bookFrom Books to eReader

I pressed my finger on the page of a book and waited. Puzzled, I wondered why the definition to the word under my finger hadn’t popped up yet. And then I realized what I had done. I sheepishly looked around the living room, hoping no one else had noticed that the book I held in my hands had actual pages.

When I first started using a Kindle six or seven years ago, I never dreamed that an eReader would eventually hold the majority of the books that I read in one year. This year, out of the 110 books that I read, 84 of them were electronic. I listened to 11 audiobooks whilst driving. I only held 15 actual books in my hands—no wonder I confused the function of page and screen.

Choosing my favorite reads for all of the excellent books that I read over the course of the year is akin to asking me to choose my favorite student or favorite daughter. Impossible! Instead, I present to you the books that had the most impact on me in 2016, by category (so you can skip to the category that interests you the most).

Biography: Audible

I listened to most of the biographies and history books while driving back from Alaska this summer. Strangely enough, the books I downloaded from Audible all seemed to dovetail together into two categories: History between the early 1900s and World War II and the history of post Civil War racism.What were your favorite books of 2016? #amreading http://wp.me/p7W1vk-8S

Of all the historical titles that I listened to, I liked The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh and the Epic Age of Flight, by Winston Groom the best. The author tells the history of modern aviation through the biographies of the men who changed the history of aviation.

The next one I listened to, The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, tells about the first month of the Great War (WWI). Of all the books I listened to, this one reinforces the stupidity of war and the senseless suffering that megalomaniacs inflict on the rest of us. It also set the stage for understanding the political milieu of Germany that Erik Larson relates in In the Garden of Beasts. I can’t say I liked this book, but it certainly helped me understand the rise of Nazi Germany.

While I understand that racism is alive and well in the United States today, I have never looked at how the actions of the majority towards the minority actually shape the character and thoughts of the minority. For example, I had no idea that racism existed outside of the South.

Call me naïve, but I grew up mostly in the West (with about four years in the South), so it came as a shock to discover that Detroit, MI had race riots (as well as Tulsa, OK) in the 1920s. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle recounts the tragic story of a young black physician in Detroit who moves his family into an all-white neighborhood in 1925.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson served as a great companion book to Arc of Justice because they take place at roughly the same time and one sheds light on the other much better. These books branch into an area of history of which I knew very little up until this time.

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris—a biography of Theodore Roosevelt. I learned all about the president whose wise leadership lead to a giant increase in our public lands and national parks.

Biography: Book

Massacre at Sand Creek by Gary L. Roberts probably made me think the most. The unique purpose of this book caught my attention—why would a church feel the need to study and make amends for a massacre? Gary Roberts does an artful job of explaining this conundrum, and in the process, helped me understand the history of Western “Civilization” (which isn’t really that civilized). He emphasizes our need for understanding other cultures and being careful to NOT let our ‘ways of seeing’ blind us to the fact that each culture has it’s own way of seeing.

We could save ourselves a lot of heartache if we remembered that our 'way of seeing' is NOT the only way, or even the 'right' way. Click To Tweet

Seven Women by Eric Metaxas—short biographies on seven of the most influential women in history, from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa

Autobiography

The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron and Leslie Wilson (March 21, 2017). The memoir of one of Evril LeBaron’s daughters (he had at least 50 children). I’d never heard of him or his cult before, so this book fascinated me and showed me the power of one person to help or to hinder the development of another.

Shaken, by Tim Tebow—I know enough about football to enjoy the Super Bowl (although the commercials entertain me the most), so Tim Tebow’s book really surprised me. A must-read for youngsters and anyone else interested in how to handle life’s storms.

Non-Fiction

The Bipolar Survival Guide, Second Edition: What You and Your Family Need to Know by David J. Miklowitz, Ph.d. If you have a loved one or family member with bipolar disorder, you need this book. If you don’t believe me, read why.

Religious/Self-Help

Most influential book—Living Forward. I had never heard of the concept of a Life Plan before, and I discovered that putting this book to use has really helped me assess how I spend my time and efforts.

Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengston– Whether you are deeply depressed or think you may suffer from depression, Dr. Bengtson’s book will give you tools you can use right now whilst you seek a therapist or counselor that serves as a good fit for you on your journey to healing. She makes no bones about it—healing takes hard work. But with God on our side, the hope shines through sooner and the journey doesn’t seem as dark.

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. This book inspired me so much that I chose my word of the year from it.

Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. Read this book if you’ve ever felt frustrated and snappish. Oh, wait, that’s all of us!

Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears by Kelly Belarie—a great book on how to step out in faith and fellowship with a sisterhood to overcome your fears.

Inspirational Historical Fiction: Foreign Setting

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen—I loved the combination of mystery, relationships and human weakness all woven together to create a haunting tale. I’ll read this one again!

My students really loved The Silent Songbird, another fascinating fairy tale romp from Melanie Dickerson. Teenage girls (and their mothers and sisters and grandmas) will love the protagonists Evangeline and Westley. Evangeline, the ward of King Richard, longs for a life of freedom in an era when wealthy women served as pawns in political machinations. She takes matters into her own hands when her ward insists that she marry an older man whom she doesn’t trust. She disguises herself and runs away. Her maid, Muriel ends up coming along with her.

The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson This time, the heroine comes from the serving class of a medieval fiefdom. Avalina is a beautiful young woman who has few choices about her destiny in a society where everyone is kept strictly in his or her place. Forced to perpetrate a lie and pretend to be a lady, she must navigate the medieval equivalent of “The Bachelor” while at the same time making sure that the Margrave of Thornbeck feels sympathetic towards her master, the Earl of Plimmwald, without taking any real interest in her. Unfortunately, the Margrave seems to single her out for his attentions at the same time someone seems to single her out for cruel pranks. How long can Avalina live a lie before the truth is revealed, and just what makes a person a ‘lady’ or a gentleman?

My favorite #inspirationalfiction titles from @melanieauthor, @Julie_Klassen Click To Tweet

Inspirational Historical Fiction: Set in the United States

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer— Karen Witemeyer scores again! Lovers of inspirational historical fiction won’t want to miss out on this gem from Witemeyer. The characters sparkle, from their conversations, to their personalities and the compassionate way they handle each situation that arises in their quest to create a safe haven for others.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron— This suspenseful tale of murder, escape, and deep faith will keep the reader up late into the night. Along the way, the reader will learn about an era and a style of entertainment that isn’t often the focus of inspirational fiction. It’s the perfect antidote for an era when Harry Potter, Wicca and the dark side seem to flourish. Wren, the protagonist, has an ironclad faith in God as the only invisible hand available to humans.

The Illusionist also shows how trauma affects our lives in many ways and how each person must find his or her own path to healing through a relationship with God. Wren also discovers that until she learns to seek healing from her past can she cannot enter into a healthy relationship that will shape her future.

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden Stella and Romulus sparkle and shine but are achingly real as they negotiate their attraction for each other and the pitfalls in their pathways. It’s like reading a self-help book on relationships without all the self-help.

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austen—I wanted this book to go on and on. The haunting story kept me turning pages from beginning to end. I don’t usually enjoy books that bounce back and forth between generations and story lines, but Austin does a masterful job of pulling me into both stories. I can relate to both of the main characters and how they struggle with wanting to do their own thing rather than taking time to pray and letting God work things out in his own time.

Amazing reads from Elizabeth Camden, Lynn Austen,‏@KCambronAuthor, and Karen Witemeyer #amreading Click To Tweet

Inspirational Regency Novels

A Spy’s Devotion—lovers of inspirational historical novels will love Melanie Dickerson’s Regency books. The elements of intrigue and danger keep the reader turning pages as the heroine struggles to come to terms with where her devotion should lie—with the relatives who raised her or with the God who promised to sustain her.

A Viscount’s Proposal, a companion book to A Spy’s Devotion, Melanie Dickerson introduces us to Leorah Landgon an atypical Regency-era miss. She’s not looking for a well-connected marriage or a spectacular Season or someone to support her for the rest of her life. She holds out for true love and sees no reason to follow society’s strictures for the sake of snagging a spouse. Edward, the Viscount Withinghall, on the other hand, seeks the perfect politician’s wife and everything about Leorah upsets his sensibilities. Alas, neither of their well-laid plans will come to fruition. A carriage accident leaves them alone in each other’s company for a compromising amount of time. What they do next will surprise and delight the reader.

An Elegant Façade and An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter. If you haven’t read Regencies by Kristi Ann Hunter, you’ve missed out! I loved both of these books

Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah Ladd skillfully combines the cadence of a Regency with the surprise of a suspense novel—leaving the reader unable to put the book down for too long.

Don't miss these #inspirational #Regency novels from @melanieauthor, @KristiAnnHunter and Sarah E. Ladd. Click To Tweet

Literary

Tisha by Robert Specht and Anne Purdy I picked up this book for the second time this summer on my way to Alaska, and it changed my travel plans and made me think.

If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss won’t come out until this summer, but definitely put it on your ‘to read’ list! At first I didn’t like the format—the skipping to different perspectives and time periods. But then I realized the author had woven a tapestry of life during a specific time and place in history, and I got hooked. It’s not an easy book to read, and the reader will feel ambivalence towards many of the characters. The author does a beautiful job of creating characters that both tug at your heart and repel you. Above all, the characters burrow into your soul and cause you to question your beliefs and suppositions about other people.

Contemporary Fiction

The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck A beautiful cross-generational story (and I don’t normally like stories that ‘span generations’) where an abandoned wedding shop ties all the threads together. If you like history, romance and evidence that God works in people’s lives, you’ll like this book!

A Portrait of Emily Price. Like a master painter, Kathrine Reay lays down the layers of this novel with gentle, expressive strokes. At first glance, it seems to be a light Christian romance–but it is so much more. Sure, people fall in love, but it’s more a story of self-understanding and how those around us can help us through our pain and see a true portrait of ourselves. When I reached the last sentence, I wanted the book to continue, I wanted to eat pasta at Coccocino’s and ride a Vespa through Italy. I wanted to know what happens to Joseph. I wasn’t ready to go home.

You won't want to miss these two gems from @RachelHauck and @Katherine_Reay #inspirational Click To Tweet

Suspense

If I Hide by Terri Blackstock. My only complaint about the book is that it ended! The second in a series (If I Run is the first title) picks up right where the first left off. Warning—this one will end abruptly making the reader stew for months on end until the next one comes out. Casey has been accused of a crime she didn’t commit and the victim’s parents have hired a PI to track her  down. The only problem? The longer he hunts for Casey, the more convinced Dylan is that she’s innocent. If only Casey could stay hidden until the truth comes out. But she can’t. This time, a haunting encounter with a little girl convinces her that she has to reveal the truth. Even if it means her capture.

Twilight at Blueberry Farm by Colleen Coble. I love a good suspense book, and Colleen Coble never disappoints. She keeps the reader wondering up to the climax how the plot will resolve. And who (or how many) bad guys lurk out in the blueberry barrens. In addition to a good suspense story, Coble weaves in questions of identity and learning how to appreciate ourselves and the gifts that God gave us.

Silent Night Shadows by Sarah Varland—a fast-paced suspense novel with well-developed characters.

Domino Effect by Davis Bunn. I’m a big Davis Bunn fan, but the first few chapters had me worried. The protagonist, Ester Larson, seemed a bit dull and ordinary. Never fear, though, Bunn wove his customary magic and by the fourth chapter I couldn’t put the book down. Bunn pulls the reader into the drama and danger of the story. He also makes the reader think about one’s own ordinary and how God can use it if we’re only willing to let him work through us.

Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson. There’s nothing like a good who-done-it, and it’s even better when the cases are old and cold. The multiple view points and character development make you feel like you’ve dropped in for dinner with good friends. The suspense will keep you at the table.

I couldn't put these #suspense books from @TerriBlackstock, @davisbunn, Dee Henderson, and @ColleenCoble down. #amreading Click To Tweet

Middle Grade and Young Adult

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart. If you’ve read The Mysterious Benedict Society, you’ll love this book. Stewart weaves the story of a lonely boy, pending peril, and an outgoing heroine into a page-turning tapestry of intrigue, guesses and guess-agains. While this is middle-grade fiction at its best, it’s a riveting read for any age.

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano. When Rachel wakes up in a ditch and eventually stops traffic to get help, she can’t remember the last year of her life. But she’s only been missing for ten days. The story sinks its teeth into the reader and won’t let go until you turn the final page. How does a teenager forget a year of her life? Why does she have track marks on her arm and where do her reflexive skills of self-defense come from? She thought she was a ballerina.

The answers draw Rachel (and the reader) into a bigger, and more sinister mystery than anyone could have imagined. In the end, Rachel must rely on everything she has learned about trust and who she really is. If she doesn’t she won’t be able to save herself nor the other lost girls.

The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass—loved and hated it. You can read why here.

Technically, Melanie Dickerson’s books The Silent Songbird and The Beautiful Pretender count in this category.

The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller. This books represents historical fiction at its finest. A well-crafted book with believable characters that grow throughout the story in ways that are surprising and satisfying.

Don't miss these #YA and #MG novels from @Sbiggswaller, @TrentonLeeStew1, @MerrieDestefano #amreading Click To Tweet

What Next?

So, what should I read now?