Books to Read during Quarantine
Atomic Habits by James Clear
You’re stuck at home for weeks, what better time to start a new healthy habit or break an old bad habit?
This one is on the NYT bestsellers list for a reason. It’s based on psychology and science and makes it simple enough to understand for those of us who aren’t super inclined towards navigating graphs and statistics.
James Clear makes it memorable and possible to understand how to sort through creating healthy habits, or ditching a habit you dislike but can’t seem to shake. He uses specific and clear examples, and builds a chart throughout the book that readers can look back on to review what they’ve learned.
Personally, my only criticism of this book is that as a believer, there isn’t a lot of room for Jesus in here. In my mind I would add, “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” on to many of Clear’s sentences because although we can take a lot of action to work on our habits, if we go about it without God, I’m not sure how gratifying or possible that journey would be. However, many of the principles discussed in this book have clear parallels to Christianity. So read it, but keep that in mind.
The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan
It’s a season of rest for most of us during quarantine, so why not understand rest and get good at resting?
This one I read for a college class on Sabbath, and it grabbed my attention again recently so I decided to reread it, and now, recommend it to you. The title is a play on words: we need both the rest of God (as in the remainder) and we need the rest of God (think rest = sabbath / relax.)
If you feel like you’re missing something in your relationship with God, I cannot recommend this one enough. It’s likely sabbath; real, true rest, the kind that restores your soul and draws you near to your Father’s heart. I love worshipping a God who made rest a command. I look forward to my sabbath more than any other day of the week, and when we are all being forced to rest in this season, why not make the most of it?
Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “When we lose concern for people, both the lost and the found, for the bride of Christ, for friendship, for truth and beauty and goodness; when we cease to laugh when our children laugh (and instead yell at them to quiet down) or weep when our spouses weep (and instead wish they didn’t get so emotional); when we hear news of trouble among our neighbors and our first though is that we hope it isn’t going to involve us—when we stop caring about the things we care about—that’s a signal we’re too busy. We have let ourselves be consumed by the things that feed the ego but starve the soul.” Mark Buchanan
I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh with Richard H. Schneider
If you’re feeling discouraged or disappointed by the circumstances around you, this personal story will encourage your spirit.
I sometimes suffer from being too inwardly focused and I sometimes need a break from focusing on myself and my present situation. This book was the perfect way to shift my focus away from myself. It broadened my perspective and directed my focus to the goodness of God. This story told by Bilquis Sheikh, is the story of her life as a Muslim woman miraculously coming to know Jesus.
It begins with dreams, visions, and supernatural encounters, and tells the story of her life and how she impacted her community as she came to know Jesus. I read the entire book in one afternoon because I was fascinated by her story and felt so encouraged knowing God is constantly chasing down His people all over the world.
I don’t read a lot of fiction, so this is as close as it gets. You’ll be swept up in the storytelling, but it is 100% a true story.
Upstream by Mary Oliver
It’s Mary Oliver, need I say more?
This is a favorite collection of essays by Mary Oliver. Her use of language, her eloquent way of writing, the entire tone and mood of this collection lifts my spirit and makes me feel like I’m sitting across the table chatting with an old friend. I think the best way to describe it is soul food.
I’ve always been a fan, and I have to say this one is especially suited for any creative needing encouragement on their journey. Mary Oliver talks about her personal creative journey, how great writers and thinkers encouraged and challenged her with their work, and she urges her readers to give themselves fully to their own creative endeavors.
She says it best, “Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor. With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them, I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them. Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face into the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever-ness. Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity.”
The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz
You have a lot of time for self-reflection and personal development, so if you haven’t jumped on the enneagram train yet, now is the time.
This is my all time favorite enneagram book and I can’t recommend it enough. It covers all of the basics when understanding the enneagram (a personal development tool based on motivations) and goes beyond just understanding your number. There are lots of enneagram resources that may help you acknowledge what your number is, but leave you asking, what now?
With this book, that isn’t the case. Every section helped me to better understand myself or the people around me. In the end, Heuertz suggests ways to pray based on your enneagram number and leaves the reader with clear direction on how to use the enneagram as a tool to better understand themselves and get closer to the God who created them. It’s spiritual and detailed, but it’s still accessible and easy to understand.
If you’re new to the enneagram it’s a great place to start, and if you’re an enneagram expert you’ll likely still enjoy this and see it as a unique perspective.