Friday, December 30, 2016

Books of 2016

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 realizeIt'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?


  1. Hi Jen,
    Oh, I agree, I also don't know how it is that I read 53 books this year? (I listened to some).
    I too read To Kill a Mockingbird this year, and it made me think a lot. I love Gilead, and Mere Motherhood too, and I agree with you about Emma, but it was much fun to discuss it at bookclub.
    I liked Surprised by Joy and Surprised by Oxford too, but I gave the last one away.
    I didn't read any super bad books this year, bit I would say that The Winter Sea for bookclub was a bit waste of time. I don't regret having read Emma at all, even though I don't think it's my favorite either.

  2. Emma is definitely my least favorite Austen book (and to my slight chagrin I have a daughter named Emma, although she was given that name long before I had read the book!). I thought it plodded as well, and I didn't really find any of the characters particularly likable or even all that interesting.

    I'll be reading The Betrothed with my daughter this year and I'm looking forward to re-reading. I was absolutely fascinated by it when I read it a few years ago. I had never heard of it until I read The Heir of Redclyffe, and their discussion of the book made me want to read it myself.

    I would like to read Gilead and Suprised by Oxford this year - I have them on my short list of books I'm considering. I don't like to set a lot of reading goals, but I think having a few books noted down will be helpful for me.

    Thanks for sharing your list!

  3. It's interesting that you didn't love Emma. I felt the same way about the pacing of Sense and Sensibility. I got through it but didn't love it. Emma is actually my favorite Austin book. I think it's because I see so much of my young silly self in her. I thought I knew everything and had everybody else worked out. Boy was I clueless! I also see a lot of my husband in Mr. Knightley. He seemed noble and honorable, and treated people well. He admonished Emma for her own good, believing she was a better person than she behaved sometimes. My husband was (and still is) that to me and has made me a better person. Probably way too much information for the internet ☺️. I can understand what you mean by it being a little slow though. It's been a while since I've read it. I wonder if I'll feel differently now? I love reading your posts about the books you're reading. Thanks for sharing.