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Reading in its multitudinous forms and genres can be an excellent form of soul care. The act of slowing down and letting words pour over me brings a certain calming to my spirit, and even reading a fast-paced novel can help me connect to my inner being in ways that no other physical act will. But some books are particularly soul-nurturing, and these restorative books are the focus of this month’s Best of the Backlist roundup.

The books you will find on this list are a counterpart to the “Self Help” roundup I shared in January. While those books are about the exterior acts of cultivating healthy habits and establishing new rhythms, the books I’m sharing today turn inward to rest, peace, fulfillment, and wholeness within. There is a heavy spiritual component to each of these books, and every title in this list has been formative in my own spiritual journey.

The books in this roundup touch on a range of soul-care topics. There are books on forgiveness, on rest, on prayer, on decision making, on slowing down, and so much more. Whatever part of your soul is in need of care today, there is a book here for you.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World, by John Mark Comer I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt the pressures of our modern, hurried life. In this book that brought the concept of sabbath to the forefront of contempoary Christian conversation, John Mark Comer (one of my favorite pastors and Christian thinkers) identifies the harms that hurry has done to the spiritual life, then outlines a solution to this problem as we see it in Scripture and presents four Christ-inspired spiritual disciplines that we can begin implementing in order to reduce hurry: silence and solitude, sabbath, simplicity, and slowing down. This book is accessible, actionable, and wildly relevant, getting to the core of what it means to care for one’s soul. (Original Review)

Breaking Free from Body Shame: Dare to Reclaim What God Has Named Good, by Jess Connelly—I desperately needed this book, and I honestly cannot think of another woman who DOESN’T need to read Connelly’s encouragement to stop obsessing over our bodies. Body shame is holding our generation of women captive, and this book offers a disruptive glimpse at what is possible if we set aside our body insecurities and obsessions and walk in the body freedom God wants to bring to us. This message is easier said than believed, but I love Connelly’s powerful and beautiful message that my body is NOT a project to be fixed or a problem to solve, but a masterpiece created by the Divine Artist Himself. (Original Review)

The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World, by Andy Crouch: In this insightful and timely book, Andy Crouch (a theologian and cultural commentator known for his insights into the potential harm of our tech obsessions) provides an analysis of the current relational landscape: what has gone wrong, what needs to change, and where we can look for models of genuine human flourishing. Crouch explores the problem of loneliness that has been the resulftof our exchanging personhood for technological effortlessness and power, and he proposes a threefold solution of: 1) using technology as instruments rather than devices; 2) learning to function within interdependent households; and 3) recognizing that we are blessed and not simply charmed. Crouch’s ideas and reframes are unique and thought-provoking, inspiring a new kind of living that I think we all crave. (Review)   

Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, by Saundra Dalton-SmithPrior to reading this book, I was unfamiliar with the seven different types of rest: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, and creative. Here, Dalton-Smith relies on extensive medical research, Biblical study, and years of lived experience to define and expand upon each type of rest, share the various blessings each type of rest can offer, and help readers identify (and heal) their rest deficiencies. I love that Dalton-Smith goes beyond the usual prescriptions of “sleep more” and “use technology less” to share the what, why, and how of these practices, providing recipes for rest that are enticing AND attainable. (Original Review)

Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad, by John Eldredge—This book is for those whose hearts and minds and souls are overloaded and overwhelmed. If you have felt burdened to the point of a dwindling or extinguished communion with God, Eldredge’s poetic response may be the source you need to disentangle your soul from this broken world and restore a sense of discovery, beauty, peace, and oneness with the Lord. Eldredge’s explanations for why our souls have become wounded really resonated with me, and I appreciated his outside-the-box suggestions that borrow from both sacred and secular practices to bring about restoration and healing. (Original Review)

The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions, by Emily P. Freeman: Decision-making may not seem like a soul-related task, but if you (like me) are someone who struggles with the angst of overthinking and mental overwhelm, you understand that decisions and decision-making play a pivotal role in our spiritual well-being. In this beautifully written and deeply useful guide, spiritual director Emily P. Freeman helps readers clear the decision-making chaos and focus on doing the next right thing, in love.  In each of the book’s twenty-four brief chapters, Freeman addresses a different aspect of decision-making, from becoming a soul minimalist and naming the narrative, to staying in today and refusing to rush clarity. I’ve turned to these in many of my own decision-making moments in the years since I first read this invaluable book. (Original Review)

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, by Paul E. Miller—Even those of us who have spent a lifetime walking with the Lord can struggle with knowing why and how to pray; but prayer is key to caring for our souls. In A Praying Life, Paul Miller (founder of the global discipling ministry seeJesus) helps readers rekindle our relationship with God by teaching us to communicate openly with Him through prayer. Miller explains why we have a hard time praying and makes a persuasive case for why prayer needs to be a part of our lives. He then outlines how we can come before God like children with both our petitions and our laments. He reminds of us the bigger story God is painting and walks us through the process of trusting God during the deserts of our lives. This book illuminated some weekenesses in my personal prayer life and inspired me to spend more time talking with God, trusting Him, and wholeheartedly depending on Him to carry me through each and every moment of the day. (Original Review)

Forgiving What You Can’t Forget: Discover How to Move On, Make Peace with Painful Memories, and Create a Life That’s Beautiful Again, by Lysa TerKeurst—In this heartfelt book, Lysa TerKeurst (a Christian author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries) uses her powerful personal stories of forgiving unfathomable hurt to guide readers into lives of wholeness, peace, unity with God, and healthy relationships with others. TerKeurst’s strategies and advice stem from her own years of intensive therapeutic work and more than a thousand hours of theological study, and they are firmly grounded in Scripture while bearing the empathetic and kind-hearted encouragement of a guide who has walked—and is continuing to walk—this difficult road herself. This is a must-read for anyone who has struggled to forgive people in their lives, but even those of us who don’t need support with this particular issue will find much truth and guidance here. This book is an inspiring and redemptive portrait of grace in action and the spiritual healing that Biblical application can bring. (Original Review)

Self to Lose, Self to Find: Using the Enneagram to Uncover Your True, God-Gifted Self, by Marilyn Vancil—I’ve grown a bit more skeptical of the Enneagram in the last couple of years, yet I still see the benefits of the framework, especially when presented through a Gospel-centered lens as it is here, with Vancil describing the Enneagram as a tool that God can use to bring about true life change. As the author states in her introduction, “The overall theme is experiencing freedom: freedom from the old self and into the true self, freedom to live fully, and freedom to love deeply.” In addition to the usual Enneagram info—including detailed descriptions of each of the nine types, as well as explanation of wings, arrows, centers, social styles, and subtypes—Self to Lose also offers prayers uniquely designed to help each type connect to God’s love and confess type-specific sins with the goal of repentance. The book ends with a helpful path to finding freedom through an exercise called “owning up” (Observing, Welcoming, Naming, and Untangling) that enables us to confront our distorted beliefs and exchange our protective personas for our true Christ-ordained identities. Self to Lose adds to the Enneagram cannon in distinctive and helpful ways while also serving as a comprehensive guide for Enneagram newbies. (Orignal Review)

Soul Rest: Reclaim Your Life, Return to Sabbath, by Curtis Zackery—God brought this book into my life when I needed it the most, and I still think about it in the handful of years since reading. Zackery’s internal work during a deeply painful time provides the framework for this book that helps readers find rest by digging into the past and allowing God to rescue us from our personal pains. The book examines the concept of rest in everyday life—how it plays out in community, in ministry, and even in times of suffering—and concludes with specific restful rhythms. Many of the ideas presented here show up in other books on this list, but Zackery provides his own straightforward take in language that is conversational and relatable, making this book an excellent starting point for those just dipping their toes into the concepts of sabbath and spiritual soul care. (Review)

Of course I would be remiss to exclude THE ULTIMATE soul-care book from this list: The Holy Bible, God’s Word, is our greatest source of guidance when learning to lean into Him and trust Him with the care of our souls. If you do not already have a habit of spending time in The Bible each day, forget every one of the books I’ve shared today and start there! But I pray that these books will be nourishing accompaniments to the truth you will find in Scripture.

Have you read any of the titles on this list? What are your favorite books for tending to your soul?

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