favorite books

Last week, I visited my daughter’s Kindergarten class as their “Mystery Reader.” After reading two picture books, I got to answer the students’ most burning questions (“What is your favorite animal/color/hobby?”, “Who is your best friend?”, etc.). My favorite one was, “If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?”

Oh, hands-down—I would speed read (and still be able to comprehend and enjoy books.)

In his common grace, God has given us so many fantastic books to enjoy. I only wish I had more time and margin to enjoy them. But this was a good year. Some of you have asked how I manage to read with three kids and other responsibilities. A brief explanation for now:

  • I set a reading goal for the year and divide it up into quarters so it seems attainable. (For example, if I aim to read 20 books, then that means I need to finish five books in the next three months.)
  • I read every day for at least 15 minutes (and usually for 30 minutes) during the kids’ rest time and/or after their bedtime.
  • I take reading material with me when I know I will have to wait (instead of browsing my phone—believe me, not a perfect science!).
  • I read books I’m interested in and want to read.
  • I vary the genres to keep things fresh.

I hope this helps! You’ll be surprised how much you can read in the cracks. Every deposit adds up.

That said, here is my annual roundup of favorite books from 2023. This doesn’t mean they were published this year, nor does it mean I agree with everything I read; instead, this list of favorite books follows the criteria I first used in 2015’s Reading Favorites article:

If one of the main purposes of books is to make the reader think, then these are the ones I’d say made me think most deeply, curiously, and enthusiastically this year. I’ve chosen a first prize and a runner-up for each genre.

Happy reading, friends!


First Prize: Trusting God in the Darkness: A Guide to Understanding the Book of Job (Christopher Ash)

The book of Job is like a bologna sandwich: the front and back matter are clear-cut, but everything in between is a mystery. Every time I get to Job in my Bible reading plan, I flinch. It’s always been hard to make it through the book simply because I haven’t understood the middle sections—until now. Christopher Ash has written a helpful, engaging, and concise commentary-type-book that I highly recommend. It cleared up questions and stirred my heart to trust God in my own pain and suffering.

Runner-Up: Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Second Coming of Christ (John Piper)

I’ve found myself thinking more and more about Jesus’s return, so I was thrilled when Piper’s new project was about this coming reality. I appreciate its simultaneous breadth and depth, and how Piper addresses our questions and concerns without getting lost in common debates. The banner-word that stands out over this book and the whole of the Christian life is “grace.” God’s grace will again appear, as it once did at Christmas, and we will freshly exult in the beauty and glory of our Savior, how he has worked salvation for us despite what we deserve.

Biography, Memoir, Culture, & Historical Fiction

First Prize: Elisabeth Elliot: A Life (Lucy S. R. Austen)

I wrote a review of this extensive biography, so you can read more there. An incredible book about an incredible woman of faith!

Runner-Up: A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael (Elisabeth Elliot)

After reading about Elisabeth Elliot and learning how influential Amy Carmichael was to the formation of her faith, naturally I had to read the book Elliot wrote about her. I was not only impressed with Elliot’s biographical writing (and the obvious amount of research that went into it), I could better understand the role Carmichael played in Elliot’s heart and life. The two seemed very similar women. Carmichael spent her life serving the women and children (and eventually men) of south India, and her story caused me to reexamine my devotional to the Lord, whatever the cost.

Christian Living

First Prize: Friendship with the Friend of Sinners: The Remarkable Possibility of Closeness with Christ (Jared C. Wilson)

Jared Wilson remains one of my favorite modern writers, and his current book is the reason why. Full of heart-engaging teaching, stories, and application, it delves into the goodness of knowing Jesus as our close and trustworthy companion. It’s the kind of book whose subject makes you sigh with longing—and then rejoice in the wonder of the gospel, that Christ has come near to people like us.

Runner-Up: Praying the Bible (Donald S. Whitney)

This slim, little book had been on my stack for some time as I haughtily thought, I already do this. But as I researched for my own book on Bible reading, I decided to read it. And I’m so glad I did. Whitney is a distinguished professor who teaches about spiritual disciplines, and what he advocates for here is simple and practical. If you feel aimless or bored with prayer, this book is for you. (And it’s short!)

Vocation & Learning

First Prize: Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West (Andrew Wilson)

My husband just finished Wilson’s new book and called it a “feat.” I agree. His knowledge, his perception and insight, and his evident delight in studying history combine to make this fascinating book an enjoyable adventure. We most appreciated his concluding chapters on the Christian response to a world that desperately needs (and has always needed) unmerited grace, true freedom, and solid truth.

Runner-Up: Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination (Vigen Guroian)

I’m still finishing this one for a book review in the new year, but as a parent who loves to read, I hope to pass on that love to my kids. Guroian argues that the classics are the way to accomplish this. I agree.


First Prize: Port William Novels and Stories (Wendell Berry)

I finally made my way through an anthology of Berry’s short stories and novels. I can’t get enough of his writing, which is like a breath of fresh air in a harried, superficial world. I always say that Berry writes like a song. He makes me want to be a better writer.

Runner-Up: David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)

This is another one I’ve yet to finish (because it’s 1,000 pages long!), but it has been a delightful read. The story of a poor orphaned boy making his way through life’s unexpected ups and downs, David Copperfield is both humorous and sobering all at once.

Kristen Wetherell

Kristen Wetherell is a wife, mother, and writer. She is the author of multiple books including Humble Moms, Fight Your Fears, Help for the Hungry Soul, and the board book series For the Bible Tells Me So, and the co-author of the award-winning book Hope When It Hurts.