As well as a few titles that I have kept returning to week after week, I saved up some of the books that I’d been sent in the latter part of 2015 to enjoy over the Christmas period, and during my recuperation from a minor op. Here’s my thoughts on the selection:
Out of Sorts By Sarah Bessey
This was a book that I read in order to interview Sarah for an author profile in a magazine. I knew she was a great writer, but I wasn’t prepared for how much the book was going to resonate with where I was at, or how much it would challenge me. I love the way that Sarah gives us permission to feel out of sorts – as a pastor’s wife I often feel I need to hide my struggles for the benefit of those around me – but at the same time have a conviction that sharing those same struggles would help others. She talks of how a period of growth often includes feeling out of sorts as we re-navigate our assumptions about our faith. I didn’t agree with absolutely everything, but I think Sarah would be okay with that – after all she indicates that her desire in writing the book is not so others will go on the same journey that she has, but will find their own way deeper with God. Amen to that.
Resilient By Sheridan Voysey
This book was born out of Sheridan’s own experiment: to spend a month in the Sermon on the Mount. Written as a devotional, I really took my time with this one as I found the bite-size chapters were packed with challenges and insights. Sheridan doesn’t just stick with a verse by verse walk through the Sermon – each section has a chunk of the Sermon at the start but then he includes other scriptures that have resonated with him on the particular subject in question. I found this a very honest and enriching devotional, which has given me much to ponder and work through for myself.
Finding myself in Britain By Amy Boucher Pye
I was really excited to delve into the pages of this one: I have known Amy and worked for her for a few years in our editorial capacities, so I was intrigued to find out what Amy’s book would be like. And I wasn’t disappointed. Charming, witty, honest and with an openness that only an American would have, Amy introduces the British year to the reader, describing each season and event in the calendar though her American eyes. As an American married to a British vicar she has lived here for many years so has great insight. She also introduces us to some of her childhood delights and other native joys – as a Brit who grew up in America it was lovely to go down memory lane as I recognised so much of what she described from ‘back home’. This is a perfect book to give as a gift to a friend.
The Scent of Water By Elizabeth Goudge
I saved this book to take into hospital with me, and I have to say it was the perfect choice. Gentle, tender, poetic and beautifully descriptive, the book is about a middle-aged woman from London who is left a house in the country when her father’s cousin dies. She decides to leave the city and move there, and, in doing so, embarks on a journey of discovery – about herself, her distant relative, her lost love and the people she lives near in the country. The pace is slow and meandering – at another time I may have got impatient with that but it was just what I needed. I enjoyed the moments of spiritual insights too, jotting down many of them.
Two Steps Forward By Sharon Garlough Brown
This is the sequel to Sensible Shoes. Again a title I had had for ages, I saved it for the Christmas break. The first book introduced us to four women who met during a spiritual formation journey at a retreat centre. They are all very different, but strike up a friendship that lasts beyond the retreat. With sequels I am always concerned that I won’t get as caught up in the story, or won’t care as much about the characters as I did first time round, but Sharon did a brilliant job of moving their stories on and I was gripped. I loved reading about how the characters were learning to use the things they discovered on retreat back in their everyday lives, with all the difficulties and struggles they contain.
As she did in the first book, Sharon also includes great spiritual insights, many of which are highlighted ready to be transferred into my journal as they spoke to me personally. I love it when a novel is more than a mere escape – although that is obviously a big role novels play in our lives. This book left me challenged, with new spiritual disciplines and exercises to try. I heartily recommend it – and the whole series if you haven’t read the first book. I’m excited to learn that Sharon is already working on the fourth book in the series…