It’s that time of year again: the very end, when readers reflect on their reading choices throughout the year and pick their favorites! I’m here to do exactly that. I read 55 books this year (not counting my editing projects). Hmm . . . when I compare that to the number of books others have read, it seems so small, but rest assured, I read whenever I can. Besides being a slow reader, maybe it was all that time away from home this year (six weeks).
Out of those 55, I selected 16 that impacted me most. Six of those are in a special category to themselves, however, which I’ll save for the end. Let’s start out with the basic Top Ten:
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Anne was the youngest of the Brontë sisters and the only one I hadn’t read yet. She wrote two novels, The Tenant being her second. I was delighted to find it possessed the depth that I’ve come to expect from the Brontës, complete with a strong female lead and high-stakes moral issues. Controversial in its day for its depiction of dissipation, Anne intended it as a cautionary tale. I liked the heroine, Helen, for her strength, morality, spiritual growth, and resourcefulness. Read my review.
The Wind in the Willows
This iconic children’s story I’ve known practically my whole life, but I never actually read it. I’m so glad I finally did. Delightful and ageless, cozy and quaint, it’s a book that lingers in your consciousness long after you’ve read it. It represents some of the best things about British literature: well-crafted writing, engaging characters (in this case, mostly woodland animals), witty dialogue, and idyllic settings where you wish you could live. (If I were a badger or a water rat, that is.) Read my review.
The Sea Keeper’s Daughters
I’ve enjoyed all of the novels I’ve read by Lisa Wingate, but this was my favorite yet. Wingate is one of my modern-day inspirations. I admire many things about her writing: her flowing, descriptive prose; her intricate, interpersonal plots that create tension without cheap suspense; her rounded, unique characters; and the emotional depth she portrays. The Sea Keeper’s Daughters combines two storylines, one contemporary and one 1930s, in a mystery and a race to save a family heirloom building on the North Carolina coast.
The Mind of the Maker
Dorothy L. Sayers
Sayers is one of the most intelligent writers I’ve ever read. This relatively short book had so much wisdom packed into it that I really need to reread it to harvest even more. It compares God’s creativity to our creativity while exploring the tenets of Christianity. It’s a fascinating, eye-opening examination of language, art, and theology and how they are interconnected. Read my review.
Within a month, I read this play, listened to it on Librivox, and watched a live performance at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon with my Oxford Creative Writing Class. I’ve only read a couple of Shakespeare’s plays, so his genius is still new to me, and because I experienced this play in three different ways, I appreciated it even more than otherwise. The performance was unforgettable, and I’ll always associate Julius Caesar with my trip to England.
The Little White Horse
How could a book by Elizabeth Goudge not make it to my top reads list? This children’s book was everything I could wish: well-written, whimsical, descriptive, moral, mysterious, British, set in a grand mansion in the English countryside, and peopled by wonderful characters. It includes a touch of magic, mainly to do with a family curse and magical creatures, but that just adds to the appealing storyline. This would probably have been my favorite book growing up if I’d read it during those years. Read my review.
Yeshua Matters and Israel Matters
I really appreciated the solid theological insights in these two books by First Fruits of Zion author Jacob Fronczak. Delving into the Jewish roots of our faith, he emphasizes our Messiah, His identity, and how He fulfilled Scripture in Yeshua Matters, and the history and continued significance of God’s people Israel in Israel Matters. Read my review of Yeshua Matters.
Reading a thick classic gives me a quiet thrill that no other book can give. Spending so much time in an intricately crafted world gives me the feel of living a dual life. The protagonists, Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam, stepped up to second place on my list of favorite literary couples (after Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars of Sense and Sensibility). I was struck by Dickens’s masterful writing and by these two characters’ strength and goodness in the midst of endless challenges, including a hapless father in a London debtor’s prison and a heartless mother with a crime on her conscience.
Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
There’s nothing like a missionary biography to renew your passion and encourage you to continue following God with all your heart. Not only did God’s Smuggler accomplish that for me, it was an enjoyable, exciting read. It built my faith as I witnessed how Brother Andrew heard the Lord’s voice and acted in faith and courage to bless God’s people and expand His Kingdom.
The Siege of Jerusalem and Window on Mount Zion
I’m always fascinated by Israel’s history because it so clearly shows God at work in the world. I especially valued these books by Pauline Rose, written in the mid-twentieth century, because Rose was a Messianic Jew with a desire to see God and her fellow Jews fully reconciled. She provides a glimpse into the nation’s struggles in its early decades of modern independence (1940s-1960s) and recounts God’s miracles in her life and in the life of the nation. Read my review of The Siege of Jerusalem and Window on Mount Zion.
And now, for the special category of six books that impacted me the most this year (and in the case of one of them, the past couple of years):
The Vintage Jane Austen Series
Emmeline (Sarah Holman), Second Impressions (Hannah Scheele and other authors), Suit and Suitability (Kelsey Bryant), Bellevere House (Sarah Scheele), Perception (Emily Ann Benedict), and Presumption and Partiality (Rebekah Jones)
If you follow me or any of these authors, you’ve probably become familiar with this series over the course of 2017, so I won’t go into details of how the impacted me; you already know! This has definitely been the highlight of my short writing career thus far, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.
Happy end-of-2017! What books impacted you most this year?
Happy end-of-2017! What books impacted you most this year?