Happy New Year! 2017 is now upon us, and I know you and I both agree that we are ready for it. As in the past few years, I am bringing you the books I read in 2016. I usually read twelve books a year, but this year I set this crazy goal to read 20-24 books in 2016. I read fourteen, and started halfway into fifteen, so I guess number fifteen will be number one in 2017? (When I didn’t reach my goal, my nine year old gave me a perspective change. Find out what she said (here) ).
Here are the books I read in 2016:
Searching for Sunday (Rachel Held Evans)
This book is a great resource if you have been through hope and hurt with the church. Her story mirrored ours in many ways with the church plant, and it was an encouragement to me. There is a ton of honesty and validation for struggling with organized religion in this book, and it was interesting to see the healing process Evans went through. She is also the author of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” which I read in 2015 and loved.
Bittersweet (Shauna Niequist)
Second in the series, Bittersweet is a continuation of Cold Tangeries, with short stories of Shauna’s life. Well written as always. In this book, Shauna is open about love, loss, and miscarriage.
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (Anna Quindlen)
Anna Quindlen’s memoir, in a sense. She writes about going from a newspaper columnist-thirty something mom of three children to a sixty something woman, comfortable in her own skin. I saw a lot of myself in her work and this was probably one of my favorite reads this year.
Mrs. Kimble (Jennifer Haigh)
Best fiction read this year. Told from the perspective of three different wives, the story chronicles Mr. Kimble’s life and how he moves and woos wife to wife. Well written and I could not put it down.
One Plus One (JoJo Moyes)
Author of Me Before You, One Plus One follows an elementary school girl as she travels to a math olympiad in hopes of earning a scholarship to a private school. Add in her young mother who has an unstable life, a teenager brother who is bullied in school, and a rich thirty something man who agrees to drive them to the competition, it draws a great cast of characters. The downside for me is it is strikingly similar to Little Miss Sunshine, of which I am a huge fan. While reading, my mind continued to wonder to that storyline instead.
Orphan Train (Christina Baker Kline)
This book chronicles the “orphan trains” that ran from 1854-1929 from the east coast to farms in the Midwest that took abandoned children and placed them with rural families. The story circles around Vivian, a wealthy woman who has a teenager girl in foster care clean her attic for community service. What the girl discovers in the attic is Vivian’s story of being orphaned in New York and shipped via train to Minnesota. As a former DCS worker, I found this book interesting, as this was the system for children prior to the children’s services structure we have today. Excellent book.
The Opposite of Loneliness (Marina Keegan)
This book is a compilation of both fiction and non-fiction short stories written by Marina Keegan, a student at Yale that died only days after her college graduation. Moved by her untimely passing, teachers and fellow students gathered her stories and published them in her name. It became an instant New York Times bestseller. As a short story writer myself, I loved this book and found it such a testament to the girl she was by how supportive those were around her to her dream of becoming an author.
Bread and Wine (Shauna Niequist)
Shauna’s third book, Bread and Wine is a collection of short stories about the importance of breaking bread with friends and family around the table. Following her book Bittersweet, this time, the book shares recipes with each story, and the blueberry crisp is one I made a billion times this summer. Great book to keep in the kitchen, both for the recipes or when you want a break to have a quick read.
Everyday Peace (Katie Orr)
To be fair, I am not one for devotionals, but Katie Orr’s Everyday Peace and Everyday Faith are two of the best I’ve ever worked through. While devotionals in the past that I have read deal with a lot of “fluff”, Katie charges you to work through certain passages of scripture using her FOCUSed 15 method she shares in the devotionals. I have met Katie and writing devotionals and guiding women through scripture is certainly one of her spiritual gifts. Would be great for a small group Bible study or Sunday School group.
Wild and Free (Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly)
I would say most women that have been blogging since 2008 like I have would have to have lived under a rock to not know who Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly are. Both popular bloggers and speakers, they founded the Influence Network and the Influence Conference (which I was honored to attend in 2014) and have a passion for being an influence, right where you are. This book is co-authored between the two, and both give a voice to being wild and free in Christ. It was so good I will probably re-read it again in 2017! Great gift for a girlfriend or co-worker.
Money Making Mom (Crystal Paine)
When it comes to saving money and pinching pennies as a mother, Crystal Paine knows what’s up. While I think this book is geared more towards stay at home mothers, it houses great tips for bringing in income on the side and money saving ideas that are outside of the box. I mailed a copy to my beautiful friend Kristen in Massachusetts after reading, because she is a great steward of her family’s money and I knew she would appreciate the read.
Rare Bird (Anna Whiston-Donaldson)
I don’t cry often anymore. Like, it is rare. But, this was the first book I read in 2016, and I was bawling on the couch and finished it in 2 days. Rare Bird is the true story of author Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s children, and how her twelve year old son Jack drowned in a freak accident when their residential neighborhood flooded. The story tells about their life before the flood and picking up the pieces after. It is chilling and sobering to watch God move in this family’s life. It is exceptionally written and heartbreaking, but even so, it is a must read for parents.
Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)
I picked up Dark Places after reading (and loving) Gone Girl. Written by the same author, Dark Places is the story of a midwest family in the early 1980s, where the mother and two of the four of her children are murdered in their home. It becomes a murder mystery, bouncing between the present life of a surviving daughter and the story before the murders. All eyes are on the eldest brother, who is initially charged and sent to prison for the murders. This book is very rough and contains raw subject matter. I felt the story was very drawn out, the characters were not fully developed, and was filled with unnecessary content that did not build the storyline. Least favorite book I read in 2016.
Short Guide to a Happy Life (Anna Quindlen)
This book is tiny and wonderful and can be read in an afternoon. Quindlen (see “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake” above) shares her wisdom on what we need to keep and what we need to let go in order to enjoy our lives on earth. The whole time I read this book, my cousin Laura continued to come to mind, so I got her a copy for Christmas. Perfect gift for someone who makes your life brighter.
As always, I am doing my yearly giveaway! All you have to do is comment on this blog post and share which of these books you would like to read this year. I will have one of my kiddos choose a random number and the winner will be announced in my Thursday, January 19th blog post. The winner will be mailed the book they want to read! Don’t forget you can always follow what I am reading through the year by searching the hashtag #LFTNGoodReads on Instagram.I love my readers and this is a fun way to say thank you for reading Letters from the Nest in 2017!