Wednesday, January 04, 2017

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

I write down the titles of most of the books I read in a journal (I'm certain I forgot to write at least a few titles) so it is easy to go back and view the books read over a year.  What this list shows me is that it's a good thing I review books or I'd probably rarely read a new nonfiction book!  Most of them on my list are there because they were reviewed.

The list is in order of when they were read during the year and they have to be first time reads to be included.  I'd say half of my list for 2016 were rereads.  Also, I plan to write a separate list for cooking and craft books next week.  I chose only ten books for simplicity.

So here they are, my 10 favorites for 2016!  

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
I liked this book better than her first, it speaks more to an American audience.  This time she recognizes people are going to keep items that have no use whatsoever other than the person enjoys having them around.  I got rid of fabric and craft supplies I knew I'd never use again after reading her first book.  This one inspired another major decluttering session.  Original review and link... here.

The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Clarkson (now Sarah Fink-Jensen)
I can't tell you how many times when I've emailed Sally, I mentioned how I'd love to read an Edith Schaeffer Hidden Art of Homemaking style book written by her.  After reading this one, I'm glad she waited until Sarah could co-write the book.  For it is their combined thoughts and ideas that make this book extra special.  Original review and link... here.

Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons by Christie Purifoy 
In this book, Christie writes beautifully of our longing for home and the importance a house (or any dwelling) can be to a person.  It begins when Christie and her family move into the home they live in now, an old home with history and needing a lot of love, and covers their first year in the house.

However, it is more than just a story of a house.  It is about needing roots in our life and searching for a place to belong.  It is about being a family and becoming a neighbor.  Beautifully written!  More info... here.

Celia's House by D. E. Stevenson
I can't remember if it was Celia's House or Listening Valley which was a gift from my friend, Kristi.  She knew I loved other Stevenson books which take place in the same part of Scotland.  Celia's House, too, is the story of a house, a place, and a family.

I had read Listening Valley first and while not a sequel, it takes place in the same town with many of the same people.  So after I read Celia's House, I reread Listening Valley and found it even more enjoyable the second time around as I now knew the old stories.  I will always be thankful to Kristie for introducing me to D. E. Stevenson!  More info on Celia's House... here.  More info on Listening Valley... here.

I'm counting the two as one book on the list because I feel they belong together, even though I read one of them in 2015.

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz
This is an excellent book on prayer in general and specifically when we pray as if our very existence depends on it.  It is easy to read and gave me a lot to think about.  Anne writes beautifully so believe me, this is not a boring book about prayer.  Original review and link... here.

Martha's Vineyard: Island of Dreams by Susan Branch
I had loved the first book in this series called A Fine Romance: Falling in Love With the English Countryside.  It is one of the books I'd take with me if I moved to a desert island!  However, I didn't care for the second in the series called The Fairy Tale Girl at all.  It concentrated on Susan's rather wild past and though I enjoyed reading about her family and her childhood, I didn't find reading about her love life all that edifying.  I'm glad I read it but I ended up giving my copy to the mission's thrift store.

Having said that, I wasn't sure what to expect from Martha's Vineyard: Island of Dreams but I enjoyed it very much.  It takes up where The Fairy Tale Girl ended, when Susan moved to Martha's Vineyard after her first husband left her for another woman.  This includes the story of how Susan began painting, how her first cookbook came to be published. how she met Joe (much of that story is in A Fine Romance), and how she came to love Martha's Vineyard.  I kept this book!  More info... here.

Braving It: a Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild by James Campbell
This book was one of my surprise joys of 2016.  It is the story of Campbell, an author and journalist, and his teenage daughter going to Alaska not once... but twice.  The first trip was for an entire season when they stayed with Campbell's relative Heimo Yupik and his wife, Edna.  If you watch The Last Alaskans, you will already be familiar with Heimo and Edna, who are one of the couples featured in the show.

The second trip was a rafting trip down one of Alaska's dangerous rivers.  I said in my original review that the real hero of this story is the wife and mother who finally allowed it to happen.  For both trips were filled with dangerous situations.  Which makes this a fabulous story to read.  Disclaimer:  Some "language" so if that bothers you, be forewarned.  Original review and link... here.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon
This is the story of a graduation, a wedding, and the coming of age of Father Tim's adopted son.  It is a must read for Mitford fans as we continue to find out what happens to the characters we love so much.  If there is one flaw in the book, it is that so much is crammed into one volume.  However, that was easy for me to overlook and I enjoyed the story very much.  More info... here.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
This book has been on my To Read list for absolutely ages.  I'm not sure what took me so long but it was a good day when I used Amazon credit to purchase a "good used hardback copy" of the novel.  We follow Hannah from childhood through her elderly years and by doing so, we also see how the world changes in that time. 

It took me awhile to read, not because it is difficult but honestly because of how Wendell Berry weaves her story intertwined with world events.  In fiction form, Berry shows us much of his love of the land and his concern for what "progress" has done to both people and the land. I can see why so many readers have it as an all time favorite, it easily was added to my own favorites list... to be reread soon.  More info... here.

How's Your Soul by Judah Smith
This was probably the most surprising book of all my 2016 favorites.  It came on the heels of reading a Christian Living book that I found very disappointing but then again... I haven't been fond of many books in that genre for awhile.  They were either too shallow, too much like the last one I read, or at the worst... theologically shaky.

I actually agreed to review this book because it sounded like a book I needed to read at that time.  My soul could use a good checkup.  I read the first chapter and then the next and then the next and much to my amazement, thoroughly enjoyed the book.  It was the first Christian Living book I'd read in awhile that had a lot of substance, basically sound doctrine, and gave me a lot to think about.  It now resides on a shelf to be reread someday, perhaps more than once.  Original review and link... here.

Honorable Mention

I heard a lot about the Modern English Version of the Bible this past year.  I was looking for a Bible to use for quiet times, in a translation other than my usual New International Version that I have used for decades.  I heard this was easy to understand but close to the King James Version in how it reads (the New King James Version loses a lot of the lyrical beauty of the original), so late last summer I used credit to purchase a copy.

I've enjoyed it very much since then.  This particular Bible is large print and while it has a concordance, it has no study notes... making it very easy to read through when I don't want to actually study verses, chapters, etc.  It is also beautifully embossed imitation leather if you care about such things.  Further info... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.  I thank you.
Image:  Time For Reading by Judy Gibson


Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I love book posts!

I have Hannah Coulter and the D.E. Stevenson books on my radar now! So many books, so little time!

Heather LeFebvre said...

I always love booklists!!! Planning to start "Listening Valley" imminently!!!!

Vee said...

Oh....more D.E. Stevenson to read. I have Anne Lott's book somewhere. Hope that it's not hidden in a closet. Wonder if you're going to make me rethink my stance on leaving Mitford. How's Florentine?

Kim said...

Thank you for the recommendations. I rarely buy a book that hasn't been recommended by someone. I'm going to add some of these to my wish list.

hopeinbrazil said...

A lovely list! I always enjoy your thoughts and reviews.

Anonymous said...

Thinking ahead to 2018, I think I'll get the MEV Bible you recommended for my yearly read-though-the-Bible. A friend always uses a different version every year and I thought it a very good idea. I was a bit slow for 2017 so I'll get ahead for 2018! Thanks. I love DE Stevenson. I have most of her books but the few I don't have are hundreds of dollars!! Ouch. Guess I won't be reading them! Pam (SD)

Judy said...

A great list, Brenda.

I enjoyed listening to an audio version of "Come Rain, or Come Shine" about eighteen months ago, and two of my half
dozen favourites of 2016 are "Hannah Coulter" and "Roots and Sky" - both of which I discovered independent of your recommendations - "great minds think alike" and all...

I look forward to what you might review in the year ahead.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

I always enjoy book posts and recommendations! I have wanted to read Hannah Coulter and think I will try soon...And I am so happy that you enjoy D.E. Stevenson. Her books are treasures. Lately though I think I need to reread Elizabeth Goudge's Pilgrim's Inn and A City of Bells. Good books are such treasures to those who find them. A gift from the author.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda!
I have not been blogging for so long due to a funky laptop but I treated myself to a new one for Christmas so now I can keep up with your blog again! You know, I only got into Susan Branch's books last year. I figured I may as well read them in order so I started with Fairy Tale Girl-I absolutely loved it! It reminded me of growing up in the 60's and 70's so I could relate to much of what she wrote about. I loved Isle of Dreams as well but not so much A Fine Romance-my least favorite. It bugs me how she takes "all of us along" on her trips to England while she has all the fun and all we get to do is read about it! But I really loved the other two. :)
Anyway, I'm glad to be able to read your blog posts again. Thanks for the book list! Joanna (in Ca.)