Favorite Spiritual Growth Books

DogFur and Dandelions buttonAs part of my “Favorite Books” series that’s been running, I’ve asked some other bloggers to share some of their favorite books. The first guest post is by Elizabeth of DogFur and Dandelions. I “met” Elizabeth this summer and enjoy her thoughtful posts that encourage Christ-centered living.

First, I want to thank Sheila for giving me this opportunity to share with you all. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her over the past few months, and love this new site of hers – in fact, I’ve already read several books recommended during her 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads series.

When she asked me to contribute to this series, I immediately knew which books I wanted to share with you. These are some of my favorites; they have each influenced my relationship with God in tremendous ways. Each of these book has helped me cultivate a greater intimacy with Him by encouraging a more consistent devotional life, instructing me towards better communication with God, and and exhorting me to remain faithful in those things despite the difficulties of life.

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Favorite Classic Children’s Books

Favorite Classic Children's Books - Anne of Green GablesAnne of Green GablesFavorite Classic Children's Books - Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

As many times as I’ve read Anne Shirley’s story, I never tire of it. She is charming and witty and sympathetic and everything you could want in a friend. The story draws you in from the opening – where on earth is Matthew Cuthbert going in the wagon? Will Anne have to go back to the orphanage?

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Favorite Cookbooks (Sweet)

I mentioned last week that I’m a cookbook fanatic. If there was any doubt, the fact that I had to have two days dedicated to favorite cookbooks should make it obvious: I love cookbooks. Today is all about my favorite cookbooks that are focused on desserts or other baked items.

Favorite Cookbooks - Americas Test Kitchen Family Baking BookThe America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking BookFavorite Cookbooks - Americas Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

A great basic baking cookbook that, if you’re only going to own one, is perhaps the best choice. Since it’s by America’s Test Kitchen, the recipes are all extensively tested to work in home kitchens. And since it’s ring-bound, the book will lay flat on your kitchen counter while in use (love that feature!) The buying guides are also super useful, with specific brands suggested. I always check their recommendations when I need something new to see what will get me the best value for my money.

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Announcing the 2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading ChallengeI love making goals and working towards them, and for 2013 I want to work on my biggest reading problem: the backlog of books I own but haven’t read. Because they don’t have the threat of due dates and fines behind them, I don’t feel the same urgency to read them, and they continually get pushed to the bottom of my reading stack.

To make some progress towards reading the mountain of books I own instead of always reading the books I’ve borrowed, I’m making a challenge. 12 months, 24 books from my own bookshelves. My rules:
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Favorite Picture Books

Just like in my Favorite Board Books post, I’m trying to go beyond some of the classic picture books like The Poky Little PuppyFavorite Picture Books - The Poky Little Puppy and Harold and the Purple CrayonFavorite Picture Books - Harold and the Purple Crayon. I’ve also excluded some that I enjoy more than my children (such as Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That TypeClick, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, although I’m hoping they’ll like this series when they’re a little bit older). In other words, I’m listing books that are favorites picture books for everyone.

Favorite Picture Books - Guess How Much I Love YouGuess How Much I Love YouFavorite Picture Books - Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram

This might be considered a modern classic. Gorgeous illustrations, and lovely, gentle story, and a sweet message. While it’s available as a board book, I think the story is better suited for children just a bit older, and would definitely recommend the picture book version.

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Favorite WWII Books

World War II-themed books are a special interest of mine, although it’s only been in recent years that I’ve branched out from Holocaust memoirs to reading more general accounts of the War and events surrounding it.

Favorite WWII Books: Unbroken by Laura HillenbrandUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionFavorite WWII Books: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand by Laura Hillenbrand

A book that I imagine everyone has already heard about, but I just finished it and wow. What a story.

Hillenbrand is a gifted storyteller, and traces Louis Zamperini’s life from his childhood, through his Olympic race in Berlin, to his grueling ordeal in World War II and beyond. I appreciated how Hillenbrand, while focused on Zamperini, also steps back occasionally and discusses the bigger picture. This not only shines a spotlight on the experiences common to other soldiers and POWs, but it gives a breather from the intensity of Zamperini’s compelling saga.

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Favorite Board Books

While there are some obvious classic board books that seem to always be on the list of suggestions, there is a whole world of board books beyond Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. As much as my kids love those books, I appreciate some variety in our reading rotation, and these are some of our (yes, our) favorite board books:

Favorite Board Books - Barnyard DanceBarnyard Dance!Favorite Board Books - Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton.

We are huge Sandra Boynton fans in our family. Almost all of her books have catapulted themselves into our “favorite books” bin and they get read over and over and over. Barnyard Dance! is probably my very favorite. The pictures are fun (as her illustrations always are), and the rhymes are gloriously fun. With both of my children, this was one of their early early favorites; they loved the rhythm, they loved clapping their hands to the story (and stomping their feet), and they loved me helping them to “leap like a frog!” There was much sadness from my son when he got to be too big for me to bounce him up into the air on that line.

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Favorite Cookbooks (Savory)

I’m kind of a cookbook fanatic. I love getting them from the library and reading them. I love trying new recipes. I love discovering new favorites. Some cookbooks I get from the library and end up loving them so much that I have to buy them. These are some of those favorites:

Americas Test Kitchen Family CookbookThe America’s Test Kitchen Family CookbookAmericas Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

For a basic, all-around cookbook, this one is tough to beat. All the recipes are extensively tested for home cooks. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. The recipes work, and they’re tasty. And just to make it even better, it’s ring-bound, so it lies flat and is easy to use in the kitchen. The kitchen gear recommendations are super helpful as well.

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Even More Reasons to Use Goodreads

Even More Reasons to Use GoodreadsWhat? You thought I was done talking about Goodreads? Apparently I have a lot to say about it.

I’ve written in general about why to use Goodreads.

I wrote about why you should even bother to track your books (whether by Goodreads or another option).

But Goodreads offers even more advantages that I don’t fully take advantage of yet.

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Favorite Bibles

While it does feel a little strange to talk about “Favorite Bibles”, I’m not talking translation or even type. I’m talking specific published copy. I tend to finish one version and then immediately move onto a new one, because different Study Bibles focus on and highlight different things, and a new translation offers a fresh look at familiar Scriptures. What this all means is that I’ve read a slew of different Bibles, and have had some clear favorites that I recommend highly.

Favorite Bibles - Quest Study BibleNIV Quest Study Bible: The Question and Answer BibleFive Favorite Bibles - NIV Quest Study Bible
If I had to pick just one Bible to read, it would probably be this one, despite the text not being ESV (my favorite version for memorization and study). The sidebar information is extremely helpful, as are the hundreds of articles. Even when I’m reading a different version, there are times when I go back to this one to remember what it had to say about certain sections because it’s so useful. Highly highly recommended.

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