In 2017, my friend Ginger roped me into a super lofty goal (for me) of reading 75 books. By fall though, I ended up scaling back a bit in favor of slower reading, so that I could really savor some deeper books.
In the end, I completed 61, which was a few more than the previous year. What I found is that I started and put down way more books this year than I ever have. I don’t know if it was the large looming goal or if I was choosing the wrong books, but whatever it was, I decided not to even set a goal for 2018.
Instead, I’m going to be reading through the list of Most Famous Books Set in Each State – aiming for one a month over the next few years. There are some fabulous books on the list, many of which I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, so this feel more exciting to me than a random number goal this year!
As for last year, I wanted to share my favorite reads from the year! I chose 6 from each category of nonfiction, fiction and YA/children’s literature.
Falling Free by Shannan Martin. This was one of the first books I read in the beginning of 2017, and I didn’t want it to end. Shannan has a gift for writing about Christian living and challenging her reader without being the slightest bit condemning. And her writing is just beautiful! I read this on Kindle, and then went and bought the paperback because I liked it so much. I can’t wait for her next book.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Another early 2017 read for me, and probably my favorite nonfiction this year (or a tie with Falling Free). As the author trains to be a neurosurgeon and then receives a grim diagnosis of cancer, he pens exquisite observations about his own life and mortality in general. And perhaps the most emotional portion is the epilogue written by his wife – I cried the entire way through.
Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Gillebeau. I read this one at a time when I really needed it. When my kids both started school in September, I was feeling a little aimless. Not bored- not at all. But searching to figure out the best ways to spend my time and what I really wanted to get out of my days and weeks in the open spaces. I love how the author shared stories of “regular people” all over the world who set out to accomplish both big and small goals, and how the pursuit of those goals gave important meaning to their lives.
I Was Told to Come Alone by Souad Mekhennet. A recommendation from my friend Geri, who has good taste in books on important issues! In reading about the author’s journalism career on the front lines in the Middle East, I became much more aware and educated about current events and global issues facing us all.
American Fire by Monica Hesse. I received this through Book of the Month Club, and I am partial to it because I love journalistic-type nonfiction. I think the author did a wonderful job of researching and telling the story of a rural county in Virginia that saw a night of fires begin one November – and didn’t stop for months, stumping law enforcement and forcing firefighters to sleep at the fire station week after week.
Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton. This book has influenced my life in a huge way! My pastor recommended it to me, and I have been recommending it ever since. It takes a hard look at the ways we’ve been conditioned to “help” the marginalized in our communities and worldwide and examines whether those actions and behaviors are truly helping or are actually hurting – and offers other options to empower those we seek to help.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman. It may start a bit slowly, but keep at it. Because I was crying through the end. Definitely my favorite fiction of the year! Evan read it too, and we can’t stop talking about it.
Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult. This book addresses racism and prejudice in a fascinating and challenging way. Such an important topic and a very timely read – and extremely well-written!
The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward. A compelling book that covers the dual storyline of a young couple trying to have a baby, and a young girl trying to get to the United States from Central America to be reunited with her mother. This one has really stuck with me!
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. This was my last read of the year, and it was so cute, I had to include it. It’s written from the perspective of a 39-year-old man who is most likely on the autism spectrum but doesn’t know it. All he knows is that he doesn’t “fit in” to the social conventions of the rest of society. He is looking for a wife, and the book details his adventures in seeking a suitable partner.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. My librarian recommended this historical fiction, and I flew through it in about 2 days. My only complaint is that it needed a lot more commas added during the editing process, but it was an intriguing read and a great coming-of-age story.
Camino Island by John Grisham. This was very literary, with the whole plot based on stolen F. Scott Fitzergerald manuscripts and a largely part of the setting focusing on an independent bookstore, so I enjoyed those aspects a lot! I listened to it on audio and thought it was really well-read too.
Pax by Sarah Pennypacker. My friend Kendra loaned me this book, and I devoured it. I hope to read it out loud with my kids at some point, but I couldn’t wait because it was so good. The author is an incredible storyteller, and she made the characters and emotions come to life.
Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. I admittedly read a bunch of YA this year, particularly over the summer. So I was privy to a lot of young love stories. But I’d say this was my favorite. The story was well-told, and it was just a really cute read!
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. SUCH a good piece of children’s literature! Set in World War II London, it tells the story of Ada, who was born with a club foot, and her brother Jamie, being raised by an abusive mother. The kids find their way out to the country during German advancements and live with Susan, which changes everything, especially for Ada who had never even been let out of her apartment in her 10 years.
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. Another one of my favorite YA reads for the year! I didn’t want to put this one down, and it’s a quick, sweet read.
Soar by Joan Bauer. This is an uplifting and encouraging kid lit read that I plan to read with my kids in the next couple of years. I grabbed it on a whim from the library and flew through it. When a weak heart keeps him from playing his beloved baseball, Jeremiah appoints himself the team coach for the new town he and his adoptive dad just moved to. After the town experiences some tragedy and scandal in baseball, Jeremiah seeks to restore the community’s morale and help the team bounce back.
Frindle by Andrew Clements. I read this out loud with Connor over the summer, and we both loved it. (I had to hide my falling tears at the end!) (Sometimes I get a little sappy…) I love Andrew Clements, and he really nailed it with this one.
So there we are! What’s been on your favorites list this year? I’m excited to explore some new topics in the year ahead, and my to-read list continues to grow. Happy Reading!