Friends, I think this is my favorite blog post each year. This is my third annual “Favorite Books of the Year” post!
To be clear, these are not all books that were published in 2017. A couple of these books were, in fact, published this year but I digress. This list is a compilation of my favorite books from the ones I read in Twenty-Seventeen.
I’ve completed a total of twenty-six books this year. I wanted to narrow this book list down to a sensible number like ten or even a dozen. I simply cannot shave away any of these books. Therefore, I give you a list of my favorite fourteen. I’m going to pretend it is because Favorite Fourteen sounds catchy, but it is actually because I had a literal fourteen favorites. I’m just keeping it real for you, friends.
Surprisingly, a few of the books that did not make the list this year were New York Times Bestsellers. I have reasons for being less-than-impressed with those two books, but I feel like that’s a different blog post. Moving on. I also read about ten books that were rather enjoyable but left me with a little less to say. They did not make this particular list, either.
Without further ado, I’d love to share my Favorite Fourteen of 2017. Perhaps you’ll find a book you’d like to read in the new year!
Jennie’s book, Anythingis one of my all-time favorites! I love anything she writes and was delighted to read her newest book, Nothing to Prove in January. It did not disappoint, I tell you! Jennie’s writing is so relatable and yet so rooted in the truth of God. I highly recommend this book and anything else written by Jennie Allen, dear friends. Trust me on this one.
Before reading this book, I was more familiar with Maria’s husband, Bob than Maria herself. I absolutely love Bob Goff’s book, Love Does, and knew I should give his wife’s writing a try, as well. What a winner!!! This book was written from the heart and for your heart. I immediately began passing it around to other people, as well! My Grandma also gave it a stamp of approval and asked what else she might read by Maria Goff. It really was that intriguing. I would gladly read a dozen more books by Maria Goff who describes herself as the string to a balloon. Bob and Maria Goff live their lives with such hospitality and compassion. It is their lifestyle, so beautifully modeled by their passionate love for Jesus that draws me into their books. Put Love Lives Here on your reading list for this year.
I’ve long been fascinated by Jessica Turner’s ability to: work full-time; mother three, small children; blog daily; throw themed birthday parties; and read dozens of books each year. For this reason, I devoured every page of The Fringe Hours where Jessica authentically shares the habits she has cultivated to work reading, letter writing, family fun, and such into the spare minutes of her days! I appreciate Jessica’s honest and humble approach. She doesn’t pretend to do it all without help. She doesn’t shame anyone for doing less or more. She simply shares the places she has routinely found extra minutes in car pool lanes, waiting rooms, and the like to squeeze a little extra into her day. It was simultaneously both freeing and inspiring. This is a good read for all women living in our time. Who doesn’t want to read a book full of tips and tricks from a woman juggling the same things we juggle?! Like a good friend, Jessica lovingly tells us how to get the most out of our day. I’m still implementing ideas I’ve learned. I’m not usually a rereader, but I may add this one to my reading list again in 2018.
Friends, you won’t find anything more enjoyable to read especially if, like me, you love all things Ree Drummond. This is an easy read: light, fun, humorous, and adorable. It wasn’t suspenseful, but was a page turner nonetheless. Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is the story of our favorite Pioneer Woman, Ree as she meets, dates, and marries her (now husband) Lad whom she lovingly calls “Marlboro Man,” for his cowboy chaps and Fu Manchu appearance. This book made me laugh out loud again and again! You need to read this one, friends!
Liz Curtis Higgs does such a thorough job of teaching Biblical accounts accurately while showing us the heart of God at work. I’ve read both The Women of Christmasand The Women of Easter. I highly recommend both books! After reading a book by Liz Curtis Higgs, I have a better comprehension of the lives of women in the Bible. Liz does an exceptional job of showing us God’s high calling and value of womanhood. After reading each of these books, I couldn’t wait to read the Biblical accounts again. Liz writes with a Biblical accuracy yet also a spark that ignites something in the heart of the reader to know Jesus more deeply. I already know which of my friends and family members are getting a copy of this book when the Easter season comes into view! This is definitely one to read and to pass on to others!
I read this one immediately after our move this summer and the timing was perfect! I really appreciated Myquillyn’s inspiration and suggestions for making an imperfect, rented, or otherwise less-than-Barbies-dream-house home beautiful! Her decorating ideas aren’t expensive or pretentious. For a decorating book, this one felt very low-pressure and freeing. It didn’t make me feel like I needed to change everything or strive toward an unrealistic ideal. Rather, it gave permission to creativity and fun as I made a new space our own. This is the book you should gift to your friend who loves home repairs, has recently moved, or is in the midst of renovating. I immediately passed this book on to my friend, Kayla who applied much of what she learned in her own home. This is a fun read, I tell you!
If you don’t know already (and you probably do), I love inclusion. I love groups and tables and homes and clubs and churches and families that invite people in with a hospitality that overflows from the love of Jesus. This book was just that! I expected author Kristen Schell to tell us her own narrative of her Turquoise Table experiment. While she does tell her own story, she also offered so much more! This book was full of ideas for inviting people into our own front yards and lives! I haven’t painted a table turquoise just yet, but I haven’t given up on the dream either. These pages reminded me, in the midst of my move into a new community, that friendship is worth the work. It takes effort to build relationships and this book was exactly the boost I needed to do it all again! I cannot imagine the impact this book must have and is going to continue to have on communities across the world.
Sophie Hudson is hilarious! I love her heart for Jesus and her Southern charm. This book made my list purely out of enjoyment. Books written by Sophie Hudson are too much fun! I love her writer’s voice and tone. This was a quick read, the kind that I enjoy reading in between more challenging or deeply controversial books. This is the type that you read on summer vacation or on a spring break. Sophie is both witty and heart-felt. Everything she writes is worth reading! Side note: I also have big love for her podcast with Melanie Shankle! If you like to laugh, you should check that out, as well.
After the move, I was invited into a book club. Can you believe it?! God stirred the heart of a (now friend, then stranger) woman to invite me to a book club. My. Kind. Of. Party. I saw God’s provision and love in this small thing. For the first time in my life, I’m in a book club that I don’t lead myself. (Not that I ever minded to lead book clubs. I love to lead. And sometimes I like to listen and learn. This is a fun change, I tell you.) I’ve always enjoyed learning about the life of Corrie Ten Boom, but surprisingly, I’d never read The Hiding Place. It was the first book I read with my book club and it was a great introduction into the new group! This is a must-read for the Christian life. The lives of Corrie, her sister, Betsy, and the rest of the Ten Boom family can teach us much about unwavering faith and courage in following Jesus in the midst of adversity and persecution.
I rarely read the same book twice unless it makes a great read-aloud for children. I first read Wonder this summer to preview it as a potential read-aloud and knew I wanted to share it with my class. There are a few things from the book that I choose to glaze over such as a flippant mention of suicide. “If I was Auggie, I’d kill myself.” Perhaps it’s my undergraduate studies in child development and phsychology, but I’m firmly opposed to introducing such serious and devastating subject matter in a flippant, wreckless matter. Most children have zero to limited knowledge of such a thing, and this is probably the least responsible way to put it on a child’s radar. And this is why I think Wonder works best as a read aloud and is less suited for independent reading for children. This particular incident, mentions of the Lord’s name in vain, and also calling other children “freaks” can all be easily skipped over and changed to appropriate language when a responsible adult is sharing it as a read aloud. These few hiccups pale in comparison to the positive attributes of this story. Wonder is full of rich life-lessons in kindness, inclusion, and treating others as image bearers of God. My class thoroughly enjoyed it! I highly recommend reading this aloud to the children in your life!
This book was a bit outside my usual literary genres, and it was one of my favorite reads ever! Just Mercy was thought provoking and challenging in ways that I want to be challenged as a responsible citizen. I am more aware of the issues that surround the death penalty than I was prior to reading this book. The true story follows the life of Walter, a wrongly convicted and innocent man sentenced to death and is told by his lawyer, Bryan Stevenson. This plot is tricky to share without spoilers, but I am better educated and more equipped to call myself “pro-life” than ever before. This book would be excellent required reading for undergraduate studies and is well suited for book clubs that enjoy deep and thought-provoking discussions.
The fact that I read Just Mercy and Small Great Things back to back was something to ponder in itself. I didn’t plan for these books to be available at our new public library around the same time. On more than one occasion, I wondered if God orchestrated the timing of the books to do a work in my heart. While I have always been extremely saddened and angered by any kind of racial injustice, I wondered if this timing was less of a coincidence and more about something God wanted me to see. (If this is a bit too introspective for you and you just clicked over here hoping for a quick book list, I’d like to welcome you to my brain. This sort of pondering is my usual. Feel free to move right along if this is getting too heavy for you, friend.) If I had to choose the one book that made the greatest impact on me in 2017, (oh gracious…this is hard because I loved these books), I would have to say that Small Great Things really shook me to the core. Listen, a good 90% of the books I read could be categorized as Christian Non-Fiction, Christian Memoir, or at least the cousin of Christian Literature. This book is not even the third cousin’s neighbor of Christian Literature. It isn’t my typical box. This book is a mainstream book by a New York Times best-selling author. And yet? I know God used it to His glory. I’m not surprised. God can do that, you know. He can make something work for His good. Hello, Romans 8:28. Here’s the honest truth. I have always prayed that God would break my heart for what breaks His. In this book, I learned about the disgusting and heartbreaking world of White Supremacy. It’s an unthinkable evil and I don’t use that “e word” lightly. This fictional story by Jodi Picoult takes us on a journey with an African-American Labor and Delivery Nurse, Ruth and the baby of a white supremacist couple. After reading this book, I have eyes to see something I couldn’t imagine before. I did not have words or language of any sort to put along with the idea of white supremacy. I hadn’t ever experienced it and I knew little about it at all. Jodi Picoult does an exceptional job of telling this story through the drastically diverse perspectives of characters from very different worlds than our own. If you read one book in 2018, read this one. Have I already said that about other books? This one. Read this one. Sadly, it is terribly relevant to the time we’re living in. You will carry this book with you into conversations about the news. You will remember what you learned in this fictional book. You will face your own naivety with conviction to know better and to do better. When I finished reading this book, I sat in down and joined an online Christian group for racial reconciliation that I had previously learned about at IF: Gathering. You are welcome to message me for more details. (I better stop sharing about this one, or I’ll bust out a whole sermon series on you, sweet friends. No one reading this book list wants a whole lecture. Am I right?) We must move on. Read. This. Book.
Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey did something so brilliant with this one, friends! This book is a Historical Fiction gem. Steal Away Home is the fictional (but based on a true story) account of Theologian and Pastor, Charles Spurgeon and his dear friend, Thomas Johnson who was once a slave. I appreciated so many aspects of this book. To be honest, I have read very little about the life of Charles Spurgeon. I didn’t realize the life he led as an abolitionist nor how unpopular he was with slave owners in the United States during his time. Before this book, I knew nothing of the life of Thomas Johnson at all. Initially, I wanted to read this book because it is written by Aaron Ivey and Aaron Ivey’s wife is my favorite podcaster, Jamie Ivey…and let’s just pretend that’s a decent reason to read a book. I’m so glad I did! For those among us who love Historical Fiction, particularly the stories based on true events (Here’s looking at you, Little House on the Prairie), this is a winner!!! You will absolutely love Steal Away Home!
Katie’s first book Kisses from Katie is one of my all-time favorite books. In fact, I’ve noticed that my other favorite books (books by Jennie Allen, Kristen Welch, and Ann Voskamp) seem to reference Katie Davis, as well. I’m not alone in my deep gratitude and admiration for Kisses from Katie. I preordered this new one the second I learned of its existence and had completely forgotten about it the day it arrived on my doorstep. I may have cheered and jumped up and down as I opened it. I was thrilled! This book met all of my expectations. In fact, one of my sixth graders recently completed a research project on the life of Katie Davis Majors and I plan to pass this book onto her in 2018. You will read this book and you will pass it on to your friends. This is the kind of book I will give as a gift because Katie’s story never ceases to be timelessly beautiful. Her words never stop teaching us to love others well. In some ways, this book was my favorite of the year. You will not want to miss this one. Add this to the list of books you must read before you die. If you don’t read it this year, make sure you squeeze it in elsewhere, sweet friend. You will absolutely adore Daring to Hope. I’m forever thankful for Katie’s obedience to follow Jesus and her brave decision to tell us about His unwavering goodness in her life. We are all better for reading the words of Katie Davis Majors.
May good books be abundant in the coming year. May we think and listen and learn. May our world be broadened with new ideas and new cultural awareness that allows us to love others the way Jesus first loved us. May we be purposeful to read for the glory of God. May we seek His word first and may we read the words of others with humble hearts.
From my book-loving heart to yours,
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