Book recommendations summer/fall 2021

Disclaimer: I enjoy reading widely – not only genre wise, but also author-wise. Ultimately God’s word is my authority and so I read with discernment, evaluating what I read from the worldview that the Spirit has given me through his word. I encourage you to do the same.


I am working towards getting accredited for biblical counseling. We also live in a country under trauma – both collective and individual. So I have been doing a lot of research and learning about trauma informed counseling in the past year. Some of the books on this list reflect that:

Is It Abuse? by Darby Strickland – Abuse in the church is very difficult to identify and address. Especially in churches with a strong emphasis on headship and submission. This book, while hard to read, is a very important gift to the church. I am thankful for Strickland’s perspective. I would caveat that as counselors we need to be careful not to have a one dimensional view of the oppressor or the abused.

The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis – I really appreciated this book and the podcast associated with it (Empowered to Connect podcast). Although its audience is adoptive parents, I appreciated understanding how trauma impacts children and how understanding this also helps us know how to parent kids that have gone through trauma. This is personally relevant to me for many reasons.

Boundaries with Kids by Henry Cloud – this book has been really helpful to me. The authors define boundary as “the property line that defines a person; it defines where one person ends and someone else begins.” It has given me a lot to chew on – especially in how to teach my kids to see themselves primarily in relationship with God and how to live faithfully and responsibly in light of that. It also helps me understands important dynamics in helping people that grew up in trauma settings, because often that is one of the ways they learn to survive: not knowing where they end and where others begin.

Try Softer by Aundi Kolber – This book is a helpful look into how trauma rewires our brain, and how often anxiety is not simply just a sinful response but a survival technique after being exposed to trauma (either big T trauma or little t trauma). It offers practices to help retrain our brains and souls how to respond to triggers. I really appreciated her tone and her insights. As with any book you want to read it with discernment. She sometimes will talk about how we need to parent ourselves. But I think that language misses that we have a Father that is parenting us. In counseling, especially counseling believers, I don’t want to assume union with Christ and all the gifts that come to us because of it (including that Christ has shared his Father with us). At the same time, I think it is important for biblical counselors to grow in their understanding of the body/soul connection and the complexity of the way both them and their counselees are wired, and this book was helpful to me in that.

In Our Lives First by Dianne Landberg – this is a devotional for counselors, with six weeks’ worth of readings based on Landbergh’s experience as a counselor. They are short and to the point but tremendously insightful and encouraging. She is very aware of the temptations and discouragements that counselors and mentors face, and breathes fresh hope with her words. I would recommend it for anyone in mentoring and discipleship relationships.

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan – this memoir explores the relationship between mothers and daughters and how it changes over time. She recalls her time as a newly college graduate on an adventure around the world and reflects on how her nannying for a family that had lost the mom to cancer, made her think a lot about her own. It also explores grief.

A Place to Land by Kate Motaung – I met Kate this last summer when we were in Grand Rapids. This is a memoir that explores the idea of belonging. I laughed and cried reading about her life growing up in West Michigan (where my husband is from), her move to South Africa and her new life there, and her eventual return to the US. I related to her so much, with all the layers of both loss and joy that come with a cross-cultural life.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh- Anne Morrow is a writer who spent many seasons by the sea. She writes reflections based on different shells she found. These were thought provoking and helped me slow down.

Historical Fiction: 
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – I really enjoyed reading this story about a young Chinese boy who meets a young Korean girl in the 1940’s here in the US. I learned a lot about US history at the time and how all Asian were treated on the West coast, during the Second World War. The book goes back and forth between 1940’s and 1986 when the boy, now a grown man in his late 50’s is trying to follow clues to help him find that girl that he so loved.

Spiritual Formation:
Truth on Fire by Adam Ramsey – This book was such a breath of fresh air. I really appreciated reading this early in the mornings along with my daily reading of God’s word. It truly led me to worship and to sing for joy for the God we have.

I Forgive You by Wendy Alsup – this book is coming out in January. I am on the launch team for it. Wendy and I were on a writer’s group many years ago and I was really impressed back then by her gracious yet discerning mind. She has suffered a lot and has been hurt by those who should have protected her. When I saw she had written a book on forgiveness I knew I wanted to read it. Her take on forgiveness was unexpected yet so powerful. She writes as someone in the trenches who understands the ache of betrayal and sin, but who also has tasted the beauty of the gospel and how it helps us work toward reconciliation. Her heart for racial reconciliation was especially moving to me. While I would be careful to caveat a little more than she did in talking about repairs, I think her heart for God’s people and for the oppressed is beautiful.  This book will especially help those living in the complex & excruciating intersection of trauma & sin. 

Expect Something Beautiful by Laura Booz – I met Laura two years ago and found myself thinking, “I wish I lived on her street and had her as my neighbor.” She is so winsome, humble and yet refreshingly joyful in Christ. Her confidence in Him oozes out of her. This book is such a gift for moms about how in Christ and because of him, we can expect something beautiful in motherhood. Christ’s wisdom and grace through her are a gift. She comes alongside you as a big sister would, and while acknowledging where she is growing and learning, offers what the Lord has taught her through 16 years of parenting 5 kids. I especially loved how she explored in the second part of the book each fruit of the Spirit and its implications in parenthood. You will both cry and laugh reading this one. It would be such a great gift for a mom who needs extra encouragement in parenting.

The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson – If you want to learn a little about church history, you will appreciate this book. It is about the Marrow Controversy in Scotland back in the 1600’s and its relevance to us today. It is a book about legalism and antinomianism and the gospel. This book is from a strong covenant theology perspective and holds to the 3rd use of the law. I am still working through my own understanding of some of the categories of that theological framework but appreciated at least understanding better his position. This book made me glory in all that Christ has given us in Christ and in the richness of all that the gospel offers.

Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot – I read this book in a harder season this last summer. And as always, Elisabeth Elliot challenged me with her thoughts on suffering. Her confidence in Christ and in the goodness of God in hard times is a huge encouragement.

Beginning: Family Worship in Genesis by Joel Beeke – We have been reading this book in family devotions this summer and fall. I have been really thankful for it. Joel Beeke and Nick Thompson have a great understanding of biblical theology and know how to make it accessible for kids. These devotions are short and to the point but dripping rich with the treasures found in God’s word.

George Muller by Jane Benge (Audiobook on Scribd) – we have been listening to this audiobook during lunch times. George’s life is not only really encouraging to us as a family but also this particular narrator keeps us all (even Ethan and I) captivated. In case you don’t know who George Muller was, he was a man of God who depended on God in supernatural ways. He eventually opened a home for orphans and the stories of God’s provision for those homes will breathe fresh faith into your soul. If you are interested in reading his biography for adults, this one really challenged and encouraged me a few years ago.

Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld (Read-aloud) – our family has been homeschooling this past year and a half. We have been doing a mix of classical education and Charlotte Mason. This story was a read-aloud set in early Rome. It is a mystery about a group of boys trying to figure out who desecrated the temple of the goddess Minerva in their city. It was really entertaining but also taught us more about what school looked like back then, and how society functioned.

God is Great, Gods Good by Sanna Anderson Baker (for babies and toddlers) – I just discovered this book this week and fell in love with it. It is an older book (first came out in 1987). It is a retelling of Job for toddlers. It is not only incredibly worshipful but it also has beautiful illustrations by Tomie de Paola.

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