As far as my reading life goes, the first seven months of the year were full of winners.

But some books had more of an impact on me than others. They were the more memorable ones that I recommend to people most often. I’m still fired up about them and thinking about them. That’s how I chose my top 8 (out of 33).

A few months ago, I decided to start balancing my reading by rotating between books from my personal shelf and review copies of new books. I want to help authors by reading and reviewing their new releases, but I also want to read the books I buy (very often!) for myself. This practice has been working really well to help me do both.

Here are my favorites of the year so far:

1. Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems by J.D. Greear

I’ve wondered before whether my view of God is inaccurate or too simple and how that view is hindering my spiritual growth and kingdom impact. This book tackles that. It was excellent, unabashedly biblical, and even better than I expected.

2. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

I sadly had no idea who Austin Channing Brown was before I agreed to review this book and now I’m a superfan. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to write a full review of it for The Witness because I’m still not able to adequately summarize it in a few sentences.

3. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This was the first book I read in 2018. It was a time in my life when I needed to be immersed in a great story lest I go insane. At over 500 pages, The Interestings was a fun, long ride and the perfect distraction. The characters were layered and complex (though not very likeable most of the time) and the writing was delightfully detailed without being difficult. I’m not much of a crier but I cried at the end, which says a lot to me about how powerful the storytelling was.

4. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Another long one that was worth the time (I need one of those “I like big books and I cannot lie” coffee mugs). I spent almost the entire month of April reading Pachinko, which is just shy of 500 pages. The word I’ve used to describe the story most often is “colorful.” It’s a mesmerizing work of historical fiction (one of my favorite genres) that gives an intimate look into life in Asia in the early 1900s.

The strong female leads have voices that reverberate throughout the book with their stories of love and resilience. I can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for something well-written, educational, and unique.

5. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart

Since I have more than enough books on my “to-read” list and the list keeps growing every day, I rarely pledge to re-read anything. But I’ll be re-reading and continuing to reference this book in the future.

The main idea is that the Bible is accessible. You don’t have to be a scholar to be able to read and study it properly. There are many misunderstandings regarding interpreting and applying different genres in the Bible, questions about translations and context, and how to understand messages meant for those in the past vs. the implications for us today. This book is approachable, clear, and a huge help.

6. Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

It’s hard to believe that this short story collection is a debut book. With the primary theme being the complexities of black identity, it’s the perfect balance of funny and insightful.

I thoroughly enjoyed it with all its layers, twists, and turns. There was a lot going on in the best way. I’ve never read anything quite like it, either. Another reviewer I follow on Goodreads called it “utterly original” and I have to agree.

7. Paul and His Team: What the Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership and Influence by Ryan Lokkesmoe

Honestly, I didn’t expect much from this one but I ended up rating it five stars. I couldn’t believe how practical and helpful it was.

It had the ability to be a fluffy and vague overview of leadership lessons from Paul but instead is filled with biblical context and guidance. I thought the author did an excellent job at what he set out to write and teach: lessons from the early church that we can apply as we lead and influence others today.

8. Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son is a classic that I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet (a theme for me this year). It’s an unforgettable book that kept me on my toes. I still think about the characters in this book and the “hidden” messages on race and poverty. I wish every fiction book I picked up was as exciting. I also included Native Son in my Black History Month roundup earlier this year.

Feel free to share your favorite reads so far this year in the comments/on Twitter/on Instagram or let me know if you’ve read any of mine.