This post is one of my favorites to write every year. Looking back through all the books I read during the year is like revisiting old friends. I try to keep my end-of-year favorites between 10-15. Some rise to the top immediately. Others I have to think about and weigh.
Not all of these books were written this year; in fact, most of them weren’t. But most were first-time reads for me this year.
Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers, nonfiction. I knew fairly soon that this would be one of my top books. Alisa Childers’ faith was shaken by her pastor, of all people, as he undermined the validity of the Bible, the nature of Christ’s atonement, and so many fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Alisa realized that she didn’t know why she believed what she believed. And to her credit, instead of just following along, she began to read and study for herself. This book is her testimony as well as her answer to the issues the progressive movement brings up.
Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World by Hannah Anderson, nonfiction. As the title indicates, Hannah focuses on various aspects of the Christmas narrative, especially in connection with nature. She brings such a depth of thought and brings out things I had not considered before.
Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback, nonfiction, is made up of 42 fairly short devotions on the topic of joy. Being joyful is not a matter of having a bubble personality. It runs much deeper. I enjoyed the truths Lydia bought out.
O Love That Will not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence, complied by Nancy Guthrie, nonfiction. Most people are uncomfortable thinking about death. Even if we know we’re going to heaven because we’ve believed on Jesus as Savior, we can be a little afraid of death and dying. It’s not for nothing that the Bible calls death the last enemy. Nancy has assembled writings from an assortment of Christian writers over time to help.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Lady Carnarvon, nonfiction. The author is the current countess of Highclere Castle, which was used as the ancestral home of the characters in Downton Abbey series on PBS. But you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy the book. Lady Almina oversaw the castle through World War II, when she turned it into a hospital for wounded soldiers. She accompanied her husband on many travels to Egypt for his health, and where he and friend Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb. The first part of the book was largely informational and a little hard to get into, but before long it became fascinating.
The Italian Ballerina by Kristy Cambron, Christian fiction, is my favorite fiction book this year. It was released just this summer. It’s based on the true account of an Italian hospital which made up a contagious disease they called Syndrome K to keep the Nazis away from one ward. They then used that ward to hide Jewish refugees until they could find somewhere for them to go.Two US military men, a newly-orphaned child, and a ballerina and her partner end up in the hospital as well and try to help. The story is uncovered by two descendants of some of the characters in modern times who follow clues to find out what happened. Excellent.
Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer, Christian fiction, is another split-time novel involving modern characters trying to find the history of their ancestors. In this case, Hazel DeFord’s younger sister disappeared when they were children, when Hazel was supposed to be watching her. Hazel didn’t tell her daughter, but this loss made her overly controlling, perfectionistic, and anxious–which drove her daughter away. Her granddaughter is a cold-case detective who unwittingly discovers old pictures of Maggie, Hazel’s sister, and uses time healing from an accident to investigate the 70-year-old case, hoping to bring closure to her grandmother and healing to her and her mother.
The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White, Christian fiction, is a novel about an adopted heiress who finds out who her true father is. But will the rest of her father’s family accept her, and will her relationship with her friend, Justin, who she secretly loves, survive? And will she realize the man trying to woo her is a predator? This sounds like a fluff read, but there is no fluff in Roseanna’s books. She brings such depth into her characters and plot.
Midnight, Christmas Eve by Andy Clapp, Christian fiction, is a sweet story about two teenagers who decide that in five years time, if they are not married, they’ll come back to “their” bench in their home town at midnight on Christmas Eve and get engaged. He comes; she does not. He continues to come for the next several Christmas Eves.
Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan is a novel about a college girl is London whose younger brother is dying. Her brother is obsessed with the world of Narnia and wants to know whether it’s a real place, and if not, where it came from. When he learns the author, C. S. Lewis, teaches at his sister’s college, he begs her to meet Lewis and ask these questions. There are three levels to this story: Megs and George and their family, Lewis’ biography, and Megs’ learning the value of stories. I didn’t agree with every point of theology from the author, but the overall story was very good.
The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow is secular fiction from the world of Pride and Prejudice, from the viewpoint of Mary, the quiet sister in the background in Austen’s book. It suffered from a bit of over-explanation in a couple of places, but overall it was excellently done. And the audiobook was very good.
The Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne. I reviewed the two books of stories and two of poetry all together. The Pooh videos were a big part of my kids’ growing up. There was a weekly cartoon of Pooh on then with new stories. But somehow we never read the books together. I wish we had. It was sweet and nostalgic to read them as an adult.
So that’s my top twelve this year. What was your favorite among the books you read this year? Have you read any of the ones I listed?