I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2016

The ten best books I read in 2016- A Christian homeschool mom's perspective

I read a few best sellers this year. Many I liked. But, a few I did not. In fact, two particular books stood out to me as big fat bombs. 

I read two books this year, both lauded by the Christian literary elite as the best-of-the-best for 2016, and I did not like either one of them.

The first book was one that everyone...and I mean e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e raved about. It was (and still is) on all the lists and has won all the buzz. But, I just didn't like it. Not even a little bit. I didn't like the writing style. I didn't relate to the theme. I reeeeallly wanted to like it so that I could be one of the cool kids. But, I just couldn't deal.

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And the second one? Well, that one was an exceptionally well-worded book by a best-selling writer who can string sentences and paint a narrative picture like few others. However, that particular book was quite possibly the largest compilation of narcissism I have ever read. The entire thing was draped in self-deprecation to such a degree that nearly every single sentence began with the word "I"...or at least that's how it began to feel by the middle of the second chapter. Because the truth is, conceit and insecurity really aren't that different. They both start and end with self.

The book wore the same sad trappings of so many "Christian" self-help books on the market today...Love Yourself. Find Yourself. Be The Best Version of Yourself. But that idea isn't even Scriptural. God never tells us to "love ourselves." On the contrary, He knows that humanity has NEVER had trouble loving ourselves. We love ourselves so much that we forget His greatest commandment: love Him and love others.

Ironically, the Christian writer somehow forgot to include Christ in her book. He played such a bit part that should her words ever be made into a screen play, Christ wouldn't even be given the roll of an extra. He'd be one of the Kraft Services food cart attendants.

I read these two "best" books and began to question my ability to select a good book. If these were the "best" and I hated them, could my top picks actually be trusted?

Well, I'll let you be the judge. Here's the list of my top 10 favorite books I read in 2016.

10- Give Your Child the World

By Jamie Martin

Admittedly, this book is really just a glorified book list with a very inviting cover. But, I love the personal stories that mark the first half of the book and also the wide variety of literary selections designed to help you travel the world with your kids without ever leaving your sofa. 

9- What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

By Laura Vanderkam

2016 found me using my mornings much more successfully than every before. After turning the last page of this book, I began getting up about an hour earlier each day. I used that time to exercise regularly, prepare a couple of new conference workshops, and start writing a book. I'm a year into my new up-before-the-sun routine and I'm still going strong...except in December because of Christmas...and January because a December laziness slump is hard to mend.

Perhaps I need to just skim over this book again. 

8- Trapped in Hitler's Hell

By Anita Dittman

This past spring, I had the privilege of hearing 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, Anita Dittman, speak. She humbly shared miracle after miracle of how God had protected her and how He gave her a future and a hope even in the midst of unbelievable tragedy. As the great granddaughter of a German Jew, I was an absolute puddle in my chair the entire time she spoke. Before I even left the event that day, I knew I just had to read her book. 

It was not necessarily the best written work, but it was such a raw, honest look at Dittman's pain, healing, and forgiveness.

7- A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

By Linda Sue Park

I realize that this New York Times bestseller is a kids' book. I get it. But, I was doing a little book vetting for my daughter and oldest son a few months back when I came upon this title on a few trusted book lists. I cracked open the first few pages and just never stopped reading. Based on the true story of a Sudanese refugee in the late 1980s, this book will build empathy, compassion, and diversity into just about anyone.

6- Preparing Him for the Other Woman

By Sheri Rose Shepherd

Apparently, 2016 was the year of the re-read. I read this book several years ago when my first son was a toddler. I loved the practical, age-appropriate suggestions the author gave to help mothers train boys to be great husbands and fathers someday.

Since my oldest is now a tween and I've entered entirely new parenting waters with him, I thought it would be helpful to re-read the book in light of this particular mothering season. 

5- Women Living Well

By Courtney Joseph

While I did not have any significant aha moments while reading this book, I did find myself pondering and assessing my relationship with God and my husband quite a bit. It was while reading Women Living Well that I decided my morning devotional time needed a jumpstart and that I needed to start dating my man again

4- The Purpose-Drive Life

By Rick Warren

I read this book back in my early twenties and really enjoyed it. Now, in my late(r) thirties, I thought it might be good to revisit it. My life has certainly taken on new twists and turns in these last ten years, and my purposes and passions have too. So, I figured a fresh look at this book would help give me direction. I read it alongside my two best friends for our weekly Bible study and found myself taking copious notes...again.

3- Making Money Mom

By Crystal Paine

You may have noticed a few changes to The Unlikely Homeschool this past year...a few contributing writers, some guest posts, a bi-monthly newsletter, to name a few. Much of those small tweaks came about after reading this book. While this blog is primarily a ministry, it is also my livelihood. Crystal Paine offered up a fair share of practical tips and an even greater amount of encouraging words in her latest money-savvy HOW TO to help give me the nudge I needed to getter done.

2- Killing Lincoln

By Bill O'Reilly

I'm not gonna lie, I spent several months pushing Killing Lincoln as my drug of choice onto anyone and everyone I met. Perhaps it is because I went to Gettysburg this last spring, or that I'm an accidental history buff (Homeschooling will do that to you.), or because I have a secret fetish for presidential potpourri...whatever the reason, I absolutely loved this book. And through most of the fall, I simply would not rest until I had told everyone...ev-er-y-one...to read it. It quite literally rewrote everything I thought I knew about the death of Lincoln.

1- The Life-Giving Home

By Sally Clarkson

At the risk of sounding way to cavalier with the word "best," I think this could quite possibly be one of the BEST books I've ever read...in my adult life, anyway. It was like a breath of fresh air. Sally and Sarah Clarkson brought such a lovely perspective to homemaking and gave great practical suggestions for creating a home where family and friends can commune with each other and with God. Their words were the catalyst for a few very specific decisions I made this year like hosting a mom's back-to-homeschool party and a mother-daughter tea. Their book was a great reminder of the importance of eternal investments.

2016 was marked by best-sellers...ones I loved and ones I loathed. 

How about you? Did you read any books worth sharing or steering clear of this past year?


  1. Oh, how I would love to know the titles of the two books you did not like! The Life-Giving Home is patiently waiting on my shelf, and I'm just as eager to get started with it this year. I know what you mean about wanting to tell everyone to "read this book" -- I have a few of those. I tell every new homeschooling mama to read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, and I'm currently working on Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins -- I'm REALLY feeling that way with this one! A non-homeschooling book I always want to tell people they absolutely have to read (but gets much less reception) is The Naked Truth: The Naked Communist - Revisited by James C. Bowers, which is an analysis of a section of the book The Naked Communist. It is eye-opening and challenged my thinking about the "progression" of American society, just as Killing Lincoln changed your perspective. Here's a link to it, since apparently there are other books of the same title:

    1. I'm actually reading Mere Motherhood right now and am absolutely loving it! I've not heard of The Naked Communist. I'll have to look into that one.

  2. I also would love to know the 2 books you didn't like 😊 I have my guess as to one of them! I love historical reads (whether historical fiction, based on true story, biography, etc), but I couldn't stand one that I read this year that everyone seems to think was great (Everyone Brave is Forgiven). But, anyhow, I LOVE The Life-Giving Home! S much so that I'm rereading it this year, a month at a time, a month in advance! Sally Clarkson has a new book coming out as well that I preordered, Different. I'm thinking it may help me with my challenging child, who I am sure would be "labeled" if he were in public school (we homeschool as well).

    1. I have Different on my TO READ list this year too. I have one out-of-the-box kiddo that I know would be "labeled" if he were in public school. I'm so glad I get to homeschool him. I can only imagine how his path would go if I couldn't.

  3. Oh, I'm currently reading Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins as well 😊

  4. Mindy, thanks for the tip on The Naked Communist Revisited by Bowers!

    I am also reading Mere Motherhood and enjoying it.

  5. My favorite books that I read in 2016 were Friends of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury (historical fiction) and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert--that book was very motivating to the writer in me. I'll have to check out The Lifegiving Home-- sounds great!

  6. I read a fascinating book this year called, Dear Leader... It's about North Korea, written by a man who was formerly a member of the North Korean government and who later escaped into China. I couldn't put it down. Such a rare peek into such an unknown and desperately tragic country.

    1. Hmmm...sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing. I'll have to look into that one.

  7. Of course, I'd love to know the books you hated ;-)

    I have at least half of these books in my to be read pile for the next few months.

    1. Two big name Christian authors with big name Christian titles.

  8. Have pondered a great deal lately on what it means to have 'healthy self-love' according to Jesus's words to love Him, and love others...as we love ourselves. I think that the selfless agape love of Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit as a pure, humble, giving love looks very different from what the world (and many Christians) know as 'love'. And that our identity of who we are in Christ brings us to a place of being able to love Him and others with His pure love because we do not attempt to seek it in 'unhealty love ways'. Thank you for inspiring book titles!

  9. I was recommended to read all the books by a certain woman author who is VERY popular right now. I felt the same way about those books as you sound about the ones you didn't like. I think our culture has missed the mark on "loving ourselves". We focus so much on self-esteem, self-love, self-healing, etc. even being pushed to teach our children the same, we are only left focusing on, surprise, self. Which I honestly believes just furthers our problems. That said, my favorite reads this year (well re-reads) was Death by Living (I forget the author) and Love Does by Bob Goff. :)

    1. Also, I had the Life Giving Home on my Indigo book wish list. Your post just gave me the push I needed to go ahead and buy it. :)

    2. I've heard good things about Death by Living. I've not read it. I'll have to add it to my GoodReads list. Thanks!