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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 2019


Books change me. I'm never quite the same after reading good words. Words make me think. They challenge my set-in-stone beliefs. They show me how to live better in this temporary life and point me to ways I can help others live better too.

I'm never the same ME at the end of a good book. I'm always somehow altered, or at least I should be. Well-crafted words embolden me to stand firm in what I know to be true but also allow me to bend with grace when I need to.


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This past year, I did quite a lot of bending. God used His Word and the words He inspired in others to teach me many things. I am not the same me in January 2020 as I was in January 2019.

Of course, I place the Bible in a league all its own. There are no other words more life-changing and more challenging to my temporary ME than the Truths I have found within its pages these past twelve months. Psalms, Matthew, and 1 & 2 Timothy officially ruined me for anything but the Gospel and God's still small voice in my life.

Beyond that, one quick look at my monthly reading lists shows that my library card got much use. I started around 45 books this past year but only completed 38 because not all the books I cracked open were worth my time. And to be honest, some were good enough to complete, but not great enough to recommend. Here is a list of the cream that rose to the top: my five favorite books in both fiction and non-fiction.

Best of Fiction


5. No One Ever Asked

by Katie Ganshert

This was by far one of the best contemporary Christian fiction books I've read in a long time. It has believable characters, a compelling plot, and unlike most Christian fiction, does not sound contrived and unnecessarily preachy. It not only unpacks the very real struggle of racial tension in this country but also reveals the darker side of adoption that no one ever wants to talk about.


4. Long Way Gone

by Charles Martin

This present-day prodigal son story gives a peek into the relationship of a son and his broken and hurting father. When Cooper O'Conner turns eighteen, he no longer wants to slog his way across the country, playing hymns for his father's tent revivals. He has his sights set on Nashville and the fame that is surely his once he arrives. But life takes a dramatic turn and O'Conner finds himself living on the streets.

I really appreciated this new spin of an old, cherished story.


3. Marilla of Green Gables

by Sarah McCoy

This fan fiction flashes back in time to fill in the gaps of Marilla Cuthbert's childhood: how her mother's untimely death shaped her character and how the budding romance between her and John Blythe that L.M. Montgomery alluded to in her classic, Anne of Green Gables, ended in parted ways. The author does a great job of weaving together the characters of the original series as well as a few key historical events like the abolition of slavery and the clash of rival Canadian political groups.


2. The Nightingale

by Kristin Hannah

This is the story of two sisters and the part they each must learn to play in occupied France during WWII. Like most sisters, they misunderstand each other and don't truly appreciate the sacrifice the other makes to protect the innocent lives of those around them.

I loved how The Nightingale highlighted the silent and unseen work of women during the war. However, it should be noted that due to the nature of the topic, the book includes graphic scenes and language.


1. Before We Were Yours

by Lisa Wingate

I'm not one to toss around padded praise, especially when it comes to books. But, I can honestly say that this book garners one of the top spots of my most-favorite-fictions-of-all-time list. Loosely based on one of America's most notorious child trafficking scandals, Before We Were Yours spans nearly 80 years and tells the story of Rill Foss and her younger siblings who were kidnapped by Georgia Tann famed adoption ring-leader of the Tennessee Children's Home.

Like hundreds of kids who came before and after them, the Foss children are all eventually sold off to wealthy families and are doomed to spend the rest of their lives forgetting one another. That is until someone starts digging into the past.


Best of Non-Fiction


5. Just Open the Door

by Jen Schmidt

Popular (in)courage author and founder of the Becoming Conference, Jen Schmidt has written a book that is one part encouragement and one part invitation. It acts as a rallying cry for the reluctant hostess and shows her how to open her door wide to her friends, family, and neighbors in order to impact the next generation. In addition to the personal stories of others who have taken her open-door challenge, Schmidt has included many Dear Abby style letters from women who have struggled to feel comfortable hosting gatherings at their homes. She answers each inquiry with practical, everyday tips and follows up with a special feature designed to help a woman “elevate the ordinary” in order to not exhaust her limited resources of time, talent, or money.


4. At Home in the World

by Tsh Oxenreider

To be honest, I have some mixed feelings about this travel memoir by Tsh Oxenreider, former homeschool mom who took her family of five on an around the world adventure. Each chapter details their experiences in a new country and the life lessons they learned while visiting. It's a breezy, entertaining book that allows a reader to glimpse the world without leaving the couch. But, at times, it lacks the deep, soul-stirring message of most memoirs and screams of first-world problems. All that said, it is still one of my most favorite reads from the year.


3. The End of the Spear

by Steve Saint

This autobiography of Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint, was my fulfillment of the October "missionary biography" theme for the Storied Mom Reading Challenge.

While the writing was somewhat labored in places, I enjoyed reading about the long term effects of Operation Auca--the attempt of five American missionaries to bring the Gospel to an unreached and "savage" tribe of Ecuadorean natives.


2. Them

by Ben Sasse

For my November pick for the Storied Mom Reading Challenge, I chose this runaway political hit by Nebraskan Senator Ben Sasse. To be clear, I didn't actually read it. I listened to it on the free Libby app from my local library. I only mention that because Them is jam-packed with statistics and social capital "jargon" that might be kind of tedious to read silently. The audio version, however, gives voice to these otherwise apathetic facts and delivers them with a punch.


Sasse seeks to show the layered causes for the collapse of community and friendly discussion in our nation and to provide some bipartisan and non-political suggestions for change.


1. The Gospel Comes With a House Key

by Rosaria Butterfield

One part memoir, and one part mantra, this book is a call to radical hospitality written by a former lesbian who was brought to the gospel through the genuine love and firm truth presented by a family willing to invite her to their table. I appreciate how the author recognized some long-held hypocrisy in the church regarding this divisive topic while not budging one iota on the holiness and righteousness of God.


So there's my list--the best of the best from my 2019 bookshelf. Granted, I didn't always agree with every line I read in any of these titles. But that's all a part of the shaping process. I got to examine what and why I believe the way I do and stand with resolve on the Truth I know to be true, making me stronger than I was before I turned the page. I'm a different ME for having read each of them.

And how about you? What were your favorite reads from this past year?



2 comments:

  1. Great list!

    5 fiction favorites:
    Little Women
    Chasing the Lion - Nancy Kimball
    Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast - Robin McKinley
    True Grit - Charles Portis
    Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers

    5 favorite nonfiction:
    Running for My Life - Lopez Lomong
    Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria Butterfield
    Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Finding Gobi
    All Things Bright and Beautiful - James Herriot

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    Replies
    1. I've heard really great things about Robin McKinley's work but have never read any of it. Thanks for reminding me about Butterfield's first book. I enjoyed her second one sooooo much. Now I need to go back and start with the other one.

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