenticity that was both heartbreaking and heartening.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - if you're an introvert, or you know and love an introvert, this book is a must read. Cain does an excellent job of explaining how our culture is set up to not only serve but foster and reward extroverts. And she shows the things we're missing out on because of this.
Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron - one of the first books I read in 2012. I knew nearly twelve months ago that this would be one of my favorite books of the years. I can imagine the hills of Rwanda, the hope of a young runner and the harsh realities of war. It's a book of dreams seized, realized, deferred and destroyed. Well worth your time.