My Year in Books

I look at the list of books I’ve read in 2016 (for myself, not the dozens and dozens I’ve read aloud to the boys) and realize it’s pretty short for me: only 28. Several years ago–before I began volunteering with Cub Scouts–I read 53 in one year.

I first made a list of all the book I’d read during the summer I was 10 or 11. I remember showing the list to Daddy, eagerly pointing out that I’d finished over 30 books that summer. My brother made fun of me for being excited about something like that. And I got embarrassed and stopped making lists of books I’d read.

Then in 2011, I decided it was time to resurrect my book list-making. I’ve faithfully written down titles of the books I’ve read for the past 6 years.


So, just 28 in total this year…But here are a few of my top picks from 2016:

Funniest book:  Girl Walks into a Bar:  Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle, by Rachel Dratch (of Saturday Night Live fame). Some laugh-out-loud moments in this book, for real.

Most compelling book:  Girls Like Us:  Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herselfby Rachel Lloyd. Want to know more about the plight of women caught up in sex trafficking? This book is eye-opening and not for the faint of heart.

Most inspiring book:  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk:  The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trailby Ben Montgomery. It has the word “inspiring” in the title, and it was indeed. The subject of this biography was the first woman to through-hike the AT, and she did it–get ready for it–at age 67. She also was a pioneer of ultra-light hiking. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it. But it’ll stir up your wanderlust, for sure. (p.s. “Wanderlust” is one of my favorite words.)

Best novel:  Summer of My German Soldierby Bette Greene. True confession:  I’d never heard of this book until I saw it on a list of banned and challenged books. It’s aimed at a teen audience and is from decades ago. I can see how it might be controversial:  a Jewish teen hides an escaped Nazi POW during WWII. But the most emotionally satisfying part is the relationship between the young Jewish girl and her family’s Black housekeeper. If you read this novel, get ready for the “truth bomb” {I kind of hate that phrase, actually} that the housekeeper drops on the main character at the end.

Most challenging book:  Beneath the Neon:  Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegasby Matthew O’Brien. This book was challenging partly because I struggled at times to finish it. But it’s also a challenge because this story of a journalist who feels compelled to explore the entire system of drains and tunnels running under the city of Las Vegas results in a man who seeks to heal the hurt around him. Some of the story doesn’t have much “story” to it. But when this man encounters homeless people living in the drains, setting up beds and make-shift shelters there despite the water, he seeks to DO something to help these folks. He started a community project to assist the hundreds of people living there (young and old alike). His site is called, and his project is Shine A Light.  

A few on my list for the upcoming year:  The Medic (the story upon which the movie Hacksaw Ridge was based–what a powerful film!); Behind the Beautiful Forevers:  Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai UndercityWarriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High; and I’ll be finishing one I’ve recently begun reading (that was a Christmas present):  The Hospital by the River:  A Story of Hope (about the fistula hospital built to help women in Ethiopia by Australian doctors Reg and Catherine Hamlin).

As far as fiction…I also received a book called Jonathan’s Journey for Christmas, which is a novel, a spiritual allegory. Apparently, I sent my husband an email last year requesting this book for LAST Christmas. He forgot about it and instead gave it to me this Christmas. When I opened it, I thought–Wonder how Mike knew I wanted this book? We both forgot about it, evidently.

I’d like to share with you the entire list of what I’ve read this year, but I keep that list in my journal–which I left at my parents’ home when we visited for Christmas. Mama will mail it to me when she sends my birthday package, so I have to wait another week or so for that. In the meantime, happy New Year–and happy new year reading!


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