Books You Should Read If We’re Going to Be Friends: The Nonfiction Version

I take my reading very seriously. That’s not to say that I don’t read funny books. In fact, I love funny books. By “funny books,” I don’t necessarily mean comic books. Although I will read comic books. 

Reading isn’t merely a hobby for me. You might say it’s more of a compulsion. I can not NOT read. If it has words and is in front of my eyes, I must read it. Signs, posters, directions, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles…I read them all. I read the preface and the introduction as well as the author’s notes. It has taken me years to be able to skim through a newspaper without reading every single word.  Watching news channels drives me to distraction because I can’t listen to the newscasters for reading the news crawl at the bottom of the screen. Whenever there’s a storm in the area and they run the crawl at the bottom alerting viewers, I have to read it. Every time. Even if the information doesn’t change. 

But I also read for pleasure. I really like to read fiction best. It takes me a lot longer to read a nonfiction book than it does a fiction book. My theory is that it’s a holdover from my years as a student. I read nonfiction as if I’ll be tested on the material at the end of the book. With fiction books, I feel more at liberty to let my mind wander a little and come back to the story whenever I feel like it.

That said, I’m going to start my list of books you should read if we’re going to be friends with my nonfiction demands. I probably chose them first because there aren’t as many to list. You know how I am about making lists of favorites, right? You understand that this will be a very fluid list. It’s my list so I can add or subtract whatever and whenever I want. I know I’ll add to this list because just sitting here making my list I’ve thought of three more books that should be here. We’ll do this again, I promise, but we have to start somewhere. So, in no particular order, because that’s very important to someone who doesn’t like to show favoritism, here are the nonfiction books I think you should read:

book.transparentSame Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

My friend Sammi told me I should read Same Kind of Different As Me. She told me I should read this book every single time I saw her. I read this book so she would quit telling me to read this book. (Funny aside: I  was actually drawn to this book in the bookstore months before she recommended it because I loved the cover. I read the inside flap and knew I wanted to read it but I was just browsing, not buying that day. I didn’t recognize the title when Sammi told me to get it, but I was so excited that this was the book she was driving me crazy telling me about.) 

This was one of those books that kept me up all night.  And after I was finished, I wanted all my friends to read it so we could talk about it. I even bought an extra copy so that I could loan it out without losing my copy. (As a matter of fact, I’ve done that with every book on this list.)  So what’s it about? It’s the story of  “a modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together.”  This book turned me upside down about so many different things. I don’t want to ruin any of it by telling you anything else, but this is an amazing story. When you read it, you have to email me so we can talk favorite parts and how you’re different because of this book. You’ll be different if you read it, I promise.

7147H5X3ZDL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_.gifFamilies Where Grace Is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen

Have you ever seen the show “Intervention” on A&E? Jeff VanVonderen is one of the interventionists on that show. I knew Mimi was going to be a friend the first time I ever visited her blog and saw this book on her favorite book list.  This book helped me to understand that the only person’s behavior that I could control in my family is my own. Jeff starts by showing what a healthy grace-full marriage looks like and builds on that relationship to show a beautiful picture of grace-full relationships with our children. I had never heard anyone explain Ephesians 4 the way Jeff did and it made a big impact on my understanding of what a Christian family should be.

412++hGFgFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

I wish I had read this book when I was younger. So many years I thought I was the only woman who felt like she was “too much and not enough” at the same time. I’m not sure I agree with everything John and Stasi wrote, but even the parts that weren’t consistent with my own views made me examine my heart and my basis for why I believe what I believe. I like books that make me think outside the box. This book deepened my passion for my Savior  and gave me cause to celebrate that he had created me to be a woman.


In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

It may seem strange to include a book on this list that I haven’t finished reading yet, but this one is special. I first heard about this book when my college friend Jeff wrote a review of it on his blog (Jeff’s also the first person who ever suggested that I have my own blog. I think maybe he did that so I would quit leaving novellas in his comment section.) Jeff writes great book reviews and I can almost always tell if I’m going to like a book or not by what he says about it. I knew when I read that review that I wanted to read this book. But I also had made a resolution after our last move that for our next move, I would have an equal or smaller number of books than I brought to Massachusetts. My dad’s birthday was around the corner so I decided to buy the book for him and read it while I was home. Like re-gifting in reverse, maybe. Dad always has a book or two on his nightstand that he’s reading so I thought I’d be able to finish it before he was ready to begin it.

We arrived at my parents’ home on December 18th. When I gave Dad the book he said, “Oh, good! I had just finished the book I was reading and was looking for something new.” So much for my great plan. Little did I know that God had another plan for this little book. Dad started reading it that Thursday night. He read a little more on Friday and Saturday night. We had no idea that on Sunday he would start vomiting and be admitted to the hospital. We most certainly didn’t know that on Monday he would have a malignant brain tumor removed. God knew. And he used this book to plant a few seeds that took root over the next few days.  This book is about how to survive and thrive when opportunities roar.

I ended up buying my own copy. I told you I read nonfiction more slowly, but this is a snail’s pace even for me. I’m taking my time through this book because I don’t want to miss a thing. Oh, my goodness….this book is full of good stuff.  One of the phrases in the book has become one of my Dad’s favorite things to say when he talks about the road he’s on right now.  He says that what’s happening in his life right now is just “God building his resume’.”  This book has helped me to understand that I don’t need to passively let life happen to me, especially when I’m in the midst of hard stuff.  These challenges we’re facing? They’re opportunities for God’s glory. Feel like you’re being chased by lions lately? Shake things up. Turn around and start chasing those lions that are breathing down your neck. They’ll never see it coming. 

By the way, the author of this book, Mark Batterson, is a pastor of an incredible fellowship in Washington, D.C. His blog is one of my favorites. His posts are never long, but they’re almost always full of food that I can chew on for the rest of the day.

Of course, it’s probably unnecessary, but I still feel the need to issue a reader’s warning: No nonfiction book on any list trumps the authority of the best nonfiction book you’ll ever read. As wonderful as I’m sure each of the above authors is, none of them are infallible. The only book that I know is error-free is The Bible.  Check anything you read here to make sure it lines up with what God says. And if you want, you can join me as I jump into a 90-Day Bible Reading Challenge with my friend Lori. (Hey, Lori, I hope it’s okay if I invited my friends to come, too.) Click on her name for the post with the details. We’re starting June 1, so you’re not too late and actually have a few days to prepare.

Whew! Man, I’m wordy. If you made it to the end of this post, I bet you feel like you’ve read a book just now! Today I just felt like talking about something I love to talk about for awhile. Thanks for letting me. Now which of these books are you going to read first?




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21 responses to “Books You Should Read If We’re Going to Be Friends: The Nonfiction Version

  1. Great! Now I’m tormented about which one to read first!! but I’m thinking that “Families Where Grace Is In Place” should be at the very top of my list… Thanks for sharing!

    …but now my “To Read” List just grew by 4.

    I’m currently going through “Shepherding Your Child’s Heart” and “The Excellent Wife” though, so it might take me a little while to get to them…

  2. Alex


    Three friends, Kua, Arlene Iwano and Chad Brownstein, all of whom you know, just got back from visiting THE SEATTLE CENTRAL PUBLIC LIBRARY.
    I don’t just want to visit. I want to live there. Surrounded by books and great architecture.
    Check out Kua’s photos. You will salivate on your keyboard.

  3. Ok, Amy, you made me smile! You included In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. Right after we named our son Benaiah, a HUGE decision for us, long story…God confirmed it with my hearing about that book. I am sending you a letter to read (when you have time, ha ha! but since you HAVE to read, I know you’ll read it) about why we named him that.

  4. I’ve not read ANY of these!! I do, however, have “Same Kind of Different as Me” on my Kindle waiting for me and few spare moments.

    I had to laugh at your second paragraph. That is SO me!! My husband relentlessly makes fun of me for it. Glad to know my obsession is not isolated. 🙂

  5. I love love love book lists so thanks for sharing yours. 🙂 I haven’t read any of these books and am about to take a fiction break so I’m so glad to have all these suggestions! Plus, my husband has a birthday coming up in a few weeks and he might *need* one of these books … 🙂

  6. carpoolqueen

    I’m glad I’m grandfathered in with the book thing. I’ve only read one on your list. And eventually I’ll read Same Kind of Different, but only to get you off my back.

  7. Just added to my “need to read” list. I’m a book juggler…I have a few being read at once. Thank you for sharing these titles….I had not heard of most of them.
    It’s about time for me to re-read FWGIP too. His book on spiritual abuse is fabulous too!

  8. Thanks for my summer reading list, Whimz. Can we pretend to be friends until I finish? 🙂

    I’ve read Captivating, but not the others. Lurve the Eldredges.

  9. I love to read! Yet, unfortunately don’t have much time for it these days. I use to stay up all night finishing a good book, but I can’t do that these days and get up in the morning for work.

    I may just have to find one of your selections for some good weekend reading!

  10. I have not read any of those. I like having a list of possibilities for when I have time to sit down with a good book.

    Corey’s mom has read the first one you suggested, and has told me a million times that I should read it! 🙂

  11. Thanks for commenting! Meredith pointed me to your blog a few weeks ago when we realized through a mutual friend that we were both former Arkansans and OBU alumni. In fact, I went to the church where her husband preached while I was in college! I went to OBU from Fall 2001 to Spring 2005 and pledged in 2002.

    I LOVE reading as well. I’m like you with the nonfiction. It always takes me much longer! I’ve read Captivating and really enjoyed it. Same Different as Me looks really good. I’ll have to give that a go.

  12. Thanks for the list….I’m always looking for suggestions. Same Kind of Different is on my short list. The authors recently did a speaking engagement here, so I’m enthused!

  13. It’s good to know you share my passion for reading. I take it sooo seriously! I’ve read a couple of these and enjoyed them. Families Where Grace is in Place was a required book in one of my counseling courses and I have referred to it a few times over the years. I’ve been wanting to read Same Kind of Different as Me. Perhaps I’ll add it to my vacation reading list.

  14. i love book suggestions. going to check those out.

  15. Ames,

    I have read every one of those books on your list, so I guess I get to be your friend! Never mind that I was already your friend! I would recommend some of my most recent reads, but most of them have to do with the terrible twos!


  16. Gosh, I just don’t know which to read first!!

    I love “Intervention” and I pray for every.single.person. on that show when I watch it…

    So, I may start w/ Jeff’s book first.

    I have 7892 books on my summer reading list and I can’t WAIT to get started.

  17. Marie

    Hey Whimzie, I know of you through Kellie. I saw your comment on loving pound cake and am getting ready to post the “super top secret”
    recipe on my blog today… It really is good!

    About Same Kind of Different As Me…wow! Just finished it in my book club at church. When I think about it I get a butterfly hopeful kind of feeling in my stomach that God is going to use that book to inspire us to new levels of awareness/service in His Name. Awesome book!

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