This was a great year of reading for me! Here is a list, along with a brief description of each, of my favorite books I read in 2012.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. I'll be honest, this was a difficult book to read. The book tells numerous tough stories of individual women as well as traditions and practices among women as a whole throughout a number of countries around the world. The stories of women told are heart wrenching and difficult to grapple with. However, they are also inspiring and hopeful for future generations. I liked two key points with this book. For starters, it's refreshing to see a book that so greatly tells the stories of the oppressed and voiceless women from around the world. Telling their stories so that all will know the injustices that exist is so important in ending the suffering. I also liked the fact that the book doesn't end with hard to swallow stories. It's quit the opposite actually. The stories are of those women who have rised above the oppression and who now are champions to other women and girls in their communities and a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Justice is being served around the world and throughout Half the Sky, these women are the reason for it. A documentary which puts faces to many of the women in the book aired on PBS this past Oct. I recommend both the book and the documentary.
Love Without Walls: Learning to be a Church in the World for the World by Laurie Beshore. Love Without Walls is the story of a Southern California Church's first 25 years of outreach; of it's learnings, it's failures and it's successes. Mariners Church is the second largest church in the Southern California area This book is written by the leader of the local and global outreach department and wife to the senior pastor. Laurie shares how the outreach ministries began at Mariners 25 years ago and the ups and downs they have experienced since. Woven throughout the book a common theme of relationships presents itself. In all of the stories of both failure and success, what has always been key is the relationships built with those in the community. Programs come and go; circumstances change, life is transient for many and yet, how relationships are not only built and established, but how they are grown and cared for throughout, is what makes all the difference in taking the Good News out into the community. I thought this book was a great read because it truly is one of a kind. And centered around every story; every learning; every area of growth, is evidence of our God who is patient with us, continually redeems us, and always makes good out of all situations, even the messy ones.
A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling. Wow! This story rocked me. I had heard of the massacre that took place in Tiananmen Square in China, but until I read this account by Chai Ling, one of the leaders of the college students protesting the strict and oppressive Chinese government, I had no idea at the complexities and horror of its reality. Chai Ling was a brave young woman, devout to her family and Chinese traditions. She was also a leader in one of the greatest uprisings in China's history as a college student and activist for equality among her people. In the aftermath of the massacre, Chai set out on the run and narrowly escapes China. Ultimately she ends up in the United States and begins to rebuild her life as a wanted criminal in China. Throughout her journey, Chai seeks peace and no matter how hard she seems to try, her past contunies to haunt her deeply. Her story continues as she marries an American man and has children. Although she's gained her freedom in America, is no longer on the run, has a lovely family, and a successful career, she just can't shake this longing in her soul for something more. She searches and searches, but what is it she’s searching for? She does find the peace and comfort she's looking for, but you may be surprised at how it fianlly arrives in her heart and in her soul. A Heart for Freedom is a fantastic story of courage, faith and redemotion.
Running for my Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lomong. This book was a big hit over summer with the London Olympics underway. Lopez's story is one of triumph, faith, adventure, loss and reunions. As a young boy living in a small village in war torn southern Sudan, Lopez is brutally ripped from his mother’s arms during a church service and hauled off to a rebel army camp. There, he is kept locked inside a small room filled with countless other boys. That is, until 3 older boys manage to escape and take Lopez with them. Running for days, they end up in the arms of Kenyan police officers who drop them off at a refuge camp. Lopez would spend 16 years in the camp. This is a story of one young boys determination to not only make it to the US, but then to become an Olympic runner for the US. Lopez is adopted into the home of a family in Syracuse, NY and there his story of running in the Olympics really takes off. The faith that Lopez has, despite all that has happened to him is incredible. His story not only takes him to the US Olympic team, in which he runs in Beijing, he does return to Kenya and Sudan to be reunited with his family after close to 20 years of separation. I really enjoyed reading of this one man's determination, faith in God and joy in his life.
Deepening the Soul for Justice by Bethany H. Hoang. Bethany is director of the International Justice Mission Institute for Biblical Justice. I really enjoyed this little 45 page book in which Bethany shares some of her learning’s and experiences regarding how we can engage in justice work in a way that glorifies God and keeps us from feeling helpless and or overwhelmed. After all, justice is the foundation of God's throne. Bethany identifies spiritual disciplines that will help us seek the God of justice. Naturally resulting in eyes that see injustice and a dependence upon the God who can restore and usher in justice like a raging river. Stop. See. Open. Choose. Ask. Proclaim. Remember. These are the spiritual disciplines Bethany refers to. This book may be small, but it full of big promises from a big God who desires to see all men and women flourish the way God intended for all.
Lastly, on my list, I am currently reading Cross Roads, by WM. Paul Young, author of The Shack. Not unlike The Shack, Cross Roads is a very imaginary story of a self-engrossed and egotistic successful businessman’s mysterious encounter with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So far, the story is adventurous, bold and full of surprises.
So that's it for me this year. What books made your 2012 best reads list?