I just set my Goodreads Challenge goal for 2017, but before I jump into that goal, I really want to look back on the books I read in 2016 and give you a quick review of my favorite books of the year.
Just to be clear – these are not necessarily books released in 2016. Sometimes I get to new releases, but not too often.
Starting with fiction:
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This book took me by surprise because it is a collection of letters written between an American reader and an English bookseller. Sounds dry as dust, right? But this is one of those books that sucks you in and won’t let you go until you finish (only 112 pages so that’s really not that bad.) The relationship between the writer and the people in the English bookshop develops through the letters and becomes so real. I loved it.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
I know, I know, you’ve heard this before from Tolkien fans who just can’t let it go. Too bad because here we go. If you have not read these three books (and The Hobbit) what are you waiting for? I read them again this year for the umpteenth time and I will read them again in the next three or four years. Just let go and enjoy the incredible mythology of a superb storyteller!
Still Life (and the rest of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books) by Louise Penny
I’m crazy about these mysteries set in Quebec, primarily in the lost little town of Three Pines. I’ve read eleven out of the twelve books in the series and have grown to love the characters. Chief Inspector Gamache is somebody you want to be your boss or your dad or at least your neighbor. He’s a rock of strength, but completely human with normal, believable weaknesses. And the people of Three Pines – well, for their population they have an awful lot of murders, but I still want to live there and hang out with them. Of course that tells you nothing about the mysteries themselves – they’re good too, but it’s the characters for me.
Then there were two good ones that I’m going to classify as memoirs:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
First of all, I think I have to admit that I have never read one of Stephen King’s novels. Now that that’s out of the way, I loved his thoughts and advice and pushiness about writing. He even gave a homework assignment to start a story based on a paragraph he suggested. Yes, I did start it and, no, I didn’t finish because I was scaring myself! If you want a very good read on writing, pick this one up.
Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson
I love Sophie Hudson. She’s one of those writers who gets you laughing and then pops you over the head with a solid biblical truth that you’ve been hiding from or ignoring. You can’t ignore it anymore. I think one of the reasons I love Sophie so much is because her descriptions of her Southern family sound so much like my East Texas in-laws. She sees the humor in her family and yet also the warmth and acceptance that they offer so freely. This particular book is all about women needing to encourage and equip and mentor and love each other. For a introverted hermit like me, it was perfect.
The next four books are non-fiction and I’ll end up with a set of Bible studies.
Think It Not Strange by John Piper and others
When I read this book I was in a small group that seemed to focus on everything that is wrong in our country but that did not help any of us to live with what is wrong with our country. This book was perfect for me at that time. As you would guess from the title, the premise is that Christians must expect to suffer for the cause of Christ. Persecution is the norm and we must prepare ourselves and our children and our churches to expect it and to thrive in the midst of it. Go to http://www.desiringgod.org/books/think-it-not-strange to download a copy now.
The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership by Jenni Catron
This year my boss encouraged me to read a couple of leadership books and I chose The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership. The book is based on the Great Commandment – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind and with all your strength. The four dimensions are heart (relational leadership), soul (spiritual leadership), mind (managerial leadership) and strength (visionary leadership). I usually use Kindle, but I would recommend buying this as a real book so you can mark it up and refer back to it quickly.
Running on Empty by Barbara Bancroft
I’ve already written a review of this super book which you can find here: http://wp.me/p4ntu4-jB. If you are a woman in ministry or married to a man in ministry, please read this book!
What Grieving People Wish You Knew by Nancy Guthrie
This may be my favorite book of the year because I needed it so badly. Maybe you do too. Have you ever had that awful feeling that you should do something or say something to a grieving person, but you are petrified that you will say or do the wrong thing? So you do nothing? Nancy Guthrie’s book is full of what grieving people have found helpful and what they have found hurtful. It’s a gentle, non-judgmental guide to being a good friend to a grieving person. You can get a taste of the book by watching a twenty minute video of Nancy at https://www.crossway.org/blog/2016/09/what-grieving-people-wish-you-knew/.
Everyday Love, Everyday Hope, and Everyday Faith by Katie Orr
I’ve saved these Bible studies for last so that I can preach to you a little bit. If you are a follower of Christ and you are not immersing yourself in the Word of God you are effectively cutting yourself off from the vine and you are trying to work out your sanctification in your own power. Sorry, but that is just not smart and I so want you to stop it. I know that life is ridiculously busy, but if you will just carve out 15 minutes every day, you will be able to do these FOCUSed 15 studies with Katie Orr. You can go to http://katieorr.me/about/ to find out more.
So that’s my list of favorite books from 2016 plus a little preachiness – sorry, can’t help myself!
What did you read this year that you’re dying to share? Let me know!
photography by Unsplash