Last Wednesday, I posted a full list of the books I read during 2013, but here are my top 10 favorite books for the year, in no particular order. (One of my favorite traditions for the new year!) Since I’ve included links to reviews I previously wrote for most of these books, I’ll not go into great depth in giving a synopsis.
Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes (Shauna Niequist) (Review here)
What do you get when you combine memoir, cookbook, and devotional? Something like Bread & Wine. It wasn’t so much Shauna Niequist’s life experiences that got me thinking, but the underlying thoughts around community and food that helped get the ball rolling in expanding and growing my thinking in these areas.
Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Ross Douthat) (review here)
Douthat’s examination of American Christianity is an important and timely critique. I also recommend reading this in conjunction with Stephen J. Nichol’s Jesus Made in America (my review of that book, here).
Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood (L.R. Knost) (Review here)
Communication is essential in any relationship, including the child-parent relationship. Unfortunately, it’s easy to think our children are not “communicating” during their first years or to read our own projections into their communication in later years. Often, we simply accept cultural views of child development and dismiss the crucial communications as “parenting annoyances” rather than seeing their behavior as communication with us.
While I found each of Knost’s books helpful, I really enjoyed the scope of this book, particularly in covering communication with our children through each stage of growing up. (Similar to this book was How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish), another I really benefited from.)
Twelve Years a Slave (Solomon Northup, Louis Gossett Jr.) (Review here)
This biography of Solomon Northup was recently made into a movie, though I’ve not yet seen it. The book, through the lens of Northup’s own life, is a powerful and telling story of the suffering that many endured during this important era of American history. Kidnapped from a life of relative freedom, Solomon Northup, a free black, was sold into Southern slavery where he was enslaved for twelve years.
C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Alister E. McGrath)
Although I also read Devin Brown’s A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis this past year, I found that I enjoyed McGrath’s biography a little more. McGrath is a theologian of his own repute, and although he did not know Lewis in person, one of the elements that sets his work on Lewis apart from others is that he pinpoints Lewis’s conversion at a different time than other Lewis historians. Whether or not this perspective can be conveyed with finality, McGrath’s biography is undoubtedly comprehensive, captivating, and at points, devotional.
The Last Days of the Incas (Kim MacQuarrie) (Review here)
This book captures an era and geographical region that I had not previously studied in much depth. There are many lessons held in the book, and I was deeply moved by the impressive scale and subsequent fall of the Inca Empire. Of course, the locations, people, and history of this book were of even greater interest following our May and June 2013 travels in the Andean region of Ecuador.
The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) (Review here)
This was a moving piece of young adult fiction. Somewhat surprisingly for the genre, it was deep and moving, though with a few disclaimers for the intended audience.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (Chip Heath, Dan Heath)
Although the topic of this book is primarily about making decisions, the content covers far more, and has a lot of opportunities for cross-pollination, both in business and personal application. (My husband read this as part of his 2014 reading, and has already posted his review here.)
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb) (Review here)
Malala Yousafzai’s memoir gives us many stories: what it is like to live under an oppressive regime, a personal face to a Pakistani who watched American drones fly over and attack nearby villages, how a parent’s encouragement can foster indefatigable drive in the face of persecution, and the power of education. The list could go on, and that’s a good reason to pick up this book.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (Timothy Egan) (Review here)
This is an excellent work on an oft-forgotten piece of tragic American history that may have been preventable. For history, I found this written in a way that was captivating and personal.
This year was a little tougher to choose ten, as I felt like many of the books I read (70 total) were on a similar level: not many stood out above the rest, not many stood out as being horrid books. (Ha! Maybe I should start a “10 worst read of the year!” :))