Another year is wrapping up which means another year of reading is wrapping up! I’ve been thinking a lot about the books I’ve read this year – the classics I discovered (finally), the books that made me think, the ones that surprised me. Thanks to my Goodreads end of year report, it’s so easy to see what I’ve read and my favorites from this year. I wanted to put together a list here but I don’t think I’m going to be able to do it. It’s too incredibly hard to choose or it’s going to end up being a very long list because I read so many wonderful books this year! Instead I will discuss the books that stand out to me.
First off, I read two classics this year that I’d never read before – “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. I can honestly say those books, in some small way, impacted and changed me. They are called classics for a reason. I also re-read one of my favorite books from my childhood, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I loved it just as much as I did when I was a child. Which was a big relief because it’s always sad when things don’t live up to how you remember them. I read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien with the kids and I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. I’m not much into sci-fi or fantasy but the writing was amazing and characters were so loveable. We continued with the “Lord of the Rings” series but I’m not enjoying them nearly as much.
I read so many interesting memoirs – from funny, to foodie, to Hollywood, to serious, to interesting – that it feels impossible to pick favorites. I think the most impactful memoirs that I read were “When Breathe Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi and the first and second book in the “Call the Midwife” series by Jennifer Worth. I think it’s important for people to read “Steel Will” by Shilo Harris also. It wasn’t the best writing but it addresses a topic that so often goes unnoticed, the aftermath of the wars, especially those that have been injured. I can’t exactly put into words but all of these books have changed me in some way. I have a tidbit of information and perspective that I didn’t have before and I’m grateful to them for it.
I also read three delightfully fun foodie memoirs: “Delancey” by Molly Wizenberg, “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard and “Garlic and Sapphires” by Ruth Reichl. Although they were all foodie memoirs, they were completely different from each other. Delancey is about the joys and woes of starting your own restaurant, Lunch in Paris is about falling in love with Paris, a man and food all at the same time, while Garlic and Sapphires described Ruth’s time as the New York food critic (I had so much fun vicariously living through her and her stories! But, spoiler alert, it’s not the dream job you think it is!).
And, although it’s not exactly a memoir (but close enough), I have to add “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown to my favorites list. I had no idea that I’d enjoy a book about a college row team as much as I did. I laugh, I cried, I cheered! So good.
I tend to have a love-hate relationship with fiction. Thankfully I found several new favorites this year in this category. “What Alice Forgot” by Lianne Moriarty read like a fun “beach read” but left me thinking about life and relationships long after I finished it. “The Summer Before the War” by Helen Simonson reminded me so much of a Jane Austen story. A loveable main character that’s been dealt a tough blow by life circumstances and social conventions, yet she still manages to come up on top. Several fun, hilarious side characters too. I had high hopes for “Girl Waits With Gun” by Amy Stewart and it didn’t let me down. Based on a true story, Girl Waits With Gun tells the stories of three sisters who won’t back down when they know their right, unintentionally picking a fight with a gangster-type guy. This is quite a shock to their family and neighbors since this is a time when woman were to be protected by their male family members, not chasing after criminal themselves. The three sisters have completely different personalities but equally entertaining. The main character’s nerve and quick-wit lands her a job as one of the first woman deputies. Lastly, I loved “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson. It is the most charming and sweet story I think I’ve ever read. Miss Pettigrew is a failed governess who is about to end up homeless unless she can keep this final-chance job. There’s been a mix up and she’s pulled into a very glamorous world of movie stars, alcohol and other debauchery. She’s shocked but manages to save the day several times winning the hearts and affections of the other characters and, of course, the readers. I smile just thinking about this book!
With the Kids
I had a surprisingly fun time reading “Around the World in Eighty Days” by Jules Verne with the kids this year. Of all the books we read together for homeschool this year, it was by far my favorite one. It was such a well-written book, the characters were funny and loveable but also intriguing, and there was a suspenseful storyline that made us want to keep reading. “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park was a very important story and I’m so glad I read it aloud with the children as it spurred many discussions. It’s definitely a story that gave all of us a new appreciation and thankfulness for the luxuries we have living in a first-world country.
As far as Christian books are concerned, there were so many good options. “Present over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist and “Roots and Sky” by Christie Purifoy are at the top of my list. Present over Perfect spoke to my overachieving self and, in general, I just love how Shauna writes. She’s so relatable and real. Roots and Sky put into words how I’ve felt about living Virginia. This is the first time I’ve experienced seasons and it has made me a more contemplative and thoughtful person. I also read two books by Holley Gerth: “You’re Already Amazing” and “God’s Heart for You.” Holley is your go-to gal when you need a pep-talk. She’s so encouraging and sweet, without being saccharine sweet (if you know what I mean). I re-read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis for probably the fifth time and I gleaned a whole slew of new thoughts and tidbits that I missed the first four times I read it. It is a powerhouse of a book and I highly encourage you to read it if you haven’t yet!
Of course, I’m already looking forward to what I’ll be reading in 2017!
What were your favorite books this year? Please share in the comments!
* Just to be clear, these are books I read in 2016, not necessarily books published this year (although a few of them were).