Best books I read in 2007

December 31, 2007 | Books I Love, Conversion, Prayer | 9 comments

I thought a perfect topic for my last post of 2007 would be to highlight some of the amazing, life-changing books I read this year. Here are the five best:

He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek

This stunning account of Fr. Ciszek’s wrongful imprisonment in Russia is one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. I read it months ago yet still find myself thinking about it almost daily. What was most surprising to me was how applicable the lessons he learned are to modern American life. His insights about discerning and seeking God’s will and trusting God in all things that he discovered during five years of solitary confinement and fifteen years in a Siberian death camp are amazingly inspiring, whether you’re experiencing great suffering or just feeling numbed by the daily grind. I particularly loved his thoughts on how to keep your faith alive in the midst of the humdrum, the mundane and the boring. A must-read.

Posts that were inspired by this book:

My Life With the Saints by Fr. James Martin

This book was such a delightful read, a great mix of being easy to get through yet also inspiring and informative. In each chapter Fr. Martin lovingly chronicles the life of a particular saint, and weaves in stories of how this holy man or woman inspired him during the ups and downs of his life, which has ranged from the corporate fast track to the Jesuit priesthood.

There are so many great stories here, and not just from the canonized saints themselves. I found just as much inspiration in the stories of the many saintly people Fr. Martin has met in his journeys as a Jesuit priest: the religious sisters who cheerfully ran a hospice in the slums of Jamaica; the African refugees who had suffered unspeakable tragedy and lived in squalor and yet were moving on with their lives by starting small businesses; the Little Sisters of Jesus in Nairobi whose tiny house with hardly any possessions, no electricity and very little water overflowed with joy and laughter; and the countless saints who will never have a canonization ceremony, never have the world know their names, yet humbly serve God and see joy in beauty in the world around them, even in circumstances that are miserable by worldly standards.

Posts that were inspired by this book:

Journey to Easter by Pope Benedict XVI

Based on a Lenten retreat he gave for John Paul II in the ’80s, Pope Benedict XVI walks us through a series of meditations based on scripture readings for Lent (BTW, how’s that for pressure: being in charge of a spiritual retreat to help JPII grow in his faith!) I admit that there were two or three chapters that were just kind of over my head, but the rest of the book offered powerful insights on everything from prayer to the Paschal mystery to conversion to the Church. I find myself going back to this book over and over again for inspiration. An excellent read for Lent.

Posts that were inspired by this book:

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

When I first read Introduction to the Devout Life, I didn’t feel like I got that much out of it. When I reached the last chapter I felt like I’d enjoyed reading it but couldn’t point to anything specific I’d taken away from it. Then I picked it up off my desk one day and, as I flipped through and re-read the various passages I’d starred and highlighted, I realized just how much I really had taken away from this book.

Now that I’ve gone through it again, I count it among the best books I’ve ever read. It’s the ultimate how-to manual for becoming a saint — also, perhaps because the books is based on his letters to his sister and other women who wanted to grow in faith, I find that his advice perfectly fits the things I struggle with on a day to day basis as a wife and mother. Just know that you may have to read it more than once to have the lessons really sink in.

Posts that were inspired by this book:

Finding God’s Will for You by St. Francis de Sales

How do we know what God wants us to do? Should we try to discern God’s will even for little decisions like what to eat for dinner? What if we pray and it seems like God is telling us nothing at all? These were the questions I had when I decided to get a copy of this book. I found good answers to those questions and a whole lot more: the book has lots of practical advice for daily living that you can start applying to your life right now. It’s also a little bit less dense and more readable than Introduction to the Devout Life.

Posts that were inspired by this book:

If you’re looking for some good reading for 2008, you cannot go wrong with any one of these books. Happy new year!

9 Comments

  1. Ginny

    Did you read “With God in Russia” before you read “He Leadeth Me?” Some Amazon reviewers have suggested doing so, and I wondered if it is necessary, or if “He Leadeth Me” stands alone. Thanks for the reviews! My 2008 reading list keeps getting longer!

  2. Jennifer F.

    Ginny – no, I haven’t read With God in Russia yet. He Leadeth Me definitely stands alone.

    Happy reading! 🙂

  3. Rebekka

    Argh! I just hit up Amazon with my Christmas money. I did buy the Intruction to the Devout Life, but I wish I’d read this post first.

    Thanks for the recommendations.

  4. Anne Kennedy

    I’m just impressed that you read books. I meant to read books in 2007 and I’m grieved to say I didn’t start and finished one (although I dabbled). I am hereby inpired, in 2008 to read at least one new book all the way through. AND even to write about it. Thanks for the list.

  5. Cow Bike Rider (alias, Chris Sagsveen)

    Jen-
    Thank you for your “list of best”. Good idea – I might use it!

    I heard from someone else that “He Leadeth Me” is a great book.

    Happy 2008

  6. Christina. B

    So what is on your literary wish list for 2008?

  7. Jennifer F.

    So what is on your literary wish list for 2008?

    Oh, man, so much stuff! Some publishers have sent me review copies of books that I need to get through. I think that next up on my Amazon wish list is going to be Trustful Surrender To Divine Providence, and maybe another physics book. …But I don’t plan out any further than that. I find that I discover the best stuff by taking it one book at a time, and waiting to decide what I’m going to read next until just before I order.

  8. prgnsean

    I also read My Life with the Saints this year and agree whole-heartedly with your review.

    Others I would strongly recommend from my reading list this year are:

    Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth

    Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain (especially for any convert), Sign of Jonas, and The Wisdom of the Desert

    Roy Schoeman’s Salvation is from the Jews – also for any convert; a great story

    On Prayer:
    Father Romano Guardini’s The Art of Prayer

    Fr. Timothy Gallagher The Examen Prayer

  9. Abigail

    You’ve gotten publishers to send you free copies of spiritual books to read? Score!

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