So, as promised, my "Best Books of 2016". Even when I'm not otherwise actively blogging, I can't help a good book post. J
So…the stats. I actually read and finished 43 books this year, not counting the Bible or books read to/with the children for school or otherwise. I was actually shocked by that, because I have felt so often this year that I *just don't read as much as I used to* for a wide variety of reasons. But that's only 6 short of my 2015 tally. Granted, I read more light fiction this year that I have typically read in years past, but still pretty respectable. I guess I'm squeezing more reading in there than I thought I was.
My top 5 picks for this year, in no particular order:
1. Parents and Children (Charlotte Mason) – This is Charlotte Mason's second volume, and was one of the two that I hadn't yet read (Volume 5 is my last holdout. Hoping to tackle that one this year.) I wrote a review of this book here.
2. Mere Motherhood (Cindy Rollins) – Delightful and Profound. Read my review here.
3. You Are What You Love (James KA Smith) – If you read along with Desiring the Kingdom a couple years ago and liked Smith's ideas but not his delivery so much, this is the book for you. The basic premise is the same as Desiring the Kingdom, but the presentation and application is much more accessible for ordinary, not-academic-philosophers. My husband is actually reading and enjoying this one too. In a nutshell, this is an apologetic for why liturgy matters – both in the formal worship setting, as well as informally in the habits and everyday practices of our lives. These things form and shape us more than we realize. It's worth taking the time to consider what kind of people our habits – liturgies – are shaping us into.
4. I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) (Alessandro Manzoni) – This is one of the assigned literature selections in AO Year 8, and one of the titles selected for the Book Discussion group over on the AO Forum this past year. It is *the* novel of Italy and an epic in every sense of the word – so much food for thought and insight into human nature all wrapped up in a compelling story.
5. Gilead (Marilynne Robinson) – This is an author I've heard mentioned many times in the literary circles I frequent, and I'm so glad I finally gave her a try. So, so good. I have her others in my 'to be read' basket, waiting for just the right moment.
And a few honorable mentions, just because I can never pick just 5….
1. The Tempest (Shakespeare) – I've dipped in to a fair amount of Shakespeare this year as my kids have reached the age that we have started to study Shakespeare for school and I (and they!) am loving it. I haven't studied this one with the kids yet, but it was far and away my favorite Shakespeare that I have encountered yet.
2. Surprised by Oxford (Carolyn Weber) – So this was a re-read. For the third or fourth time. I loved it every bit as much as the first couple of times, but since it has made a previous best book of the year list, I figured maybe I ought to bump it down? Re-reading it made me wish I had taken an English degree rather than an Elementary Education one, made me want to travel to England and read more CS Lewis (which I have been!), and inspired me to finally finish Paradise Lost, which was worth the effort.
3. Surprised by Joy (CS Lewis) – I've read a fair bit of CS Lewis this year, and this was my favorite of the lot. So fascinating…I loved reading his story.
4. Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies (Marilyn Chandler McEntyre) – Recommended by a friend from church. It is a series of essays on using Words well written by a literature professor. Much food for thought, and a book I will revisit.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) – Beautiful picture of what it means to live with integrity in a hostile culture. I read this back in high school, but it was very meaningful to revisit it as a 30-something adult with that much more experience of the world.
There weren't really any books I read this year that I *didn't* like, and actually only one or two that I started and didn't finish. So I'm sort of hard pressed to pick a bottom of the pile book. But, if I'm being pressed…I guess I would have to say Emma (Jane Austen). Don't get me wrong. I love Jane Austen. And I love the movie adaptations of this book, so it's not the story that bothers me. It's just that the pacing of the book itself is slower than some of her others. Something would happen, and then the next chapter or two would be the characters discussing the thing that happened. But…I finished it! I've tried before and just couldn't. But my hubby and I are very slowly reading through Jane Austen's work together, so I had accountability. Now we're watching and comparing all the movie versions. :D
(Yes, I know I am a very lucky girl to have a hubby who actually enjoys reading and watching Jane Austen with me. He also found my list of books I want to read someday and bought me a book for every single one of the 12 days of Christmas. And when I fill up my current bookcases, I can count on him to take me back to Ikea for more. Yes, I am a lucky girl indeed.)
What did you read this year? Highlights? Lowlights?