To kick off 2016, Kristian and I set a goal to each read 52 books before the end of the year. I thought it sounded impossible, but always loving a good challenge (and always loving to read), I committed.
What a great journey commenced! We were both surprised to find it was possible not only to meet the goal, but exceed it. I talk a little more about the experience below, but first, here's my list. These are only in the order they were read, not according to preference. The genres ran the gamut, from history, science, and biography, to fiction, art, and law.
2016 Completed Reading List
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (Will read again. Such a beautiful and compelling story.)
Persuasion, Jane Austen (Perhaps my favorite Austen.)
Praying the Scriptures for your Children, Jodie Berndt (Wonderful resource for praying for your children.)
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (I think my second favorite of Jane's)
Count of Monte Cristo , Alexander Dumas (Fantastic story, and completely different from the movie. I'm so glad a friend encouraged me to read it. I recommend the audio book!)
Story Girl, Lucy Maud Montgomery (Delightful, like all her books.)
Simple Matters, Erin Boyle (I love Erin's style and wisdom regarding decluttering and simplicity.)
The Life Giving Home, Sally and Sarah Clarkson (A treasure of a book written by two of my lovely friends. I will go back to this one again and again.)
Things We Couldn't Say, Diet Eman (WWII true account of courage and faith. Wow!)
Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry (I'm just jumping into Berry's works and find them incredibly insightful.)
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (My first time to read it! And I might have watched the movie twice afterwards.)
Wuthering heights, Emily Bronte (Don't tell the literary experts, but I had a hard time getting through this classic. But upon completion I watched the two-part movie starring Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy, and somehow I was convinced I wanted to read it again. The movie was fantastic. Dark and strange, but moving. The experts would scoff, but I say watch the movie first, then read.)
Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte (Enjoyed very much.)
Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett (Love the coastal Maine setting. A slow, peaceful book.)
God's Smuggler, Brother Andrew (Incredible. Prayer!)
Out of Order, Sandra Day O'Connor (I am sadly ignorant when it comes to the Supreme Court. This was an entertaining and informative read.)
Taking the Stand, Alan M. Dershowitz (Though this author and I would not see eye-to-eye on many points, his ability to write a book that can captivate a wide array of audiences was fantastic. I loved this book and it's ability to educate on law while keeping me entertained. I've recommended it to several people.)
Dangerous Love, Ray Norman (I always enjoy stories of courage and supernatural forgiveness.)
Many Magic Treehouse books (Mary Pope Osborne), read aloud with my big boys. **
Stuart Little, E.B. White (So fun. The big boys and I read this one aloud and laughed a lot.)
Middlemarch, George Elliot (Phew. That was a long one, but worth it. Dorothea is a gem of a character. I don't envision reading it again but glad to have read it once.)
French Women for all Seasons, Mireille Guiliano (I read one of her books about once a year to recalibrate my perspective on health and food.)
For the Children's Sake, Susan Schaffer Macauley (An encouraging and informative read on childrens' education and upbringing. I will reference often.)
The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom (Have read it twice and will read again and again. One of my favorites ever.)
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (Kristian and I listened to this together on a road trip. Quite powerful and extremely well-written.)
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen Welch (Kristen is a real-life friend and I know her wonderful children. This was an encouraging one and resonated with me.)
Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, Sarah Mae (A quick, fun read that jump-started some good cleaning.)
Because of Winn Dixie, Kate DeCamillio (Read aloud with boys and they loved it. A funny reference is often heard now around the house.)
Anne of the Island, Lucy Maud Montgomery (Charming Anne!)
The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout (Exciting! Kristian and I listened together on a road trip.)
Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (This may be a bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer, but I simply did not enjoy it. I find great value in gaining new perspective by glimpsing a world completely separate from one's own, but the style, tone, and content of this book were difficult for me. Obviously many people love it though, so don't take my word for it!)
Tramp for the Lord, Corrie ten Boom (I'm so inspired by this woman's unwavering faith tested through years of trials. I think of Corrie often in my own difficult moments.)
Amazing Love, Corrie ten Boom (same thoughts as above!)
If, Amy Carmichael (I'm incredibly encouraged by Amy Carmichael's story of perseverance and faith. Her biography by Elisabeth Elliot is a favorite.)
You and Me Forever, Francis and Lisa Chan (I think I could say this is my favorite book on marriage I've read to date.)
Where the Wind Leads, Vinh Chung (Truly remarkable true story of a refugee family. The week after I read this I was privileged to meet the author and hear him speak. Wonderful!)
Evidence Not Seen, Darlene Deibler Rose (Mrs. Rose's account from her years as a POW during WWII are riveting and inspiring. If you don't read the book, this recording on YouTube is fantastic. I've listened to is several times over the past couple years.)
Bruchko, Bruce Olson (Oh my, what a story. I really appreciated the unique and thoughtful perspective of this missionary to South America.)
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger (An engaging and captivating novel.)
The New Testament (Always reading through this one. The very best.)
In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick (This is the true story that inspired Moby Dick, and made me want to get to Nantucket stat.)
Nightingale, Kristin Hannah (Gah! This WWII novel was so good. I had to finish it quickly because I was ignoring the rest of my life.)
- Number the Stars, Lois Lowry (I appreciated it infinitely more now than the mandatory reading in junior high.)
- Peace Child, Don Richardson (If you like stories about what the power of Jesus' love can have on cannibalistic headhunters, then you would like this book.)
The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp (I've never underlined so much of a book in my life. She wrote so many things I've thought and felt but could not word so well. Will most definitely read again. And again.)
Adopted for Life, by Russell D Moore (A fantastic book on the heart of adoption. A must-read if you are adopting, have adopted, or even in you have family or friends in the process.)
Humility, Andrew Murray (This book was hugely instrumental in my life a couple years ago, and wonderful the second time around.)
Hints on Child Training, H. Clay Trumbull (Written in 1890, this Civil War chaplain shares a wealth of knowledge and wisdom from his experience raising his own eight children. He's also Elisabeth Elliot's great-grandfather!)
Kisses from Katie, Katie J. Davis (This was another re-read, and just as good the second time. I recommend highly. Quite inspiring.)
Girl with the Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier (Didn't love. But I do appreciate this author's effort to create a story around the famous painting. I will certainly never look at the painting the same way again.)
Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale (I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this incredible woman.)
A Room With A View, E.M. Forster (I wanted to read a book by this author, but I have to say I found this particular one to be predictable and a bit bland.)
First We Have Coffee, Margaret Jensen (This was one of the best books I read all year. It's a simple, true account by a daughter about her mother's life, but the depth of character and faith recounted were incredibly moving to me. I will read again.)
East of Eden, John Steinbeck (Such a captivating and unique novel! This has been one of Kristian's favorite books for a long time and I'm so glad I finally took the time to read it.)
Honey for the Child's Heart, Gladys Hunt (I love this resource. Any book that further justifies me spending hours upon hours reading to my children is a valuable addition to my library.)
1776, by David McCullough (I so enjoy historical accounts!)
Severe Mercy, Sheldon VanAuken (This has been a favorite book of Kristian's and mine since the beginning of our marriage, but it had been years since I had read it. A beautiful and inspiring love story.)
- Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (This was special to read at Christmas time. The scenes with Marmie never fail to make me tear up. Watching the film adaptation with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon after completing the book is an absolute must.)***
As our book challenge came up in conversation here and there I typically got the same questions and comments. Here are some further thoughts on how it all worked:
"How in the world do you read that much? When do you find the time? I'm way too busy for that."
As a mom of four young, active children who I am with, for the most part, the entire day, I've tried to give a good deal of thought the last couple years to the way I spend my moments in the margin. I've found that spending these spare moments on things that are live-giving and beneficial to my soul has been vital for my well-being, and just a lot more enjoyable!
As I've mentioned here before, one of the main things to go has been almost all social media. I know that's not appealing to everyone, but for me it has been incredibly freeing. So reading this past year has been one of the pastimes that has filled those quiet spaces. Kristian and I occasionally watched a show or movie together in the evening, but otherwise we did a lot of reading side by side when we weren't working on other things. Additionally, I read for about hour each morning (early early before the children wake up) and I make sure to pause for about 20 minutes every afternoon while the babies are sleeping to sit and read with my coffee or tea.
With four little people surrounding me all day, and lots to do around the house, the primary way I've been able to read so much is through audiobooks* (and New York Magazine says for the brain, audiobooks aren't cheating!) While I'm doing dishes, folding laundry, or taking a long road trip, audiobooks allow for hours of reading that would not otherwise be possible.
There is such value in reading. It's a true gift to experience the works of talented authors who have contributed to society throughout history. Not only are we connected with fascinating people and stories from the past, our perspectives are broadened.
When we immerse ourselves in a quality story, we're pushed out of our own bubbles, and our compassion and empathy increase. Stories possess the power to keep giving in our everyday lives even after the pages are closed.
I've embarked on a new reading journey for 2017 and it only involves one book, but it's a book packed full of history, tragedy, triumph, supernatural love, and redemption. It's going to be a good reading year.
*Audiobooks have primarily come free through two apps- Overdrive and Hoopla. Both require your library card number to log in, and both have provided me with hours and hours of free audiobooks. Phenomenal! Amazon Prime also offers many of the Classic audiobooks for a couple dollars.
**Perhaps if I get around to it I'll do a post on some of our favorite children's books. Reading aloud together is one of our very favorite pastimes.
*** Book links are affiliate