This year in books covered some broad territory–I finally picked up Stephen King, I read several theology books for a cohort group, I continued my third year with my Book of the Month subscription and began research for my writing project. I thought it would be fun to share what my top ten favorite book were from this year of reading and share briefly why I loved them.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Technically this book released last year and I started to read it then…but it was too real, too relevant. I had to set it down. I picked it up again and finished it this year. There are hardly words to describe how thoughtful, kind and inspiring Michelle Obama’s story of becoming the first (black) lady of the United States is for me.
The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisle
I read four (!) post-apocalyptic books this year. This one sets itself apart from the genre as it casts a vision of humanity’s post-capitalism future that is complex but hopeful. I loved it so much I did something I rarely do–I wrote a stand alone review!
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Historical fiction about distributing books through rural Kentucky during the Great Depression?! Yes, please. Strong female lead and well-written and nuanced relationships? Absolutely. The Giver of Stars was a stand out of the historical fiction I read this year.
Heart: A History by Sandeep Juahar
A stand out for the concise presentation of the scientific developments in modern heart surgery balanced with a thoughtful personal narrative. This book was part of my research but beyond being informative, it was well written and enjoyable.
Catch and Kill by Rowan Farrow
The subject matter of this book is brutal, telling the story of the serial sexual assaults of Harvey Wienstien and the attempts NBC Universal made to bury the story Farrow was working on. Difficult to read, but necessary to understand how men with power will go to great length to protect one another’s right to harass, assault and harm the women they work with. I wrote about how Farrow’s book relates to the church if you are passionate about creating spaces that are safe for people to encounter God.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I am generally apprehensive about books that land on the NYTimes Bestseller list, which is why it took me a while to get to this one. I heard an interview where Owens said “I write about loneliness so well, because I have known loneliness.” That was it for me. Besides a driving plot and memorable characters, Owens ability to write about loneliness makes it so palatable it feels like its own character–pressing and driving the protagonist.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Don’t ask me what I expected from this book–something light? Funny? Instead Honeyman dishes up a charming and heartbreaking read about trauma, friendship and healing in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving by Julia Samuels
Another book that I read for my research project but found personally edifying and helpful. Grief Works is the book I wish existed when I was in full time congregational work. The book that I would keep multiple copies of sitting in my church office to give to people who are looking for a resource on grief. I will be buying and handing out copies for a long time.
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
In all my years of reading I have never fallen in love with a book based off the blurb in the front jacket or cried during the prologue. The Dearly Beloved follows two couples in ministry as they negotiate their faith, marriage and friendship. Wall delivers a book that is tender without being saccharin or sentimental, thoughtful without being preachy. This may be one of my favorite books ever.
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
Another backlist book, I was recommended this one by a bookseller in London when I mentioned that I love Marie Semple for her dark humor and absurd (but too real) characters. It goes to show that your local bookstore is the best place to get recommendations. French Exit is a dark comedy had me laughing out loud. I wish writers created more works like French Exit because they are a delight.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
This book was not fun, but it is an important read. We read for lots of reasons–for adventure, perspective, to feel good–but I find it important to read to be made uncomfortable, to think, to know things that are easier to not know. The Nickel Boys tells the story of Elwood who is sentenced to the brutal childrens prison in Florida after hitching a ride in the wrong car on his first day of community college.
I would love to hear what books inspired and challenged you this year.
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