Many books are dry and dusty, there is no juice in them; and many are soon exhausted, you would no more go back to them than to a squeezed orange; but some have in them an unfailing sap, both from the tree of knowledge and from the tree of life.-from the Preface to Companionable Books by Henry Van Dyke
Here is my annual Reader’s Journal! So many interesting books this year, full of “unfailing sap”! First I share my top 5 picks and then all the others, some of which were great, too. I would love to hear your feedback on some of these titles. My list does not include my Bible reading, The Cloud of Witness, Charlotte Mason’s 6 Volumes, or school books. If you post your list somewhere, feel free to share or link in the comments. I would love to see what you enjoyed this year.
- Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson
Those who have heard me speak on “Joy” know how highly I recommend this book. I feel like all mothers, especially Charlotte Mason moms, will love each well-crafted, stand-alone chapter. She explores many facets of happiness and joy (are they the same or not?) in fresh ways and ends each chapter with movies, music, literature, poetry and more things that will enhance and deepen your appreciation and understanding.
2. The Lord is My Courage by K.J. Ramsey
This is a brilliant book. I really enjoyed Ramsey’s first book, This Too Shall Last, and was excited to read this new title. “Braiding contemplative storytelling, theological reflection, and practical neuroscience, Ramsey reveals a route into connection and joy that begins right where you are.” Using the 23rd Psalm as the framework, she deftly shares her journey to joy and understanding of God.
3. Steeped in Stories by Mitali Perkins
It’s a book about books, so what’s not to love? Mitali Perkins takes seven classic novels as our guides: Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Emily of Deep Valley, The Hobbit, Little Women, A Little Princess, and The Silver Chair. Then she tells us why they were so formative for her as a young person of Bengali heritage. It’s her perspective that is so interesting and compelling, especially as she tells us of the problems in many of these classics and how she then navigated them with her own children.
4. Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
I loved this book. First, the title is from The Lord of the Rings. But as I started to read it, it was a different way of telling a story. Then there was the potty talk. But oh, it is so worth it and thought-provoking. I look at refugees in a different light having read this wonderful book. Buy it for your teens. And read it yourself.
5. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
My husband and I listened (read perfectly by Aidan Kelly) to this novella on a recent road trip. It takes place in 1985 but it feels more like 1885 in this Irish village. An Irish Magdalene Laundry plays a sad and prominent role in this haunting tale that takes place around Christmas time. I loved the ending and we spent time discussing what we thought the characters would react/do next.
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. A Place to Belong by Amber O’Neal Johnston
7. Slightly Foxed No. 70, No. 71, No. 72, No. 73, No. 74, No. 75
8. Rezoom by Susan Peirce Thompson
9. Creatures of Habit – Breaking the Habits Holding You Back from God’s Best by Steve Poe
*10. Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
11. Courage, Dear Heart – Letters to a Weary World by Rebecca K. Reynolds
12. The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson
13. Waymaker by Ann Voskamp
14. Choose Joy by Kay Warren
15. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
*16. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
*17. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson
18. Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John
19. River of the Gods by Candace Millard
*20. The Truth and Beauty by Andrew Klavan
21. Becoming Sage – Cultivating Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality in Midlife by Michelle Van Loon
*22. Christianity and Wokeness by Owen Strachan
*23. Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
24. Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
25. Ambushed! The Assassination Plot Against President Garfield by Gail Jarrow
26. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
27. Exit West: A Novel by Moshin Hamid
28. Ranch Schoolteacher by Eulalia Bourne
*29. Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Jacques Philippe
*30. Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrik Lencioni
*31. The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (reread)
*32. The Best of You by Dr. Alison Cook
Past lists of reading goodness: