1. Addiction and Grace by Gerald May
This book was truly life changing for me. I read it at the beginning of the year, and finished it by the end of January. At the time I read it, I was working in a rehab facility for teen boys, and wanted to better understand the spiritual nature of drug and alcohol addiction, since I have never personally experienced that issue. But Addiction and Grace is about so much more than "addictions." Addiction is anything that we are attached to that takes the place of God. This book helped me see that I use many objects of attachment, whether it is work, achievements, relationships, or approval to numb my need for God. I shared some of this book in class devotions, and also in group therapy sessions with my clients. One client and I even wrote letters to our "addictions" in session, him to drugs and myself to approval and achievement, shared them with each other, and then tore up our letters to symbolize detaching ourselves from these life-controlling attachments. It was a powerful moment in therapy for me and for him, but the lessons of Addiction and Grace continue to impact my life every day, in how I view addiction and how spirituality can heal.
2. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
3. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
This is a little bit older book (2003), having been an Oprah's book club selection back in 2005, and then surrounded by controversy when it came out that this "memoir" was part fiction. Oprah withdrew her book club endorsement and publicly flogged James Frey for the embellishments in his story. Nevertheless, I wanted to read it to, again, help me understand the mind of an addict and life in drug rehab. Frey was candid, gritty, and his stream of consciousness style really portrayed the confabulated mind of a hard-core drug addict. I also shared pieces of this book with a teen client (see #1) and even gifted him with a copy of the book when I left my job at the rehab. There's a lot of explicit language and gory details, but in the end it's a story of hope and the power of the human will to overcome.
I'm not usually a fan of young adult fiction. I refused to read the Twilight series or Harry Potter. I also don't like fantasy fiction. So why is the Hunger Games on my list of the best books? After seeing the movie, I borrowed the books from my little sister and read books 1, 2, and 3 all in one week during school break. It's engaged, attention-grabbing and the blend of romance, suspense, and action speak to the violent nature of the world we live in now. The second book was probably my favorite, while the third doesn't make my list. Now I am eagerly awaiting the release of Catching Fire in theaters November 2013.
5. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh