This week is crazy with Christmas prep BUT I just saw Haley’s post about books and earlier this week Goodreads did a “See your year in books!” thing with streamers and confetti and junk AND ANYWAY I decided right now was the perfect moment to continue procrastinating on wrapping presents and share my favorite books of 2015, with some goals for 2016 thrown in at the end.
According to Goodreads, I read 35 books and more than 10,000 pages. A large chunk of that was Kristen Lavransdatter and In This House of Brede. Twenty two were non-fiction, which surprised me when I counted them up. But in hindsight, I tend to read a few non-fiction books to learn about a subject and then, when my brain is fried, turn to a fiction book to escape. On of the authors I turned to a couple of times this year for the first time ever was Agatha Christie. I haven’t read many mystery books since high school (accept that year I glutted myself on Sherlock Holmes), but while traveling I borrowed a book off a family member’s shelf and immediately understood her popularity.
My goal was to read more novels by 20th century Catholic fiction authors. I succeeded in becoming a huge fan of Graham Greene. I also realize I need a book club/ support group meeting every time I read Walker Percy or Flannery O’Connor. I finished ‘Wise Blood’ just last week, which means I believe I’ve read all of O’Connor’s stories and novels, plus some letters and speeches, but I could be mistaken. There’s got to be another book I’ve somehow overlooked. Fingers crossed.
My top non-fiction titles (Click on each picture to preview on Amazon. Or don’t just out of spite because you hate the Amazon affiliates program.)
Outliers- Malcolm Gladwell just has an uncanny knack for writing the most fascinating books. To inspire graduates I would recommend this title, the next one and The Obstacle is the Way. (AND The War of Art if he/she is a creative type.)
Mindset- I can’t say this book radically changed my attitude, but it has altered the way I homeschool in a very tangible way. I’ve been meaning to write on it more thoroughly, but it’s all still sort of a work in progress so I think it’s too soon to tell whether or not adopting a growth mindset has dramatically affected our homeschool or not. However, this is NOT a homeschooling book nor the typical self-help handbook. It is a great title for inspiring people to strive to do their best in whatever their chosen profession; from homeschool mom to rocket scientist.
Better than Before- Although I no longer blog my goals, I still come back to the lessons from this book frequently. Understanding what motivates me to get stuff done has helped me approach goals setting and problem solving from a new angle. Because I know what isn’t going to work, I avoid a lot of frustration.
My top fiction titles
Kristen Lavrandatter– One of my favorite books of all times; tied with Anna Karenina. If you have the time, read both books back to back and compare and contrast the two women. So, so many bad decisions by both but completely different endings. I convinced my husband to read Kristen and we’ve had the most wonderful discussions. We’re both amazed at how well Undset writes men. My husband especially noticed the eloquence and sound theology of all the clergy in the book.
In This House of Brede should be required reading for all high school aged girls. I think this book shows religious life is open to all women. There is no perfect nun. God works with the flaws we have and can do so much, often making us better people, capable of more than we think possible if we can just stop trying to do what we think is best all the damn time. (And that’s a good lesson even if you don’t pursue a religious vocation.)
The End of the Affair- In discussing this book with a reader I thought it would make good reading for Pre-Cana or married couples. Far from glorifying adultery it shows how far the stain of infidelity reaches and how there is no joy to be found in it at any point along the path.
And Then There Were None- I couldn’t put this down. I love mysteries that don’t have clichéd endings I can predict 30 pages in. Certainly I try to play Sherlock, but I’m always delighted to be outwitted.
Also, I highly recommend reading Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop followed by Greene’s The Power and the Glory. Such a fascinating history of the Church in the American Southwest and Mexico told through the eyes of two very different men.
For 2016 I’m not creating a specific list to follow, but like last year’s goal of focusing on a very specific genre, I think this year I will try to read more Russian literature, specifically War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov. I’m open to other suggestions. (I’ve already read, and loved, Crime and Punishment.) I also have at least six non-fiction books on a library ‘To Read’ list I’m anxious to start.
Now that Addie and Byron are getting older, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing books with them. Maybe 2016 will be the year of family book club?!? Maybe not…
What books would you recommend from your 2015 reading list? Need some more suggestions for yourself? Check out my past “Year in books” posts:
A lot of my favorites on this list. 🙂 I was in a production of And Then There Were None a few years ago–great play, great novel. Brede is one of my all-time favorites, as you can tell by the really severe worn down look it has. 🙂 Also love Kristin L., and need to re-read it.
Better than Before was great. I definitely need to read Outliers, which is sitting here on my to-read pile, mocking me.
I am THISCLOSE to reading Kristin after reading all your comments about it….I’m scared by its size but I read Anna this year and it immediately jumped to my top 5 faves list. I opened this comment box to ask a question, though, which is: WHEN do you do all this reading? Because honestly, I have so many books on my to-read list and I never make enough time to read!
I would probably be considered a very fast reader. Admittedly, I don’t retain as much detail as I’d like which is why I need to discuss a book right away before I forget or confuse everything. (I binge read all of Jane Austin’s books one spring and now I hopelessly mix up all the characters and plots.) ANYWAY, I read while waiting for my kids at various lessons and usually before bed each night. If a book is really engaging (which includes most on this list) I carry the book with me through the house and sneak read whenever I get a chance. Burnt dinners are not uncommon when I’m finishing a good book. I never watch TV and I rarely watch movies, even on family movie night (must to my husband’s displeasure), preferring instead to write or read when I have a chunk of undisturbed time. I guess it all adds up because I always surprise myself at the end of each year with how many titles I manage to finish.
If you enjoy Russia and long books, I highly recommend The Father’s Tale by Michael O’Brian. It was amazing and probably one of my favorite books ever! I also read Kristen Lavransdatter this year. I’m still thinking about it and trying to decide if I liked it or not. She was pretty whiney. I liked Undset’s Ida Elisabeth better.
I love when you share what you’re reading! Even thought my blog is all but closed down, you’ve encouraged to write out what I read this year. I too read Kristen AND Anna this year. LOVED Kristen….but not Anna so much. I did enjoy it, I just felt like the message didn’t come through as clearly. The writing was brilliant, but I somehow managed to miss the point until much later when a friend helped me wrap my brain around it. And I’m also going to read Brothers K in 2016. We’re book twins. 🙂
My Protestant suggestion: “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans. My uber-Catholic bestie read it with me and loved it. I recommend ALL of Rachel’s books, especially “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” because she’s as… hardcore as you are in taking everything beyond it’s logical conclusion. If you can handle the profanity, I also recommend “Accidental Saints” by Nadia Bolz-Weber which I am reading these days.
I also can’t recommend “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson enough. Her writing on depression and anxiety is the best I have ever read and the community of readers she has built up are all really awesome at supporting each other. The book seriously made me laugh at times I needed it with everything going on this fall.
If you want some randomly weird murder mysteries, try Donna Andrews.
Have you read Wallace Stegner? His writing is so good, and his focus on the West is fascinating. Crossing to Safety is one of my favorite books (but I think we may have already talked about this?)
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