I get so energized from other people’s stories – many have undergone considerable hardship and yet emerged as victors or influencers. They inspire me to grow stronger and better. So at the beginning of 2020, I determined I primarily wanted to read biographies.
Three of these biographies came immediately to mind when I set out to write this book list.
1. George Washington Carver, The Man Who Overcame, by Lawrence Elliot
I remember my dad reading to our family about George W. Carver when I was a teenager, and my impression was something like, “Whoopee. A scientist gets excited about peanuts.” *yawn* But this book is at the top of my list for good reason. Learning about George Carver is like seeing another angle of who Jesus is, lived out in someone else. I have read this particular book three times and it still moves me to tears. Three things stand out to me, though I could pick more:
- Carver’s perseverance to develop his God-given gifts, despite great obstacles
- The staggering reach of his influence
- His Christ-like humility
Also inspiring to me are the “minor” characters whose hospitality changed Carver’s life forever. That a small act of kindness or hospitality can lead to great things is good news for those of us who are “minor” characters, and yet want to affect good.
(See, I really couldn’t pick just three!)
A few quick quotes from the first chapter:
No human ever had a less auspicious start in life…he ought to have grown up twisted and bitter and maimed in spirit, for day by day it was hammered into his people that they were little better than field oxen, and they were sometimes treated worse. But all his long life he refuted that lie.
Without ever addressing himself to the indignities heaped on black men in a white world, he did more than any single soul to bring on the day when both will live peaceably, equally, side by side.”
Here are the next 2 biographies that did not disappoint:
2. David Livingstone – Foe of Darkness, by Jeanette Eaton
Again, I was moved by the perseverance of this man who rode around Africa on an ox! What struck me most: David never really saw obstacles (though there were many), he only had eyes for his goal. I chose to read this book – written for children – because I had it on my shelf, though there are probably renditions that delve more deeply into his character and experiences.
3. Florence Nightingale, A Life Inspired, by Lynn M. Hamilton
I knew embarrassingly little about Florence Nightingale before starting this read, which was an offhand and inexpensive kindle acquisition. At a time when women were not considered independent, F.N. went against the status quo for a woman of her class and resources. But in following what she deemed right, she had a tremendous influence on her country and the world at large!
So yes, I did end up reading several books that weren’t biographies. 😉 These are worth a special mention, listed in no particular order:
1. Master your time in 10 minutes a day, by Michal Stawicki
Short, bite-sized chapters, with practical application that makes sense. I liked the premise because even as a busy mom, I can probably find 10 minutes a day. I also found it fun that the author is from Poland, so practically a next-door neighbor. 😉
2. Don’t Overthink It, by Anne Bogel
I related to many of the “stuck” scenarios she described and appreciated her thoughts for becoming more decisive and peaceful. I can see myself reading this book again sometime.
3. Memory Making Mom, by Jessica Smartt
This author has a wonderful voice that is easy and fun to read. I was challenged by her case for why traditions and memories matter, and the conclusion that all the extra work *cough, splutter* required to create family moments is absolutely worth it. It’s impossible not to get inspired by all the ideas provided here.
4. Hallelujah: The Coming Forth of Handel’s Messiah
This book is a novel, but accurately details historical events in Handel’s life. I loved how the author handled the significant personal transformation that occurred in Handel during the writing of Messiah. The audio book has delightful clips of music laced throughout, which personally, I didn’t want to miss.
5. All That Was Ever Ours
I savored Elizabeth Elliot’s writing in this lesser-known book of short essays. It’s almost like reading a blog from a non-digital age, with each “post” packing a punch.
Now that I’ve written this list, I keep thinking of other great books I forgot to include. Oh, well. So many books, so little time! What’s on your reading list for 2021?