Recommended Reads

I‘m wild about books. When I was a kid, my parents nearly called the cops because they couldn’t find me and I wasn’t answering them when they called out my name. Turns out I was completely absorbed in a book under a table covered by a tablecloth. What? It was a good book.

I’m still the same way, though I don’t have nearly the free, abandoned time of my childhood to read everything I want. My shelves and nightstand teeter to overflow with books, some of the only things I’m reluctant to declutter (though I have gotten better).

When I first read Harry Potter book 7, I pretty much threw PBJs at the kids and stayed up far too late to find out what the deal was with Snape. I cried heaving tears when I first read A Severe Mercy. Don Miller leaves me shaking my head in emphatic agreement. And I find encouragement from Richard Louv, who writes with conviction about the urgency to get our kids out in nature.

We read to know we're not alone. -William Nicholson

Here are some of my favorite books, organized by category. This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, and I’ll add more books as I read them. There are more books than time, in my opinion.

Note: All the links below take you to Amazon. When you click, it takes you to their website, and anything you purchase there (not just the book) will help support Simple Mom. Thanks already for your support.

Life Development

Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True

by Elizabeth Berg

escaping into the openWritten by one of my favorite novelists, I love her simple words about writing. Not as well-known as some other books about writing, this one tells it like it is, both artistically and practically.

Grace for the Good Girl

by Emily Freeman

grace for the good girlMy friend Emily is a good girl, and so am I, so that’s why I love her book so much. It’s written for me, and anybody else who grew up thinking life was all about being as good as possible. Her words are a breath of fresh air.

You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream

by Holley Gerth

you're made for a god-sized dreamHolley asked me to read her book when she was still working on the final drafts, and I couldn’t put it down. This book is for anyone who gets tired of hearing, “You can do anything you want!” but isn’t really sure what she wants to begin with. But still feels like she is made for something big.

Blue Like Jazz

by Don Miller

A modern-day classic, with this book Don revitalizes those of us who grew up in the Christian bubble, and removes the Christian-ese for those who didn’t. A somewhat controversial book, I couldn’t stop reading the first time I opened it.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

by Don Miller

a million miles in a thousand yearsThis is my favorite of Don’s books because I’m so very much about story, and living a good one. This book explores what it means to do just that—and it certainly helped that I read it when I was in the Philippines.

The Total Money Makeover

by Dave Ramsey

This guy changed our family tree when he taught us how to get rid of debt and handle money.  This book is the 101 that explains his ideas. This is a great beginner’s book who just isn’t sure where to start with their money.

The Element

by Sir Ken Robinson

the elementThis book was a game-changer for me, because it put words to the things I was already feeling. Our element is simply that intersection where our passions and our skills collide, and we’d all do well to live and work within that intersection. A motivating, insightful read.

Every Body Matters

by Gary Thomas

every body mattersOh my goodness, this book was so timely for me. Gary shares with conviction why our physical activity is inextricably linked to our relationship with God, for good and not-so-good. It got me to tie up my laces and start running.

The Lies We Believe

by Chris Thurman 

the lies we believeWritten by a psychologist (who goes to the church I grew up in, oddly enough), I read this book when I was at my breaking point living overseas. I remember exactly the blue chair I sat in on the balcony overlooking the water on a Greek island. These words did me in (in a good way), and it was the impetus that started my healing from depression.

Pursuing Justice

by Ken Wytsma

pursuing justiceKen’s a friend of mine, and I featured this fantastic first book of his on the blog in February 2013. It explores the compelling nature of caring about seeing justice served in the world, and what we can do about it from our homes. He’s also got great downloads to use with our kids.


The Well-Trained Mind

by Susan Wise Bauer

the well trained mindThe definitive classic on modern classical education, in my opinion, this heavyweight is my Bible when we homeschool. Susan covers both the reasons why to educate classically, and then how to do it. When I’m not sure what to do next, I check this book.

Parenting With Love And Logic

by Foster Cline and Jim Fay

Anytime we’re frazzled and frustrated by our kids, it’s a sign we need to brush up again with this book.  This book outlines our family’s main parenting philosophy and discipline strategy for two reasons—it works, and we stay sane.

Grace-Based Parenting

by Tim Kimmel

A beautiful book about releasing our kids to be who they are made to be, and to parent the way we’re created to be.  Tim’s words leave me inspired to be the best parent I can be by being the best me I can me (got that?).

Last Child in the Woods

by Richard Louv

This book is a serious wake-up call, and it’s a reminder that I have to be intentional if I want my kids to love the outdoors. If we don’t march against the culture, ours is the last generation to grow up playing outside.  The benefits are countless, and both our kids’ lives and nature itself is at stake.

Third Culture Kids

by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken

Has your child spent part of her growing up years in a country different than her passport’s?  Then she’s a third culture kid.  This book is the manual to pack in your suitcase before you move abroad—it was an enormous encouragement to me when we lived overseas.

Dumbing Us Down

by John Taylor Gatto

This book will challenge your view of education, particularly the American public school system.  John Taylor Gatto is the Man to encourage you to put the reins of your children’s education back where it belongs—in your hands, no matter whether you public school, homeschool, or something in between.

Sacred Parenting

by Gary Thomas

At first this book disappointed me because it wasn’t about how to parent—instead, this book asked me an incredibly important question: what if parenting is more about transforming me than it is transforming my kids?  This book beautifully explores this topic—humbling, encouraging, and eye-opening.

Spirit-Led Parenting

by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer

spirit-led parentingMegan’s a contributor here, and her and Laura’s words are SUCH a blessing for that first year of parents. In this book, they share their personal stories of “trying” different methods of parenting, only to ultimately end up where it was best for them—trusting their mama instincts. This is THE book I give to new moms.

Food Love

How to Cook Everything

by Mark Bittman

This is my main go-to cookbook; I use it several times a week.  Mark Bittman has written a  modern-day classic, and reading his words gives me confidence as a cook. It really does have (almost) everything.

It Starts With Food

by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig

it starts with foodThis is the definitive book about Whole30, the plan that started me on the road to eating paleo. If you’re toying with the idea of doing a W30, don’t do it without this book. Chock full of the science behind the why and motivation that you can do it.

Well Fed

by Melissa Joulwan

well fedAs a popular blogger who lives in my hometown (I miss you, Austin), Melissa provides uber-practical paleo recipes, most of which can be made during a Whole30. She also has a fantastic guide for having a weekly cook-up, so that the rest of the week is just toss-and-heat, and a guide for making endless variations of meals with just a few ingredients.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

by Barbara Kingsolver

This is quite possibly one of my favorite all-time books, period.  Barbara Kingsolver is a master wordsmith, and her journal of living off the land for one year will change how you view food and how to grow it.  A must read.

Bread & Wine

by Shauna Niequist

bread & wineFeatured on the blog in Apri 2013, I laughed and I cried reading this book. It’s not a cookbook, and it’s not a straight-up memoir—it’s more of a storytelling exploration of what happens when we share food around the table. Shauna reminds me that cooking is ultimately about forging relationships. This was such a fun read.

Real Food: What to Eat and Why

by Nina Planck

As the founder of the farmer’s market in London, Nina takes her experience from childhood and her career as a farmer’s market manager to explain why we should eat real food, and why butter and bacon are not evil.

Food Rules

by Michael Pollan

food rulesAnything journalist Michael Pollan writes is pure gold, in my opinion.  This is one of his shorter, simpler books that provides practical tips for how we should eat—real food, not too much, and mostly plants. Good stuff.

Practical Paleo

by Diane Sanfillippo

practical paleoThis cookbook is packed with simple, family-friendly, paleo recipes. It also includes different variations for particular health issues.

Plain ol’ good reads


by Tina Fey

bossypantsI think Tina is one of the funniest people alive (man or woman), so naturally, her book is hilarious. This isn’t spiritually profound, but it will make you laugh until you snort. The prayer for her daughter alone is worth the price of the book.

The Essential C.S. Lewis

by, well? C.S. Lewis

A compilation of the man’s best works, this thick book provides classic reading that’ll keep you up at night thinking. It includes a mix of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literary criticism, and autobiography.

What Alice Forgot

by Liane Moriarty

what alice forgotIf you’re headed to a beach weekend or perhaps just need a fun read while the kids splash in the pool, this is a great choice. Alice thinks she’s 29 in the midst of a happy marriage and a recent fixer-upper purchase—but it turns out she’s 39, on the brink of divorce, and obsessed about her perfect house. She forgot. Fun story.

The Harry Potter series

by J.K. Rowling

harry potterI feel a little silly even writing a recommendation here, because basically? This series is a classic whose protagonist takes his place next to Bilbo Baggins, Dorothy, and the Pevensie kids. Harry finds himself in an epic battle between good and evil, but this story is so much more than that. It’s about courage, friendship, loyalty, conviction, love, perseverance, and doing unpopular things. If you read it well, it’ll stay with you forever.

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

the helpIf you haven’t yet read this book, click right now and put it in your shopping cart. Or reserve it at the library. This is an incredible novel set in the early 60s (read: the Civil Rights movement) in deep-south Mississippi (read: scary place to be in this era if you’re not white). It tells the story of brave Skeeter and her relationship with friends both black and white. Run and read this.

A Severe Mercy

by Sheldon Vanauken

a severe mercyA biography of Sheldon’s marriage, faith journey, friendship with C.S. Lewis, and deep introspection after his wife’s untimely death. I dare you to not cry heaving tears when you read this.