Top 10 books of 2013

These are my favorite ten books of 2013 (with a few extras thrown in). Each made an impact on me and are ones I can recommend to you to read, too.

In no particular order:

1.  Transforming Grace
Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love
by Jerry Bridges


His grace is always bigger, greater, stronger. Bridges explains why it’s God’s grace that can change us. Not our performance, not our self-confidence, not our achievements. Grace sets us free. His grace is sufficient.

I also recommend: Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Life by Steve McVey

2. Spy the Lie
Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception
by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, Susan Carnicero


A fascinating look from three former CIA officers on how to detect lies. Filled with their own stories from the field, it also shows how to spot lies when they’re being told to you. Because I can be too trusting at times (surely no one would ever lie to me!), this book was also disturbing in some ways, but overall it was far more interesting than troubling.

I also recommend: The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

3. What We Talk about When We Talk about God
by Rob Bell


Rob Bell is a spiritual storyteller. I connect with his view here of God as with us, for us, and ahead of us. He explains each concept in short chapters, and as is typical in many of his books, allowing plenty of white space for you to rest in the words without rushing through.

4. A Whole New Mind
Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
by Daniel H. Pink


Daniel Pink explains why those who tap into right-brain thinking will be more prepared to succeed in the future. He walks you through these six essential abilites: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

I also recommend: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

5. The Pressure’s Off
Breaking Free from Rules and Performance
by Larry Crabb


You’ll never get everything right. Give it up. This book helps you see the joy that comes from letting go of your self- and culture-imposed pressure of trying to make life work out. Instead of working to keep every rule, enjoy being loved by your Creator, letting him guide you into obedience.

6. Transformational Architecture
Reshaping Our Lives as Narrative
by Ron Martoia


We take in so much information, but does it change us? This book is about living through a spiritual conversation model instead of the old evangelism model. About moving from having to know all the right answers to being comfortable talking about the questions. I found it paradigm-changing and want to revisit it again soon.

I also recommend: The Bible as Improv: Seeing and Living the Script in New Ways by Ron Martoia

7. Nothing to Envy
Ordinary Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick


We’ve all seen news reports about North Korea. But this book takes you into the lives of six “ordinary” citizens who live(d) there and tells what it’s like from an inside view. It is eye-opening. And a nice side effect is it makes you more grateful for how good we have it anywhere else.

8. Torn
Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate
by Justin Lee


Regardless of your stand on LGBT issues, you’d probably benefit from reading this book. Justin Lee grew up in a great Christian home and was surprised when he discovered he had same-sex attractions, and more so that God wouldn’t take them away. He’s written this book explaining his journey and his growth to understanding that “Gay Christian” is not a misnomer. And that helps us all–gay or straight–understand and respect each other in more loving ways. I encourage all to read this as well as Justin’s blog, crumbs from the communion table.

9. An Altar in the World
A Geography of Faith
by Barbara Brown Taylor


Oh, how I love the twelve spiritual disciplines (of sorts) in this book! I’ve been working through one chapter each month this year, and it’s been enlightening. I have much more to learn from those like Barbara Brown Taylor who embrace Jesus in strong but sometimes unconventional ways, daring to step outside our traditional religious modalities.

I also recommend: Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

10. Tattoos on the Heart
The Power of Boundless Compassion
by Gregory Boyle


This priest doesn’t preach it to you in his book; he demonstrates it–how to love the unlovable. Boyle runs Homeboy Industries among the gangs of Los Angeles, showing the precious boys and girls there that they are loved and that there is hope. He inspires me to to keep loving on those that can be repulsive in the flesh, but who are just as valuable as the most lovely and kind among us.

I also recommend: Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins

And there are so many more!

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton, Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson, Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott, The Bible (and the Gospel) According to Peanuts by Robert L. Short, Love Does by Bob Goff, Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis, on and on . . . .

But I’ll stop here for now.

* * *

What’s a favorite book you read this year?


13 thoughts on “Top 10 books of 2013

    1. Lisa

      So I’ve been missing out then because I don’t see Larry Crabb’s shorter works. I’ll have to look into that; I definitely have loved every book of his that I’ve read. Yes, definitely anointed.

    1. Lisa

      Oh good–I’ll look forward to reading your top 10. I’ve been reading more fiction this year and I like to see what you recommend as well as the non-fiction that you read. With Nightstand coming up next week we’ll be getting lots of book news this month, which is always fine with me. 🙂

  1. Laura Rath

    Hi Lisa,
    I’ve been perusing your book lists and have to remember to come back when I’m looking for something new! Thanks for your visits & comments on my blog.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. Lisa

      I do that with other people’s lists, too, Laura. 🙂 Especially before a trip to the library for something new, I’ll check out what others have been reading and recommend. I usually don’t go wrong that way.

  2. christina

    So much to read, so little time. 🙂 I have the Bridges book on my phone but haven’t managed to move beyond that yet. Wrecked is also on my to-read list. The rest of these are new to me but sound interesting.

    Blessed Christmas to you and yours, Lisa! Grace and peace to you in our incarnate Lord Jesus Christ.

    1. Lisa

      “So much to read, so little time” – I have got to figure out a better way to conquer that next year. ha. My to-read list is WAY out of control. Hope your Christmas was blessed.

  3. Jean Wise

    always love your book lists, Lisa. One of my favorites this year was Still Writing by Dani Sharpiro. I love how she expressed what it feels like to be a writer. I kept saying, yes that’s me! I borrowed it from the library but asked Santa for my own copy. Hope he remembers…Merry Christmas!

    1. Lisa

      We must have a similar system, Jean–I often read the library’s copy first, and then if it’s a book that really speaks to me, I’ll buy my own copy. Thanks for sharing about “Still Writing.” I’ve not heard of it but I’m guessing I would like it very much too. Hope Santa remembered your copy for Christmas!

  4. Pingback: My reading list January 2014

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