I read 37 books this year. This is a record for me. I remember well reading avidly when I was younger -- to complete library summer reading programs, to fill my own wall to wall shelf with books, to escape into the comfort of my inner self -- but since I've been a parent, I haven't put the time into it until now. These are the ones that left the biggest impression on me:
1. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer. In the throes of my own identity crisis, I picked up this little book and my soul breathed a relieved, "Thank you." All those outside voices and unrealistic expectations were put into proper perspective and I felt free to spend the year trying to identify and claim those "birthright gifts" I'd abandoned.
2. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I happened to simultaneously read this as I was preparing some thoughts on mentoring. Coincidence? No. This novel is a wonderfully composed case study of what effective, loving mentoring looks like and the lifelong effects a nurturing guide can have on a life. It should be required reading for all spiritual directors.
3. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I went to this hoping for insight into being a more congruent spiritual director for others only to discover it's really a posthumous collection of Henri's ideas on being a spiritual director to the reader. It was exactly what I needed it to be and more. My only disappointment is that I read a library copy and don't have it to refer back to again and again.
4. The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich. Our church leadership uses the language in this book to help us understand the community's individual walks of faith. One weekend, while I was sick, I finally got around to reading it. It changed the way I understand and address the spiritual journeys of everyone around me. Placing myself in the spectrum also congealed past experiences to that which was useful and as I work to form priorities toward continued growth I can hang them on the shape of my present stage. It's exciting stuff.
Happy reading in this coming year. And let me know the very best stuff you come across.