Wednesday, January 6, 2016

My Favourite Books of 2015

Because I've been bad at blogging my book posts are woefully behind what I've actually read, so there will be books on this list that I haven't yet posted about on the blog, but hope to soon! That being said I just love favourite books of the year posts and since I've been doing them for a couple years now I've got to keep the streak alive -- here's my posts from 2014 and 2013 and whoa -- 2012.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

I did not think I would like this long, fantastical tale of magicians in the nineteenth century but I loved it. It creates a world unto itself with incredible characters while feeling at the same time Dickensian and Jane Austen-ian. (What's the Jane Austen word I'm looking for?) It's a real treat to read and I'm so glad Haley forced me to read it.

The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor

For some reason I had not read this Flannery novel. It must have slipped through the cracks of my Flannery obsession, but reading it is so powerful and moving and shocking like reading all Flannery. This book's protagonist is so unique though, I feel like he really stays with me. Maybe not a perfect first read of Flannery, but if you've read several of her short stories and liked them then this is worth the dive into Southern gothic perfection.

Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset

This is an incredible biography of the great saint by the great writer Sigrid Undset. It took me a long time to read it, but it was so worth it. Undset's view of the Middle Ages is fresh and relevant and I don't think any other writer could make such a complicated time in history so understandable. St. Catherine comes away even more astonishing than we imagine her to be yet very human as well. It's so important that saints lives are portrayed with both the holy and the human.


Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson

I'm putting both these books together because each has a completely different feel. While Gilead makes the reader hope and rejoice in the wisdom of the human experience Home is a heart-breaking story of a man's life. Robinson's writing is really beautiful and I know it can seem slow, but I really think it's rewarding enough to keep on if at first you're discouraged.

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids: Motivate, Discipline, and Love Your Children by Art and Lorraine Bennett

This was the only parenting book I read this past year but this one is a great foundational understanding to appreciating and working with our children's different personalities. It's really valuable in understanding our kid's strengths and weakness and also our own strength and weaknesses when it comes to how our own personalities mix with theirs. I really appreciated this approach and I already feel as if I could go back and refresh my mind because there is so much good, common sense in here.

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

This is my favourite Lewis fiction I've ever read. I loved the way he reimagined a myth yet made it completely fascinating. This story makes us probe our own hearts, minds, and motives while not being boring allegory. I really think that every rereading of this book will bring about new insights both to the story and myself.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

It's chick lit, but it's the best chick lit I've read in years and I enjoyed every page. That's all there is to it!

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

I have a thing for survival stories and this one is extremely well done. The writing and portrayal of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for months is fascinating, especially in terms of how their faith sustained them and how our broken human nature is pushed to the edge. I really appreciated the respect and care the author took in writing about these men and their lives, I came away feeling I knew so much more about working class life in Chile and the culture in general.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I didn't read as much non-fiction this year because I was reading this book for about 6 months. It's a giant book about Lincoln, but it's impeccably written and, I thought, engrossing. Abraham Lincoln is basically a saint. His political genius is staggering, but his virtue and ability to work with people in his cabinet -- and don't get me started on those ridiculous Union generals -- without losing his cool, and in turn the Civil War, is hard to believe when we live in such a terrible political climate. This book is a real testament to the power of personal character, especially in public office. (The cover has a quote about Obama loving the book, but I'm about 100% he didn't read a page.)

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

I'm a sucker for Gretchen Rubin, and although I found this book easy to read, it wasn't until after I had finished reading it that I found myself thinking about this book often, and seeing Rubin's ideas and conclusions about habits everywhere. I think this book is really valuable because it makes all the big ideas about habits and personality really easy to understand on a personal level.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I still can't believe how much I enjoyed this book. I pretty much despise science fiction, I thought this book was way too over-hyped because I saw people loving it everywhere, but I thought I'd give it a shot if only to say it was lame. But it wasn't lame! It was hilarious, completely engaging, and decently written as a first novel goes. I even followed most of the science.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

I just loved this book, this story, pretty much everything about it. It is heart wrenching and beautiful, yet hopeful and realistic. Hannah's life is ordinary yet profound. I enjoyed this book even more than the very well done, Jayber Crow also written by Berry and think it's a really good short novel that anyone could pick up and find value in.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

This memoir is beautifully written. I'm so glad Doerr won a Pulitzer because the guy can write. When I wasn't in awe of his sentence composition and imagery I was laughing at his descriptions of parenting life. He's neither starry-eyed over parenthood nor disregards the marvellous moments of transcendent amazement that comes with seeing people you've made be amazing in front of your eyes. It's just a well done book about being a parent. It's also so evocative of life in Rome. I've only visited a short time, but he describes Rome wonderfully.

Any of these your faves too??

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  1. The Royal We was very enjoyable, despite my being quite skeptical of it at first.
    Four Seasons in Rome is waiting for me on hold at the library. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. I've added Hannah Coulter to my list to-read this year, but now I'm thinking of adding St. Catherine of Siena too. I do love the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, and I really enjoy reading saint stories by "secular" authors (like Joan of Arc by Mark Twain and Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel).

  2. I love book recommendation posts! Adding a bunch of these to my to-read list, thank you!

  3. I've never commented on here before, but I love books, and I have been reading your blog for a couple of years, so I figured I would finally say hi :) I first ran into your blog because you were a mom of five young kids and had commented on an NFP post somewhere. At the time I was the mom of four kids and looking into NFP (and now I have five, we'll call her, learning how to do NFP, but she is also my favorite toddler in the whole world). Anyway, that was all a long intro to say that I really love reading about your real life, and also makes me appreciate my shorter US winters more too.

    Also, I just love books too. I haven't read many of these (although I would love to read the Martian, but only for the library, so I am sure it will be available...someday.... I absolutely loved Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, but it took me two tried to actually read it. Seeing that you love its blend of Dickens and Austen, I sure you have already read her, but if not Elizabeth Gaskell is delightful, I especially like North and South (like everyone else), and Cranford, which is wonderful if you like episodic, loosely plotted, character driven stories (which I do, but I know they aren't everyone's favorite). Also loved Hannah Coulter, which I read for a book club. I had been meaning to read a book by Wendell Berry for forever.

  4. You read some good ones this year! I had the same feelings before reading The Martian, but I loved it too!

  5. Gilead is lovely and I just bought Susanna Clarke yesterday! I'm a big fantasy fan (not the serial fantasy) so I'm looking forward to it!

  6. Yes to so many of these! And it was your Goodreads review got me to try The Royal We and you were totally right :)

  7. Yes to so many of these! And it was your Goodreads review got me to try The Royal We and you were totally right :)


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