My Best Books of 2012

One aspect of the end of year wrap-ups I love is reading all the “Best of…” lists. So I reviewed the 75 books I’ve read in the past 12 months to determine my own Best Books of 2012.

In fact, I’ve got two lists: A Top 5 Fiction and a Top 10 Non-fiction.

Let’s start with the novels.

Top 5 Fiction

I was a little disappointed in myself this year that I didn’t read from a more diverse range of novels. So many of my favourite authors released new material that I tended to stick to a lot of tried and true authors, both in the Christian and secular markets.

As I spent a decent part of the year editing Angelguard, I also adhered to one of the common recommendations for budding authors: read in your genre. So lots of supernatural suspense type books made up my reading list.

I want to change that in 2013 by reading more widely. In particular, I’d like to read more of the classics.

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“Jesus Calling”, Sarah Young

This devotional was so good I didn’t want the year to end. I wish Sarah Young had an ongoing devotional we could continue to enjoy every day.

What was particularly great about this super book was that it taught me how to listen to Jesus. Too often in my prayer life I won’t sit and be silent. Each day’s reading forced you to do this as it’s written in the first hand of Jesus sharing with you.

I was continually amazed how many days the reading spoke directly to the state of my heart, that is, it captured an issue I was grappling with or was unwilling to let go.

If you’re looking for a powerful devotional, buy this and be ready to be transformed.

I’m sure I’ll use it again one year.

“The Still of Night”, Kristen Heitzmann

I was encouraged to read this by some new friends who are BIG fans of it.

This was a delightful surprise for me. I don’t typically read, “Women’s Fiction”, however, Kristen’s full-bodied characters and their development through the novel are tremendous. I now understand why my friends are so effusive in their recommendation.

In particular, Morgan Spencer, the male lead, is excellently portrayed and reflects a great understanding of the male psyche. He is both ambitious, selfish, blunt but also charming, chivalrous, extraordinarily generous and caring. I’d like to read the sequel just to see how Kristen further develops Morgan, especially his spiritual side.

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Post-Advent Musings

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Christmas is over. I trust you had a joyous time with your loved ones. I had two family-filled days that were fun and peaceful.

I’ve now begun to reflect on the year ahead.

A friend of mine mentioned a few days ago that she and her husband establish a key word for the year. Yes, one word. They prayerfully meditate on this and arrive at that word. A word they’d like to infuse more into their life and walk with Jesus. My friend’s word is “JOY”.

That was a new idea for me. It’s ruminated in my mind ever since and I’m sensing I may adopt a similar approach to 2013.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means “God with us”).” (Matt 1:20-23 NIV)

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Merry Christmas

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.

Christ is the reason for Christ-mas. We wouldn’t be celebrating it if it weren’t for His birth.

As I’ve reflected on Advent these past few weeks, I’ve spent more time in His presence, being thankful and expectant.

“The longer we gaze upon Jesus, the more we realise that life as we know it can no longer remain the same… Our adoration of the Christ child must lead to obedience and devotion.”1

That’s my prayer for all of us: that we adore Him by our obedience and devotion. Not just tomorrow, but everyday.

I hope you can get some time alone in the next day to be still in the presence of Jesus.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, wherever you may be, and may the peace, joy and hope He provides fill you today and always.

I thought I’d leave you with one of my favourite carols, magnificently sung by one of my favourite singers, Chris Tomlin.

Be safe, be still and be expectant.

Blessings to you all.


Notes: 1. “Silence – and other Surprising Invitations of Advent”, Enuma Okoro, Upper Room, pp95,96.

‘V is for Vulnerable, Life Outside the Comfort Zone’, Seth Godin

Photo Credit: Penguin Group USA

This is a very powerful little book.

Seth draws his inspiration for this little gem from Dr Seuss, who taught him to read. We’re told this in the short introduction that concludes with:

“I want you to do what you’ve you’re meant to do, what we’re all meant to do, which is the hard work of creating art. 

The artist wonders, ‘How can I break this?’ and ‘Is it interesting?’

Go break something.” 

This is an “ABC book for Grown-ups”. Two pages for each letter (except LMNO) illustrated in a wacky engaging manner by Hugh MacLeod.

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Observing Advent – Part 3

Photo Credit: Unity Church Albany, New York

As I’ve continued to read, pray and meditate on Advent this past week, I’ve been struck by the sheer humbleness of Jesus’ entry into the world.

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 NKJV)

Jesus, the Bible tells us, was born in a manger.

What’s a manger?

I’ve grown up with the classic Sunday school nativity scene picture of the cute wooden cot-like construction filled with hay or whatever making it appear pretty standard for babies born in those times.

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Let’s #LIVEWONDERSTRUCK this Christmas

Photo Credit: Worthy Publishing

In my last post on Advent I mentioned how on the night Jesus was born a group of shepherds tending their flocks, in the still of the night, received a visitor.

No ordinary visitor, but “the angel of the Lord.”

An angel has never visited me but I expect it would be mind-boggling and indeed frightening. This is confirmed in the first 2 chapters of Luke where Zechariah, then Mary, then Joseph (this is actually in Matthew 1) and finally, the shepherds, all received such a visitation. In each situation, the angel’s first few words included: “Do not be afraid.” So obviously each individual needed some reassurance.

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Observing Advent – Part 2

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

I continue to reflect upon the “coming” of Jesus as the days draw closer to the celebration of His birth. If you missed my first post on advent, you can find it here.

As I meditate on a number of different perspectives and on Scripture, I was particularly struck this week by how God chose some pretty anonymous people to play significant roles in the birth of Jesus.

There’s Mary, who was a young teenager, when Gabriel visited to tell her she would be birthing the greatest human to have ever lived. God, in fact.

The shepherds were tending their sheep on the night Jesus was born. I understand the occupation of shepherd was considered a quite lowly one in Jewish society at that time. But it was they, who received the visit from an angel of the Lord, and “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” (Luke 2:9) No wonder Scripture describes them as being “greatly afraid.”

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5 Favourite Secular Thriller Writers

This is the third post in this series on some of my favourite books. You can find the first 2 posts on these links: Favourite Classics and Favourite Christian novels.

“Secular” reflects the market these novelists address and in no way is meant to be any assessment of their spiritual leaning.

At a young age I read a lot of Agatha Christie WhoDunnits plus a bunch of action adventure books, which likely fuelled a passion for thrillers.

Thrillers are my preferred genre to read. I use the term “Thrillers” fairly loosely as in my mind it can relate to suspense, action adventure, mystery, speculative and even fantasy.

It was much harder for me to decide on actual novels due to the large volumes produced by some of my favourite thriller authors. So I’m actually going to focus on the author.

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