Favorite Reads 2018
I read quite a bit this year, but maybe not as much as usual. Reading is a very personal endeavor. Despite this, I thought I'd share some of the books I've liked as I read in 2018. I still read and write reviews, although, with the publishing culture as it is, it's hard for me to take the reviews at face value. You can do the same with mine! (Sorry, I didn't provide links.)
In the House of Brede, Rumer Godden
I was impressed with the author’s ability to develop the characters in this novel set in England in a monastery. Despite their aim to not be distinctive in the community, the nuns and their lives together drew me in. The story follows the life of a career woman turned nun. I loved the turns in the story. This book was made into a movie. This was the first novel I’ve read by Rumer Godden, but not my last.
Virgil Wander, Leif Enger
This is a new release that I was able to reserve at the library before anyone else cracked its pages. I loved Leif Enger’s, Peace Like a River. I read it years ago. Recently when I stumbled on an article announcing the release of Virgil Wander, I knew the writing would be good. This is “small town America” novel that lifts up ordinary people to be quite interesting. This is more of a character-driven book rather than plot-driven, but I enjoyed it.
Jeff read both these novels and he liked them both.
The Great Divorce, CS Lewis
As I read this short novel, C.S. Lewis had me thinking as he always does. The main characters have been in hell (“grey town”) and take a “holiday” to heaven where they learn about the realities so apart from what they have ever known. While the travelers react to the “hard” realities, the reader discovers the kinds of people they are. This is an imaginative look at something most people think about---heaven, but I realize Lewis wasn’t trying to write about a place he’d never visited. Instead, he was posing a question about the kinds of people who are there and those who aren’t.
Lewis understood that some might take this differently than his intention so he gave this insight in the forward:
“I beg readers to remember that this is a fantasy. It has of course-or I intended it to have a moral. But the transmortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us. The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the after-world.”
How to Stop Time, Matt Haig
This one is not for everyone, but I thought the idea was good and the questions it raises are interesting. The main character in the story has a genetic characteristic that causes him to age very slowly. He lives centuries. Living a long time comes with complications that make this an interesting read.
Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, Lois Tverberg
I was on the launch team for this book. I have read Lois’ other Rabbi books. She is a studied expert on the times when Jesus lived and how the customs of that time limit our understanding of what Jesus taught, especially because our Western context is so far removed from Eastern perspectives. I will read this one again occasionally. Lois has helped me study deeper and I thank her for that. I like her other Rabbi books too.
Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God, Ruth Haley Barton
I read this book, but I'm planning on taking it up in practice in the coming year. Ruth teaches retreat as a spiritual practice. I probably won't practice the discipline as she does, but I will use the book as a resource. I love all of Ruth's books.
Courage, Dear Heart, Letters to a Weary World, Rebecca Reynolds
I saw this book being shared on social media when it released. I was drawn to the title and purchased it to read on my Kindle. It was a balm. I am not alone. Someone else is asking the same questions I am and thinking similar thoughts.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God, Eugene Peterson
The collection found in Peterson’s final book includes 49 sermons he wrote over 29 years. Eugene Peterson brings God’s word into the nitty-gritty of living. He had a knack for putting the stories of the Bible into a narrative that is easily accessible. The book spans the Bible, which he knew well. My favorite Peterson book is a book on Jeremiah, Run with the Horses, with A Long Obedience in the Same Direction being another favorite. This one is a gem and a fitting final book for The Pastor, a book I also read this year that is autobiographical and helped me to understand more about who Eugene Peterson is.
Four Seasons in Rome, Anthony Doerr
Doerr is famous for his breakaway bestseller, All the Light We Cannot See. That novel, which you must read but probably have already, has over 28,000 reviews on Amazon. Four Seasons in Rome is a memoir chronicling a year he spent in Rome living and writing with his wife and infant twins in tow. This is a great memoir set in the city of Rome as the seasons move along and Anthony moves with them.
Jeff and I both loved it.
Best Frints in the Whole Universe, Antoinette Portis
Yelfred and Omek are best friends. They have been since they were blobbies. You can get your tongue twisted up when you read this book aloud, but that’s what makes it so much fun.
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
I first read this book when I was in junior high school. The story impacted me for many reasons. I referenced it in a piece I was writing a few weeks ago and pulled it off the shelf. Since then, Jeff has been reading aloud a chapter a night before we turn out the light. (I know, weird but one of the things we have in common is the love of reading.)
I just found out a few days ago that the book was number one the PBS show featuring America’s favorite one hundred books. I looked at the list online and I have read about ¼ of them. I’m guessing Jeff’s probably read half or more.
The last couple of years, I’ve listened to audiobooks in the car. By far these two books have been favorites this year. Both were originally spoken words that were made into books.
Life Without Lack, Dallas Willard
This is Willard’s teaching on the 23rd Psalm. His chapter on Job is so very good. I’ve listened to that section more than once. This isn’t a 23rd Psalm book about the habits of sheep. It’s so much more. I’ll probably have to get it in paper, but I listen to bits of it from time to time even if I’m just running across town. Dallas taught most of the material in a small group setting that was recorded and worked over into a book. The conversational style is easier to access than some of Willard’s other more scholarly books like The Divine Conspiracy, his book on the Sermon on the Mount, another book that has impacted me greatly.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
I always meant to read this classic, but never had until I listened to it this past year. The content was originally produced for broadcast on the radio. I remember hearing Jill Brisco talking about listening in to the broadcast and the impact it had on her. Again, it translates well to an audiobook because of the original format.
I don’t use cookbooks like I once did, but many of my friends were talking about this one, so I bought it. It’s a beautiful book with mostly Southern-inspired recipes.
Love Welcome Serve: Recipes that Gather and Give, Amy Hannon
These recipes won’t do much for your waistline, but they are delicious. I heard Amy speak recently about her heart for feeding people and a creating place for connection around the table. A fellow Arkansas girl who has a kitchen store up in Northwest Arkansas, this cookbook is easy to follow even if you aren’t a seasoned cook. I love how she puts brown sugar in her veggie recipes.
Best Reading App on my Computer:
Readwise is an app I uploaded to the computer that sends me five quotes a day from my Kindle highlights. I get a lot of junk in my email box, but this is one I open. The quotes often provide inspiration for writing which is a bonus. It makes highlighting in my ebooks practical for me.
On the Queue:
The Watchmaker’s Daughter, Kate Morton
It’s Not Supposed to be this Way, Lysa Terkeurst
Beartown, Fredrik Backman
Any books you read this year that you think I should read?