Escape to Fiction

josh-applegate-149609It is my habit to keep a novel at my bedside at all times. I haven’t gone to sleep without reading in…years. In fact, panic sets in if I’m close to finishing a book and the next one isn’t ready.

Maybe I wanted to escape the incessant political drama of last year. Perhaps I gave into self-indulgence. Whatever the reason, I read far more fiction than nonfiction last year. No regrets.

Here are some of the noteworthy novels that I read in 2017:

I began the year reading Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and ended it with Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. They both tell compelling stories of the heroism, pain and endurance of women during WWII. Is it coincidence or is there significance in beginning and ending this particular year reading of strong women facing cruelty and inhuman tactics during a war?

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles was a delightfully well written book about a man who observes the Russian revolution while under house arrest in a hotel. We become part of his full, relational, intelligent, and engaging existence, and we learn that one doesn’t have to have a physically large area of existence to live a satisfying life.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult was probably the book that has stuck with me most this year. The plot line is about a black labor and delivery nurse who is told not to have anything to do with the newborn child of white supremacists. Of course, the child needs help and she is the only one available to help. As that story line plays out, Picoult explores both the overt racism of white supremacists and the unconscious racism of many other characters. It is a very thought provoking book, and I recommend it.

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead tells the difficult story of slavery from the perspective of Cora, a slave who escaped in a literal underground railroad and ran from a slave catcher. It was hard, but necessary, reading.

I read Little Bee and Gold by Chris Cleave because I liked his book Everyone Brave is Forgiven, and my blogging friend, Jeannie, recommended these two. Little Bee is about a Nigerian refugee and a couple whose lives intersect on a beach in Nigeria. Gold is about Olympic athletes, one of whose young daughter is fighting leukemia, and the tension surrounding going for gold and caring for one’s daughter. Thanks Jeannie, I enjoyed them both.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is another book featuring women and war. This historical novel tells the stories of an older woman who was a spy in WWI and a young woman looking for her cousin after WWII.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout was a bit of a disappointment for me.  I had high hopes, and I did enjoy it, but it was a little too disjointed for my taste. Maybe I should have read I Am Lucy Barton first.

He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly was a psychological thriller about an eclipse chaser and his wife. The drama begins at an event to view a total eclipse of the sun, and what happens there has a dramatic effect on the couple. It was a page turner.

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick was an interesting and well written book about love, time, and astrophysics that begins in Antarctica, but covers quite a lot of the globe in back stories.

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon is an interesting look at human kindness and how it is so often misunderstood. It is set in the Middle East and the two main characters are wives of US army professionals.

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld was a quick read about a woman who has astonishing determination to find missing children, and as she looks for a child in an Oregon national forest she uncovers her own past.

There were dozens more, but those are some highlights.

I did read some non-fiction last year:

Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty was a helpful book for someone, like me, who is trying to make her way through the challenges of midlife. It was a bit long, and probably could have been condensed, but I would recommend it.

The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan is an interesting story about just what the title says. I particularly enjoyed the role that literature played in waking the author up to Christianity.

Hourglass by Dani Shapiro is the memoir of a woman contemplating marriage, aging, and her own growth.

Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes by Colin Smith is a unique look at the beatitudes and how understanding them, and how they are arranged, can lead to spiritual growth.

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr was recommended to me by my sister. She and I often get into theological discussions, and this will no doubt be a topic for a future dialogue. Rohr thinks we tend to ignore the Trinity or treat it as a purely intellectual concept, when we should be opening ourselves up for a dance with God. In fact, God is the dance. 

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness. I had started this book years ago, and finally read it in its entirety. It was helpful in a high level theological kind of way.

What have you been reading?

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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