Reader friends, we’re down to the last few days of 2017, and I’m one book shy of meeting my 52-book goal for the year. I’m determined to hit that goal over the weekend. After all, what’s a weekend without some reading in it? In the meantime, I want to share with you my favorite reads of the year. Confession: only one is a 2017 release. But I think that’s ok. As a prolific book buyer who also happens to work for a publishing house, sometimes books sit on my shelves for a long time before I manage to read them. And since I became a [working] mom, time to read purely for pleasure and personal growth has become a luxury–one I try to work into my busy days as much as possible.
However, in looking back at my reading year on Goodreads, I’ll confess I’m disappointed in the overall quality of most of the books I read. By overall quality, I mean depth of topic, beauty of language, and quality of storytelling. As a means of being neutral, none of the selections below are books I edited, none of them were part of our homeschool curriculum, and none of them were anything other than a personal choice. That considered, I don’t have even ten books here, which says a lot. This has caused me to do some serious reflecting over the past few weeks about what I’ve been choosing to read and why. Hopefully 2018 will be much, much different. More on that in a later post.
Anyway, let’s get to it. Here are my favorite books of 2017, listed by category, and this handful of titles is worth the time.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. This book is a stunner. People have recommended it to me for years–literally–and I’m so glad the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club inspired me to finally have at it. I hadn’t read anything this meaty and moving in a long time. There are close family bonds, deep spiritual notes, and a plot that will keep you riveted. I won’t say more. Just trust me and read it.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. This is another one that sat on my shelf for a long time and is now a favorite. Epistolaries are few and far between, but this one–about a plucky group of friends determined to survive the German occupation of the Isle of Guernsey during World War II–is endearing and inspiring. It left me with a yen to start my own Guernsey-style book club.
All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. (Also All Creatures Great and Small, which I read in late 2016–and the last two books in the series are on my TBR list for 2018). My mom bought me these books when I was in my teens, but I “wasn’t an animal person,” so I never even gave them a try. Then, last year, E’s mom gave us a copy of James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, and I was hooked. Not only does Herriot bring the Yorkshire Dales to life with his stories–which are just as much about people as they are about animals, maybe more–but there are more side-splittingly funny moments than I can count. This series is finding a place among my all-time favorites.
My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, Ronald Rice, editor. I love books about books, books about libraries, and books about bookstores. This one is particularly inspiring, and I savored every essay. I now have a list of independent bookstores to visit in cities all over the country. Bookstore roadtrip, anyone?
The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape by Phyllis Tickle. This title popped up in a number of places and conversations early this year, and I finally checked it out from the library. It’s rich in story and spiritual depth, and it took me months to get through it because I wanted to soak it in slowly. I maxed out the renewals on my library card, then on L’s, and then finally ordered a copy for myself on Abebooks. I was also surprised to find that the author (known primarily for The Divine Hours, her series of books on fixed-hour prayer) lived in Memphis for most of her life. My copy has a lot of book darts.
Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison. I’m quite sure I’ll be reading this annually until my children are grown. Katrina Kenison’s expositions on the joys of motherhood were like an afternoon cup of tea for my soul.
Make It Happen by Lara Casey. My soul sister Lindsay Hufford recommended this when she knew I was mentally churning over my goals for the coming year. Lara Casey is the creator of PowerSheets, an annual planner designed to help you achieve your dreams. Make It Happen is the story of how she found her way out of fear and onto the path of fulfillment. It was just what I needed as 2017 drew to a close.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. I eyed this book in my local independent and B&N for months–the charming, colorful cover is hard to avoid noticing–but a recommendation from Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival caused me to finally spring for it. I wasn’t disappointed. A charming New York family and their quest to keep their beloved home fill the pages of this read-aloud-friendly tale, with plenty of twists and turns–and laughs.
What books did you love this year? Leave a comment for me, or let’s connect on social media (links in the graphics below).
Finally, in case you’re interested, earlier this year, I wrote a post on children’s books everyone should read if they haven’t. If you’re not sure your children’s lit list is up to par, have a look.
Happy New Year, friends!