I like to keep track of my reading each year, through Goodreads, journals, or lists. I recently changed my blog home and now I’m trying to find a good place and way to record what my children and I read. I’m still working on that, so instead of my usually massive list of what books we read, I’ve been sharing just those ones that we have loved THIS year and in this moment. It is so, so hard to narrow this list down, but I based my decision not necessarily on just the excellence of the book itself, but also on how it impacted me at the TIME that I read it. So, here is my favorite read list for 2016!
My 2016 Favorite Reads:
1. My favorite book this year! A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich – I can’t tell you how much this book meant to me…how our dreams and reality war in our affections. Laura is a deep thinking child with dreams of writing and loving on words…an elusive dream world that can’t quite be explained. It sort of feels like a white bird flying through the air. Grandmother Deal passes away and young Laura is devastated…Grandma was the only one who really seemed to understand and listen to her…she will honor her Grandmother and never forget what she gave up by living her life grasping after her grandmother’s and her own shared dream. Little does she know that Grandmother did live her dream, a dream that lives on through the generations. Laura has choices to make, stories to live.This book is written with beautiful prose and lovely nature descriptions. The author’s love of Nebraska and the plains is woven and intricate to this story. I just love the depth of the characters and how each life is so interwoven. The beauty of generations is heavily shown here…the good, the bad, and the ugly of family relationships and how they shape us. This starts off a bit slow, but is just so, so very lovely! I HIGHLY recommend this title.
I didn’t realize that A White Bird Flying is the second in a series and I am now reading the first, A Lantern in Her Hand, which is just beautiful. I also read Mother Mason by Aldrich and was deeply moved by the beauty, hardships, and humor of motherhood shared within that title. Highly recommend this author and I can’t wait to read more of her work.
2. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery – I’m a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery and I reread this title at a particularly hard time this year and it just blessed the socks off of me . The young girl blossoming as she serves and loves her father. She doesn’t do anything spectacular except create an atmosphere of love and home to all those around her. And really maybe servant-hood IS the most spectacular thing we can do with our life. Just beautiful.
3. This is kind of a strange thing, two beautiful titles have melded together a bit for me. The Broken Way: A Daring Path into The Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp and my rereading of Hinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard have been just so beautifully challenging and life-altering in so many ways. I’m still slowly savoring both of these, but I put them high on favorites for the year. It’s not simple to put into words, why I love these so much, but it has to do with finding freedom in just resting and trusting the Lord in the midst of our lives. That the brokenness, valleys, and heart-wrenching things are REAL life on this sin-soaked world. We can see God in those and live abundantly even when life isn’t safe or our idea of perfect. In fact, a careful reading of the Bible reveals life as, I believe, a barren desert with Jesus as our Spring of Living water. Voskamp’s writing can be a bit tricky to get into, but if you dig deep you will find lovely gems.
4. Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner – This was hard, sad, yet beautiful read. This story is told through the 80+ year old eyes of a woman looking back over her life, looking at the Christian faith as an outsider, and explaining her life, questioning death through the observing of birds, Shakespeare, and Time Life’s obituaries. Sound weird? It isn’t. It’s beautiful and thought-provoking. I’ve always read Christian fiction and it’s hard to find well-written, non-formulaic titles in this genre, but this one is excellent. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.
5. City of Tranquil Light: A Novel by Bo Caldwell – This fiction title is based on a true story about Mennonite missionaries to China in the early 1900’s. Hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking. I was so encouraged and challenged in my faith. I couldn’t put this down.
6. The Gown of Glory by Agnes Sligh Turnbull – I must share this lovely fiction title with you! A young minister and his wife arrive in Ladykirk, hoping that this is just the stepping stone to their big ministry position…only to find themselves still in the same place 25 years later. David Lyall is a humble, bookish man, who hopes his gentle sermons and life of love mean something in this world. This follows their life and family and how simple loving can impact deeply.
7. Romancing Your Child’s Heart by Monte Swan – a beautiful, insightful parenting title. Swan challenges us to look at children as whole, wonderful people deserving of the love of the Lord.
8. The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebank – an interesting memoir about real life as a shepherd in the north of England. I read this around and during my trip in The Lake District, so it came alive to me. A bit of rough language, but I really loved this honest look at shepherding.
9. Applesauce Needs Sugar by Victoria Case – This was a fantastic memoir! This follows the life of a Canadian pioneer family working hard to better themselves and put food on the table for their growing family. I found most of the stories had a subtle humor that made me chuckle out loud, namely the ways the industrious mother went about her wild plans all while convincing the father that it was his idea in the first place. 😉 This book has an interesting perspective in that it shows a strong-willed, excellent business woman in a time when women had no say, no vote, no property…nothing. I love the relationship portrayed between the parents, not perfect but choosing love…the discipline and well-oiled way the mother runs her big family of eventually 10 has me in awe.
10. The Book of Stillmeadow by Gladys Taber – no year would be complete without a little side of Taber. If you’ve never read her, Gladys wrote from the 1940’s onward, on the daily and seasonal happenings of her farm Stillmeadow. I know some people think she is repetitive and slow, and she probably is…but I love her writing. I think the two things that strike me the most are these: 1. she pays close attention to the small details of life and 2. she uses words in such a beautiful way. This title started off a bit slow, but as I got into it, I was just enchanted. The beauty of home, family, animals, cooking, and of nature. The glorious bits of light and beauty we see in the midst of the mundane, if we are brave enough to just stop fretting and being disgusted by it all, we will be given a beautiful gift right where we are. I have Stillmeadow Sampler and Stillmeadow Daybook for savoring in my book stack now.
I have a few others that I could mention here, but I’m going to try to show restraint, as I really do think these are my most favorites of this year, or at least touched me the most. I would be amiss to not mention the Book of Books, The Holy Bible,…I journaled through it this year, using a wide margin NKJV Bible, with no footnotes, which was lovely. I’m planning on using a different version next year and doing it again…the richness, life, and love in the Bible are life-changing.
What were your absolute, favorite reads of this year?