Reading – it’s pretty much my favorite thing. Always has been. To me, there’s nothing quite as wonderful as a new pile of books from the library. (Speaking of the library, I went three times this past week….I may have a problem.)
Every year I discover AMAZING books, and every year I wonder how another book could possibly live up to those that came before. Every year, I am delighted and so happily surprised. There are SO many good books – and as long as there is creativity in the world, there will always be good books. Today, I get to share some with you!
Today, my two oldest kids and I had our 2017 Reading Challenge Celebration. My fourth grader won for the first time, and chose to have breakfast for lunch at Shari’s. This year, we read 178 chapter books between the three of us. I read 60 – and let me tell you, I read some pretty fantastic books in 2017.
As I look back through my list of books, several immediately jumped out to me as favorites. These are the books that blew me away. Several changed me. All moved me. And, I hope (with the hope of someone who longs to live in a world where everyone loves books), that you’ll pick one of these up in 2018, and fall in love like I did. Here we go!
Wonder was by far my favorite book of 2017. Though written as a YA/middle grade book, I firmly believe everyone should read this book, and hope it becomes as standard on school reading lists as Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby. (I cannot wait for my children to read this book!)
This is a story about acceptance, friendship, and embracing who we are. (And while the movie was wonderful, the book was infinitely better…as per usual.) Please read this book.
Jennie Allen is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She is changing my life through her life-giving, paradigm-shifting words of encouragement and truth. My whole life, I’ve felt an immense pressure to prove myself. I’ve adopted a lifestyle of striving, pleasing, and performing – and my efforts have resulted in exhaustion – both physical and emotional. Nothing to Prove helps you see through the lies and learn to accept that you are inherently worthy, and your brokenness and “everyday-ness” is ok. This was a game-changer for me.
Set against the backdrop of WW2, The Nightingale is a gripping story of two sisters – fighting the Nazis in unique, yet perhaps equally courageous ways. While one sister daily risks her life, the other fights a private and mentally anguishing battle at home. This story was haunting, beautiful, and moved me to tears. One of the best pieces of historical fiction I’ve read in years.
Full of magic, mystery, and romance – Caraval carried me away. (And I am dying to read the second book, due out later this year!) Two sisters have dreamt of receiving an invitation to Caraval – an exclusive, once-yearly magical performance where the audience is part of the show. It’s a show where you can never be certain what is real, and what is illusion. The invitation arrives, and the sisters are swept away in ways neither dreamt possible. One sister disappears, and it is up to the other to find her before the game ends, or risk losing her sister forever….but is it real, or is it just “part of the game?” Who can she trust? This one will keep you turning the pages!
Present Over Perfect was another game-changer for me. I’m a Type-A perfectionist who has lived her life in a “performance cycle.” This book breaks through the “busy is better” mentality, and shows you that a frantic, stressed, and chaotic life is NOT the way we were intended to live. This book is about slowing down, savoring the present, and recognizing that we don’t have to push, strive, please, and perform to matter.
Choosing 5 books was tough. I just had to include a list of Honorable Mentions. To be fair, I wanted to include the Harry Potter Series in my Top 5. I had never read beyond a few chapters of Book 2 before last year (Dobby was off-putting to me), and made a deal with my mom to read them all. (I told her I would read the Harry Potter series if she’d read the Hunger Games books.) I fell in love…I’ve never read so many pages in such a short amount of time. The kids would ask me a question, and I wouldn’t hear them. I was blissfully roaming the halls at Hogwarts. If you’ve been stubborn like me – read them!
The other books on the honorable mention list are all works of fiction that I felt were worth recommending. I particularly enjoyed Greenglass House and Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. If you like thrillers, you’ll love The Twilight Wife. (Two other great thrillers I read last year were Emma in the Night and Into the Water.) I love reading the book before it turns into the movie, and thusly recommend The Mountain Between us (already a film) and The Knife of Never Letting Go (soon to be a film.) The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was just a good reminder to me that life has a way of working itself out – often in ways vastly different than we planned, and that beauty can come from brokenness.