I had a goal to read 52 books this year, and was able to meet (and surpass!) it. Though there were few that I wouldn't recommend, I've bolded my very favorites. You can click the photos for direct links.
MEMOIRS / BIOGRAPHIES
I could read this genre more than any other. What a joy to peek inside men an women's lives, as they (or others) remember!
1. A Circle of Quiet | This had been on my to-read list for a few years, and I enjoyed it. Written by the author of A Wrinkle in Time (among many other books), it read like a stream of consciousness about art and writing and family and home. It is book one in a series, though I didn't get around to the others... yet.
2. Becoming Elisabeth Elliot | My mother in law gifted this to me, knowing how much I love Elisabeth Elliot, and it didn't disappoint. It's about the first half of her life- up until she leaves the jungle with her daughter- and encouraged my faith (as all books about/by Elisabeth do). I'm looking forward to the part two!
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | I picked this up at our beach house this Summer, and was sucked in completely. What a wonderful, thought-provoking story! I was talking to everyone about it for weeks.
4. A Severe Mercy | A re-read for me, and just as wonderful as the first time around. A beautiful story about love and faith, with a peek into C.S. Lewis's life, too.
5. Left to Tell | This has been on my shelf for years, I must admit, and I can't believe I waited so long to read it. I knew almost nothing about the Rwandan Holocaust before I began this book, and was in shock for days. It led me into some serious questions with the Lord about suffering and pain, which He was so kind to meet me in. I praise Him for Immaculee's life!
6. A Chance to Die | Amy Carmichael was hugely influential to Elisabeth Elliot's faith and I enjoyed learning about her life and mission work in India. Like so many of the books above, this both deepened and challenged my faith. Additionally, it sparked in me a daily prayer for the unreached people groups in India. I may never go to them, but I pray for Amy's work to be continued in the Lord.
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | This was my first Maya Angelou book, and I enjoyed it. She grew up in a different world than I did, which popped my white & upper class bubble beautifully. I need books and influence like this! (There is sexual abuse in her story, which I was glad to know about beforehand.)
8. What is a Girl Worth? | Gymnast Rachael Denhollander's story of sexual abuse at the hands of her doctor. It was eye-opening for me, in the best way, as I learned the psychology of why a victim wouldn't speak up, and then how hard it is to win a case against an offender. I'm so grateful she told her story!
9. Hamilton, the Revolution | I saw Hamilton in January, which led to a deep dive into Alexander Hamilton's life. Robert was so over me reading this book because every five minutes I'd say "did you know...!" I, on the other hand, loved every minute of it! Lin Manuel Miranda is such an incredible artist, isn't he?
10. Alexander Hamilton | At 818 pages, this won for longest book read this year. I thought it would take me a month, but it read quickly and I so enjoyed the history (both in what we know as fact and what remains a mystery). The Revolutionary War period of U.S. history has always been fascinating to me so this only fueled my fire.
I try to limit my novel reading, knowing I'd choose this genre over more edifying book choices if I let myself. Still, a few found their way in this year on vacations and over Christmas break.
11. The Giver of Stars | Not my favorite of Jojo Moyes books, but I did enjoy the idea of traveling librarians and melted into the story quickly. It made for a quick and easy read.
12. The Dutch House | This was the last book I read in 2020, and was a real winner for me. The story was slow, flashing back and forth between the present and the past, with minimal plot line and still-- I was sucked right in, following the precious friendship of sister and brother along. I hear Tom Hanks reads the audiobook version, which would have been delightful if I'd been an audiobook listener.
13. Hannah Coulter | My first Wendell Berry book, but certainly not my last. The writing here is just beautiful and had me underlining paragraphs the whole way through. I can't wait to read more in this series!
14. The Vanishing Half | I saw this on multiple "must read" lists, but did not enjoy it like I thought I might. Don't get me wrong, it was a good novel and met the purpose of easy entertainment, but it was forgettable (for me).
15. The Space Between Words | I borrow this from a family member over the Summer. Though it did more than entertain me for a few days, I did enjoy the story and was surprised by the ending!
16. The Nickel Boys | Based on a true story, I was sucked in to this whole plot line. I'd like to read more of Whitehead's books.
17. My Dear Hamilton | Ah, the Hamilton deep dive continues haha. This is a fiction story, based off of as many real life details as the authors could get, and I soaked up every word. I knew Hamilton was going to die and still-- reading it from Eliza's perspective had me shocked & then sobbing. I loved it!
18. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | I would call this a favorite novel of mine. I've read it multiple times over the last ten years, and always enjoy hearing about life in Brooklyn as a poor child during the first two decades of the 20th century. (Go on and file anything about New York City under "Katie's Favorites")
19. Where the Forest Meets the Stars | I read this at the recommendation of some of you and thoroughly enjoyed it. Easy, a little suspenseful, a good read.
I've found a real passion, here, and learn so much through books on this topic. They tend to be quick reads that I also reference again later. I'm planning a large garden for 2021 so I particularly wanted wisdom on best practices for setting up a space like this.
20. The Complete Gardener | I learn something from every gardening book I read and in this one it was the reminder to plan, plan, plan before I execute. He also made a note about a low spot in his garden, which always floods-- this was helpful, as our yard sits low and I don't want constant flooding here.
21. Fresh Eggs Daily | Okay, not a garden book per se, but chickens and gardens go hand in hand. I learned so much in this little book and can't wait until we have chickens in our backyard!
22. Groundbreaking Food Gardens | A book full of other peoples garden plots. I made note of many layouts and potential vegetables to grow, both. Helpful!
23. Patina Living | Does anyone else follow @velvetandlinen on Instagram? I was completely sucked into their farm at the beginning of this year, and have gleaned so much inspiration from their books, blog, and IG account.
24. Patina Farm | Ditto to above.
25. Month by Month Gardening for Tennessee and Kentucky | A guide for our zone, in particular. There's no sense falling in love with plants that don't grow well here in zone 7!
26. Washington's Gardens at Mount Vernon | Of course, a study on Hamilton led to a study on George Washington, who had incredible gardens. I'd love to visit Mount Vernon one day. With that said, I read this as I also studied racism in our country and looked at his gardens, made by slaves' hands, with a heavy heart.
27. A Year in Flowers | I'm a fan of anything Erin & the Floret team do, and this book was no different. It added to my to-grow list massively, and was inspiring (as all her work is). If you're looking to start a cut flower garden, I can't recommend floretflowers.com more!
An all-encompassing category for me, as almost every book in this list could be placed here. Still, these had a specific focus on Christ and grew me in beautiful, necessary ways.
28. Galatians for You | I read this as I studied the book of Galatians in depth and still find myself thinking about Keller's words. Highly recommend!
29. The Reason for God | I read this after I finished Left to Tell (the book about the Rwandan Holocaust) and really wrestled with the Lord on matters regarding suffering. Not only did these chapters encourage me in my own faith, but they also gave me words to discuss hard issues with non believers. I'll reference this again, I'm sure.
30. Beautifully Distinct | A series of essays on all sorts of topics from many women I've grown to love from afar. It would be a good book to read and discuss with a group.
31. Hind's Feet on High Places | I feel like I've been living under a rock for just discovering this book! It's an allegory of the Christian life, much like Pilgrim's Progress, and is wonderful. The imagery has come to mind repetitively this year.
32. Adorning the Dark | I'm a fan of anything Andrew Peterson does, and this book was no different. His words on the creative process, in particular, were exactly what I needed to read. I underlined much of this book, and took notes on other works of art the mentioned to look into, too.
33. Gentle and Lowly | This book was life-changing. It's one of those books that makes you wonder how you were ever a Christ follower without really knowing his character. I'll never read the Bible the same way.
34. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness | This is more of a pamphlet, really, but I was on a Tim Keller kick so I read this, too.
35. 1 Peter | This was the most scholarly commentary I'd ever read, and I can't say I'd recommend it-- though I did learn so much (including the fact that there are some men and women who think on a completely different level than me).
36. Boundaries for Your Soul | I read this at the encouragement of my husband, and enjoyed it. I think it was part of the catalyst into beginning counseling-- there was only so much I could do with the information I'd gleaned from these pages.
37. Adore | Part book, part daily devotion. Sara is a beautiful writer who draws you straight into the arms of Christ. She taught me to adore, using scripture, years ago. This book would make a wonderful gift.
38. Stop Calling Me Beautiful | I love Phylicia Masonheimer. We see the world similarly, except she's so much smarter than I am haha. I'd love to read this book with a group of younger women!
39. You are the Girl for the Job | This was not the book I needed to read, in particular, but I'll cheer Jess Connolly on all the way! There were many girls at our church who could not stop talking about her words here-- she has such an ability to speak straight to the heart of women.
These books could all fall under the previous category, but I thought it would be helpful to sort them separately.
40. Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross | I read this during the Lenten season. It's a beautiful series of essays. Add it to your list for February if you've never read it!
41. 40 Days of Decrease | I also read this during the Lenten season this year (I'm now not sure why I read two?) and fell in love with Chole's writing. It's also a beautiful book.
42. Hidden Christmas | My Tim Keller kick continued straight into Christmas when I realized I'd never read this book of his before. I didn't learn much, but it was a quick and enjoyable read.
43. The True Saint Nicholas | Our family decided to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day (Dec 6) this year, so I wanted to learn as much about him as I could. As it turns out, much of his life is a mystery, so this book took creative liberties to weave together a wonderful story. It was an entertaining read, though I didn't incorporate much of it into what I taught our children.
44. Treasuring God in our Traditions | I quickly reread this book this year as I prepared to teach on Advent. It's full of wisdom on creating traditions in your home! I took many ideas from Noel the first time I read it, years ago.
45. The Circle of Seasons | If you're interested in following the church calendar, this book is a wonderful read. Beautifully written, she'll suck you right into falling along.
I've been reading books on this topic for a few years now and found myself setting down the books and moving towards action this year. For information, I listened to (so many) podcast episodes and attended local groups like Be the Bridge and The Public- a local organization.
46. Why are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria | Tatum talks a lot about the psychology behind this topic. Her words were eye-opening, and also helpful as I navigate being a white mother to Black children. Her conveyor belt simile on racism was incredibly helpful for me.
47. The New Jim Crow | Most of this book ended up being repeat information for me, as I'd heard Alexander speak on documentaries. Still, the problem of mass incarceration is something that needs to be acknowledges and dealt with. I don't know the answers, but I did commit to pray over this topic each week.
I try not to read too many parenting books, as it can feel like information overload to an unhelpful level. This year, I did find myself looking for help in a few specific areas, though, and was grateful for these resources!
48. The Connected Parent | The Connected Child is a book often recommended in the adoption community, and this sequel was perhaps more helpful than the first. I'd recommend it for any parent, not just an adoptive one, as almost all of us have our our trauma to work through.
49. Homeschool Bravely | I read this as we began to homeschool our kindergartener for the first time. It did not offer me much (at least this year), but maybe it will be a helpful re-read down the road.
50. Awaking Wonder | Sally Clarkson is a spiritual mentor for me (from afar) and I loved this book, as I do with most of her works. She helps me be a more present, joyful mother.
51. From Fear to Love | A fellow adoptive parent recommended this book as one of his favorites. For me, it was meh-- but proof that God uses all sorts of resources to restore our souls and offer us wisdom.
52. Let Them Be Kids | An encouraging book about motherhood and fun and memories. Like her first book, it's packed with ideas to inspire your own family rhythms and traditions. And she's hilarious. I did find myself praising God for the resources (like a flexible schedule, the help of a spouse, extra cash, etc) to do many of these ideas, as I know it isn't the case for everyone.
We read to our children all day long, but these are the chapter books we read at bedtime this year. I read 52 books without them, but do think they deserve their own numbers!
53. Pax | A beautiful novel about a boy and his fox. My 6 year old was tuned in, but it went over our younger boys' heads for sure.
54. The One and Only Ivan | We read this before watching the movie on Disney+ It's written in short, interesting chapters and is really captivating.
55-61 The Logan Family Series | Actually, I didn't read these with the boys, I read them for myself. I remembered reading Roll of Thunder in middle school, and found the books to be weightier as an adult. They paint a helpful picture of life as a Black family in America, and will be a great series to read with our kids when they get older. The Land was my favorite out of all of them.
62-77 (I think) The Roald Dahl Collection | I found this boxset at Costco and decided to read through them with the boys. He uses some language I chose to skip (words like "stupid"), but overall these were delightful to re-read as an adult. I remembered loving The BFG and it was even better than I'd made it out to be!
And there you have it! I keep a record of the books I read on Goodreads- it's helpful to look back over the years.