I’m sure many of you are creating your book list for 2020 right about now so I wanted to share some of my all-time favorites and top book recommendations from all sorts of genres. You’ll find everything from children’s and parenting books to historical fiction and cookbooks on this short list.
Notes on Special Recommendations:
I’ve highlighted my hands-down, top two, best-ever book recommendations in teal.
I’ve also included a hand-full of recommendations from a few guest contributors notated with the khaki-colored boxes. Let me quickly introduce you to them below.
Alicia S., all-star mommy and writer. This is my bestie who has a beautiful way with words. An excellent writer herself, she always has great book recommendations, especially for Christian resources. She is a strong and faithful believer who has endured some of the most painful of struggles with perseverance and grace – I respect and look up to this woman immensely.
Jacob P., handsome hubby. With an English degree from the Naval Academy, a Masters in Divinity, a decade as a pilot in the Navy, and now about a year into transitioning to a pilot for a major airline, this incredible man has spent countless hours in hundreds of books. He has shared one of his top recommendations as well as one that’s on his reading list for 2020 with you all below.
Sarah Siems, nationally certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist at FitStyled.com. As a busy mom of two, she focuses on providing her clients and herself with workouts that are challenging yet easy to stick to. The same philosophy of creating healthy habits in a maintainable manner are featured on her YouTube channel, FitStyled, where she shares videos with tips on making life easier and healthier as it relates to motherhood, organization, travel, cooking, and cleaning.
And now, without further ado… the books…
1. Parenting, by Paul David Tripp
My #1 parenting book recommendation to anyone… any parent of any number of children of any age.
This book is the least practical parenting book I’ve read, yet it is hands-down the most powerful (and I am not an inspirational-book lover). It is not the “7-steps to a well-behaved child;” rather, it is more of a big-picture reminder of OUR role as parents, GOD’S role in both ours and our children’s lives and how to shepherd the responsibility and blessing of raising children well. It truly releases you from the burden to “get it right” and find the perfect formula for a perfect child.
A must-read for those seeking or curious about a natural birth.
“Pregnant or desiring to be– this book will empower you to know your body at a deeper level and feel confident about what it was created to do!” – Alicia S., all-star mommy and writer
My thoughts: I, too, read this book and really appreciated her deep insight into the birthing process, the science and statistics behind it and her encouragement for pregnant mommas desiring a more natural birth.
3. The Vaccine Book, by Dr. Robert W. Sears, MD, FAAP
An impartial, fact-based resource that includes comprehensive pros and cons of pediatric vaccines.
Oh, vaccines. Such a controversial, exhaustingly overwhelming but very important topic and decision to make as a parent. While we all have our opinions and biases, I want my blog to present impartial, researched facts rather than just my opinion (which is useless to you on this topic) so you can make your own decision for your family. That’s the exact approach this book takes. While Dr. Sears clearly discloses that he is “pro-vaccine,” he fully and neutrally presents the good, the bad, and the unknown/unstudied of the vaccine world as a whole as well as each individual vaccine, empowering you with sound information to make your own decision. It is science-, research- and fact-based, NOT anecdotal- or opinion-based.
4. The Wonderful Things You Will Be, by Emily Martin
A beautifully-illustrated book with an ecouraging and positive message.
Such a sweet book, written from a parent’s perspective, imagining all the amazing things their child might do and become. From bravery, to kindness, to care and creativity, this book is a reminder that our children have so much potential and that, as their parent, we will love them no matter what.
5. What Am I Feeling?, by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub
Encourages toddlers and young children to name and take control of their feelings.
Through a story about a boy having to speak in front of his classmates for show-and-tell, this book helps a child understand that it’s okay to feel the feelings he or she feels (including fear, anger, sadness, jealousy, excitement and happiness), but that they don’t need to let those feelings control them… a repeated quote from the book is, “A feeling is just a feeling — it is not in charge of you.”
Personal Goals & “Wellness”
6. Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey
A proven step-by-step process to getting out of debt and taking control of your finances.
“Total Money Makeover is by far the best financial book out there. If you have any debt, find money management confusing, or have others dependent upon your financial stewardship, you must read this book. It has transformed my family’s personal finances, and I promise, it will do the same for yours!” – Jacob P., my handsome hubby
7. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, by Ian Cron & Suzanne Stabile
This book delves into the most powerful and accurate “self-discovery” or personality framework I’ve come across – the Enneagram.
If you have not heard of the enneagram concept, I encourage you to look into it. I’ve done many “personality tests” including the Meyer’s Briggs, Strengths Finder, DISC Profile, etc., but none were as powerful as the framework of the enneagram (which is not a personality test, per se). Instead of focusing on your surface-level behavior, it strives to lead you into discovering and understanding the motivations behind your behavior… who you are at your core, within your soul. As freaky as it was, this book seemed to know more about me than I did. It has helped me immensely in understanding myself, how I relate to others, and how others might relate to (or interpret) me. Not only does it encourage self-discovery, but it results in a deeper understanding, respect and compassion for those around you (if you know their Enneagram number).
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR MARRIED COUPLES. I thought about putting this in the Marriage Book section because it can be a game-changer for your marriage if you each discover your number, share, and discuss with the goal of understanding each other on a much deeper level than ever before.
8. Fit in 20 Minutes, by Sarah Siems
An anywhere, anytime flexible workout plan.
“Fit in 20 Minutes is the only fitness plan of its kind because it is pre-made yet completely customizeable. I’ve found, through years of personal training, that there is a need for modification — whether you’re traveling, have injured your shoulder, etc. This plan provides clear modifications so that workouts can truly be done anywhere, anytime.” – Sarah Siems, owner of FitStyled.com
A profound and biblical look into the true character of God and what it means to know versus know about Him.
If I could recommend one book and one book only, it would be this one. Aside from the Bible, Knowing God is hands-down the most eye-opening, perspective-shifting subject matter regarding God’s character that I have encountered. While this book is most definitely not an “easy read” nor an inspirational devotional, it will give you a deeper and more profound understanding of the true God of the Bible and how we can come to know and relate with Him better. I don’t say this flippantly — it is truly a life-changing book.
10. Remember God, by Annie F. Downs
Ms. Downs’ personal journey of questioning and doubting God, and how God met her and revealed His true self to her in the midst of her pain.
“It’s not hard for me to believe that God is good, or big or even powerful, but to understand that He is tender and kind toward me all the time is something I have struggled to fully believe. Until this brilliantly honest and moving book by Annie F. Downs. Written from the perspective of her wrestling with the exact same questions and doubts, and the little ways the God unveiled His constant kindness to her. If you’ve ever struggled with faulty theology, and not known God to be infinitely kind all the time, move this book to the top of your reading list for 2020!” – Alicia S., all-star mommy and writer
11. Captivating, by Stasi Eldredge
A must-read for women, especially young women, and those new in their relationship with Christ.
This book is a beautifully biblical look into the divine design of woman. I read this book early in my journey with Christ, and it brought me to tears so many times. It touches soft spots deep within your soul — whether they’re from wounds from your childhood, broken relationships, wordly misconceptions of who a woman is supposed or not supposed to be, struggles with comparison, or a myriad of other reasons — and sets you on a path to letting God heal and restore those areas of your heart through truth.
Wild at Heart is Stasi’s husband’s, John Eldredge, version of Captivating, but for men. It, too, gets excellent reviews. It is on my husband’s top recommended books list.
12. The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel
A former atheist and legal editor of the Chicago Tribune‘s personal investigation into the evidence for Jesus.
Originally an atheist when he started the investigation that sparked this book, Strobel cross-examines experts and scholars in search of the evidence for Jesus. He deep dives into questions such as How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event? So whether you’ve read the Bible seven times, are an atheist, or anything in between, this book is worth the read. Just to see what he found out…
13. Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
A quick and easy read to discover what you and your significant other’s love languages are – how you each feel loved.
If you and your spouse haven’t read this book together, do it now. In fact, even if you’re single, dating, or engaged and you haven’t read this book, do it now. It’s the easiest way to explain how you feel loved and understand how your spouse feels loved — your love languages. We commonly try to show our love in the way we would want it shown to us, the way we feel loved… but that may not be the same way our spouse feels loved.
Discover what you and your significant other’s love languages are — be it acts of service, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts, or words of affirmation — and be able to love your spouse in the way they feel loved. A game-changer for relationships for sure!
14. Sex Begins in the Kitchen, by Dr. Kevin Leman
“Dr. Kevin Leman explains how sexual intimacy is an expression of the care a couple shows each other in all areas of life.”
“My heart craves to have a marriage that is off the charts! Sex can be such a taboo topic, but sex is actually just one facet of the bigger picture: intimacy! In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman, uses humar and storytelling to teach couples how to build a passionately intimate marriage and often time sit begins in the kitchen: through communication, connection and service!” – Alicia S., all-star mommy and writer
15. Once Upon a Chef, by Jennifer Segal
“With the authority of a professional chef and the practicality of a busy working mom, Jenn shares 100 recipes that will up your kitchen game while surprising you with their ease.”
My mother-in-law turned me on to this cookbook over time. She’s an excellent cook, and when we would visit she’d have yet another absolutely delicious lineup of meals, and they were often recipes from Once Upon a Chef.
I would say this cookbook lies somewhere between easy-peasy meals and culinary masterpieces. The recipes are not terribly difficult (though not your quick-and-easy, busy night recipes) and are healthy, unique and sophisticated. Plus, there are a lot of little extras in this cookbook that I feel set it apart — tips on making things ahead, where to find certain items in the grocery store, pro-tips on mistakes to avoid or common issues that might arise with certain ingredients, etc. It’s very much a teaching cookbook… with scrumptious recipes.
16. Wellness Mama Cookbook, by Katie Wells
A cookbook that truly strikes the perfect balance between easy, tasty and healthy.
One of my favorite podcast hosts and bloggers (and mom of six kids), Katie Wells, appreciates the need for quick and easy meals that are healthy and nourishing to your family’s bodies. The recipes in this cookbook strive to move you away from processed foods and toward more whole foods free of grains, harmful fats and refined sugars. There is also a large section at the beginning full of education on “real foods” including recommendations on oils and fats to avoid versus those to consume; the truth behind sugar variations such as agave syrup, stevia, etc.; and how to stock a “real food” kitchen.
17. Alicia: My Story, by Alicia Appleman-Jurman
A heart-breaking yet inspiring memoir of a Holocaust survivor… or rather, heroine.
It’s hard to call this one a “good read” because of how horrifying the events of Alicia Appleman-Jurman’s life were, including witnessing the slaughtering of her own mother. But her story is a must-read. It is a beautifully written account of a passionate, determined and caring soul that will keep you hooked until the very end.
18. A Land Remembered, by Patrick D. Smith
A historical fiction novel following the stories of three generations of a family settled in pioneer Florida.
“In this best-selling novel, Patrick Smith tells the story of three generations of the MacIveys, a Florida family who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from a dirt-poor Cracker life to the wealth and standing of real estate tycoons… The sweeping story that emerges is a rich, rugged Florida history featuring a memorable cast of crusty, indomitable Crackers battling wild animals, rustlers, Confederate deserters, mosquitoes, starvation, hurricanes, and freezes to carve a kingdom out of the swamp.” – Good Reads.
I first read this book in either middle school or high school, and have cherished and remembered its story ever since. It’s an insightful and interesting tale of Florida history between the years of 1858 and 1968.
19. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
An inspiring memoir of a Nazi concentration camp survivor, and his experience in finding purpose and meaning through it.
Viktor Frankl’s book chronicles his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describes his methods of finding purpose in order to survive and endure all circumstances. This is on my must-read list for 2020 and is considered a classic by most.” – Jacob P., my handsome hubby
20. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
“Painfully beautiful… at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative, and a celebration of nature.” – The New York Times Book Review
Insanely popular and widely reviewed, this book is on MY books to read in 2020 list! Let me know if you’ve read it and what you thought of it!
That’s all I’ve got for you for now! I’d love to hear in the comments what you’ve got on your list for 2020 and any other recommendations you might have!