10 Books I loved in 2015 {Book Club}

If you’re like me, you want to jump straight to the list! A few disclaimers, I’ve just included books I read for the first time in 2015. If you notice, none of our book club picks are here 🙂 . . . though I loved them all, in preparation for book club, they were read the first time before 2015. And second, I’m sorry (but not really), I’m a non-fiction nut!!! The new-to-me fiction this year was okay, but not list worthy. So, fiction nuts, we need your recommendations in the comments! If you missed my list last year, here’s 9 Books I Loved in 2014. Finally you’ll notice I read at least two of these books because you emailed me and said, “Amy you must get this book!” I take you at your word and did. Keep ’em coming!

Red Bird (Small)Gift of the Red Bird: The Story of a Divine Encounter by Paula D’Arcy—Kimberly Todd recommended this book and, if I recall correctly, she heard about it at MTI’s Debriefing and Renewal. While pregnant with their second child, Paula and her husband were hit by a drunk driver, killing her husband and child. In this spiritual memoir, Paula chronicles the spiritual lessons of the next twenty years. A key lesson is that she is loved by God simply because she is . . . not because of anything she does. A message many in this line of work need to hear repeatedly to counteract other messages we hear.

Amazing Grace (Small)Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas—I like Metaxas’ writing style and vast vocabulary. Probably many of you are familiar with the basics of Wilberforce as he was instrumental in ending the slave trade in the United Kingdom. He wrestled with himself whether as a Christian he’d be better suited to be a clergyman or a politician. Wilberforce believed “God almighty has set before me two great objectives: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” (Manners here refers to “habits” or “attitudes” he wished to bring civility and self-respect into a society that had long since spiraled into vice and misery. This is why I love history: Life isn’t as bad as we think now and a person can make a difference for the good of society.

Thanks for the Feedback (Small)Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone  and Sheila Heen—I saw this book at the library and am so grateful for “impulsive checking out.” In my notebook I wrote nine key lessons I gleaned and will share one here. In general, feedback falls into one of three categories: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Often we are disappointed by the feedback we receive because it’s a mismatch; you might be looking for evaluation and instead are given appreciation. If you’re a supervisor, don’t mix up these three and be clear which you are giving. If you are receiving feedback and there is one particular area you want, be clear in asking for what kind of feedback you’d like. Isn’t that simple, but profound? And that’s just one gem.

Embracing the Body (Small)Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone by Tara M. Owens—In my notebook I wrote Tara helped me think more theologically about my body than I have been trained to do. I like what Amazon said, “Our bodies teach us about God, and God communicates to us through our bodies. Our bodies are more good than we can possibly imagine them to be. And yet at times we may struggle with feelings of shame and guilt or even pride in regard to our bodies. What is God trying to do through our skin and bones? In Embracing the Body spiritual director Tara Owens invites you to listen to your thoughts about your body in a way that draws you closer to God, calling you to explore how your spirituality is intimately tied to your physicality.”

My Life In France (Small)My Life in France by Julia Childs and Alex Prud’Homme—Who doesn’t love Julia Childs? I enjoy hearing how people (in this case Julia) become interested in a subject (in this case French cooking, making cooking shows, and writing cookbooks). While she didn’t convert me to liking French foods, I do wish I could have enjoyed a meal with Julia and hear some of her stories in person. Any other Julia fans out there? (If you haven’t read “Julie and Julia” don’t. It was an utter disappointment compared to the movie.)

Sticking Points (Small)Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Haydn Shaw—a fellow Velvet Ashian recommended this book to me (thanks Beth!), saying that every organization needs to read it. I agree! For the first time in history, four generations are in the workspace together (it had been three before). Shaw looks at each generation and what’s formed them, fascinating and helpful! He then explored 12 areas: communication, decision making, dress code, feedback, fun at work, knowledge transfer, loyalty, meetings, policies, respect, training, and work ethic. With each area he provides helpful ways to get unstuck. This book helped me understand myself and others around me better!

With (Small)With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani—my friend Hannah gave this to me! Yea for friends buying books. Jethani explains for possible ways people can relate to God: Life under God (sinner), Life over God (manager), Life from God (consumer), or Life for God (servant). Many in full time ministry struggle especially with “Life for God,” but what God really wants from us is life with Him. I found myself saying again and again as I read, “This is what I believe! But I couldn’t have articulated it so clearly.” Now I’ll just tell people to read this.

Wearing God (Small)Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren F. Winner—Lauren explores the idea of metaphor in the Bible. If you’re like me, you’ll finish this book asking yourself, “How can I be so familiar with something—the Bible—and yet have missed so much!” She writes on clothing, smell, bread and wine, laboring woman, laughter, flame, and the poverty of expression. Of especial interest to me was the chapter of God as a laboring woman and how unexpected and disturbing it is. I love, love, love metaphors and hope to write a series on modern metaphors and God.

Soul Keeping (Small)Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg—If I could buy one book for everyone in the whole world, it would be this one. Soul Keeping is now on my top 10 most significant books and is one to be read every year. If I really understood how important my soul is, I’d “keep” it better. This is what the soul needs: it’s in its nature to need, it needs a keeper, center, future, to be with God, rest, freedom, blessing, satisfaction, and gratitude. This will be a Velvet Ashes book club book some day!

Rising Strong (small)Rising Strong by Brené Brown—If you’re willing to risk at all, you will fall. This happens to all of us, the question is what do we do after we fall? Brené Brown illustrates the three step process with relatable and real examples, her ideas aren’t just for the laboratory, they are for the kitchen (or the living room, if you don’t tend to cook!). She calls the three parts the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution. While most people have the story, “I’m not enough,” I shared that mine is often “I’m too much.”

Whew! There are so many good books, aren’t there? What did you read in 2015 that was a keeper? What should we add to our 2016 reading? What are your reading goals for the new year?


And January is our spiritual memoir month. Join us for Wild in the Hollow  by Amber Haines. I just finished this book in preparation for book club and it is worthy of one of the best books I read in 2015!. Chapters 1-4 next week.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Elizabeth December 29, 2015

    This is fun, Amy!! Thanks for the recommendations. I read “Soul Keeping” too
    (I’m glad it’s going to be in book club!). I’d already loaded “Wearing God” and “With” onto my Kindle, and have now added “Embracing the Body.”

    This year I’m also planning to read Seth Haines “Coming Clean,” Emily P. Freeman’s “Simply Tuesday,” Ruth Van Reken’s “Letters Never Sent,” Emily Boucher Rye’s “Finding Myself in Britain,” and Michael Gungor’s “The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse” (a book for creators). I received Kindle money for Christmas and went a little crazy 🙂

    As for last year, my absolute favorite was probably Tim Keller’s “Prodigal God.” Next on the list were Emily P. Freeman’s “Grace for the Good Girl” and Christine Hoover’s “From Good to Grace.” “Leading on Empty” by Wayne Cordeiro changed my life (I’ve mentioned that before).

    I read Brennan Manning’s daily devotional “Reflections for Ragamuffins” and a Lent compilation of Henri Nouwen’s writings called “Show Me the Way,” which is when I fell in love with Nouwen.

    Looking forward to other people’s recommendations too 🙂

    1. Anna December 30, 2015

      “With” is on my TBR list on my Kindle too. 🙂

      I read both “Letters Never Sent” and “Grace for the Good Girl.”  I highly recommend them both!

      1. Elizabeth December 30, 2015

        Yeah I’ve been sort of avoiding “Letters Never Sent,” as I think it will trigger a lot of emotions and grief in me. Things I know need to happen but aren’t fun.

        Glad you liked “Grace for the Good Girl”! I loved it (but loved “From Good to Grace” even more 🙂 ).

        1. Anna December 30, 2015

          I read “Letters” pre-kids or living overseas.  Her non-fiction book on TCKs (forget the name) is really good, too.  I keep meaning to re-read it.

          Just bought “From Good to Grace” since it was just $1.99 on Amazon Kindle.  I seriously need to stop buying books, though b/c I have so many unread ones.

          1. Elizabeth December 31, 2015

            Awesome you got it so cheap! And LOL about your Kindle issues. I have the same problem!

            Yeah I love Ruth Van Reken’s general TCK book too. 🙂

    2. Amy Young December 31, 2015

      You know I’m a sucker for a list!! I’m sure you’ve heard of Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com) . . . but signing up for the reading challenge each January and picking a number of books I want to read helps me read my goals (maybe because it taps into my OCD / competitive side). But I understand what you mean about wanting to read more books and fewer blogs :). I want to read “Coming Clean” and hadn’t heard about the Gungor book!

  2. Sarah H December 30, 2015

    I love book lists! It is always fun to see what other people are reading and get inspired.

    I really enjoyed and learned a lot from several of the VA book club books this year: “Expectations and Burnout” and “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” being the two big ones.

    My favorite books this year I think were “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redeption” by Laura Hillenbrand, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card and the book I’m currently reading to finish out the year, “Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali” by Kris Holloway.

    1. Elizabeth December 30, 2015

      I loved “Monique and the Mango Rains”! I read it before moving overseas, and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things. And I appreciated “Expectations and Burnout” and “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” along with you 🙂

    2. Anna December 30, 2015

      I enjoyed “Expectations & Burnout” but read it in 2014, and just reread parts in 2015.  I’m wanting to read “Emotionally Healthy Spiritually,” but haven’t put the work into reading it yet.

      I’m going to see if I can find “Monique & the Mango Rains.” I *may* be visiting or living in Mali in the future 🙂

      1. Elizabeth December 31, 2015

        Oooh, keep us posted on your itinerary, Anna 🙂

      2. Amy Young December 31, 2015

        Agree with Elizabeth! Keep us posted :). And I’ve just “Mangos” to my reading list! It sounds really interesting 🙂


  3. Anna December 30, 2015

    I generally enjoy non-fiction more than fiction.  I have to work more to get through most non-fiction (unless it is written as a story.)  My favorite non-fiction books of the year were 2 by Beth Moore- “A Heart Like His” and “Breaking Free,” 2 from the book club- “Tattoos on the Heart” and “Heart in the Right Place,” and “Lessons from Madame Chic,” also “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist.

    Fiction favorites depend on my mood.  I think my favorite was “The Sweetness of Forgetting” by Kristen Harmel.  I like reading cozy mysteries (ones that aren’t dark & scary.)  I read quite a few Donna Andrews.  They’re fun & light hearted.  And I discovered a new (to me) author Leslie Budewitz who writes cozy mysteries set in the area I used to live in Montana.  Slightly darker but more thought provoking is Louise Penny, “The Nature of the Beast.”

    I’ve also been rereading some Jane Austen.  I alternately enjoy it or am annoyed by it.  The people sit around doing nothing, which gets on my nerves at times.  But at other times, they are easy reading, predictable, good characters.   I’ve also read some fan-fiction based of Austen books.  Some of it better than others.

    I have a long reading list going into 2016!

    1. Elizabeth December 31, 2015

      Funny, I’m opposite, I have a hard time reading fiction, because I’m so stop-and-go regarding books. (Also because I know once I start a good one, I can’t stop, a bad habit of mine.) But I like mysteries so maybe I will look into some of these.

      And I also have a long reading list for 2016. 🙂 I’m *really* wanting to read more books and fewer blogs, as I think that is the only way more books will get read, and I really want to read the books. But clicking around the internet before bed is so much easier than engaging my mind in a book! Will have to work on that habit!

      Thanks for all the back-and-forth on books 🙂

      1. Anna January 1, 2016

        I always read in bed before going to sleep.  Of course, sometimes this means I stay up way too late reading. 😉

    2. Amy Young December 31, 2015

      Anna, I love hearing about the kinds of books people are drawn to. I’d say I go in fiction/non-fiction phases  . . . but when does something become who you are and not a phase? Do you set reading goals? If so, what kind? Numbers? Or types of books?

      1. Anna January 1, 2016

        I’m not sure about the phases.  Maybe if one predominates, you could say that you prefer it.  Otherwise, you could just be well rounded. 😉

        I don’t set specific goals.  Unless it’s for a book club or a Bible study, I just read things as they come.  If there is a non-fiction book I’m wanting to read, I may try to read one chapter a morning or something similar.  I use reading to unwind, so when I try to make lists, I never follow them.  I read what I feel like at that time.  I usually have multiple books going at once, and at least 1 audiobook.  That way I have choices depending on my mood.  I did some of this reading challenge last year, and I’m going to try to vaguely follow it again.  http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2016-reading-challenge/

        1. Elizabeth January 1, 2016

          I just listened to a podcast with Ann Bogel/Modern Mrs. Darcy! I don’t follow her, but a homeschooling blogger (Sarah MacKenzie with Read Aloud Revival) interviewed her. Fun to make that connection!


  4. laura r January 1, 2016

    I love book suggestions!  I just set a new years goal to read a book for at least 15 minutes a day.  Looking forward to reading some of these suggestions.

    Favourite books for me in 2015 included: Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Madeleine L’Engle’s Irrational Season, and The Gospel of Ruth by Caroline Custiss James.

    Happy reading!

    1. Elizabeth January 1, 2016

      I’ve been meaning to read that series from Madeleine L’Engle for a couple years now. You say you loved it, so I’m curious — what was it that you loved? You know, to give myself some motivation 🙂

      (I also liked Searching for Sunday. 🙂 )

      1. laura r January 1, 2016

        You know how sometimes you connect so much with an author it’s like you are sitting across from them nodding and saying things like, “Mmm, yes.  Me too.”  That’s Madeleine L’Engle for me. So much of what she writes resonates deeply with me.    Her struggle to find balance (with family, profession and life), to accept the status quo, to accept things just because that is how they have always been… She asks big questions and is so able to rest in the tension of not knowing and of paradox.  She herself is a TCK!

        Whenever my 10 year old asks me who I would like to meet, dead or alive, in all the world, I always say Madeleine.

        So far I’ve read A Circle of Quite, Two Part Invention, The Irrational Season and Stone for a Pillow from her Genesis Trilogy.  I’ve also read A Wrinkle in Time and the daily reader Glimpses of Grace.

        In The Irrational Season, she journals as she journeys through the Christian year and, as part of her discussion on Good Friday and Easter she talks about the noes of God.  Here are a couple of lines underlined in my copy of the book, “Experience is painfully teaching me that what seems a NO to man from man’s point of view, is often the essential prelude to a far greater YES.”  Also, “The trouble is that we want to play at God rather than be like God.  We forget that playing God, if we take it seriously, involves a love so great that it accepts the cross.” (pages 90 + 91)

        I don’t know if those lines are motivation but, as I mentioned, she’s like a kindred spirit for me… Reading her makes me feel much less alone with my big ponderings.


        1. Elizabeth January 1, 2016

          Thank you for sharing those things! Didn’t know she was a TCK, but I do relate to a lot of the things you shared here. 🙂

          1. laura r January 1, 2016

            I didn’t realise it until last night, when I was thinking of her childhood growing up moving and attending various private schools in Europe.  It was one of those ah ha! moments for me.

  5. laura r January 1, 2016

    a few more thoughts!

    1. So glad to hear that someone else wasn’t a fan of the book Julie and Julia.  I tried reading it many moons ago and had to return it to the library unread.  It took me a while to be persuaded to watch the movie!

    2. I really appreciate Lauren F. Winner and wasn’t aware that she had written a new boo – looking forward to that one!

    3. The mangos book sounds wonderful.

    thanks for all of the suggestions.

  6. Ellie January 2, 2016

    Bah, this is a dangerous post Amy!!!!! I have a little kindle money too but I’ve just wanted to add *all* of your list to my wishlist *and* quite a few from the comments, not sure it’s going to stretch to the whole library?! And, when will I get the time to be a wife and mother and do all that other “stuff”?! 😉

    Brene Brown books (I love her talks) have been on my list for a while and Shauna Niequist too.. And searching for Sunday. Maybe this year.. Hug.

    1. Anna January 2, 2016

      I feel your pain!  Is there a way you can borrow one from a library?  Many of them have digital collections now.  Ours started while we were overseas, but they allowed someone to sign us up for it.  The collection is still limited, but it will increase your options.  I just checked out a Brene Brown book.  I’ve been wanting to read some of hers, but I was waiting to see if the library would get one.

      1. Phyllis January 3, 2016

        Yes! I love these new digital library collections. I use my mother’s library card number since she doesn’t do ebooks at all. They accept requests to buy new books, too. So far I’ve gotten two that way and checked them out; I just put in a request for the next VA book club book. I wonder if they’ll buy that one?

  7. karuna January 11, 2016

    just a question- all the books in the description on the “book club” page are past- with the last date being an “upcoming” book for february 2015. is this supposed to be 2016 or is the book club no longer up and running?

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