Here are some of my favorite books I read last year. (To get more lists of great books, you can check out Anne Bogel’s post where she shared her favorites and invited others to share theirs.) To be clear, these aren’t books released last year, simply ones I read and enjoyed. For perspective, I only read about 30 books total, so here are my top third in random order:
The Antelope in the Living Room
by Melanie Shankle
Melanie’s memoir about motherhood is on my Recommended Reads list and now this one about marriage is a new favorite as well. I don’t read many books that make me laugh which may be why I enjoy Melanie’s writing so very much.
The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way
by Eugene Peterson
I read this one carefully with a pen and a notebook beside me. Peterson leads the way on an in-depth look at all the ways Jesus is the way, challenging the ways of the modern American church. He explores the ways of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Mary; also Caiaphas, Josephus, and Herod, comparing and contrasting them with the kingdom way of Jesus. As I’ve studied and pondered leaning into my own smallness, this book was a key reference and encouragement for me.
The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion
This is the first book I read by Joan Didion. Her story has held on and won’t let go. She allows us to crawl inside her grief after her husband suddenly died in front of her. I knew it would be sad, but what I didn’t expect was how difficult it would be to put down. If I remember right, the ending left me feeling slightly empty, but the journey of the book made up for it. I plan to read a second title of hers this year.
The Seven Storey Mountain
by Thomas Merton
Full disclosure, this book took me over a year to finish with lots of stops and starts. It’s the thickest book I read this year (462 pages if you must know) but I read every word and took notes. Since I’m not Catholic, I most likely missed a lot of the important references. But I connected with Merton’s struggle with self, faith, and vocation and the relatable, honest way he shared it. Stunning writing, thoughtful perspective, surprisingly relevant.
Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts
by Ian Morgan Cron
In the fall I had to drive to Charlotte twice a week for a month (about 2 hours one way). I chose this audio book from the library for company to help me pass the time. It did so much more than that. I actually looked forward to waking up at 4 am for the drive so I could listen to Ian Morgan Cron (who’s voice sounds like the guy who narrates The Wonder Years) tell his story. While my curiosity about his dad being in the CIA was what initially hooked me, his ability to weave a story with threads of grace, memory, forgiveness, and humor is what left a lasting impression.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
by Maria Semple
I read this one in a day or so over spring break and it came at just the right time for me. I was in a place where I wanted to say no to all the things, in desperate need of a break. Bernadette was kind, lighthearted company for me in that season. Perhaps it makes the list based more on my experience reading it than the actual content of the book, but really how can you separate the two?
Breathing Room: Letting Go So You Can Fully Live
by Leeana Tankersley
During a time when I really needed some breathing room, I read Leeana’s book. She speaks the kind of soul language I’m always looking for but rarely find, the kind that comes from thoughtful silence, faithful waiting, and long, dark nights. When life feels like an airplane emergency, she comes along and reminds us – put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. I needed that reminder. She is a writer who encourages us to be fully human as we turn to Christ.
The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life
by Marion Roach Smith
Not just for writing memoir, this book is for any writer who simply wants to practice their craft. Short, thoughtful, and motivating. I want to read this one every year and recommend it to every writer I know.
Learning to Walk in the Dark
by Barbara Brown Taylor
After becoming uncomfortable with the assumption that good things are associated with lightness and evil things are associated with darkness, Barbara Brown Taylor began to study darkness and all the ways God meets us there, when we are unsure and when things are unseen. I checked this one out at the library but after finishing it I promptly added it to my list of books I’d like to own.
Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections
by Macrina Wiederkehr
My spiritual director introduced me to this book. It’s a book of prayers so I haven’t read it all the way through, but I was introduced to it this year and I keep it close by every morning. Her prayers are simple, thoughtful, and poetic.
I could have easily chosen more but since I narrowed it down to 10, I will include these as Honoroble Mentions:
- Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther
- Here and Now: Living in the Spirit by Henri J.M. Nouwen
- What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
- A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
It’s fun to talk about books, isn’t it? If you’d like to see the books I’m currently reading, I share them regularly on The Bench, my monthly newsletter. Sign up here to get the next one in your inbox.
What was your favorite book last year?