Books That Inspire

I love to read books, so I will be passing along my reviews of books that have inspired me, strengthened my faith, encouraged me as a mom, or fueled my creative sparks. I will also be honest about the ones that I think you should skip. Check back here for more book reviews soon!

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Good historical fiction is one of my love languages, so Becoming Mrs. Lewis is a book that I recommend. I thought the writing was vivid, and the story of C.S. Lewis and his wife was told in a way that was compelling. I love the apologetics books of C.S. Lewis; how he looked at the world was so unique, intelligent, and honest, and I admire him as one of the greatest Christian writers. That’s why I decided to read this fictionalized account of the couple. I recommend it to you if you are also a C.S. Lewis fan. I will give you fair warning that Joy was married to another man when she began corresponding with Lewis and fell in love with him, so if that is a deal-breaker for you (it’s not a romance based in innocence and biblical principles), then you might want to steer clear. It would be impossible to tell the story by glossing over this reality.

9781400315291Praying the Promises: Anchor Your Life to Unshakable Hope by Max and Andrea Lucado  At first glance, I thought this would be a nice book to give as a gift because of how pretty it is; however, once I opened it and started reading, I realized I like this book so much that I am going to keep it and re-read it often. It is filled with encouraging promises and Bible verses. It’s not the “name it, claim it” type of promises that Christians have become wary of either (As I understand it, the “name it, claim it” philosophy is based in the attitude that God “has to” do something, and it is also connected with the false thinking that God’s blessing is always shown in health and wealth). Instead, this book is filled with real promises for believers that we can pray in agreement with, such as “you will know God,” “God will guide you,” “your prayers have power,” and “the Holy Spirit empowers you.” The book itself is visually beautiful, and the chapters are short enough that they could easily be read as a daily devotional. Many Bible verses are referenced in each section, which I liked. This book could easily be a starting point for a lot of Bible Journaling.

I will make the knowledge of God my highest pursuit. I will stand firmly upon God’s promise that all (believers) will know him. And as one who seeks him, I will trust that he will make himself known to me through the beauty of nature, relationships, and everything around me. He is not hidden from me.”   — excerpt from Praying the Promises

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Israel Rising: The Land of Israel Reawakens by Doug Hershey  

This is a beautiful and fascinating book filled with quality photography. It combines biblical prophecy, historic photos of Israel from the 1880s to the 1940s, and modern photos taken from exactly the same vantage point as the historic photos to show how the locations have grown in development, population, and vegetation. I am very curious about Israel and would love to visit the sites that are so meaningful for Christ-followers; I feel like viewing photos of Israel brings me a little closer to the land, if only from the comfort of my couch. Thousands of years ago, the prophet Ezekiel foretold a future time in which the arid land of Israel would come alive for its people; Hershey believes that his photos document that vision. It is pretty compelling to look at the difference 100 or so years makes in the land, and it seems that the establishment of Israel 70 years ago has been connected to the land’s growth. I am not a Bible scholar, so I do not feel qualified to comment on the direct connection between the photos and biblical prophecy; however, I will wholeheartedly recommend this book, and I am convinced that Hershey’s observations of growth are not at all a coincidence. Israel was the land of God’s chosen people of the Old Testament and the place where prophecy was spoken and will be fulfilled. If you are curious about Israel too, I would recommend checking out the photos in Israel Rising along with Kathie Lee Gifford’s recent book The Rock, The Road, and The Rabbi, which really brought the landscape and culture alive for me. I cannot recommend The Rock, The Road, and The Rabbi enough! I feel like looking through Israel Rising after reading Kathie Lee’s book brought a whole new, rich layer to what I am discovering. A description from Kensington Publishing Corps says, “From the hills of Shiloh where shepherds once roamed, to the booming city of Tel Aviv, founded on sand dunes, to the stellar beaches of Caesarea, transformed from a small village into one of Israel’s most stunning coastal cities and finally Jerusalem, the Eternal City of Peace, where in ancient times the power of worship resounded from the Temple — this sumptuously illustrated photography book transports, educates illuminates, and celebrates the legacy of Israel.” Kensington Publishing Corp reached out to ask if I would like to review this book. I highly recommend it for a photographic experience that I do not believe you will find in any other book; seeing a side-by-side comparison was a neat experience. Even though it’s not Christmas time, this coffee table sized book would make a pretty amazing present. Check out the book’s website to see a video and some photos.

Night Night, Sleepytown by Amy Parker My son already has the Night Night Train book by Amy Parker and adores it. This new book by Amy Parker is great too. The illustrations by Virginia Allyn are really charming. My son specifically requests this book at bed time sometimes. If you are looking for some good books for children around ages 3 to 6, I would recommend the Night Night books, along with Gobi: A Little Dog with a Big Heart, A Town Called Hairyscary, and the Llama Llama books.

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Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn From Them by Ann Spangler I am using this book as my current devotional. There is a lot of pressure to be “perfect” sometimes — the perfect employee, mom, wife, friend, volunteer, woman — but this book reminds us that God can work in the lives of human, imperfect, flawed people. I like how the book presents different people from the Bible as our spiritual ancestors and thus part of our heritage in Christ. The author writes in a way that is creative and descriptive. I recommend reading the actual scripture for each person’s story along with the short chapters written by Spangler. Here is the publisher’s synopsis.

What can the Bible’s most flawed men and women reveal about who God is and how he reaches out to less-than-perfect people? In Less Than Perfect, bestselling author Ann Spangler takes us beyond cardboard cutouts of 38 biblical characters to show us how these were real individuals who had dreams, temptations, and weaknesses just like us. Spangler approaches both familiar and lesser known characters with fresh eyes. We meet each of these individuals again as if for the first time as Spangler offers a dramatic retelling of their lives, insight into the historical and cultural context of their time, and key takeaway points for our lives today. Each chapter includes questions for discussion or reflection, making Less Than Perfect ideal for individual or group Bible study. As you learn more about the individuals who are part of your spiritual family tree, you’ll discover why God loves to use imperfect people to tell his perfect story of redemption.”

240_360_book-2586-coverI Am: The Names of God for Little Ones by Diane Stortz  This is a fantastic book for little ones. It is really cool for my son because I taught him to read the word “I” over the summer, so every time the book has the word “I” in it, I point to it so that he can read it. Then I realized he was also picking up the word “am” from the book, so now he can read “I am.” He is learning something of spiritual worth, being exposed to Hebrew words for God, and also saying a short prayer included with each one. I say parts of the little prayer enthusiastically and then have him repeat after me. It’s pretty fun. If you have a child who is getting ready to go into Pre-K or Kindergarten, you can use it as both a strong spiritual book and a way to teach some basic sight words like “I am.”

Candy Apple Blessings by Tommy Nelson Books

Autumn is my favorite season, and I am holding on to this book for my son to read the day the leaves start to turn. I am looking forward to it! The illustrations are charming. Publisher’s Description:

240_360_book-2611-coverCandy Apple Blessings is a cheery seasonal board book that explores the many reasons we love fall. Including a charming embellished cover and whimsical art, this book follows some animal friends as they celebrate the best parts of autumn. Whether it’s choosing a pumpkin from the patch, jumping in a colorful pile of leaves, or going on a hayride with friends, Candy Apple Blessings is a fun way to thank God for the beautiful parts of the season that you get to enjoy together!”

The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen by Lisa Gungor

This book was sent to me by Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review. I do not recommend it as a book that will enrich your Christian faith; however, if you are strong in faith, it will challenge you to hear a different point of view and think about why you hold Christian faith despite the reasons that Lisa gives for turning from her traditional faith along with her husband, Michael. The couple had a Christian band called Gungor, which I had never heard of before I stumbled across a podcast that mentioned Gungor about a year ago. As I read the book, I listened to Gungor on Spotify, and I was blown away by the talent of the band and the beauty of the songs. I think it probably let down a lot of fans when the couple announced that they no longer identify as Christians, and I think the couple probably had a lot of anger directed at them that would have been hard to take. This book is beautifully written, and I can tell Lisa Gungor is coming from a place of personal honesty as she writes. Reading about her experience of having a daughter with Down Syndrome is eye-opening, and I like how she explains that society’s view of worth applying to only the able-bodied is skewed. Her description of life with her daughter was the most compelling part of the book for me. After reading Lisa’s book, I am still a Christian, so obviously I disagree with her on several points about faith. I still believe in the Bible as God’s word because of the fulfilled prophecy that it contains and because of the work of the Holy Spirit that is clear in the lives of many believers. However, I respect Lisa as a reflective, artistic person who is asking very hard questions. I do not think she has come to the right conclusion about Christ, eternity, and the Bible. I do agree with her that some people use Christianity to manipulate others and gain power; that is certainly not the majority of Christians, but it does happen, and it is wrong to do. I also agree that some of the sexism that goes on in churches is beyond what is actually biblical. Lisa writes that she does not understand why God answers some prayers and then allows other evil to go on, such as the holocaust. It is hard to understand, but as a Christian, I must humble myself enough to realize that I cannot see the big picture completely. None of us can. This is part of faith.

The Faith of Dolly Parton by Dudley Delffs 

240_360_book-2599-coverAs a country person myself, I adore Dolly’s songs, her voice, and her warm personality.  I think she would be touched to hear she had inspired another person’s faith journey. The author definitely communicates how Dolly shines her light and inspires others in their faith. Yet, I think what misses the mark is how the book is packaged and the fact that Dolly herself was not interviewed. The author quotes many books, articles, and an autobiography, but he never explains why Dolly was not interviewed directly. The book does not contain an endorsement from her anywhere. I feel like it would have given a more authentic impression if the cover art had been a different photo or even a picture of the author and a smaller photo of Dolly. Since the author shares how his own faith journey is inspired by Dolly, I think the title should have reflected that better. The book references past articles by other people, but it left me wanting to know a lot more details about Dolly and her faith that only could have come from Dolly herself. However, this book did have some strengths. As someone who writes and loves to read, I enjoyed hearing Delffs’ own anecdotes about his career in publishing. He used to work for Zondervan as a Senior VP and Publisher, so I wanted to hear how he came into a career that would be a dream for most of us English major types. The parts where he wrote about writing and publishing were very interesting to me. The part of the book that was most compelling for me was when Delffs wrote about a time of struggle in Dolly’s life and then shared his own struggles. My heart went out to him; I thought it was very brave to be so honest about his own life. The most beautiful part about this book is that the reader can truly see how much Delffs adores Dolly and is inspired by her faith.

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Adventure Bible Book of Daring Deeds and Epic Creations   I recently posted a review of Create: A Girl’s Guide to DIY, Doodles, and Designs as an excellent resource for the creative girl or teen in your life. Not to leave out the creative guys, I would recommend The Adventure Bible Book of Daring Deeds and Epic Creations. This book is not a Bible, but it does have Bible verses and crafts that would appeal to an older elementary-aged boy or young teenager.

Book Description

Begin your adventure here! The Adventure Bible Book of Daring Deeds and Epic Creations: 60 Ultimate Try-Something-New, Explore-the-World Activities contains lessons on knot tying, writing coded letters, building tree swings, and more, perfect for kids ages 8 and up. Boys and girls will love this interactive book filled with step-by-step guides and fun, full-color illustrations, and parents will enjoy the key verses and biblical takeaways that make this the perfect companion to the NIV Adventure Bible, the number one Bible for kids. From easy, do-it-yourself crafts to fun outdoor activities, this book will show kids how to find adventure indoors and out.

Adventures include:

Top-secret coded letters
Geocaching fun
Identifying animal tracks
Camping like a pro
Learning sign language
Bible arts and crafts

I definitely recommend this book for hours of entertainment and a chance to bring some Bible verses into your child’s life in a fun way. I already know of a teenage boy who is going to love this book when I give it to him.
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Create: A Girl’s Guide to DIY, Doodles, & Design

Book Description: Ready, set, create! Whether you’re an aspiring artist or a just-starting-out doodler, Create! A Girl’s Guide to DIY, Doodles, and Design is the perfect book to inspire your creative side. From coloring pages to quick-and-easy crafts—like photo frames and duct-tape bags—and everything in between, this full-color book from the trusted Faithgirlz brand provides step-by-step guides to more than 50 fun and easy projects. Learn how to make your own DIY projects, create one-of-a-kind jewelry, and draw like a pro. Perfect for individual use or for sleepovers, birthday parties, and more, Create! is sure to bring out your inner artist.

My thoughts: I am gifting this book to a girl who is going to love it. I thought the pictures and step-by-step directions were excellent. The variety of crafts was great too — decorations, photo frames, duct-tape purses (so fun), jewelry ideas, and even some Bible Journaling tips. Give this to the girl or teen in your life who loves to create.

The Circle Maker Devotions for Kids

240_360_book-2552-coverInitially, I was completely into the idea of this book, but I have begun to have second thoughts on its use for children. The area of concern for me is that this book focuses on the Jewish legend of Honi, which is not actually in the Bible. I think, especially for children who are more impressionable and still learning how to discern truth, using a legend not from the Bible along with Bible verses might cause some confusion. I have read some reviews that question whether or not “circle-making” and the attitude of insisting that God does something is biblical, and I can see where those concerns come from. Yet, if you do decide to use this as a prayer resource for older children, please explain that Honi is not in the Bible and that prayer should always be approached from a place of humility, not from a place of insisting that God do something. I find that this book does have a lot of powerful prayer inspiration. However, I think adult guidance would be a good idea if you choose to have your child pray this way. I loved Mark Batterson’s Whisper, so I wanted to give a good review for this book, but I hesitate to do so even though it is very well-written and visually appealing. I would recommend looking for a book that is based on a Bible story rather than one from Jewish myth.

A Memory A Day for Moms 5 Year Inspirational Journal

313266_1_ftcIf you like Bible journaling, it is very possible that you enjoy memory-keeping in general. This journal provides great prompts. For example, today’s was, “Have you made any fun plans for your child this summer?” Tomorrow’s is, “What traits do you see in your child that remind you of a family member?” My only regret is that I did not have this book when my son was born because it would be filled with five years of memories already! Over the course of five years, you can revisit the same prompt that you wrote about the year before. I just started this book, but I think it will be really neat to see how our family’s life changes each year. On a visual level, I love the cover of this book. It’s my favorite color, and I like the gold accents. Having the “stick-with-it-ness” to follow through with this for the full five years will be a challenge, but only three lines a day is a very minimal commitment.

*These books were sent to me by Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers