Sunday, December 18, 2016

My Top 10 Favorite Books of 2016

This year has been a whirlwind! Despite all the busyness, and in many cases because of it, I’ve been reading. A lot. I’ve been reading to escape, to learn and to challenge myself. I’ve read more this year than I’ve ever read in a single year before. I read a grand total of nearly 60 books. Nearly half were nonfiction. Two were crazy-long books that I’ve been putting off for years (and didn’t love). The more I’ve read, the more I want to know, to explore and to expand my world.

In the first few months of this year, my sister showed me how she mapped her reading for the year in a gloriously nerdy Excel spreadsheet. I immediately adopted it as my own and added more columns, plus some simple formulas. Mapping some seasonal selections, but leaving room for change and new releases, significantly increased the total number (and breadth) of books I read this year. Instead of having a book hangover or waffling between book selections for a week, I simply went on to my next selection on my predetermined list. Or, I deviated entirely. Or, I skipped ahead to something from the next month. Either way, the selection time (and waiting time from the library, when necessary) was streamlined, and I made a bigger dent in my reading pile.

Some friends have asked for my favorite books of all time or from what I’ve read this year. A single favorite, even from just this year, is a bit too hard to pick. It somehow feels disloyal to all the other great books. But, I did read some really enjoyable books this year, so if you’re looking for some book ideas for 2017, I invite you to consider these fiction and nonfiction favorites from my 2016 reading.

Happy reading!

Spectacular Stories (Fiction)

  1. The Lost Sisterhood: A Novel by Ann Fortier – Amazons and lost treasure! This read like an Indiana Jones adventure with a feminist twist. I could barely put it down. 
  2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – This 2015 release was widely read this year for good reason. Two sisters in WWII France face their fears and find their courage. This is an amazing story of bravery with two really memorable characters. 
  3. Beautiful Wreck by Larissa Brown – Time travel from 22nd century to 10th century Iceland with the heroine of this book. The details of daily life in both centuries are fascinating. The romance that unfolds was also fun to read.  
  4. The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley – This has a haunting atmosphere and is creepy at points, reminding me of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I recommend either of these books as prime Halloween reading, especially if you prefer an eerie read to something truly scary or violent.   
  5. The Woodcutter by Kate Danley – A fascinating story that ties together fairy tales and legend into a whole new story. This was a fun and easy read. I recommended it to Husby and my mom, and both also really enjoyed it, so it has some broad appeal.
Bonus Book: Perla by Carolina de Robertis – Get a taste for magical realism with this historical fiction coming-of-age story. Set in Argentina, the story looks to recent, brutal political events and their aftermath for characters on both sides.

Timely Treasures (Nonfiction)

  1. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown – This book is profound. A friend encouraged me to read it, and her recommendation was spot-on. Behavior researcher Brené Brown shows the benefits of embracing imperfections and letting go of real or perceived expectations. This was so liberating and I look forward to reading more from Brené Brown.  
  2. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer – I have to admit that I was first struck by the title of this book, then by the description. Though it’s a non-fiction account of recent events in Timbuktu and the surrounding regions of North Africa, this book read almost like an adventure novel. It’s amazing and inspiring that individuals are risking so much to preserve history.
  1. If Nuns Ruled the World by Jo Piazza – This book details the amazing achievements of 10 nuns. Some championed causes that were dearer to me than others, but all were accomplishing great deeds. It was inspiring to read about these women and imagine what we could all do and change by fully leaning on God. 
  2. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver – This book is all about moving beyond the busyness of life and refocusing to see God more fully. Stepping away from my to-do list can be a struggle, so this book helped stretch me and provided a much-needed tune-up.
  1. Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk – I read this coinciding with a preschool moms group and we had some great discussions on the myths the authors describe, the challenges of being a mom today and how we can all do a bit better.
Bonus Book: The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor by Gina Homolka – The Skinnytaste blog has been around for years, but reading this cookbook this year was my first introduction. The recipes and photography are amazing! I immediately wanted to cook everything and each recipe I did cook was met with rave reviews. I’m looking forward to continuing to cook my way through this book and reading her new cookbook, Skinnytaste Fast and Slow, next year.

Hope you find some great reading material for 2017! Let me know please what you're most excited to read in the new year. Cheers!

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