Best reads 2016

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Winter in the Midwest makes me want to cozy up with a blanket, drink tea, and read every spare minute I have. The love of books runs strong in my family. I have distinct memories of visiting my grandparent’s house and smelling the books that lined the shelves of every room. The barrister bookshelf that I inherited from my grandfather is something I will always treasure along with the stacks of books he passed along to me over the years. Even now when my siblings and I are in the same room, we quickly end up discussing the books we’ve been reading. Saying no to the TV and yes to books was absolutely essential for my reading life this year. I hope you find yourself a book you love this season. Here are my favorites from the past year:

Novels that will captivate you 

Still Life by Louise Penny – this murder mystery will keep you guessing and wanting to eat all the food she describes is mouth watering detail.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Stout – a slim, heartbreaking and beautifully written story about Lucy Barton’s relationship with her family and impoverished childhood.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – this WWII historical fiction will make you forget the snowy weather with its adventurous heroines and their exploits in France against the Nazis.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – set in London and Malta during the early days of WWII, the characters and their stories will remain with you long after finishing the book.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh – almost abandoned this one half way through reading it, but this mystery completely surprised me and that is a great feeling to have as a reader.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – began and finished this in one day. It’s plot and story are unlike anything I’ve read before; as soon as I finished I immediately wanted to reread it.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – an epic, sweeping novel that spans 200 years and several generations of one Ghanaian family whose lives are forever altered by slavery. Each character’s story intensely gripped me as well as the powerful prose. 

Nonfiction that will inspire you to live more creatively and boldly

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – an inspiring read for anyone who is a creator or maker (and after reading this, I believe we all have creativity in us) and struggles with just doing the creative work.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown – everyone should read this at least once in their life. It’s powerful for self-knowledge as well as for being a better citizen, friend, spouse, parent.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – the perfect book to begin a new year with. Full of solid research, personal anecdotes, and practical suggestions this will inspire you to think differently about everyday life.

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin – after reading The Happiness Project, I became a major Rubin fan. You don’t have to read Happiness to enjoy this one. It’s practical and helps you better understand yourself which is so freeing. If you’re more auditory, skip the books and subscribe to her podcast for weekly inspiration.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – if you read one book in 2017, please let this be the one. It’s a book that everyone should read at least once in her life. I was lost for words after finishing it and still can’t form full sentences to describe it.

Books with solid practical advice to live more intentionally

Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker – an engaging, practical, and helpful book to minimize the stuff that doesn’t matter and maximize the things that do as parents.

Simple Matters by Erin Boyle – I’ve been accused to reading things that reinforce my own belief system and this is one of them. Simple is always better in my mind and Boyle writes and gives practical advice about living a life with minimal stuff to embrace the moments that matter most.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown – anyone who feels like her life is bursting at the seams should read this book. It gives you permission to say no so you can say yes and vision to step out of the everyday and see a bigger picture of your life.

Money Mastery by Billy Epperhart – maybe I’m the only one with a major gap in knowledge when it comes to building wealth. After paying off our student loans, we finally have freedom to save and this book is full of practical advice and wisdom about money.

The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees – more freeing than the capsule wardrobe philosophy, this book teaches you how to discover your own style and encourages you to have patience to wait for quality clothes that fit and match your style.

Parenting books for every season

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl – one of the easiest to digest parenting books I’ve read. They explain big ideas in clear language and include a short list of ways to be more intentional and the end of each chapter. 

The Soul of Discipline Kim John Payne – an in-depth look at parenting throughout all the developmental phases from young children to adult children. It describes the role of parents in three stages: guardian, gardener, guide and these metaphors hold up well throughout the whole book. I plan to return to this one throughout the years as my kids enter each new season.

Poetry for the soul

Felicity by Mary Oliver – she’s been a favorite poet of mine since college when a professor introduced me to her in 2007. This collection is especially poignant and rich.

Roots to the Earth by Wendell Berry – a beautiful pairing of poems with woodcut designs. It’s gorgeous to read and look at.

Encouraging reads for your spiritual life

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence – it’s amazing how the life and wisdom of a monk from 400 years ago still speaks powerfully today. If you ever wonder whether you’re living a big enough life for God, be encouraged with this book that even the small things matter to him. 

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald – a must read for everyone in this age of nonstop information and motion. It brings conviction and encouragement to prioritize things in the right order.

Visually stunning and beautifully written

Le Road TripGardens of Awe and Folly, and When Wanderers Cease to Roam by Vivian Swift – let’s just say I fell in love with Vivian Swift this year. If you’re not a big reader and just want something beautiful to look at and read snippets of, this is the best coffee table book you will actually go back to again and again.

Happy reading, friends. I hope you all find yourselves encouraged, inspired, or lost in a book in 2017!

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