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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Reads of 2015

Another year draws to a close. Ever since October or so, I’ve been absurdly excited about my last blog post of the year, because I have a tradition of listing my top reads of 2015. Usually I do fifteen books, but this year I couldn’t trim the list lower than seventeen. (I read too many good ones this year!) These books all impacted me profoundly in one way or another; they’ll reside in my mind for years to come. I tried to list them more or less in order, but that’s really hard for me to do, so don’t take the order too literally. So…out of almost sixty books, here are the TOP SEVENTEEN.

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
Melanie Rehak
I had so much fun revisiting my girlhood fictional hero, Nancy Drew. In a thoroughly engaging manner, this book presented lots of what there is to know about the history of her existence.
The Challengers Beauty for Ashes The Patch of Blue Rainbow Cottage
The Challengers, Beauty for Ashes, The Patch of Blue, Rainbow Cottage
Grace Livingston Hill
Together, these four sweet Christian romance books, published in the 1930s, enhanced my feel for and understanding of the 1930s American experience.

The Moonstone
The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
A forerunner of the “detective” genre, this thick Victorian novel had intrigue on basically every page. It combined Eastern mystery, an old country estate with secrets in northeast England, and the maze of London with the puzzle of a missing diamond and a romance in turmoil.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
This children’s classic that I ought to have read years ago was fun, quirky, and strangely insightful.

Heidi (Heidi, #1)
Johanna Spyri
Ditto on this children’s classic, only it was a bit more life-altering than Alice. The Christian lesson was heart-warming, and it made me long for beauty—in nature, in simple living, and in helping others.

From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome
From the Dark to the Dawn
Alicia A. Willis
This impacting book took me back to ancient Rome and the persecution of the early Christians. It strengthened my resolve to live for God and to be a witness of Him.
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
John Milton
This epic poem reaches across the centuries. I especially loved the latter half of the book; besides understanding it more than the first half, I thought the Biblical themes put into lyrical verse was lovely and profound.

Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children
Caught Up in a Story
Sarah Clarkson
I thoroughly enjoyed this nonfiction book about reading, particularly choosing good books for kids to read. I closely identified with the author’s reading journey, and came away with a strengthened understanding and conviction of how essential reading good books is. It’s called being “story-formed.”

Grace Triumphant: A Tale of the Slave Trade
Grace Triumphant
Alicia A. Willis
Like Alicia Willis’s other books, this novel, about the 1700s British slave trade, was exciting, convicting, and encouraging. I was always on pins and needles over what would happen next. The characters felt so real. And the spiritual lessons—they were serious and rich.

Catherine Marshall
This well-written and -researched novel about a rural Pennsylvania factory town in the Great Depression was very powerful and hard to put down. What made it absolutely fantastic was how hard-hitting spiritual themes were woven into the very fabric of the story.

Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt
Day of Atonement
David deSilva
This novel about the Maccabean Revolt filled a hole in historical fiction that I always wanted filled. It was well-researched and detailed, and gave me a better understanding of how Israel could have slid into assimilation with the Greeks in inter-testament times. The ending was powerful and made me more determined than ever to stand for God’s ways.

The Map Across Time (The Gates of Heaven, #2)
The Map Across Time
C. S. Lakin
This lengthy fantasy adventure was one long joy to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style, world-building, and characters of C. S. Lakin, especially the myriad of ways she alluded to Scripture and ancient Hebrew. Although it’s the second in a series, it felt strong enough to stand on its own. So much adventure, so many twists, so much mystery, so many beautiful descriptions and lessons….

A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness & a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression
The Secret Gift
Ted Gup
This nonfiction memoir-type book was extremely helpful for my Great Depression research, being about Canton, Ohio (the setting of my WIP), in the 1930s. Not only was it helpful, it was extremely touching as the author explored a fascinating true story and traced the many lives connected to it.

Least of All Saints
Least of All Saints
Grace Irwin
The top four are difficult to order, but I’ll do my best. This was an incredibly well-written Christian novel from the 1950s. The author starts out with a distinctive premise—that of an intellectual unbeliever who becomes a Methodist minister because he believes the tenets of Christian living are compelling, even if he doesn’t believe in God. What follows is a thought-provoking, character-driven story that left me strengthened in my faith.

Les Misérables
Les Miserables
Victor Hugo
Finally reading this beloved classic, I was able to see what all the hype was about. It was truly a solid, satisfying, memorable read. Although I did read an abridged version (the vast majority of versions are abridged), it was plenty long enough. The scope of this story was incredible. Jean Valjean is a wonderful character!

The Dean's Watch
The Dean’s Watch
Elizabeth Goudge
With breathtakingly beautiful prose, Goudge weaves a heart-warming, thought-provoking story about the enigmatic Dean of a city in the northeast England fen country. The spiritual lessons sent chills down me, and the author’s writing style is the most beautiful I’ve ever read!

The Scent of Water
The Scent of Water
Elizabeth Goudge
Although I may have liked the story of The Dean’s Watch a tad better, The Scent of Water had several scenes of beauty in it that touched me to the core. Plus, it was my first Goudge novel; thus, it was the most impacting. Set in England, the story took place contemporaneously to when it was written (1950s, early 1960s) and involved a retired teacher searching for something more to life.

What were some of your top reads of 2015? Which of the books on my list have you read, and what did you think of them?


  1. Yay! I love lists of books, especially end-of-year BEST OF round ups! ^_^ I've been so busy, I haven't even THOUGHT of mine yet. o.o I'll have to get on that this week. XD

    It's so hard narrowing down, isn't it!

    I really want to try some Elizabeth Goudge... I've heard great things of her. :) I think I read The Bronze Bow a looong time ago but have no memory of it... I really must try something of hers soon! Maybe The Little White Horse... Those sound interesting too. :)

    The Map of Time sounds amazing! :O I'd never heard of it before you mentioned it... I'll have to see if I can find a copy somewhere! :)

    Sounds like you read some great books this year, and I hope the next year of reading will be even more wonderful! ^_^ Thanks for sharing! <3

    1. I'm sorry I didn't reply earlier!
      I love lists of books, too! I enjoyed yours!
      You would love Elizabeth Goudge, I think. Especially The Little White Horse, from what I've heard of it. I haven't read it yet, but I hope to this year. (The Bronze Bow is actually by Elizabeth George Speare...there are so many authors named Elizabeth! And with "G" in their name, too! Elizabeth Gaskell is another of my favorite authors, and I get hers and Elizabeth Goudge's names mixed up often.) :)

      Yes, I think you would enjoy The Map Across Time, too!
      Thanks for commenting!!

    2. Ohhh, that's RIGHT. *facepalm* Yeah, the Elizabeth G's get confusing. XD I remember Goudge and The Bronze Bow being mentioned as good by someone, and I sorta mixed them up in my head. :P I'm normally pretty good about author names. o.o Thanks for correcting me! :D