I’m an avid reader. So, when I saw all of the “Top Ten” book lists hitting the blogosphere the past few weeks, I had to jump in! My taste in books runs the gamut, as you will see. I’ve tried to create a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and as I read with my boys a lot, there are a few kid books thrown in for good measure.
I’m including a brief summary of each book and a link to the book on Amazon–just in case you need a last-minute gift! 🙂
10: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
I’m not a Hemingway fan, but this book surprised me. Hemingway’s reflection on his time as a young writer living in Paris during the 1920’s was warm, thoughtful and full of beautifully painted word pictures that make you feel as if you’re walking along the Seine with him. This book reminded me of the power and importance of reflection in our lives, as well as the beauty of forgiveness–both for ourselves and others.
9: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
This autobiography tells the extraordinary story of a young girl who “stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban”. Malala’s love for her country and her people shine through this book, which is a call to action on the part of the world’s citizens to fight for educational opportunities for all children. I found this book to be deeply moving and convicting. You can’t read it and not want to go out and change the world!
8: The Wolf Hall series by Hilary Mantel
If you’re a history buff, this series is for you! Mantel’s work of historical fiction carefully details the events leading up to the crowning and execution of Anne Boleyn. It’s one of those stories that keeps you on the edge of your seat even though you know what the final outcome will be. The depth of characterization and sympathy Mantel has for even her most despicable characters gives these old events new life. She frames her story in such a way that it could easily be a contemporary political tale.
7. The Jedi Academy series by Jeffrey Brown
My boys and I have been reading this series for a couple of years now. Brown incorporates comics, doodles, journal entries and letters into the text to create a completely original and hilarious account of what middle school might be like in a galaxy far, far away. The characters are relatable and they face the same challenges that all kids face in school: making friends, peer pressure, academic struggles, etc… My boys and I laugh out loud as we read. And, as the books are hard to put down, we blow through a lot of bedtimes!
6. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
This was my second time through this book. I love Hoffman’s lyricism and depth. A fictional account of a 2,000 year old event scholars are still trying to understand takes on new life in Hoffman’s hands. The final days of Masada are told through the viewpoint of four women, each trying to find their place in a dark and violent world run by men. Although a reflection on past events, the search for love, meaning and identity Hoffman’s characters grapple with are common motifs in our present age.
5. The Fifth Wave series by Rick Yancey
This popular young adult science fiction series explores what happens when humanity is faced with an extinction-level event. Dark and gritty, Yancey takes a no-holds barred approach to how human beings can both evolve and devolve when survival is on the line. The plot line and characterization are both tightly woven, and the suspense keeps you reading well into the night. If you have teens, this would be a great family read. You can discuss what it is that makes us human, the nature of sacrificial love and the cost of survivalism.
4. Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick
This fictionalized account of a twelve year old boy and his dog caught in the events of Hurricane Katrina is more than just an action-packed tale of survival. Philbrick’s characters are beautifully drawn and carefully brought to life with his engaging prose and dialogue. The issues presented in this book go way beyond Hurricane Katrina to encompass racism, identity, grief, compassion, poverty and community. My boys and I read this together and had some really deep discussions, especially regarding race in America.
3. Smells Like Treasure by Suzanne Selfors
The second in a series of three children’s books, this one had the boys and I rolling. Quirky and imaginative, the Smells Like Dog series follows the adventures and misadventures of Homer Winslow Pudding, 12 year old treasure hunter, and his faithful companion Dog. Dog is a Bassett hound who is capable of smelling only one thing–treasure! The characters are unique and the creativity of the story (as well as the quirkiness) are a breath of fresh air!
2. Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman
This was another second read book for me. That’s the beauty of a great book–you can read it multiple times and still get something fresh out of it. Idleman’s book on becoming a follower of Jesus is a challenge to all Christians to stop being comfortable and start walking in the footsteps of Jesus. This book delves into the hard work of living like Christ and is at once convicting and uplifting. You can’t walk away from this book unchanged.
- On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life by John O’Leary
Easily the most influential book I read in 2016, it is first on my list of re-reads for 2017. O’Leary is a motivational speaker who survived a near-death experience at the age of nine. He draws on these experiences in his book and shares how he used this tragedy to live with deeper purpose and meaning. The book is a reminder that, “We can’t always choose the path we walk, but we can choose how we walk it.” Seriously, this book will change your life. It has mine.
- (Part 2) 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast by Alicia Britt Chole
Okay, I’m totally cheating with an 11th book, but this one was also incredibly influential to my faith journey this year. This book of Lenten devotionals explores fasting in a whole new way. Instead of saying no to empty things like candy or soda, Chole challenges her readers to fast from things like comparison, spectatorship and regret. This fast is about thinning our lives “to thicken our communion with God”. The daily devotions are short and reflection questions are deep. As someone who did not grow up practicing Lent, this has been the most meaningful Lenten experience of my life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my 2016 book list. I’d love to hear your favorite reads from this past year!
Blessings and Peace,