My friend suggested I write a list of my favorite books for a blog post. I figured a helpful addition to this would be the reasons why. Now being a teenage girl, I definitely read and enjoy young adult novels. However, I only consider books to be my “favorites” if I feel changed. None of these books got on here by a crazy plot twist (Everything, Everything), making me cry (thanks TFIOS), or by just being a good read. Those books belong on another list. This list is for the books that made me look at myself, my beliefs, or other people differently. Because of these requirements and my beliefs, most, but not all of these books are Christian books. But I find it’s helpful to read things you don’t always agree with, to figure out what you believe and why. Excluding the first, this list is in no specific order. So here we go…
1. The Bible
● I know. This is every good Christian’s “favorite” book. But it honestly is mine. No matter how many times I reread certain chapters, verses, or books in the Bible, I always feel like I’m learning more about myself, God, and the people around me.
2. If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowsi
● This is honestly the book I talk about the most. My copy has so many things underlined and annotated, and I add more every time I reread. Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, one of my favorite non-profits that helps find help for people with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. This book is basically a collection of essays and letters that Jamie wrote throughout different stages of his life. He speaks about mental health, friends, adventures, love, and loss. In the words of one of my friends, “This book cut me to the core,” and it truly does. I feel that this is a book that everyone can connect to at least one part of or another.
3. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
● This is simply an incredible book. It is the story of a girl who faced things that many of us can’t begin to imagine, and who continues to tell her story.
4. Radical by David Platt
● Okay, Radical is the book that changed the way I view Christianity. It’s part of what brought me to a place to accept and pursue my calling to ministry. The author, David Platt, challenges you to question what parts of the American Dream you’re mixing with Christianity, and how that can differ from what Jesus actually commands us to do. He put into words, things that I had questioned about the Christianity I had known for years.
5. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
● Maybe it’s because If You Feel Too Much was partly inspired by this, but this book was one of the most relatable books I have read. Not because I agree with, or believe everything he says, but because it is so real and honest. The streamline, “Nonreligious Thoughts On Christian Spirituality,” is possibly the best way to describe the style of this book. He directly questions God, religion, and the way christianity usually works. It encourages the reader to understand why we believe what we believe and live the way that we live.
6. Jesus>Religion by Jefferson Bethke
● Jesus>Religion is one of the most spiritually challenging books I’ve read. It pushes the boundaries of “safe” Christianity, challenging us to think about how Jesus acted instead of what religion says we should do.
7. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
● This book is one of the few non christian books on this list, as well as one of the only young adult novels. Around my freshman year, this book went through a very popular phase, as did the movie. Nonetheless, while this book had its fifteen second of fame four years ago, it is still one of my favorites. It is one of my most quoted books/movies. The way it broke down a stigma around mental health, especially in a way without using big labels, was truly a step forward during the time it was written. In addition to this, being set in the early 90’s makes it more interesting than other young adult novels.
8. Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson
● This is probably one of the few times that a summer reading book made it onto a student’s top 10 list. However, this book is honestly worth the time it cost me from the summer break before my senior year. This book captures the struggle of loss, racism, and a need for revenge in a murder mystery plot. Maybe it was the fact that I had to annotate the whole thing while reading, (Thanks Mrs. Banks) but I connected with this book on a level I didn’t expect to.
9. No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton
● If I’m being honest, I have yet to actually finish this book. I am currently on chapter 6. However, this book has already firmly found its place on this list. This is a book that requires you to look at your own existence in order to understand the full meaning of what the author is saying. It’s a book packed with theology and that addresses questions we all face about human existence.
10. I Was Here by Gayle Forman
● Yes, I was one of those girls who read and watched If I Stay, cried, and wished for love, and all of that fun teenage stuff. If I Stay is a good book but I Was Here is great. If you haven’t noticed by now, a fair amount of my favorite books center around mental health and this one is no exception. It carefully depicts the pain of loss without glorifying it, which is a very careful line.
And here we are. Whether you read any or all of these books, I encourage you to read. Read from people you agree with and people you don’t. Read things that make you really think. Typical nerd quote, but I truly believe that books can open up a whole new world. So now, go explore.