Monday, January 8, 2018

My top 10 (and a half) reads from 2017

(In alphabetical order because I can’t decide an actual order of favoritism here…)

Alaska Twilight… I am a big Colleen Coble fan now and this one was my favorite of hers in 2017. This was a good murder mystery with lots of emotional/psychological drama, and a little romance thrown in for good measure. I did like the story… but gosh, the Alaska! She made it sound so incredibly beautiful and I felt such a ridiculous itch to finally get up there the whole time I was reading it!

Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines, both by Shauna Niequist… I couldn’t decide between the two of these essay collections… partly because I loved them both and partly because they almost go together… one about celebrating life and the other about finding the sweet in the bitter. I really love Shauna Niequist’s writing and always recommend her books!

Born Survivors… This was a nonfiction about three women who gave birth in Holocaust concentration camps. I’m sure there were many others, but these three women, along with their babies, all survived and were able to tell their stories to an interviewer. It feels strange saying it was one of my favorites since it was so wrought with horror and despair, but it was also an amazing portrayal of human resilience and it was very inspiring. It’s definitely extremely disturbing at times but if you are interested in Holocaust memoirs or biographies I for sure recommend this one. (But. Not while you are pregnant. Yikes)

Caught Up in a Story… Obviously I am a big fan of books. I’m also a big fan of the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschool (lively, exciting, life-changing books instead of drab textbooks) and I attribute it to the fact that my own mom spent so much time reading to me when I was little. I have lots of memories of time spent reading together (the most vivid being our journey through Little Women and a picture book about a cyclops whose eye eventually got stabbed, mostly because I hated it and wrote a book report about it) and reading together made up most of my favorite childhood memories. I’m also a huge fan of the Clarksons and this one, by Sarah Clarkson, was so inspiring. It made me really embrace the idea of “a storyformed life.”

Chasing Slow… I was seeing this nonfiction everywhere for a while. I assumed it was a self-help book about, I don’t know, embracing a slower life by not signing up for every activity. I’m already really great at that, maybe even to the point of boring my children some weeks, so I ignored it. I saw it on display at the library so flipped through it to look at the pictures while my kids played with the pirate ship. Suddenly it seemed wildly interesting and I just had to read it so I took it home and quickly devoured it. Erin is super relatable and has much to say about slowing down and savoring life… but mostly by telling her own stories, not preaching at you from a literary soapbox. Loved it!

Echo… The second world war has been a favorite history topic of mine since sixth grade. We read Number the Stars and did interesting papers and projects on the subject so my interest was sufficiently piqued. Echo is a truly awesome middle-grade fiction (but adults should read it too! I just absolutely loved it!!) that touches on WWII in an amazing way. The book has four parts—about an “undesirable” boy in the heart of it all, about a pair of orphan brothers in the US during the war, and about a Mexican-American family dealing with racial struggles of their own while taking over a Japanese-American family’s farm to keep it running while they’re in an American internment camp. I was disappointed when each part ended and then quickly just as excited about the next character’s story… and loved the way it all came together in Part IV. This is definitely my favorite fiction on the list, and maybe even my favorite altogether of 2017, and I truly can’t recommend it enough! I plan to buy it and for sure read it aloud when we study WWII someday, and have big and exciting plans for projects and ideas surrounding it. Hopefully I still feel as passionate about it once the time comes ;]

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines… We borrowed the first season of Fixer Upper from the library and I was suddenly a huge fan of the Gaineses. We could really relate to a lot of the ways they choose to raise their kids and have always dreamed of being able to work together on our own ventures so were naturally pretty inspired by them. Then I read the book and liked them even more! I was very inspired by their attitudes towards family, work, spirituality, and I guess life in general! Also, Joanna is pregnant with their fifth baby now and I’m way too excited about that =D

Nourished… This was a review book that I chose because it sounded pretty good and it turned out to be way more than “pretty good.” It was a memoir of Lia’s spiritual journey which included so much travel adventure, food and healthy eating changes, and relationships. It inspired me in all areas and Ryan had to be like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. We cannot afford to take all these trips” when I told him about all my 2018 travel plans afterwards. He is right but I can still dream.

Unreasonable Hope… I read this one with my moms’ group and I got so much out of it. The Veaches’ lives changed drastically when their seemingly healthy baby girl, Georgia, was diagnosed with smooth brain a few months into her life. If you’ve never heard of this, smooth brain is a rare problem where the brain stays smooth and never develops the oh-so-important wrinkles we all know usually make up a brain. There is no cure. But the Veaches have this unshakable, unreasonable hope that God will step in and heal Georgia any ways. Like Thomas, I am a perpetual doubter. I don’t mean to be and I don’t want to be, but I am. I was so inspired by the Veaches’ faith… but perhaps the most important thing I took from their story was about supporting other parents whose babies are suffering. One of my kids went through ten awful months with a very frustrating health issue that truly rocked our world. I felt so alone with it all. I didn’t want to share it with very many people to protect that child’s privacy, but that also meant that I had little to no support most days and was so overwhelmed by it. I was also dealing with postpartum depression through it and some days felt so insanely bleak. I am sensitive to their plight because of this, even though all of my children are currently healthy (praise Jesus!) and when I know a mama is watching her babies struggle I am all too happy to pray for them, run her errands, bring meals… but something Chad said in his book was so eye-opening. He said they are always surrounded by support when things take a turn for the worse… but when things are good, when Georgia is home instead of in the hospital and when there are no major health concerns to send everybody running their way? Sometimes that’s when things are hardest. Georgia still has smooth brain during those times but they suddenly have no support. I know how that feels and you might too, but even if you don’t you can probably imagine it! So now I try to be supportive for those parents I know even during seemingly easy times.

Wonder… Another middle-grade fiction and one you’ve probably heard of since everyone was raving about it and it was then made into a movie (which I definitely can’t wait to watch!). I’m joining the hoards of parents who think it’s amazing and want their children to read it too. Auggie was born with a craniofacial deformity but is, of course, just a regular kid. He likes Star Wars, his dog, and hanging out with friends. He has been homeschooled until this year and is now trying out public school for the first time. The book shares Auggie’s perspective on school, his sister’s, and some of his classmates’… but we also see some adult reactions to him throughout, including his parents’ hesitation and conflict about whether it is better for him to enter the public school system or not, some of his teachers’ opinions, other parents’ opinions, and even strangers’ initial reactions to Auggie’s face. I loved the lessons it will teach—from the obvious about the way we treat people with differences, to the not-so-obvious about how even parents struggle to know what’s right all the time, how standing up for what’s right can be difficult but life-changing, how important nonverbal communication is in our society, etc—and I also loved that the same story was told from multiple perspectives which is one of my own personal favorite ways to tell a story.

Honorable mentions: The Lucky Few, about a couple who has adopted not one but two babies with Down Syndrome (as well as a “typical” little girl) // The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, a smart young-adult novel about a girl who does some clever (albeit misguided) things to break into the world of boys’ clubs in her prep school

Have you read any of these, or have I talked you into adding any of them to your list?
What was your own favorite book of 2017? 

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Thanks so much for your comments! I always read them, don't always have time to answer quickly. Sorry about that!