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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

my favorite books of 2017

One of my favorite things to do at the start of the new year is look back at my favorite books from the past year. This year of reading was different for me. Especially because it was a year for participating in book launches and having the chance to read some advance reader copies of books, which was wonderful, but oftentimes overwhelming. It was also a year for seriously niching down in what I chose to read, and giving up on books that I didn't enjoy - no matter how badly I wanted to like it. I focused most of the year on reading Christian nonfiction written by women. It was a terrific year of getting to know more authors on Instagram and the community of readers who support them.

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Anyone who has asked me for a novel recommendation has received essentially the same answer: have you read Ginny Moon yet?

Basically, it is the story of a girl with autism who has just been adopted out of the foster care system. She is obsessed with her "baby" who everyone thinks is a baby doll she left behind, but in reality is her baby sister who she hid in a suitcase the day the police came. I wanted to read this novel all in one breath and I had to remind myself that it was okay to stop reading, the speed with which I read it would not determine the outcome of the story. It could have been a lot darker and I appreciated that while some abuse was suggested the story stays firmly planted in the light. The relationships are multidimensional. Her adopted mother is struggling with her, especially after the birth of their baby. Her biological mother is trying to get her back, even though she could not take care of her properly. No one character is really all bad or all good. Highly highly recommend.

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One of my favorite books from the beginning of the year was the novel "Today Will Be Different" by Maria Semple (author of "Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel" which I could not finish. I liked this one so much better.) The story is about Eleanor, a middle-aged woman who is struggling with - just everything - her marriage, her son, her writing deadline, her identity as someone who used to be a bit of a famous TV writer. She promises herself that "today will be different" the only problem is that today she is having a bit of a full-on crisis. I enjoyed the grown-up yet clean feel of this novel. The ending was highly satisfying.
currently only about $5 on kindle

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To be honest, I'm not a huge Sophia Kinsella fan. I read her new book "My Not So Perfect Life" only because I accidentally bought it on the Kindle app on my phone. It was okay, but I didn't love it. This one though - I loved it so much. For example - how is this for a first line:
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This book Finding Audrey is about a teenager who has been through a school trauma, it seems like it was some type of high-school bullying incident, but it was only hinted at throughout the book and not described in any kind of detail. She is struggling with a clinical level of anxiety and always wears her dark glasses, even indoors. She is given a project to help her with her recovery and along the way she finds her voice again. There is some light teen romance. Overall a good fluff read.
Currently only about $5 on kindle.

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Close Enough to Touch was recommended by my dear friend who works at the library, about a librarian - so you know it has to be good. Jubilee is allergic to human touch. For most of her adult life she has lived alone in her little house with her books and her laptop, but after her mother dies suddenly she must get a job. So obviously she gets a job at the library where she meets Eric and his adopted son (who was my favorite character in the whole story). Eric is trying to connect with his estranged teenage daughter by reading all of the books that she read last fall. This book gets my award for absolutely best opening lines ever:
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This is another clean, light romance. A bit sappy, but it has a happy ending so all is forgiven.

Honorary Mention: The Sun Is Also A Star: by the author of Everything, Everything that just came out as a movie. This is about one day that two teens spend together - the daughter of an illegal immigrant from Jamaica who overstayed his visa fighting deportation and a second generation Korean immigrant. The whole story is sweet and cinematic. Not as heavy hitting as We Never Asked For Wings or as dark as Eleanor & Park. The ending was not what I wanted or the best ending I've read this year, but it was overall a satisfying light YA novel.


Memoir is my favorite genre. Almost all of my favorite books are works of memoir, but it can be hit-or-miss when it comes to finding a really good one. Here are the few that made my list of favorites from this year.

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All The Pretty Things was on Emily Freeman's list of favorite books from last year and I ate it up. This is the sweeping story of a life that was burned down and rebuilt again and again both physically and metaphorically. She grew up in the poverty of Appalaichia with an alcholic father, but out of the ashes of her childhood she became a doctor. She burned down her own life with an affair and a divorce but God restored her faith and her family.

Happiness: A Memoir: The Crooked Litte Road to Semi-Ever After

Happiness: a memoir is the story of a young woman who becomes pregnant unexpectedly by a man who is more devoted to his writing career than to her and they spend the pregnancy separated. But when the baby is born with a rare blood disease that requires her to have regular blood transfusions, the three of them slowly transform into a real family. She documents her story through to her daughter completing a bone marrow transplant.

The writing in this story is some of the best that I have read all year and I was completely engrossed in this memoir from cover to cover. As the mother of a medically complicated child who has spent more time in the hospital with my youngest son than with all of my other kids combined, I appreciated her honesty, especially about the anxiety of it all.

Honorable Mention: It's Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too) Her husband has a brain tumor. The bounces around and includes excerpts from her blog. A reflection on how it is okay to not know what we are doing and the importance of embracing the messy, imperfect life that is right in front of us.


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I started reading it's not fair at the end of last year and I loved it so much that I gave away a copy at the begining of the year. It is sarcastic and irreverent and is just the best. I love how real she is, how she quotes The Princess Bride in one breath and in the next is giving some solid spiritual advice.

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I was on the (fantastic) launch team for this wonderful little book. Fiercehearted is a collection of short essays that had be literally in tears. If you've been following my blog for awhile you know that BRAVE has been my word for awhile and this book touched on so many of the things that I have been learning recently.
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At the begining of the year I was blowing up my Instagram about this new release. Brave is the New Beautiful is a collection of stories of women who walked through extraordinary sitations with beautiful bravery. The author also shares some of her own journey with embracing a life of bravery. There are so many stars, hearts and exclamation points where God used this book to reinforce what I have been learning about what it means to truly embrace a life of bravery. It is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching unforgettable book.

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Never Unfriended was one of my first book launch experiences and it definitely spoiled me. It was the book to read at the begining of the year, and for good reason. There have been a bunch of books published on the topic of women's friendships and this is one of the most conversational, relatable ones that I've read. The theme of the book is - if you want better friendships, learn to be a better friend. I found myself nodding along and remembering lessons I've learned the last few years. Just So Good.

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If you follow me on Instagram then you know how much I loved reading of mess and moxie. I read it in car line, and during the baby's bath time and at night after the kids went to bed. The most conversational, let-it-all-hang-out of the books I've read by Jen Hatmaker. It was the book I needed to read at the moment. It was encouraging, funny and girlfriendy. I wouldn't say that it changed me but I did enjoy the read.

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This was the book I needed to read this Christams. I was struggling in a big way this season and this book helped me to not completly loose my mind. I recieved an advance readers copy and read it well ahead of the season. My advice is go ahead and get it now to read next year. This is one of the rare cases where I prefer the kindle version to the paperback version. I also bought a copy of her previous book Loving my Actual Life and have it at the top of my To Be Read list for this new year.

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I was also over the moon to be included in the launch team for the beautiful little book "Reading People" by Anne Bogel the author of the exquisite Modern Mrs Darcy blog and What Should I Read Next? podcast. The book is a primer on the most helpful/popular personality frameworks. It is like sitting over coffee with your smart girlfriend as she explains what it means that she considers herself to be an HSP (that's a Highly Sensitive Person) and that time she and her husband discovered their love languages. I really enjoyed it. It's written from a Christian perspective without being overtly religious.

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Presence was my favorite non-religious nonfiction read of the year. If you haven't heard about Amy Cuddy then click over to her TED talk it is well worth the twenty minutes. Her book expands on the topic of her talk and is very very interesting.

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I got this out of the library during a particularly bad writing slump and it was just the kick in the pants that I needed. I need to write a post about my favorite books on writing. The Courage to Write would definitely be on that list.

Honorable Mention:
Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins combats some of the lies around the idea of the starving artist. I need to re-read this because I read it too quickly. Definitely read with a highlighter nearby.

Road Back to You is a primer for understanding the Enneagram. After I read this I was obsessed with the Enneagram. I read most of this book in one sitting. It definitely helped me in understanding some of the quirks of my kids.


According to Instagram (which is the only way I can remember anything these days) here are my favorite albums for 2017:

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The Garden by Kari Jobe
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Where His Light Was by Kristine DiMarco
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LaLaLand Soundtrack
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I'd love to hear from you - what were some of your favorite books of 2017? Feel free to send me a note and let me know!


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