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Top Ten Books of 2023

I love all the reading lists this time of year, and I’m always open to good book recommendations. As I look over the list of books I read in 2023, there are a few that rise to the top as being my all-time favourites. And I’m so happy to share them with you! Maybe you can find a book or two to add to your stack for 2024.

I don’t read very much fiction, but this book was so good that I had to include it in my top ten list. I’ve read a few books by Tessa Afshar, and one of them, The Hidden Prince, appeared in my Top Ten Book List of 2022.

Tessa writes biblical historical fiction. In other words, she takes stories of the Bible and weaves them into a fiction novel. Of course, the details she adds are not inspired Scripture, but her tales spark imagination for how these stories could have played out. You see, scripture is written in thrift, and so we certainly don’t get all of the details, but a good Bible student will become curious about how the events actually happened. Tessa’s imagination fills in the gaps and retells the stories in a captivating way.

The Land of Silence is about the woman with the issue of blood in the gospels. Here is the description on the back of the book:

After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for.

As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body, heart, and soul?

Doesn’t that sound good?!

I’m sure many of you read Beth Moore's Memoir this year. Beth Moore has always been a favourite Bible teacher of mine, and it was so fun to peek behind the curtains of her life and listen to her share about things she’s only ever shared in veiled references before. She is truly a woman who is familiar to many but known by few.

This is a quote from the back of the book: “I saw this life of mine going differently than it has. I saw myself turning out better than I have. I expected to have more riddles solved. More people sorted out. More grays dissolved to black and white. I needed neatness from God. What I got was a tangled-up knot.”

Beth is very vulnerable in this book, and regardless about your thoughts about her as a Bible teacher, if you choose to read this book, I hope you will receive it in the way in which it was written, and with much respect her for her massive contribution to women’s Bible study.

This book is witty and heartbearking all at the same time. She writes that “If we ever truly took the time to hear people’s full stories, we’d all walk around slack-jawed." I think that’s absolutely true. People are always dealing with far more than they let on. This book reminds us to be kind to one another.

I love the sub-title of this book: Gospel-centered goals, gumption, and grace for the go-getter girl. As a sucker for both goals and alliteration, that just makes me happy. This is a book for people who feel like God is calling them to step out into somethings that quite beyond them. It’s also for the person who struggles to take that first step because fear and busyness get in the way. Rebecca urges us to just “do the thing!”

As the back of the book says, this book is a perfect blend of storytelling, encouragement and biblical insight. Rebecca encourages us to pursue the passions that stir our souls. She says that...

On this journey, you will discover how to:

o See your gifts and talents from a gospel-centered perspective.

o Prioritize goals related to your calling as you move forward with gumption and grace.

o Maximize your passions in the work you do every day.

o Actively partner with God to serve Him and love others.

o Overcome negative thought patterns so you can brainstorm, develop, and create with the confidence of a go-getter girl!

I think one of the best things I liked about this book was the Do the Thing Manifesto at the end – so much so that I typed it up and it’s hanging at my desk in my office. Here it is:


Rebecca George

I am a go-getter girl for the kingdom of God. I seek to make Jesus Christ known through my work and to live in dependence on Him as I use my gifts and talents.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, I take step after step toward the God-dream He has put in my heart. When I stare at a blank canvas, I’m certain He will give me everything I need to advance the gospel.

I persevere with a stick-to-itivness that the enemy cannot interrupt or thwart. I will not make light of what God has called me to do. He has called me to a great work, and I will not stop in the midst of discouragement or distraction.

Most days, my calling will look mundane. I will take small steps each day in a Godward direction.

I will create with an unrushed heart, knowing I am operating out of an overflow of my private relationship with my Creator. Striving can cease when I operate by His agenda.

I hold my plans loosely, relying on God for wisdom and discernment about which assignments should come and go in my lie. I will prayerfully follow His lead, wherever and whenever He calls me to go.

As I love and lead others from the deep well of how Christ loves me, I help affirm and shine a light on the gifts and talents of those around me.

As an act of worship to the Author of time, I walk into my days with a steady confidence in my yes and my no, knowing He is at work in me.

I am simply a steward of the life God has placed before me. I do not bow a knee to the effects of overwhelm. I take my cues from heaven, and God is my sure foundation.

I have an unshakable kingdom-based confidence in who God make me to be and how I show up in the world to make Him known this side of heaven.

I am confident that God has planted my feet firmly, in this season, for a purpose far greater than I can imagine. Rather than getting caught up in comparison, I will allow Him to do what only He can do in and through me.

God has carved out a lane just for me in His kingdom. I run with my gaze fixed on Him. He holds the pen to my life and, boy, is He a brilliant author.

This is another book that drew me in by the subtitle: 8 Habits for Reimagining Productivity, Resisting Hurry, and Practicing Peace. Jen Pollack Michel talks about the fact that many of us have time anxiety. We never feel like we have enough time to do all that we want to do.

I can’t do a better job describing this book to you than the back cover does, so here it is:

Whether we're trying to find time, save it, manage it, or make the most of it, one word defines our relationship with the clock: anxiety. Yet is productivity really the only grid for the good life? Have you ever imagined a life without hurry, relentless work, multitasking, or scarcity? A life that is characterized instead by presence, attention, rest, rootedness, fruitfulness, and generosity? This is the kind of life we are meant for, says Jen Pollock Michel. But if we want to experience freedom from time anxiety, we have to reimagine our relationship with time itself. In the pages of In Good Time, she invites you to disentangle your priorities from our modern assumptions and instead ground them in God's time. Then she shows you how to establish 8 life-giving habits that will release you from the false religion of productivity so you can develop a grounded, healthy, life-giving relationship with the clock.

If you have a strained relationship with time, I encourage you to read this book.

This is a book I didn’t want to read, but knew I needed to. The subtitle is: Why Life is better when it’s not about you. Ouch. Sharon says that our me-centered culture affects every area of our lives – our relationships, calling, self-image, even our faith – and it negatively impacts each one. It robs job, shrinks our souls and gets us stuck in insecurity.

Seven of her chapters are what she calls the 7 mirrors:

  • When you make God about you

  • When you make family about you

  • When you make appearance about you

  • When you make possessions about you

  • When you make friendships about you

  • When you make calling about you

  • When you make church about you

Those chapters are so convicting, because I think we all struggle with self-focus to varying degrees. But Sharon doesn’t leave in the land of the hopeless. She describes a bigger, -Jesus-centered vision – one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. She says loving God and loving others sets us free. This is how we were designed to live.

Tim Keller has a really tiny book – more like a booklet – called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, and Free of Me reminds me of that one. So if you are up for being challenged in all the best ways, I highly recommend this book.

I like to get my hands on anything Susie Larson writes. She is such a woman of faith, and her writing causes something within me to rise up in faith. This book was no different. The subtitle is: Where is God when you need Him most?. Susie argues He is closer than your next breath.

She addresses the little secret among Christians that we don’t want to voice – often we don’t feel God’s closeness. She says that we can experience God’s trustworthiness and love, even when we feel far from Him. She talks about hearing the voice of God, what to do when God seems silent and how God’s presence should impact us. She says we sometimes chase the sensational and miss the supernatural. But when we pursue the heart of God through the word of God, that’s when we experience the presence of God in ways that will take our breath away.

I couldn’t agree more! I think we should raise our expectations of the supernatural presence of God. This book includes reflection questions, prayer prompts, and practical ways to respond to God’s presence – so lots of goodies in this book!

I desperately needed this book, and it is probably one I will return to again and again. You see, I want to be able to do it all – and do it all right now – and so I spread myself thin, committing to all the good things, but not having the time to do each thing as well as I can. And I don’t think I’m the only one who lives this way.

Jordan Raynor argues that instead of being a jack of all trades, we need to be a master of one. We need to find and focus on the work we were created to do. He invites us to discover the path of “less but better.” Here is the description on the back of the book:

Imagine how different your life would be if you spent your time doing the very thing that brings you the greatest joy. It’s possible, but most people spend their days making incremental advances on numerous tasks, competent at many things but exceptional at none. That’s because for too long we’ve believed the lie that more activity, more jobs, and more responsibility equals greater effectiveness. In short, we are becoming a society of “jacks-and-jills-of-all-trades and masters of none.” But what if you could shift your focus from too many things to one? In this thought-provoking book, you’ll discover the exponential power of pursuing a singular craft. Through practical principles, Jordan Raynor provides straightforward steps for finding and thriving in your calling.

Jordan provides four steps: explore, choose, eliminate and master. There’s something within me that resonates with this. But of course living this way requires us to say no to good things in order to do the best thing. So if you struggle with overcommitment and feeling stretched too thin, I highly recommend this book – and not only reading it, but implementing these strategies for guarding the good work God has called you to.

I read this little book on the beach one day this summer. You might be thinking, why would I want to read another book on spiritual disciplines? I hear you… that’s what I thought too … but this one is different.

Mason comes at the topic of spiritual disciplines from a unique perspective. He focuses on

  • Disciplining our attention

  • Disciplining our emotions

  • Disciplining our limits

This is the description on the back of the book:

Every Christian wants to grow into the person God made him to be. Every Christian has a healthier, more spiritually mature version of herself in mind. Every Christian looks upon the future's horizon and imagines a relationship with God ever-increasing in vibrancy and strength. But how does a Christian get there? How does a sapling with good intentions actually become an oak of righteousness? You might think the answer is "regularly read the Bible, pray often, and share the gospel consistently." And those practices are certainly part of it. But in this book, Mason King expands your thinking beyond basic spiritual practices (which typically emphasize what you must do) into a more holistic picture of what a full and flourishing life with God can look like when it is cultivated well (focusing instead on who you might become). In these pages, learn how you can become a vibrant, healthy Christian by regularly offering to God three main dimensions of your life―your attention, your emotions, and your limits―for when you are disciplined in cultivating these environments at the root, you will grow into the right kind of tree.

Mason gives practical advice for how to follow Jesus more closes in each of these three areas. It was that third one that made me buy the book, but in our day all three are important. I must confess, before reading this book, I hated my limits. I was always pushing against my physical limits, my energy limits, my time constraints and always trying to do more faster. But Mason argues that limits are a gift from God. They remind us that we are creatures and are very dependent on our Creator.

This little book is a quick read, but it packs a punch – you’ll be glad you read it! And it’s forwarded by Jen Wilkin, so need I say more?!

Another fiction book on my list! Carolyn Weber is Canadian, born in London ON. I was first exposed to this book through the movie that came out this year, and as I was watching the movie, I had no idea it was a book first. When my friend told me, she gave me her copy, and as is often the case, the book is far better than the movie.

Carolyn is a highly skilled writer. The way she weaves words together is nothing short of artistically brilliant. Here’s the description on the back of the book:

When Carolyn Weber set out to study Romantic literature at Oxford University, she didn't give much thought to God or spiritual matters—but over the course of her studies she encountered the Jesus of the Bible and her world turned upside down. Surprised by Oxford chronicles her conversion experience with wit, humor, and insight into how becoming a Christian changed her.

Carolyn Weber arrives at Oxford a feminist from a loving but broken family, suspicious of men and intellectually hostile to all things religious. As she grapples with her God-shaped void alongside the friends, classmates, and professors she meets, she tackles big questions in search of truth, love, and a life that matters.

From issues of fatherhood, feminism, doubt, doctrine, and love, Weber explores the intricacies of coming to faith with an aching honesty and insight echoing that of the poets and writers she studied. Surprised by Oxford is:

· The witty memoir of a skeptical agnostic who comes to a dynamic personal faith in God

· Rich with illustration and literary references

· Gritty, humorous, and spiritually perceptive

· An inside look at Oxford University

Weber eloquently describes a journey many of us have embarked upon, grappling with tough questions and doubts about the meaning of faith—and ultimately finding it in the most unlikely of places.

So friends, don’t bother seeing the movie. Read the book!

1. Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor

You may have noticed that this is the second book on my top ten list by this author. He’s a new to me author this year, and I love his style.

I absolutely loved Redeeming Your Time! My enthusiasm is probably because there were so many practical tips on how to be productive, and I’m a sucker for all things productivity! The subtitle is 7 Biblical principles for being purposeful, present and wildly productive. I mean, who can resist a book with that subtitle?!

This is not just another time management book. Jordan encourages us to manage our time the way Jesus managed His. This book promises to be a biblical antidote to swamped to-do lists and hurried schedules. Jordan says we don’t need just another approach to changing our habits. What we need is an operating system that takes into account the full scope of our lives.

These are the 7 powerful time-management principles drawn from the example of how Jesus lived:

  • Start with the word

  • Let your yes be yes

  • Dissent from the kingdom of noise

  • Prioritize your yeses

  • Accept your unipresence

  • Embrace productive rest

  • Eliminate all hurry

I love that the first principle is start with the word. This book is so full of practical helps. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was my favourite read this year!

So there is my list of Top Ten Books of 2023! What were your favourite reads this year?

If you missed last year's list, here it is: Top Ten Books of 2022

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