Best reads the last 12 months

Eight of my top eleven books from the last 12 months; three are missing because they’ve been lent out which is always a sign a book is good.

The first couple hours I had away from Edith after she was born were spent in a coffee shop diving into a mammoth novel. She was probably two months old when this happened. Because she was so fussy, I didn’t have any time away from her to do anything fun for myself. I was definitely over-ambitious when I started East of Eden. But after two months of mind-numbing repetition and ear splitting crying, I was motivated. Needless to say, it took me 12 full months to finish East of Eden. I read it in between book club novels and other books that captivated my attention throughout the year.

Once my kids turn one a magical thing takes place. I suddenly have more energy, freedom, and time. This is also the time when baby amnesia kicks in and all those traumatizing memories from the first three to six months become a hazy fog. Edith turned one in June and after moving houses, I spent some of my newly found energy focused on reading. Seven of the eleven books listed below were read in the last six months.

  1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

There are reasons certain novels become classics. The characters, the story, and the setting in this one are all epic. If you are looking to broaden your literary background, this is most definitely a must-read. It is long, yet captivating on every level. East of Eden not only made this list, but also my favorite books of all-time list.

2. Lila by Marilynne Robinson

This book is beautiful on every level. Every sentence is gorgeous. The characters make your heart ache in a good way. It’s one of those books I could re-read every year and never tire of. Marilynne Robinson is so talented it hurts my heart and brain.

3. On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Biss

Regardless of individual opinions regarding vaccinations, this meditation on immunity is stunning. It’s so easy to digest and read, yet provokes some of the deepest questions about vaccines in society today. I could not put it down and thought about it for weeks after.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro 

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but after reading it I now understand why many people rave about it. I was immediately caught up with the characters and the world Ishiguro creates.  His version of post-war England is so believable that I almost glazed over science fiction side.

5. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

It’s simultaneously a mystery and a beautiful work of fiction. It is one of those rare books that keeps you equally concerned about characters as well as solving the secret, while forcing you to pause after reading certain sentences because they’re so well-crafted. (As my friend, Matt says, “sentences that make you want to curl up and take a nap in the comma.”)

6. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I’ve read my fair share of World War II literature, but the perspective from which the war is viewed in this novel is so unique. It’s historical, realistic, and slightly magical. Having two children protagonists who grow up throughout the duration of the war, one of whom is blind living in France while the other an orphan caught up in the Nazi movement, framed the whole action in a new light (pun intended).

7. The Sensitivity of the Spirit by R. T. Kendall

Wow. That’s what I kept saying over and over to myself while reading. This book changed my life. I never been more convicted and encouraged by a Christian book. I read it slowly and deliberately because every page spoke volumes to my life and I could not move on until it sunk it so deeply and changed my life.

8. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This short and practical book jump-started my minimalist kick. While I didn’t jump on board with all of Kondo’s practices or beliefs, I found her voice and manifesto refreshing in a world full of ideas and products surrounding organization. If you need permission and practical advice regarding what to keep and what not to keep, read this. Her principles still resonate with me after reading it six months ago.

9. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

Probably the perfect companion piece to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this freeing and inspiring book about things not being “perfect to be beautiful” jump started a new love for thrift shopping, Etsy browsing, and patiently waiting for the right thing at the right price. Her photos and story are beautifully transparent. This is for anyone anywhere who struggles to see beauty in the imperfections that make up our lives.

10. New Creation Realities by E. W. Kenyon

If you need a punch in the face of truth and revelation about what Jesus’s death and resurrection bought for us, read this. I could not believe this book was written 70 years ago. It’s hardcore, intense, and not for the faint of heart. Take the meat from the bones in this one and be prepared to see yourself and your life differently.

11. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I definitely saved the best for last. Let me start out by saying there are few books that are an absolute joy to read from cover to cover and this is one of them. I teared up a few times throughout and full on cried when I finished it. It’s one of those rare novels that causes you to care about the little details in your neighbors’  and friends’ lives. When an old curmudgeon finds purpose in life through deep pain and loss while making you smile through most of the novel, you know you’ve struck literary gold.