The Year in Books

l8snwgunqbu-gaelle-marcel“So many books; so little time” is a quote attributed to Frank Zappa (according to Goodreads). I agree. C.S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” As a tea drinking book reader, I concur.

My goal every year is to read a book a week, or fifty-two, and every year I come close. Last year’s total was forty-nine. Almost.

I love to read your book lists and recommendations. Here are a few of mine:


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  Most of my family read this one, and we all enjoyed it. It is well written and tells the story of a young man who figuratively grew up as part of a crew team. Boat building, rowing, personalities, and the depression in the background add color to this excellent book. It reads like fiction.

Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman,  Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Isaam Smeir. If you don’t know much about the refugee crisis, this book is important reading. Biblical basics about a Christian’s attitude toward refugees, the tremendous difficulties that refugees face, and how we might help them are among the insights that the book offers.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans was an interesting read, although it wasn’t quite as engaging as I had expected.

Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber. This book reminded me that Christians are all over the map when it comes to their their appearance, their witness, and even their language. Who said we should all be typical Christians? Not Jesus.

The Road to Character by David Brooks. I expected a lot from this book, and it didn’t quite deliver. The last chapter, however, made the book well worth my time.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. If I were a doctor this would be essential reading.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Vance wants to communicate the difficulties that people from his community face in this world. “Why didn’t our neighbor leave that abusive man? Why did she spend her money on drugs? Why couldn’t she see that her behavior was destroying her daughter?…It would be years before I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could fully explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America. Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith.”

I read a number of books on rest, work and play for a retreat that I taught in the spring: The Radical Pursuit of Rest by John Koessler, Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark, and The Rest of God by Marc Buchanan, Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller, Work Matters by Tom Nelson, The Art of Work by Jeff Goins, Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper,  Play: How it Shapes the Braim Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, MD.  They were all insightful.


The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George was a nice easy read. A book store on a boat in Paris is the setting and the bookshop owner who recommends books to heal the hearts of his customers is the protagonist. His own heart, still suffering from a lost love, is the only one he can’t seem to fix.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I had never read this coming of age classic, and I’m glad I did.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. This is another WWII novel (there seem to have been a lot of them lately), and it’s a good one. Cleave’s story shows us, on a personal level, what war does to individuals.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. This novel tells the story of a 104 year old woman, a middle aged man who can’t quite get a handle on life, and an 11 year old boy. Aren’t you curious?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. There has been a lot of buzz around this book already, so I’ll simply say that it peels the layers off of a curmudgeon to expose the heart buried under a lifetime of stoically handled trials.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  A little bit like A Man Called Ove, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tells of a man who is crotchety and who runs a bookstore. (There are a lot of bookshop books lately too – people reminiscing of the old days when browsing at a book store meant flipping through paper pages?) People come into his life and re-energize both A.J. and his book store.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. For the first three quarters of this book, I didn’t like it much. The “nest” is the term that four siblings dubbed the inheritance that they would all receive when the youngest turned 40, and they all had big plans for the money. Most of the book tells their not-s0-likable stories. The end of the book, however, shows us how people change for the better when they are pushed from the nest.

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. Every year I look forward to the next installment in Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, and this one was worth the wait.

And I read the Bible, which is still the best book around.

What are you reading?


14 thoughts on “The Year in Books

Add yours

  1. Wonderful list, thank you! I posted my list a week or so back and there is definitely some overlap here. I think I would like to re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sometime. I read it when I was in my teens or 20’s — and sometimes it is so interesting and revealing to read our youthful favourites many years later.

    Everyone Brave is Forgiven was my favourite novel of 2016. Have you ever read any of Chris Cleave’s other books? I’ve read Gold and Little Bee and would highly recommend them, especially Little Bee.

    1. Hi Jeannie, I read your list and was going to comment, but my iPad didn’t cooperate:) Everyone Brave is Forgiven is the first book of Cleave’s I’ve read, but I’ll put Gold and Little Bee on my “to read” list. Thanks for the recommendation and for your reading list!

  2. I’m in a book club so I definitely read a book a month in addition to my regular reading. My favorite from last year: All The Light We Cannot See. It’s wonderfully written.
    I’ll be sure to check out your suggestions for our book club!! Thanks. And I agree. The Bible is the best book to read! Live and active….just like it says.

  3. I had a recent post where i listed all my books read for 2016. In the past I’ve just done a top ten. Thanks for sharing some of yours. Like you, I always enjoy perusing these.

    1. I probably should have just done a top ten, but then I’d have to decide which are my top ten. Stopping somewhere in between seemed about right. I noticed that you read Amusing Ourselves to Death and The Shallows. What did you think of them? I thought there were both very interesting. Thanks Laura!

      1. Yes, often too hard to narrow to top 10! I blogged on both Amusing Ourselves to Death and The Shallows. I even rebloged the one post after only a few weeks, because I wanted more people to take note of it! haha. I think both are “prophetic” – using that word in general sense – skillfully analyzing history, trends, science, and pointing to very real weaknesses and problems that we need to be aware of and warned about so that we can alter some habits before the negative consequences are too great. Well, it is beyond that for Amusing Ourselves to Death – sadly we have amused ourselves to death – But the Internet and certain tech is still new enough that problems can be avoided if people will pay attention.

  4. Thanks Great post Always good to get direction and insight for “new” reads! Appreciate your time and thoughtfulness.

    Best always, Barb


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