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My Five Favourite Books of 2019

Last January, I posted about my five favourite books of 2018. I set myself a higher target of books to read last year, which made choosing only five quite difficult, but after some deliberation, here are my favourites of 2019!

Better Than We Dreamed, The Story of Elaine Townsend and the Faithfulness of a God Who Colored Outside All Her Lines by Simona Gorton

When I came across this book in my local Christian bookshop, what initially caught my eye was the unusual and beautiful cover, but when I turned the book over and saw that Chicago, South America and the USSR were all mentioned in the blurb, I didn’t need any convincing to buy it. Yet even the cover and blurb didn’t come anywhere close to doing this book justice. Elaine Townsend was probably best known as the wife of the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, but who had her own extremely fascinating, God-honouring life story. Although very human, her hospitality, courage, ambition, interest in others, and most of all the high value she placed on reading and memorising the Word of God were remarkable. It’s impossible to summarise this absorbing book in a short review – it made me laugh out loud, it left me open-mouthed in awe at her zeal and courage, it gave me a desire to delve into Scripture and make God’s will the focus of my life. Better Than We Dreamed was without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2019!

Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives by Charles R. Swindoll

Although I’d heard of the Great Lives From God’s Word series, this was the first book I’d read from it. Initially, I was a little dubious as to some of the Bible characters listed – I wouldn’t exactly call Abraham, Samuel or Saul ‘forgotten lives’, but once I got past that particular objection, I realised that this is a book which is well worth investing time in reading. I discovered that Charles Swindoll can take the most familiar of Bible stories and draw out fresh thoughts and memorable, practical lessons for all life situations. This book is very easy to read due to the down-to-earth writing style and assisted by the well-placed section breaks. It was so good that I’m planning to add another of the Great Lives books to my list for 2020.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A trip to the beautiful Georgian city of Bath in March incited a Jane Austen spree, mostly in the form of audiobooks borrowed via my local library’s app. I was familiar with Jane Austen’s best-known-and-loved story, and had read the book or at least part of it many years ago, but had always intended to read it again. As I listened to the audio production of this famous book, while walking our dog, I was struck anew by the great talent that Jane Austen possessed. Her dry wit and clever insight into human nature often left me laughing out loud. (Apologies to my neighbours and other unsuspecting dog walkers!) While her writing style is somewhat different to that of today, it only adds to the story. I realised that Pride and Prejudice is not just a book which has endured for centuries by being imposed on English students, but which has remained a well-loved classic for a very good reason.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

Earlier in the year, my husband and I read a more recent book by Nabeel Qureshi, No God But One. I found it very technical and, while we finished it, I admit I struggled to keep going. For that reason, I wasn’t terribly excited about reading this one. However, it didn’t take me long to realise that I had simply read the books in the wrong order! Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the autobiography of a young devout Muslim, who was faced with the failure of Islam to stand up to scrutiny. The book details his life story, the discoveries he made when he began to investigate and compare Islam and Christianity, his conversion to Christ, and the consequences of this within his Muslim family. As well as being interesting from a cultural perspective, this book is also informative, giving an insight into the beliefs and traditions of those who follow Islam, of whom there are so many in our world today. What makes this book more poignant is the fact that Nabeel, twelve years after he accepted Christ as His Saviour, went to be with the One who died for Him.

(A)Typical Woman – Free, Whole, And Called In Christ by Abigail Dodds

In our world today, the concept of gender is in chaos, and womanhood seems to have borne the brunt of the confusion to such an extent that even believers hardly know anymore what it means to be a woman as God designed us. That’s why this book is so very valuable, primarily for women, but also for men. I first came across Abigail Dodds’ writings in online articles, where she struck me as a wise and godly believer, who isn’t afraid to speak the truth in love. This book is more of that same truthful wisdom, reminiscent of the writings of Elisabeth Elliot. Abigail Dodds shows us from Scripture what it really means to be a woman – that it has less to do with where our talents and interests lie and more to do with what God made us; that no matter what our lives look like or what situation we are currently in, none of us are less worthy or less ‘woman’; that we need each other, even if our situations are very different. She writes, ‘We need people who aren’t in our exact place of difficulty to say things that occasionally rub us the wrong way. We need to give people permission to be truthful…’ With many similar nuggets of wisdom, I often found myself nodding in agreement and wishing I had a pencil or highlighter in my hand. While a careful reading will bring the most benefit, this is not a difficult book to read or understand, and each woman, no matter her age or situation, will find much to strengthen, convict and encourage. (A)Typical Woman, my favourite book of 2019, is going back on my reading pile for 2020, to be re-read and digested slowly and thoughtfully, this time with that pencil!

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  • Eunice Wilkie

    15/01/2020 at 20:57 Reply

    Great summaries of what sound like fascinating books!! Found this overview very helpful and have at least one of the books you mentioned in my ‘to read’ pile currently, but will remember the rest for the future and also to use as gifts for others:)

    • Ruth Chesney

      18/01/2020 at 14:38 Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Eunice! I always like to know what other people have enjoyed reading – glad you found this helpful. ?

  • Andrew Williamson

    15/01/2020 at 23:25 Reply

    Thanks Ruth for composing this list., I think Better than we dreamed, may go on my list as well – I love a good biography, perhaps Lindsey and I can read this one together.

    • Ruth Chesney

      18/01/2020 at 14:39 Reply

      You’re welcome, Andrew! Hope you enjoy Better Than We Dreamed!

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