My personal fall book list

Fall is crazy busy, but there’s something about it that also drives me to ramp up my personal reading list. Maybe it’s the cooler weather, the start of a new school year, or my internal drive for focus when the season dawns, who knows. Perhaps coffee just tastes better with an accompanied book in hand.

Regardless the reason, I love reading. I love a stack of books waiting for me, perched on my night stand, sitting in the car, and tucked in my purse. And I wholeheartedly believe that regular, personal reading is necessary and good at any stage of life.

I’m a mom of three kids ages eleven weeks to five years, I run a busy household and a side business, and every minute of my day is precious. If I find the time to read a book or two, anybody can.

Here’s what I’m hoping to read this fall.

1. Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation

by Ruth Haley Barton

This book (and several others mentioned below) were recommended at the debriefing workshop my family and I attended several weeks ago, and it taps in to the topic of soul care. I’ve already cracked open the book a little, and so far it’s delicious. Barton explores different ancient spiritual practices, such as lectio divina and examen of consciousness, and how they can be applied today in everyday life.

A quote from the beginning chapter:

“Your desire for more of God than you have right now, your longing for love, your need for deeper levels of spiritual transformation than you have experienced so far is the truest thing about you. …There is a place within each one of us that is spiritual in nature, the place where God’s Spirit witnesses with our spirit about our truest identity. Here God’s Spirit dwells with our spirit, and here our truest desires make themselves known.”

2. Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction

by David G. Benner

I’ve barely peeked inside this book, but it also came recommended at our workshop, specifically about the topic of exploring the gift of shepherding and the ancient tradition of spiritual direction. As my husband and I explore what’s next for us vocationally, we want to strengthen our muscles and skills of caring for others and walking alongside friends in an intentional way.

From the preface:

“Spiritual friends nurture the development of each other’s soul. Their love for each other translates into a desire that the other settle for nothing less than becoming all that he or she was intended to be. What they offer… is the gift of themselves and their companionship. …Spiritual friends are soul friends. This means that they care for each other as whole people, not simply as spiritual beings.”

3. How Children Learn

by John Holt

Simple Homeschool editor Jamie Martin recommended this to book to me as a good one for Simple Mom’s Book Club. Whether we get to that in our club is still up for debate. Regardless, I want to read it for myself, in order to better understand my children and how to be their most reliable teacher.

John Holt was a leading voice in education and one of the earliest voices of the modern homeschooling movement. This book is one of his classics, and I’ve wanted to read it for awhile now.

From a later chapter in the book:

“Their learning does not box [children] in; it leads them out into life in many directions. Each new thing they learn makes them aware of other new things to be learned. Their curiosity grows by what it feeds on. Our task is to keep it well supplied with food. …[This] doesn’t mean feeding them, or telling them what they have to feed themselves. It means putting within their reach the widest possible variety and quantity of good food — like taking them to a supermarket with no junk food in it (if we can imagine such a thing).”

4. Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

by Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen is one of the great modern-day spiritual writers of our time, and was a leader in the Catholic church and at various universities. This short book is the answer to a request from a friend of his — to write a book explaining the spiritual life in terms that he and his friends could understand, avoiding theology and technical language. I’m really looking forward to this one — I’m told to read it slowly and savor just a few pages at a time.

From the book:

“It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the world of giving. We often live as if our happiness depended on on having. But I don’t know anyone who is really happy because of what he or she has. True joy, happiness, and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others. A happy life is a life for others.

5. Soul Custody: Choosing to Care for the One and Only You

by Stephen W. Smith

I’m about three-fourths through this book, and it’s a good one. Soul Custody goes through different choices we make in life, and dedicates a chapter to discuss how the decisions we make affect our souls. Whether it’s what to eat, what job offer to take, in which relationships to invest, or how to spend our time, each choice we make ultimately affects our soul, for good or bad. Ultimately, we need to make soul care a priority in our lives in order to nurture our inner being and make wise choices.

From the book:

“Becoming who we were meant to be is the primary way of knowing the God who really is. By accepting ourselves, we learn to accept a God who is loving, gracious, creative, able to forgive, and willing to extend mercy — all attributes the soul craves to be healthy, free, and alive.”

It’s interesting to watch the trends in my reading pursuits, and how they ebb and flow with different topics and various writing styles. I tend to read more practical, life application books in the spring, fiction in the summer, and headier, hardier topics in the fall and winter. I’m not sure why.

No matter, though, I feel better when I’m always reading through something. Even if it’s just five minutes before I pass out at night, reading keeps my wheels greased and my mind focused on something outside my immediate sphere of diapers and snack time.

I’d love to hear what’s on your nightstand. What books do you hope to read soon?

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Oh man – you just reminded me of the huge stack of library books I checked out that I need to either read or just take back. They are all about babies and what to feed them. There is one that I’m finding particularly interesting called Fed Up about how our nation has become obese and how important it is to teach our children to eat well or else they will follow the trend. So I guess you could say that that one is on my Fall list. 🙂

  2. Great question! I have TONS 0f books to read this fall – some business related, some just for fun, some with the kids. I read an average of 100 books a year in a wide variety of genres.

    My number one tip for finding time to read is listening to CDs in the car. With three kids, five sports teams between them, and two different schools, I end up in the car a lot. I use that time to educate and entertain myself, or to choose a book on CD we’d all like to listen to. It’s the only time the kids aren’t fighting in the car! 🙂

  3. I agree with you Tsh that you don’t need to read for hours in one sitting to appreciate and benefit from reading a book. Just reading a few pages before you go to sleep can help you to leave the day behind, have a moment to yourself and nurture your soul. In fact, it’s easier to take in small chunks than entire chapters too. Just read a few pages, see how it applies to you and how you can benefit from the information in your day to day life. The Soul Custody book will probably be my favorite from your list as the subject is really something I take deep interest in.

  4. Oh, TSH! How can you do this to me? I’ve got a HUGE stack to-be-read already, but your suggestions look absolutely amazing.

    I’m currently reading David Platt’s Radical, Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, and Nina Planck’s Real Food: What To Eat and Why.

    Through the fall, I hope to read Shannon Hayes’ Radical Homemakers, John Fischer’s Fearless Faith: Living Beyond the Walls of Safe Christianity, and N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.

    I have been telling anyone who will listen that I absolutely LOVED Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town. Best read of the year for me!

    I better stay out of the comments or my reading list will NEVER be conquered!!!

  5. My nightstand holds a precarious pile of children’s books, as we end the day there, reading. Thanks for the nudge that I need to pick up something for ME!

  6. I’m really terrible about reading Christiany books. They can’t all be Blue Like Jazz, it seems. I’ve started Wide Awake Erwin Raphael McManus, so I need to finish that. I also have a couple by Margaret Feinberg that I need to get through, The Sacred Echo being the first. I love the way she writes. Her voice is very honest and straightforward, and I like that. It’s what I strive for in my own writing! 🙂

  7. Those all sound great, Tsh. In particular, I want to read the Nouwen book. I’m reading The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease right now and am so inspired to increase our daily read aloud time as well as find a way to promote reading aloud in our community. Just finished An Irish Country Village (love this entire series) and will likely re-read the Anne of Green Gables series as I do every year. 🙂

    Fall is my favorite time of year. I find it incredibly energizing – perfect for reevaluating things and making changes!

  8. I have four different books waiting for me to read this fall on K-9 Search & Rescue and training dogs to track. I plan to start a training program with two of my dogs the first of November and am researching how to do so.

  9. First Teen Book Club for Classics of the year is today and I’m so excited!! We’ll begin with Phantom of the Opera, which always makes me want to play Andrew Lloyd Weber’s soundtrack as I read, lol!

    Plowing through The Odyssey on my own, so I can be better prepared for discussion when this book rolls around in another month. Recently finished Great Expectations and was blown away by the depth of insight into the characters. Loved it!

    Can you tell I love Classical Literature? I’m thinking after a summer of filling my brain with it, it could be time for a nice, easy, fluffy read. Maybe a romance or mystery…

    John Holt is a great author. I always felt like he was talking to me from beyond the grave. Such wisdom and wit. Enjoy!

  10. Laurel Haglund says:

    Just finished Forgotten God by Frances Chan and can’t say enough about it. For anyone struggling with what God wants for their life this is a must read. It challenges and encourages and gives a renewed passion for the Holy Spirit in our lives. It takes me forever to get through a book–but not this one!

  11. I’ve absolutely got to read before bed too – can’t go to sleep without at least 5 minutes of a good book! I’m very interested in Soul Custody…I just signed up for a 12 week seminar at my church call the Truth Project. It’s a seminar about how our culture can keep us separated from scripture when we’re lured by all of the shiny things out there. Can’t wait to attend and Soul Custody seems like a good fit to what we’ll be discussing.

  12. I am just finishing up Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints by James Martin, S.J. It is a great little book – very enjoyable. I really want to read much more of Fr. Martin’s work now. I have just started Exercising Your Soul: Fifteen Minutes a Day to a Spiritual Life by Gary Jansen which I think will be good as well. On deck is Children: The Challenge which my mom said she loved when she was raising us and Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing. Love you reading list. I may have to add a couple of them to mine as well!

  13. Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite authors. 🙂 This is a good reminder to pick up the habit of reading books that interest me before I go to bed. Lately it’s just been a Botany textbook for the class I’m going to be teaching soon.

  14. OOO we have the same interests in books. I have found a kindred spirit. I wasn’t familiar with the last one though so will check it out.

    Right now I am reading The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
    Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen
    Longing For God by Richard Foster

  15. i cannot wait to start ‘the hunger games’ (oooh, just writing it gets me happy). i love teen fiction. just love it. but i have to plow through what’s on my nightstand, which includes ‘how to raise a drug-free kid’ (not necessarily uplifting but very insightful), ‘cutting for stone’ and ‘cheap: the high cost of discount culture.’

  16. I’m hoping to finish The Hole in the Bible and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.

  17. Tsh, you just added another 2 books to my already long list of books! Thanks!

  18. Great books! All summer long I’ve been falling into “Prince Caspian” by CS Lewis before I pass out at night. On my desk this fall are: “Counsel from the Cross” by Fitzpatrick, “The Plight of Man and the Power of God” by Lloyd-Jones, “How People Change” by Lane/Tripp, and “Don’t They Know It’s Friday?” by Williams.

  19. Mother of Pearl says:

    I am in the middle of a biography of Mark Twain and then – it is time! – I am going to read War and Peace. I love Russian novels and am really looking forward to it.

  20. I did a blog segment on Henri Nouwen. Right now I am reading ‘Freedom from Simplicity’ by Richard Foster. As for a classic with my daughter- A little Princess. I cry every time.
    Three of my favorite books ever are:
    Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
    Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister
    Called to Question By Joan Chittister

    Enjoy your books!

  21. The Well Trained Mind

    On Writing Well

    Real Food on a Real Budget (ebook) by Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

    Your picks sound delightful!

  22. Thanks for this great list, Tsh. I love books!

  23. These all sound like very enlightening books! I’m very interested in the Life of the Beloved. I think you’ll have to give us a personal book review after you finish.

  24. I have three Clive Cussler books on my bedroom bookcase. Kiddo and I also have quite the stack of books to read together at bedtime — we are in love with the Bobsey Twins books and the Boxcar Kids books.

    Fall evenings are wonderful for reading. Grab a cozy blanket and a cup of hot tea and I am good for an entire evening.

  25. John Holt is a great read. It will mesh so well with what you observe in your kids that you’ll wonder why we don’t all allow our kids to learn in their natural way. Also on my nightstand:The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman. I am not a theist but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a spiritual side that I nurture!

  26. Thanks for sharing your booklist. It looks like a great list. I have the Henri Nouwen sitting on my shelf, too, waiting to be read, hopefully this fall. Also on the list to read soon are Playful Parenting, Teach Your Own by John Holt, finishing the Mitford series, just for fun, What is a Family by Edith Shaffer and others. I just finished How children Learn and blogged about it:


  27. I’ve been picking up a lot of classics (and non-classics) at Goodwill – especially ones I’ve never read. On my list so far:

    Anna Karenina
    Gone with the Wind (read it, loved it, glad I own it now)
    Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
    Flags of Our Fathers
    Apollo 13
    Treasure Island
    Paradise Lost

    Right now, I’m working on The Odyssey.

    And, I have the hope of finally reaching the goal of reading my Bible – cover to cover – during the next year.

  28. I just reserved a couple of your books at the library. Currently reading Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road by Paul-Gordon Chandler. Very compelling book so far!! Other than that am reading books on baby sign language and novels with dragons. I do love a good dragon or two! 🙂

  29. Tsh, this post is such a nice reminder that reading actually keeps are brain churning — meaning more productive! My feeling lately has been “there is no time to read” but for all the reasons you have pointed out, I am going to dust off my bookshelf now. Thanks!

  30. Eager to check out the books on your list!

    Raising Your Spirited Child: a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

    Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne. I’ve read it once, but plan to read it again. I highly recommend this book!

    War of Words by Paul David Tripp

    Walden by Henry David Thoreau (inspired by the children’s book Henry Builds a Cabin by D.B. Johnson).

    • I am a fan of Kurcinka too….but mostly I got excited to see you mention Henry Builds a Cabin. I was given Henry Climbs a Mountain by my brother and found Cabin in the library after that. Artwork is soooo beautiful in those, isn’t it?

  31. I’m trying to finish up “Stones into Schools” by Greg Mortenson. It’s been one of those reads that causes me to think about what I take for granted.

  32. Stephanie says:

    I am late in replying on this but I wanted to tell you thank you for sharing your reading list. Sacred Rhythms looked so appealing that I ordered the day of your post! I am reading it now but taking it in segments while I allow God to work each part into my life. And after reading your post you encouraged me to read for myself. I homeschool five kids from a junior in high school to one in kindergarten. I am constantly looking at school books and don’t usually give much thought to myself. In fact, I am reading a book aloud to the kids as well. So, I thank you for the nudge. I have since added Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner and So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore. Sister Freaks, by Rebecca St. James is full of inspiring stories of women and girls who have stood up for their faith. I have a few more on the bedside table, those are parenting books.
    I pray that in this season in your life that you capture each moment as Mary did and cherish them in your heart. ~S

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