My reading goals, like so many other things this year, took a pounding as I hustled and bent to fit my dad’s pancreatic cancer into my daily grind. In 2018, I started and didn’t finish more books than ever before. Of the 43 books I did make it through, most didn’t set my world on fire. During the first couple of months after my dad died, I could barely read a chapter before turning on the TV instead. It was all very strange and disorienting, yet bookish bright spots appeared along the way, keeping me company and pointing me North.


Be Still My Soul by Elisabeth Elliott

When waters rise, Elisabeth’s calloused hand is always one of the first I reach for to keep me from swallowing seaweed. Her wisdom here saved me from sorrow, bitterness, and burnout as I kicked and gasped my way to shore after rocky shore last January.

“Jesus laid it right on the line when he said, ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Although he healed every imaginable sickness and is still capable of doing so, he didn’t promise to fix everything in this world. Instead, he equipped us to persevere through trials and to bear our scars with dauntless faith.”



The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Easily my favorite novel of the year, this page-turning coming of age story has a fabulous setting, well developed female leads, and redemption in spades. Don’t think twice about adding this to your TBR in 2019. Do it now. It’s a stunner.

“In the vast expanse of this unpredictable wilderness, you will either become your best self and flourish, or you would run away, screaming, from the dark and the cold and the hardship. There is no middle ground, no safe place; not here, in the Great Alone.”



Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Talk about raising the contemporary YA bar. Wowzers. This National Book Award winner is a treasure, especially for families (like mine) transformed by adoption (or NBC’s This is Us). A raw, honest portrayal of relationships and belonging, Far From the Tree follows three teenagers—who all share a biological mother but who grew up in different homes—as they discover each other and find themselves along the way. YA done well. Storytelling done right.

“You can be scared!” Birdie was still shouting. “Don’t you get it? That’s what happens when you love someone: they’re brave when you can’t be! I can be brave—for you, for both of us!” 


Everybody Always by Bob Goff

I recommended and gifted this more than any other book in 2018, as it is mandatory reading for anyone with a pulse. It’s the warmest, most genuine and inspiring book I have read in a long, long time. It’s a game changer in every way that matters.

“Loving the neighbors we don’t understand takes work and humility and patience and guts. It means leaving the security of our easy relationships to engage in some tremendously awkward ones. Find a way to love difficult people more, and you’ll be living the life Jesus talked about.”



Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger

Confession: There’s no way I would ever make it through books shelved as History/Biography if I were reading them with my eyes. I bore easily with much of the familial/cultural/technical background that titles in this genre require me to trudge through on the front end. Sticking it out is a lot easier—and more enjoyable—for me on audio. The reward at the end of this compelling history of NASA, and the first three astronauts to circle the moon, is a bonus interview with Frank Borman and select mission transmissions between Houston and Apollo 8. Inspiring.

“The change this mission would work on the world would be too beautiful to miss.”



I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

Adopting a Black child almost ten years ago did not absolve me of my white supremacy. In many ways, it illuminated it. I am no longer too ignorant or too proud to admit this. As I now face the mountainous challenge of preparing my pre-teen Ethiopian daughter to see, internalize, and navigate the painful, racist terrain behind and before her, I am indebted to women like Austin Channing Brown for showing up in my blind spot with their hard-earned wisdom and carving for me a foothold as I continue the climb.

Dismantling the wall of racial injustice is impossible in our lifetime, but I’m here for the trying. If I jostle my brick and you swing at yours, we can, as Austin says, believe in the possibility that we are still inching toward justice.

“Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It’s not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation? It’s haunting. But it’s also holy.”

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I’m embarrassed to say that this was my maiden voyage through Picoult’s catalog. I know. Can you even believe it? I went on to read Small Great Things (amazing) and The Storyteller (meh), but the audio version of this one has my heart for keeping me company through 700 or so of the 4,500 miles I drove between Phoenix and San Diego this year. I love, love, loved it. And the elephants? Oh, my!

“The moral of this story is that sometimes, you can attempt to make all the difference in the world, and it still is like trying to stem the tide with a sieve.”



Stretched Too Thin By Jessica Turner

I’ve been a working, telecommuting mom for almost 14 years. In that time, I’ve gotten a lot right, and whole lot more wrong. I’ve held myself to unrealistic standards (ask my husband). I’ve failed to reach out for help (ask my friends). I’ve allowed coworkers and clients to blow right through boundaries on my time and emotional bandwidth (ask my three kids).

My work has put me on airplanes, stages, and the occasional 5:00 AM conference call. My family relies heavily on every dollar I earn, so I’ve made my career work by whatever means necessary (and some that weren’t necessary at all). I’ve led meetings with CEOs of multi-million dollar companies while doing my daughter’s hair, waiting in the carpool line, and cleaning up dog vomit. I’ve fired off emails and finished projects from dental offices, my kitchen stove, baseball field parking lots, hair salons and more than few hospital rooms. In all of it, I’ve known the feeling of being stretched too thin (threadbare, really). The juggle is real, friends. Thankfully, so is Jessica Turner. Her words are salve for the weariness every working mom feels in her bones, and affirmation of the worth she carries there, too.

“Working moms are phenomenally capable, loving, driven, passionate women. We are a blessing to our families, our friends, and our co-workers. Do not let your emotions undermine your self-worth and calling.”


I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa De Los Santos

After lugging this book around unopened in hospitals for weeks, finishing it not long after my dad died felt like grabbing onto a small piece of dry land. I include it here, not because it was a lovely read—which it absolutely was—but because finishing it gave me hope that grief would lift and that the stories sitting unread on my nightstand would be there when it did.

“I am one of those people who believes that at least half of love is simply paying attention.” 



The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

I cannot, will not, get over this book. It is, far and a way, the best one I read all year. I savored it over a span of a couple of months, getting choked up at some point in every chapter. Shannan’s writing literally took my breath away on every page. And her perspective on what it means to love our neighbors, eagerly taking on their limp as we walk closely with them through trouble? GOLD. SILVER. AND BRONZE. If you follow me on Instagram, beware. I intend to quote the living daylights out of this book on my feed in 2019.

The path from neighbor to friend only feels long when we watch each other from a safe distance. When we share our actual lives, swinging open the door to the details that define us—our preferences, our favorites, our fears—the atmosphere draws closer, and the world feels smaller and far less lonely.”


Becoming by Michelle Obama

I know there are people who will pass right by this—cast stones at it even—on account of their political leanings, and that is a tremendous shame. Politics be damned. This is one woman’s incredible story, masterfully told. I marveled at it as a woman, a mother, a wife, a U.S. citizen, a parent of a Black daughter and, most of all, as a writer. It’s stunning, both in craft and heart, and her entire editorial team deserves a round (or several) on the house.

 “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”



The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson

“Nursing is—or should be—an indiscriminate act of caring, compassion and empathy. It should be a reminder of our capacity to love one another. If the way we treat our most vulnerable is a measure of our society, then the act of nursing itself is a measure of our humanity. Yet it is the most undervalued of all the professions. Anyone who works with cancer, however, understands and values nursing, perhaps knowing that it is not the cure—which so often is not possible—that matters in the end.”

I mean, wow. And, Amen. I owe my dad’s nurses a debt I cannot repay. Their kindness steadied me as much as it comforted him, and we both walked out of cancer alive. I’m so thankful they were with us. I’m also grateful to nurses like Christie who show up every day to tenderly walk families like mine over broken glass.

“Even now I’m afraid when I push open the door to Accident and Emergency. So let us go in together. If you come with me, then anything is bearable. Take my hand. Hold my hand tightly. Let us fling open the door and find whatever we find, face all the horror and beauty of life. Let us really live. Together, our hands will not shake.”


The Book I’m Most Excited to Read in 2019


Here, Now by Kate Merrick

My hometown hero and author of And Still She Laughs is releasing her second book on April 2nd, and I will not be chill about it. Like Shannan Martin, Kate wields a pen in a lyrical, approachable way that makes me weep with wonder. I’m tapping my foot waiting for Here, Now, so you can imagine my shrieking delight when, on this very day, she provided a way for all of us to read Chapter 1 for free.

“God is calling us to be active participants in our own lives, and collectively we are finding it to be a challenge. The way of satisfaction and contentment is out there.
The way of faith and courage is laid before us. I didn’t see them so blatantly before, but now I realize God has been offering me these nuggets of fresh air my whole life—it was just up to me to stop and notice.”


And, Finally…

If you need more literary inspiration for the year head, visit to catch up on my bookish posts from 2018:

7 Memoirs for When Life is Murky

5 Books That Bring Out the Art in You

4 Books to Make you Happier at Home

7 Vulnerable Reads

5 Tips for Raising Readers

The She.ology Gift Guide for Readers


While you are there, start 2019 with more than a resolution – start with a plan! Get your free 30-page Edge of the Wild planner today.


Happy Reading,