As we welcome the new year, it’s the perfect time to take a few moments to look back at our accomplishments over the past twelve months. What did we do? What did we see? And most importantly for us book-addicts, what did we read?
I, for one, set two goals for myself at the beginning of this year:
1. Have a baby. (CHECK.)
2. Complete the 2018 Reading Challenge. (CHECK.)
Over the past twelve months, I read my way through over 150 books and can happily say that I enjoyed a vast majority of them. The genres and authors were broader than usual, particularly since I participated in and completed my first reading challenge: 52 books in 52 weeks. (For a full list of said books, click here.)
And now, with January right around the corner, our 2019 Reading Challenge is set to begin in just a few days. For those planning on joining in, I am excited to share with you a few book recommendations to get you started!
In no particular order, here are FIFTEEN of my favourite reads from this past year:
1. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town — Jon Krakauer
From the publisher: “A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are raped each year. Krakauer’s devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses, and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.”
This was the first book I read in 2018 and it’s stuck with me ever since. Krakauer investigates a topic that is both heartbreaking and enraging. Missoula is an exhaustive and brilliantly written look into one of our society’s darkest plagues. This book is a conversation starter that we all need to have.
2. The Alice Network — Kate Quinn
This dual narrative, historical fiction novel follows the tale of two women: one recruited as a spy during the First World War, and the second an American socialite tracking down her missing cousin shortly after the Second. Their lives overlap in this story of espionage and adventure as they search to uncover the truth behind decades-old secrets.
3. Knowing God — J.I Packer
It took me several months to read my way through this incredibly profound yet practical look at who God is and how we can relate to Him. Packer’s theological insights and understandings gave me much to think about and study, and ultimately allowed me to draw closer to God in my own faith walk. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to better know God.
4. My Life in France — Julia Childs
This book had me turning on Netflix to re-watch the movie Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. This was one of the books upon which the movie was based and I loved reading Julia Childs version of those events. (I may have read it with her voice in my head.) I honestly didn’t know who Julia Childs was until the movie came out but this book had me thoroughly captivated by the story of her life, her passion for French cooking, and the enthusiasm that permeated all that she did.
5. Talking As Fast As I Can — Lauren Graham
As someone who got into Gilmore Girls only recently, I was super intrigued by Lauren Graham’s new book. I love reading about people’s life stories and what brought them to where they are today — and Lauren’s book was a fun and light-hearted look back throughout her life. I very rarely laugh out loud while reading but this book brought numerous chuckles and giggles. This collection of personal essays and stories is an entertaining read for any Lauren Graham fan!
6. The Scars That Have Shaped Me — Vaneetha Rendall Risner
I honestly don’t think I can do justice in my description of this book so I’m just going to let the publisher say it for me: “Twenty-one surgeries by age thirteen. Years in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from schoolmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Abandonment. Unwanted divorce. Vaneetha Rendall Risner begged God for grace that would deliver her. But God offered something better: his sustaining grace. In The Scars That Have Shaped Me, published by Desiring God, Vaneetha does more than share her stories of pain; she invites other sufferers to taste with her the goodness of a sovereign God who will carry us in our darkest of days.”
This story is written with compelling authenticity and a deep-rooted understanding of who God is in the midst of our suffering. For those who are marked by scars and weighted down by heavy burdens, I highly recommend this book by Vaneetha Rendall Risner.
7. The Secret Life of Bees — Sue Monk Kidd
Every once in a while, you stumble across a book that is written in such a mesmerizingly beautiful way, you can’t help but be taken in by it. The writing in this book did that for me. The narrative from this coming-of-age story is a heart-warming and (while in some ways stereotypical) lovely read about independence and the understanding of one’s self. For me, though, this read was definitely all about the compelling and gorgeous writing style.
8. A Harvest of Thorns — Corban Addison
This is one of those books that leaves you thinking. It also reminded me of a John Grisham novel (which is perhaps why I enjoyed it so thoroughly.) This fiction novel starts off with a factory fire in Bangladesh that leaves countless employees dead. A storm of controversy swells around the popular American brand who had created garments there. When a former journalist receives anonymous information from one of the corporations higher-up employees, the journey begins to uncover the truth and change the way the world looks at the fashion industry. This read will leave you questioning the effect that our own individual choices have on a global scale.
9. Daring to Hope — Katie Davis Majors
I fell in love with Katie’s story in college after reading her first book, Kisses From Katie. After moving to Uganda and becoming the mother of thirteen, precious girls, this is the sequel to those first few years overseas. Shaken by personal tragedy, this book invites readers to explore the realities and depth of God’s love in the midst of life’s messiest and broken situations. While her first book is still one of my all time favourites, this was a thought-provoking and precious read.
10. The Good Daughter — Karin Slaughter
If your last name is “Slaughter” you’re pretty much destined to be an amazing thriller author. The plot is dark and twisted and tantalizingly clever; while the characters are well drawn out in a way many “detective” novels fail to be. This is crime fiction at some of its finest.
11. Winter Garden — Kristin Hannah
This was my second Kristin Hannah book and I have to say, I’m a fan! This book was really well written with a lovely, family-driven plot and lots of heart. With writing that transports you, intriguing characters and a well-worked storyline, I was captivated by this fiction novel and will definitely continue to read more from this author.
12. Prayer — Timothy Keller
I thoroughly enjoyed this book on prayer. It was encouraging and informative, and most importantly, invites readers to wholeheartedly pursue a deeper relationship with God. I read this book slowly, soaking up some much-needed reminders and finished feeling as if my prayer life had been challenged and rejuvenated. An equally excellent refresher or introduction to prayer.
13. Lion – Saroo Brierley
After watching the movie earlier this year (and being reduced to a puddle of tears by the end) I was very much looking forward to reading this novel. A memoir of a young boy who fell asleep on a train and woke up alone, on the other side of India, this is Saroo’s story of survival, family, and finding your way home. This tale is heartbreaking and tragic but also a remarkable tale of perseverance. While it’s clear that the author isn’t a natural writer, the story carries itself. When you start tearing up in the prologue, you know it’s going to be emotional but well-worth the read.
14. Big Little Lies — Liane Moriarty
I wasn’t expecting to like this book. Earlier this year, I’d attempted another book by the same author and hadn’t been able to make it through — but I was pleasantly surprised by this mystery-style novel. The characters were alive and witty, the plot extremely well laid out, and the book packed with suspense, real-life, and humour. Although it deals with heavy subjects in a very light-hearted way, this book had a strong ending with a great twist. I had a hard time putting this one down!
15. Dangerous Territory — Amy Peterson
I think that there’s a lot to be re-evaluated when it comes to our North American understanding of missions. Peterson’s book definitely stokes that conversation. While I didn’t agree with everything in this memoir-style book, it was incredibly thought-provoking. Amy’s story is a well-written, personal account of her time overseas. Her doubts and questions are on full display and gives readers the freedom to question some of their own ideas about modern-day missions work.
As we dive into this new year, I am excited to officially launch the 2019 Reading Challenge. Join in and let me know, what books do you recommend from this past year?