Another year has come and gone, and over the course of it, I read 200 books. Most were truly good books, but there were a few that caught my attention to a far greater degree than the other books I read this year. As I close out my reading for 2018, I wanted to take a few minutes and share my “best of” list. These are in no particular order, and the fiction only slightly outnumbers the non-fiction on my list. These are the books that I either could not put down or thought about long after I closed the actual pages of the books.
The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L. Richter. This is an overview of the Old Testament, focusing on five important covenants made with five important men. She uses the idea of a closet and adding hangers to the closet throughout the book. First, she builds the actual closet by talking about societal structure in the Old Testament and the land the is so much a part of the Old Testament covenants. Then she goes through Creation, through Adam, Noah, Abraham Moses, and David, creating a framework that serves as the base of important knowledge for a Christian to have concerning the Old Testament. The book is beautiful and lyrical, and it’s accessible for both the scholar and the layman alike. I gleaned so much from this book, and when I finished it, I wanted nothing more than to turn to the beginning and experience this book again (Perhaps it will be a re-read in 2019.).
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. This story is the story of two sisters, living in World War II era France. These sisters are different in personality and temperament, alienated with many barriers of misunderstanding from each other, and yet each feels a deep love for the other that neither is fully aware of. Isabelle is forcefully against the German invaders, and Vianne is attempting to simply live in her village underneath the German’s radar. Through their interactions with each other and the choices that they make, they find themselves both battling for survival, battling against the Germans and fighting for their family. I loved this book from beginning to end and could barely put it down.
Educated by Tara Westover. Bitter and angry at parents who she characterizes as Muslim extremists, Westover rails against the parents, against her homeschooling experience and against her family dynamics. Although the book is filled with toxic relationships, perhaps the most important struggle is Westover’s struggle to feel worthy and normal. The book was compulsively readable, despite my own doubts about the reliability of the narrator. It also left me thinking long after I turned the last page of the book.
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah MacKenzie. This is the only re-read from this year’s list. I’ve actually read this book three times, and each time I get so much refreshment and renewal from it. I really found myself realizing in this read through how much this book has influenced my homeschooling philosophy. Her philosophy boils down to “be faithful to the job God called you to do and trust God with the results.” I think that’s the best advice to give any homeschool mom who is struggling with whether or not she is doing enough.
Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker. Dracul is a “prequel” of the book Dracula, and this book places Bram Stoker and his family into the narrative as main characters. It mingles fact and fiction from Stoker’s life and is told in the same delightful epistolary style as Stoker’s original novel. This is really, really good. I don’t even think I have words to top that. If you’re a fan of Dracula, read this book!
Middlemarch by George Eliot. I have made it a goal to read an occasional classic. I’ve read many classics, but there are still so many on my list! Middlemarch was my favorite new-to-me classic (but Heidi came pretty close) this year. This is a large, highly character-driven novel, detailing the lives and relationships of a small English community. It’s beautifully written. I fell in love with several of the characters, and pulled so many quotes from the book for my own personal quote book. I think I will require this for school reading about 11th or 12th grade for my children.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. This is the tale of Miryem, a moneychanger, who is commanded by the King of the Staryk to turn “silver into gold” after hearing her brag about it too close to his frosty territory. It’s a very loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with a great many strong and likable female characters. There’s plenty of drama, a little bit of romance, and an awesome fairy tale vibe. I read it in a single weekend, despite the fact that it’s over 400 pages long.
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. I’ve been reading the Little House books aloud to my children this year (and we’re currently on The Long Winter). I wanted to know more about the books, how they differed from the “true story,” and how they were written. This book delves into all of that, and explains some of the complicated relationship between Wilder and her daughter, Rose. Excellent companion for adults to the Little House books. I went back later in the year and picked up an audio version of the book to listen to in the car with the children once we finish the Little House series.
The Witch Elm by Tana French. This is a psychological thriller about a young man whose life takes a completely different turn than he expected when he is robbed, beaten up and left for dead. He goes back to his ancestral home to recuperate, and over the course of his time there, the wheels come completely off of his family and his life. It’s a twisty book that often had details that surprised me, and I enjoyed the story. I rated it up for the story though because the main character is definitely one of the more unlikable main characters that I have read this year at least. I admit it. Uncle Hugo makes the book for me though, and without him and the complex psychological look at relationships, memories and knowledge, I doubt this would have made my top ten. Still, I could not put this one down.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I have read three of Moriarty’s books this year and loved every single one. I’m still reading through her back list, but I truly loved this book because I was rooting for Frances and the other characters, despite them being party to a completely inane situation. I loved the characters in this one though. I also loved that she didn’t use the same plot structure that she uses in Big Little Lies or Truly, Madly, Guilty. That lack of a gimmicky novel structure makes me enjoy this book, even when the actual plot bridged into silly at times.