On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked Jen Oshman—blogger at www.jenoshman.com and author of Enough about Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self—about what’s on her nightstand, favorite fictions books, influential biographies, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy Pearcey
Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality by Andrew LePeau
Confessions by Augustine, translated by Sarah Ruden
Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem
The Map of Salt and Stars: A Novel by Zeyn Joukhadar
What are your favorite fiction books?
Much to the chagrin of my children and husband, I don’t especially enjoy fantasy literature or science fiction, which are both favorites in our household. My favorite fiction authors are Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Dickens’s storytelling and characters in A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations sweep me away. And reading anything by Austen is just pure delight. She can make me cackle and cry on the same page.
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is one of my all-time favorite books. Wilkerson spent years (15, I think) tracing the lives of three black Americans who migrated along with 6 million others from the South to the North between 1915 and 1970. The history is breathtaking and eye-opening. I wish every American would read it, as our current conversations on race would benefit from her voice.
Missionary biographies re-center me when I forget what’s true: Jesus called each of us to lose our lives that we might find them. Missionary stories spur me on and remind me of how big and able our God is and how we really can answer his call by grace through faith. Some of my favorites are Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God by Nöel Piper, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot, and John G. Paton: The Autobiography of the Pioneer Missionary to the New Hebrides.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
Over the past few years I’ve re-read Tim Keller’s Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World and The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, as well as C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Our culture is changing so fast—right and wrong are seemingly rewritten overnight. These books help me to think clearly and carefully about timeless truths that illuminate our rapidly changing world.
In preparing to teach over the past couple years, these books have remained at the ready: From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation by Craig Blomberg, An Introduction to the New Testament by Don Carson and Douglas Moo, and various Pillar New Testament Commentaries.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?
A handful of girlfriends and I memorized Colossians, plus a good chunk of Ephesians, a couple years ago. Getting those words into my heart and mind have had a huge effect on me. The supremacy of Christ in Colossians 1 is grounds for immeasurable comfort and joy. God’s grace displayed in these two letters has served as an antidote to self-centeredness and reminded me to be God-centered in my life, as well as in my serving and leading of others.
Along those same lines, reading John Piper’s Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist early in my ministry set the stage for a focus on the goodness and glory of God above all else. This book helped me to see that Jesus is better in all things—shaping my walk as a pursuit of happiness in him, rather than a relationship based on do’s and don’ts and my own performance. I pray that this comes through anytime I write or speak to others.
What’s one book you wish every woman read?
This may sound silly or cynical, but truly, the Bible! It’s so tempting today for women to be whisked away by beautiful devotionals and book studies, but miss out on God’s Word. Those other books can be helpful additions, but I fear they replace Scripture more often than not. In this way, women are missing out on a feast that God has given us for our good. No only that, but one devotional at a time, our understanding of what God actually says is reduced, such that we don’t really know. A solid place to start for any woman is the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible: Christ in All of Scripture, Grace for All of Life.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
As is true for everyone else on the planet, 2020 has been a tough year for our family. COVID-19 took so much from us: a family member’s life, trips, memories, and milestones. And the political and racialized tension across our country has been hard to navigate in ministry and in our church. I’m leaning on the words of 1 Peter. We’re indeed exiles, but we’re exiles with a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. We have an imperishable inheritance awaiting us. This is not our home. But while we’re here, may we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. I’m daily asking God to help me love him and my neighbors in a way that makes a difference. At the end of 2020, I so want my future hope to inform the way I face my present reality.