It’s that time of year! I’ve had so many requests to post this list before Christmas that I now try and get it up before December 1st. Here is the list of books that I read this year, beginning with my top five that I recommend for your reading pleasure. My list does not include my Bible reading, The Cloud of Witness, Charlotte Mason’s 6 Volumes, or school books. Did you read any of these? Let me know if you have any opinions about these titles. If you post your list, feel free to link in the comments. I would love to see what you enjoyed this year. I’ve linked to my lists from the past 9 years at the end just in case you need more ideas.
1, This Beautiful Truth – How God’s Goodness Breaks Into Our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson
After sending out a recent newsletter in which I wrote about beauty, a reader suggested this title to me. (Thank you, Fannie!) This is my favorite sort of book where the author weaves their life story with loads of literary experiences and quotes and shows how everything, the good and the bad, strengthens their faith. I enjoy Sarah’s writing style. But it’s her heartfelt vulnerability while sharing about her struggles with OCD and how Beauty helped her heal that won me over.
2. Art + Faith – A Theology of Making by Makoto Fujimura
“Ranging from the Bible to T.S Eliot, and from Mark Rothko to Japanese Kintsugi technique, he shows how unless we are making something, we cannot know the depth of God’s being and God’s grace permeating our lives. This poignant and beautiful book offers the perspective of someone who comes to spiritual questions always through the prism of art.” (from the dj) As always, Makoto gives us a different perspective to think about. As humans created in God’s image, it’s important to understand the connection and interplay of art and faith. This book greatly impacted one of my children.
3. Lifting the Veil – Imagination and the Kingdom of God by Malcolm Guite
Another wonderful book by Malcolm Guite! I wrote a talk about ten years ago about the role of the imagination in a Charlotte Mason education and continue to read and learn about this topic. The talk ended with a foray into how imagination is a key component to faith. This book is a glorious exploration of the topic! The beautiful artwork that accompanies each chapter truly fed my imagination. And Malcolm’s defense and explanation of the work of William Blake as a Christian is amazing. I have struggled to understand this in the past and want to reread Malcolm’s last chapter. This author always pulls me in and sparks my impulse for more knowledge.
4. The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks
I don’t have my copy in front of me because I loaned it out to my friend, a sheep farmer here in SW MN! The setting for this memoir is the Lake District of England, a place I love and have been to a few times. In fact, the playful and charming sheep that I have encountered there are part of this story. I learned so much while enjoying his literary writing about his journey growing up, going away, and coming home. His sequel, Pastoral Song, is also worth reading. Can sheep farming be a metaphor for the Charlotte Mason educator? I think so!
5. Talking Back to Purity Culture – Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality by Rachel Joy Welcher
My college-age daughter asked me to join a group with her to read and discuss this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was so pleasantly surprised by the author’s assessment of purity culture that was raging around the evangelical world as I raised my first few children. Her emphasis on Scripture (in context) and astute observations of the fallout of this movement are so helpful. True purity is just as important for the young or middle-aged mom as it is for the teenager. Every Christian parent should read this book. And it’s certain to spark some lively conversations with your adult children.
Here’s the rest of the list. An * means I recommend it. As in, if we sat down to tea, I would rave about it and tell you why you should read it.
6. Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan
7. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
8. Aging with Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture by Betters and Hunt
9. Falcons of France by Nordhoff and Hall*
10. The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston
11. Wintering – The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May*
12. Jack by Marilynne Robinson
13. Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth by Thaddeus J. Williams
14. Treasure at Green Knowe by L.M. Boston (this book did not age well!)
15. Redeeming Power – Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church by Diane Langberg
16. Return From Siberia by John Shallman
17. Eat This Book – A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene H. Peterson*
18. Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs
19. Green Victorians – The Simple Life in John Ruskin’s Lake District by Vicky Albritton and Fredrik Albritton Jonsson*
20 Blood and Fire – William and Catherine Booth and Their Salvation Army by Roy Hattersley
21. Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey by James Rebanks*
22. At the Name of Jesus by Sarah Hornsby
23. Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion
24. A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich (reread)*
25. All That’s Good by Hannah Anderson
26. Acedia and me by Kathleen Norris (reread)
27. The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris
28. Delighting In The Trinity by Michael Reeves
Past lists of reading goodness:
Beth Hollmann says
Thank you, Nancy! I always enjoy your reading lists. Now I have to go read the Green Knowe books…lol.
There’s always someone…
I picked up the Green Knowe books because in the book Wintering, the author describes how the first book impacted her as a child in a strange way. Because one of my sweet children had read all of them, I thought I better see what they were about. I liked the first one even though it was a bit mystical/weird. The second one…ummm, no.
Fannie Poulin says
I’m so happy you enjoyed This Beautiful Truth! It really is one of a kind. This year, I’m tackling more difficult books and they are not the kind of books you read with your head on a pillow. I didn’t know reading could be hard work. One of them is Love Thy Body. It’s very well documented with a list of notes that could be a book on its own. As for purity culture, a blogger/author I’ve been following, Sheila Way Gregoire, wrote The Great Sex Rescue. She surveyed 20 000 women and asked them very personal questions. I have yet to read it but I know it’s the only one out there that focuses on the I pact of purity culture on women’s sexuality. A friend of mine recommends it. As always, thank you for sharing your list!
Thank you for sharing with me about it! Those books both sound really interesting and in-depth. I appreciate your recommendations!
My husband enjoyed Delighting in the Trinity. I’m surprised at all the books you read but don’t recommend! Lila and Jack are on my list to read. I have read Housekeeping and Gilead. I struggled through the meandering pages of Gilead but the last few chapters redeemed the book in my estimation. Housekeep was just trippy.
You should read Andrew Peterson’s new book, God of the Garden. I read it in just a few days. He loves Wendell Berry and footpaths/England, so his chapters about place and footpaths were my favorite. I’m adding the sheep book to my wishlist because the Lake District and the Dales are magical places to me and we own Shetland sheep! But I’ve not heard of this book. My husband and I are very much looking forward to BBC James Herriot season two next month. 🙂
I did enjoy Delighting in the Trinity (thanks, Kate!). It’s not that I DON’T recommend the other books (unless I state that), it’s more like I wonder if they have the wider appeal for whatever reason, perhaps? I’ve seen Andrew’s book and will go get it now – thanks for the recommendation. Yessss…can’t wait for the next season of All Creatures, too! And do let me know what you think of The Shepherd’s Life – I think you’ll savor it like I did.
re Talking Back to Purity Culture
A friend and I were just discussing purity culture in reference to a chapter of CM’s volume 5 and Saint Augustine’s City of God, Book 1. I was concluding that no one does purity better than Augustine who goes to great lengths to discuss what purity of body and spirit as well as their relationships to each other. So while I haven’t read Welcher I would recommend book 1 of a City of God for a biblical distillation of purity.
Excellent recommendation, Jayme! Thank you!