Category: Grown-Ups (page 1 of 3)

Where I Find Our Favorite Books

High school was, for me and many others—maybe even you—a time of reining in. An exhilarating bass line, indigo eyeliner, the perfect shade of peroxide blonde: I could rave about these without compromising my carefully researched, deliberately executed image. But I savored in silence the pleasure of baking a just-jiggly cheesecake. I read Les Miserables and parts of it thrilled me, but I kept my delight tamped down.

One couldn’t gush about the Wrong Things.

Browse | Little Book, Big Story

But now, I’m grown up, and though adults do still feel pressure to like the Right Things, that pressure doesn’t bind the way it used to. So many of us love and geek out over and dedicate our life’s work to our own strange, specific passions: Edwardian cosmetics; a rare butterfly; an elegant line of code. That our enthusiasms are so strikingly different seems to me one of the beauties of our humanity. I may not understand your passion for the stark lines of minimalist furniture, but heck. I love listening to you talk about it.

Here, we gush about children’s books. I love sharing that with you. It’s true that, like my daughters after an unseemly binge on Halloween candy, I do most of the talking, but you’re great listeners and when you do chime in, you have the best things to say. Today’s post is meant to give you a greater share in the conversation, because instead of sharing a book with you that I think you should read, I’m going to pull back the curtain on some of my favorite places to find great books. I’m going to take you straight to the sources. But I want to ask you, too: where do you find your favorite book recommendations? Where do you find great books for cheap?

My list is compiled below.

Where I Find Our Favorite Books: A list of booklists and resources for finding beautiful books for pretty cheap | Little Book, Big Story

Prepare to be overwhelmed.

Read-Aloud Revival

Read-Aloud Revival | Little Book, Big Story

Surely, this one doesn’t surprise you. But the range of ways to find books through the Read-Aloud Revival might. Perhaps you find yourself indiscriminately ordering books while listening to an episode of the podcast, or you subscribe to the mailing list and receive a new list of seasonal favorites each month.

You could browse their (regularly updated) list of favorite read-alouds, or, if you’re a member, you might visit their forum to solicit recommendations for specific ages or situations (you might even contribute a few recommendations while you’re at it!).

If you’re into audio books, you might browse their list of Librivox favorites or their list of current Audible deals. That’s a wealth of ideas right there, and I’m almost positive I’ve forgotten one.

Westminster Bookstore

Westminster Bookstore | Little Book, Big Story

This carefully curated bookstore from Westminster Theological Seminary is one of my favorite places to find new books. If they endorse a book, I will probably buy it without doing further research, and I have yet to purchase a book from them that I didn’t love. (In fact, I was researching a book recently and the fact that Westminster didn’t offer it gave me pause.)

Of course, I realize that many of you share my love of literature but not my exact theological leanings, so I would encourage you to learn more about WTS before purchasing books unreservedly from their store. But if Reformed theology is your cup of tea, you love church history, and you thought The Biggest Story was brilliant, then I highly recommend subscribing to their mailing list. They regularly run deals on new releases, and I can say without exaggerating that a great number of the books featured on this blog were purchased (at 50-70% off!) in one of their sales.

The Rabbit Room Store

This beautifully curated store is filled with books I either own or wish I owned.  They offer worthy titles from other publishers, but Rabbit Room Press has also released a number of  beloved books, like Henry and the Chalk Dragon, The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog, and, of course, The Wingfeather Saga (written by Rabbit Room founder Andrew Peterson). Get thee on their mailing list, and you’ll be the first to know about sales and such.

The rest of the website, founded by Andrew Peterson, is full of equally lovely, hand-picked content.

Ambleside Online

AmblesideOnline Book Lists | Little Book, Big Story

One of my great struggles as a book-loving parent is keeping Lydia supplied with books that challenge her but don’t expose her to content she isn’t read to contend with yet. But just when I feared that she would tread water with Nancy Drew forever and never climb out of that pool, I discovered the AO reading lists. Our nook on the library’s hold shelf hasn’t been empty since.

Be warned, though: the AmblesideOnline website is a little hard to navigate, especially if you don’t use their curriculum. But the books on these lists are worth the work! Here’s how you hop straight to them: from the home page, click “AmblesideOnline Curriculum.” In the left toolbar, click the link that corresponds with your child’s approximate grade level. You should reach a page that looks a little like this:

AmblesideOnline Book Lists | Little Book, Big Story

Scroll down until you see a heading that reads “Literature.” That list and the lengthy one following it (“Additional Books For Free Reading”) are your gold mine.

AmblesideOnline Book Lists | Little Book, Big Story

If you wince when you read the first titles on the list, keep scrolling! The range on these lists is huge: Year 2 starts with Pilgrim’s Progress in the original language, but it also includes with Frog & Toad and The Courage of Sarah Noble. So don’t worry: you’re bound to find books that fit your child perfectly.

Story Warren

Story Warren is the creation of SD Smith, author of the Green Ember series, and it’s a haven of beautifully-written, thoughtful reviews of books and other media of various types. You might come for the book reviews, but you’ll stay for the gorgeous blog posts. (And you’ll probably go home with a wooden rabbit sword.)

House Full of Bookworms

House Full of Bookworms | Little Book, Big Story

Carolyn Leiloglou reviews books all across the spectrum—good, mediocre, and bad—with the idea of sparing overworked parents the trouble of reading the latest trendy series before recommending it to a child. I look here when I come across a book I want a trusted opinion on but don’t feel up to reading. Sometimes I look here when I have a book all picked out and want to know how Carolyn liked it. And her list of “Best Books for Every Age” is an excellent, printable resource.

See also: Common Sense Media

In a vein similar to House Full of Bookworms, this site features reviews of popular books, music, movies, and more, but these reviews are written by other parents. I peek in here when choosing new shows for the girls, since I’m far less likely to pre-watch than I am to pre-read.

Common Sense Media is a great resource, but do read discerningly: as parents we all have different comfort levels with different topics, so I would encourage you to look beyond the star ratings and take the time to read a few reviews before deciding to introduce or avoid a particular book.

Amazon Recommendations

This might seem obvious, but one of the ways I most consistently find  great new books is by browsing Amazon. Dang, but their recommendations are (usually) right up my alley.

Aslan’s Library

Aslan's Library | Little Book, Big Story

This was the blog that got me started, and though Sarah and Haley no longer write new posts, Aslan’s Library is still a wealth of beautiful, rich book recommendations. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to spend some time with their site: you’ll probably  come across titles that you wouldn’t have looked at twice on Amazon but that their thoughtful reviews compel you toward. It’s certainly happened to me.

ChristianBook.com

This site offers a wide range of stuff, some of which I would happily never purchase, but they do sometimes have great deals on truly great books. This is another mailing list worth subscribing to!

Books about Books

7 of My Favorite Books About Books | Little Book, Big Story

I shared some of my favorites in an earlier post titled “7 of My Favorite Books About Books.” They’re all still awesome.

Favorite Publishers

Patrol Books | Little Book, Big Story

One last group that I like to keep an eye on are publishers that release reliably awesome books. If you notice that a number of your favorite books share a publisher, subscribe to the publisher’s email list. Haunt their store. Watch for new releases. You may not love everything they launch, but you’re bound to find a few favorite books this way. Two publishers I keep tabs on are Patrol Books and The Good Book Company.


Where have you found your favorite books? Inquiring minds want to know!

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom

The newest issue of Deeply Rooted arrived at my house last week, and since then I’ve loved flipping through its pages, sampling articles and admiring artwork. I’m anticipating a nap time some day in the near future, when I may sit out on the front porch and read with my feet on the porch railing and a cat in my lap.

But that probably won’t happen. I’ll probably read this issue in the pick-up line at school or in bits and pieces throughout the day.

And that’s okay. Deeply Rooted is a magazine meant for women who want deep refreshment in small bites and for women who are able to linger over the articles, savoring them like a feast.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom | Little Book, Big Story

My article for this issue, titled “The Good Gift of Feeling Left Out,” was a hard one to write:

Being a member of a church is not unlike being married. The first few years for me were like something from the end of a story, where the heroine decides that at last, after everything she’s been through, all is well. I was glad to be there with my husband, making friends and singing my heart out to old hymns and understanding new things about God with the suddenness of a light switched on in a dark room. All was well.

But a membership covenant is no more an end to things than a wedding is. Five or six years into life at our church, I found myself wondering uncomfortably if those early years were not an epilogue but a prelude to something much bigger, something I had not fully understood when I signed up.

We have been a part of our church for twelve years now (that’s much of my adult life, most of my married life, and all of my time as a mom), and in those years we have experienced a lot of joy in deep fellowship. We have also suffered some deep, deep wounds. Writing this article hurt, and I think that’s a good thing. Submitting it brought a measure of relief, and seeing it in print felt even better.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom | Little Book, Big Story

But that piece is only one in a curated collection of works. Lexy Sauvé wrote a beautiful piece titled “Thoughts From a Recovering Minimalist.” Dianne Jago assembled a playlist of music by Christian artists for people who aren’t overly fond of the usual Christian music (sound familiar?). And my dear friend Jennifer Harris contributed her first piece, a rich and satisfying look at how we can sow seeds of wisdom in our children. (You can order a copy of this issue here.)

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom | Little Book, Big Story

Whether you read it in a leisurely manner or in bits and pieces, I hope this issue of Deeply Rooted is a blessing to you, too!


Issue 11: Wisdom
Deeply Rooted Magazine

The Best Books I Read in 2016

When I spend time with my favorite moms, we ask a lot of questions of each other. Mine tend to focus around housekeeping, a subject that has perplexed me well into adulthood: “But when do you clean? Why are your floors so shiny?”

Very few people ask me for tips about housework, which is probably wise. They do, however, ask me a lot about reading: what am I reading, what should they read, and, most often, when do I read. My answer to that last one is simple: whenever I can. I read in the pick-up line, the bathtub, in bed, while nursing, while waiting for the pasta to cook (this may answer the housekeeping questions, actually). I read during naptime and in those rare moments when everyone is playing contentedly outside and no one is looking at me or needing me for anything. I am always armed with a book, even if it’s just a pocket-sized book of poetry.
Of all the books I read in 2016, I liked these 10 the best | Little Book, Big Story

This year was a year of reading everywhere. Many of these books were finished in bits and pieces in unlikely places, because that is what life is like with two school-aged children, one toddler, and a baby: bits and pieces. I read nonfiction, deep and rich, and started keeping a commonplace book for the first time. I read a lot of great kids’ books, too, and many of my favorites from this year have already appeared on the blog.

But here are ten books that I haven’t shared yet, ten that I thought you, dear parents, might like for yourselves:

The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon

The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon | Little Book, Big Story

I’m hard pressed to know what to call The Supper of the Lamb: part cookbook (with recipes), part meditation on the beauty of creation, part opinionated treatise on cooking techniques, part endearing glimpse into the life of an Episcopalian priest in the 1960s, this book made me laugh aloud, spring for new wooden spoons, and stare with wonder at an ordinary onion.

Teaching From Rest, by Sarah Mackenzie

This book on homeschooling, by the beloved host of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, plunges beneath the technical details of how to do it and into the depths of why we do it. Her heart for connection with her kids is contagious, and I love her big-picture perspective on education and where we, as moms and educators, place our priorities. This is a short book, but it’s a rich one, and it’s worth reading whether you’ve been homeschooling for years or are just starting to wonder if it might be for you. (I loaned this one out, so alas! I could not photograph it for you.)

Pilgrim’s Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge

Pilgrim's Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge | Little Book, Big Story

This is the second book in The Eliot Family Trilogy, and all three of the books are worth reading. But in Caught Up in a Story, Sarah Clarkson singles out this book for her recommendation, and I can see why: by telling the story of a post-WWII family who buys and restores an old pilgrim inn, Elizabeth Goudge paints a beautiful picture of what a home is and how a good one transforms us.

(Also: resist the urge to judge this book by its cover. That’s a strong urge, I know. But fight it! The book is lovely inside.)

Letters & Life, by Bret Lott

Letters and Life, by Bret Lott | Little Book, Big Story

Confession: I am still reading this one. But when Lott opened his book on writing with the Apostle’s Creed, anchoring his view of art in the solid ground of theology, he endeared himself to me immediately. His tone throughout the book is warm and wonderful, as he explores who artists are within our culture and as created beings. He quotes Francis Schaeffer at length, while calling him, “that old Hobbit-like fellow in the knickers and sporting the funky little white beard” and shares stories from his life that made me giggle and read them aloud to Mitch. I’m reading this one slowly on purpose, and I can already tell that it’s joined the canon of Books I Re-Read Every Few Years.

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien | Little Book, Big Story

Speaking of hobbits and books I re-read every few years, I re-read these books this year. Good news! They’re still amazing.

Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman

Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

By reminding us of God’s ultimate plan for our salvation and of the grand story he’s woven throughout Scripture, Gloria Furman argues that no woman is just a mom. We are all called to work that has eternal significance, even though it seems tethered (rather tightly, at times) to the quotidian work of wiping noses, settling disputes, and fishing Duplos out of the baby’s crib again.

This is another gospel-saturated book from Furman, worth reading and re-reading and heavily underlining. (If you want to know more about Gloria Furman, you can read my interview with her here.)

A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness

A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness | Little Book, Big Story

The story of Lilias Trotter, a woman who followed God’s call to Algeria though it meant laying down her work as an artist to serve as a missionary, is one that’s dear to my heart. Though God calls many of us to surrender our gifts to him so he can cultivate and use them in his own way, that surrender is completely contrary to our culture’s cries to “Dream Big” and forge our own success. I found it encouraging to read about God’s faithfulness in Lilias’s life, and to see how her surrender gave God room to use her gifts in ways she couldn’t have foreseen. (I have written about Lilias Trotter here on the blog before. Twice.)

A Whole Lot of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures, The Memoirs) | Little Book, Big Story

We re-watched all the seasons of Sherlock this year, and that drove me back to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. Some of these I had read already; some I encountered for the first time. All of them are masterful pieces of fiction, perfect for reading with tea, under fleecey blankets, while the wind rattles the bare branches outside.

The Life-Giving Home, by Sarah and Sally Clarkson

The Life-Giving Home, by Sally and Sarah Clarkson | Little Book, Big Story

This book, by mother and daughter team Sally and Sarah Clarkson, reminds us why traditions and little bits of beauty in the home matter so much to our souls. Every chapter takes readers through one month of the year, touching on seasons and holidays and providing a library’s worth of ways we can show love to those in our home. Some are practical, some are lavish, but none are required: this books gives us a feast to pick and choose from without burdening us with guilt over what we cannot do. This book reads like an updated version of Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking (one of my favorites).

Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot

Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot | Little Book, Big Story

Anything by Elisabeth Elliot is, of course, deep and beautiful and dripping wisdom. I picked this up in the later stages of Advent and decided that I should probably read it every December: as a collection of excerpts from Elliot’s newsletters, this reads almost like a devotional, almost like an anthology of brief essays, and exactly like a precursor to blog posts.


What About you? What beautiful books did you discover this year?

Advent: What It Is & Why We Love It

Over tea, a friend recently told me that she had never heard of Advent until last year, when she and her husband showed up to church one day and found blue and violet clothes draped behind the cross at our church and candles everywhere. She covertly googled “what is advent” as our pastor began his sermon.

She told me this story and both of us laughed, but I find myself coming back to that conversation, because I, too, showed up for church one Sunday in December years ago and found that Advent—whoever that was—had arrived. I am well-acquainted with Advent now, but it was humbling to realize that I have grown so well-acquainted with it that I don’t think to slow down and introduce others to the season as well.

I know you are all from a variety of backgrounds. Some of you grew up celebrating Advent; some of you, like me, grew up celebrating presents. So I want to assume nothing today and tell you all a bit about what Advent is and how we celebrate it as a family.

Advent: What It Is & Why We Love It | Little Book, Big Story

Advent is the season preceding Christmas, when we prepare ourselves for the entrance of our Creator God into his disordered creation. The season officially begins four Sundays before Christmas (that is, last Sunday the 27th), though most of our Advent readings begin on December 1. The important part is that, whether it’s four weeks even or more-or-less four weeks long, we spend that time meditating on the Incarnation of Jesus, both independently and as a family.

There are so, so many ways to do this, both at church and in our homes, but here are a few of our favorites:

We use a Jesse Tree to remind us daily of where Jesus fits in his long lineage of ancestors (and of how surprising it is that God used the people he did to shape that tree). I have written a few posts about that for this blog. If you’re interested, you can learn about what a Jesse tree is and how we use it here. You can learn how to make ornaments for it here.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

We use an Advent calendar in tandem with our Jesse Tree. You can learn more about how we use it and how I made ours here.

DIY Jesse Tree Ornaments | Little Book, Big Story

We light candles each Sunday to mark our progress toward Christmas. Many people use Advent wreaths for this; we use a cheap tea light holder from Ikea that conveniently has four wells for candles. It gets the job done and it’s pretty.

I try to do some devotional reading on my own. Last year, I spent the season studying for and co-writing the Advent series at the Deeply Rooted blog (you can read my posts from that series here, here and here. If you want to know more about why I love Advent so much, they’re a great place to start!). This year, I plan to read through John Piper’s book, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy and Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him. But on the years when I’m feeling less structured, I at least try to read through one of the gospels on my own.

So You Want to Celebrate Advent | Little Book, Big Story

We try to do some sort of service as a family. The older girls usually visit a nursing home with their school and sing carols. I like to serve in the worship team at our church during Advent, though that doesn’t happen every year. But finding some way to use our gifts to bless others, even if it’s just bringing something sweet to the neighbors (sometimes that, honestly, is the extent of our service) is a goal we aim for each year.

Advent Books | Little Book, Big Story

And, of course, we read a lot of beautiful books. I pull out an old favorite from the attic every few days, but I also like to purchase one or two new Christmas books each year to build our library. By the time Christmas rolls around, we’re swimming in beautiful stories about Jesus. If you’re looking for some of our favorites, you can read this list, or you can peruse the “Christmas” section of this blog. The Read-Aloud Revival podcast also has a lovely episode all about Christmas books that aired last year, full of great ideas for how and when to read with your family.

Advent: What It Is & Why We Love It | Little Book, Big Story

There. That’s a flyover view of how our family celebrates Advent. I’ll be back next week with more beautiful Advent books and resources for you.

Does your family celebrate Advent? Do you have any favorite traditions to share?

Looking for the Gospel in Good Songs

I grew up on good music.

My mom favored folk singers; my dad introduced me to everyone from Louis Armstrong to Michael Jackson to Nirvana. By the time I held my first guitar, I had a wealth of influences to draw on and didn’t have to wonder what made a good song good—I knew what to listen for. That I would write my own songs seemed inevitable.

I want to give my own daughters that same sort of creative foundation, but with one alteration: I want them to know the classics, but I want to introduce them, first, to artists who tuck the gospel into their music, who inscribe on their lyrics and compositions Bach’s inscription, “Soli Deo Gloria.” Glory to God alone.

Looking for the Gospel in Good Songs | Little Book, Big Story

At home we listen to everything from Billie Holiday to the Black Keys, but in our minivan I have a captive audience, and so I curate our travelling collection in the same way I curate our home library: the songs we hear while buckled up together are the ones whose lyrics will take root in our daughters’ young hearts, the ones that become part of our family’s collective memory. I want them to be good songs, creative songs that nourish our souls. I put a lot of thought into which albums make it into the van, and while not all of the artists in our collection are exclusively (or overtly) Christian, most of them are.

We listen to Liz Vice (her music is one of my favorite discoveries of the past year) and Josh Garrels. We listen to JJ Heller, of course, and 16 Horsepower, an old favorite from before we married. The Gray Havens captured the girls’ imaginations with their story-songs, and the music of Ordinary Time has been with us through all manner of seasons. (It goes without saying that Slugs & Bugs and Songs for Saplings are in heavy rotation, too!)

Looking for the Gospel in Good Songs | Little Book, Big Story

Not every song on this list has made it into the van yet—some are still waiting on my Amazon wishlist for their moment to come. But they are all good songs, by artists who use their gifts to tell again the story of who God is and what he has done, and to tell it in fresh and creative ways.

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. —Johann Sebastian Bach

Slugs and Bugs (Giveaway!) | Sing the Bible, Vol. 2

Around New Year’s the ground on our side of the state was still muddy and gray, so we went to the mountains in search of snow. On the way there we sang merrily, knowing that our road ended at a cabin in the mountains full of good friends, a woodstove, and steaming mugs of hot cocoa. No matter how long the day or how red our cheeks from the cold, there would at least be good company and hot cocoa.

And sledding.

Sledding! | Little Book, Big Story

The road home was less magical: traffic slowed to a crawl for most of the journey (we were not the only ones snow-hunting that weekend), and the trip that took six hours going was a grueling nine-and-a-half hour ordeal coming home. What saved our sanity, in the end, was pineapple pizza, a ball of play foam, a roll of paper towels, and Slugs and Bugs.

We had given the girls Sing the Bible, Vol. 1 and Under Where? for Christmas, and while we savored them on our way to the cabin, we depended upon them on the way home. The antics of Randall Goodgame, Andrew Peterson, Sally Lloyd-Jones and others kept us laughing when little else seemed funny—when the snacks ran low, when the toddler got loud, when the continued presence of seatbelts began to oppress us all—and reminded us to rejoice in the Lord always.

Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible 2 (Giveaway!) | Little Book, Big Story

These albums have hardly left our CD player since that trip. I listen to them when I’m in the car alone, delighting in the stellar musicianship (that harmonica in “New Testament Song“!) and brilliant lyrics, and I make sure to queue up a favorite like “The Wagon Song” for the girls when I pick them up from school. Mitch and I can’t resist singing “I Wanna Help” to Phoebe when she thoughtfully dumps all the hardware on the floor for Mitch while he’s trying to assemble her toddler bed. These songs have already become part of the collective, musical culture of our family.

Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible 2 (Giveaway!) | Little Book, Big Story

But we’re ready for more. How timely, then, that Slugs and Bugs’ Sing the Bible, Vol. 2 released this month! This album has a different sound from Vol. 1, featuring as it does a gospel choir rather than the African Children’s Choir, but it still offers a glorious mix of songs that appeal to kids and to parents: my husband loves “The Ten Commandments”; my daughters love “Stars.” I can’t listen to “Raisins” without laughing so hard I cry or to “You Forgave Me” without crying because it’s so beautiful (or perhaps because I’m eight months pregnant, but I’m leaning toward “it’s so beautiful”).

Slugs and Bugs | Little Book, Big Story

Randall Goodgame and his posse clearly delight in what they do, and that delight is infectious. They pull jokes in from other albums and create completely new jokes for this album, while still treating Scripture as something living and active, to be handled with a sense of reverence and awe. I am most grateful for them in the moments when I hear our daughters (even the littlest one) singing Scripture to one another as they play.

But though I could go on at even greater length about how wonderful this new album is in the hope that you’ll go purchase a copy of your own, I get to do something a little different today: I get to give one copy of Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible, Vol. 2 away to one of you instead! How lovely is that? Details on how to enter the giveaway are below.

Enter to win a free copy of Slugs and Bugs' new album, Sing the Bible 2! | Little Book, Big Story

How to Enter the Giveaway

Enter your info into the form below and complete as many of the possible options as you like: share, follow, or comment away! On March 17, a winner will be randomly chosen and notified by email (and if you aren’t notified promptly, please allow me a little extra grace: our baby is due that weekend). Best of luck to you!

 


Sing the Bible, Vol. 2
Slugs & Bugs (2016)

Of all the books I read in 2015, I liked these 10 the best

For a while there, our house felt like my favorite bookstore. The shelves lining our living room and small hallway were full; the tops of the shelves were full; the floor to either side of them were full of books. I like that atmosphere in a used bookstore, but in a home I’m tasked with keeping clean, it’s less charming: stacks of books on the floor turn into trails of paperbacks throughout the house, ending wherever the two-year-old was seen last.

And so my husband and a good friend built a set of bookshelves to house our wayward paperbacks. They hang above the couch and give our house a different sort of feel, a well-organized library vs. used bookstore sort of feel, and I love it. It’s a treat to look at one shelf and see (almost) all of our books cozied up together. (And it’s a treat, only picking picture books up off the floor at the end of the day.)

Bookshelves | Little Book, Big Story

Complete with toddler-blur!

This year was a year for savoring books. Compared to my list of favorite finds from last year, these books are longer, deeper, and called for more underlining. I read more during nap time, less while nursing, and took the time to read (or reread) a few of those books I’d been meaning to tackle for a while. I read fiction, yes, and nonfiction, too. I read books that called for deep thoughts and others that kept me laughing. With the exception of the books that have been appearing on this blog all year long, here are my ten favorites from 2015:

Of all the books I read in 2015, I liked these 10 the best | Little Book, Big Story

KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER, by Sigrid Undset (Reread)

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset | Little Book, Big Story

I was deeply smitten with this book the first time I read it. And when I combed our shelves for a book to take with us on an overnight trip (without kids!), I found myself wanting to read it again, this time with the ending in mind. Undset’s masterpiece of historical fiction is beautifully written, rich with details about life in medieval Norway and characters that still make my heart ache when I remember them, but when people ask me what it’s about, I find that a single word comes to mind: sin.

Kristin’s story would be a hugely popular love story if it ended with her wedding (young girl defies parents and society’s expectations and marries her lover! The end), but Undset follows Kristin for the rest of her life, chronicling the effects her sin on her marriage, her children, her years as an old woman. That may sound depressing, but it isn’t: this is a gorgeous and redemptive book, worth reading and rereading despite its length.

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset | Little Book, Big Story

Note: Not all translations of this book are created equal! If you’re not completely submerged in the story and deeply in love with Undset’s language, then you’re probably not reading Tiina Nunnally’s translation (pictured). You should fix that. Hers is the best.

THE WINGFEATHER SAGA, by Andrew Peterson

My new favorite series: The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

You’ve heard about this one already. But it has joined the ranks of my very favorite books, so a list of the best books I read this year just wouldn’t be complete without a tip of the hat to The Wingfeather Saga.

DESIRING GODby John Piper

Desiring God, by John Piper | Little Book, Big Story

I tried reading this book years ago but lost steam in the first chapters. When I picked it up this time, it was like sitting down to a feast: Piper packs so much material into each page that I cannot read it without a pen handy for underlining, and every chapter gives me much to consider. This wasn’t a case of me not liking the book, as I originally thought, but of my reading it at the wrong time. This was the right time in my life for Desiring God. I’m savoring it slowly, still reading it paragraph by paragraph.

THE FAMILY COOKS, by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt

The Family Cooks (Cookbook), by Laurie David | Little Book, Big Story

I reviewed David and Uhrenholdt’s first book, The Family Dinner, for the blog this year, and when researching that post discovered that they had a new book out, which I promptly purchased. David is even more fiercely opinionated about food in this book, it’s true, but I love the recipes in The Family Cooks. Their strength is in their simplicity: through them, I’ve finally come to appreciate salad, have reincorporated vegetables into our diet (they had slipped out of it somehow), and have learned at last how to roast a simple, flavorful chicken breast. My daughters love helping me cook from this book, too, so it’s taken up semi-permanent residence on my cookbook stand.

OPENNESS UNHINDERED, by Rosaria Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield is a timely writer: before coming to Christ, she was a lesbian and queer theory professor, and her perspective on some of the most controversial topics facing Christians today is not divisive, but saturated with grace. Though this books tackles issues like homosexuality and sexual identity, I found that the most compelling chapters covered struggles faced by all Christians, regardless of the particular shape of our temptations: How should we confront sin? How do we accept grace? How can we truly love our neighbors?

Butterfield writes like a woman who knows how to read a text and how to articulate her thoughts (like a professor, I suppose), and those gifts served her well in writing this book. This is one that I’ll return to over the years, I’m sure, and it’s one that I bullied a few friends into buying because it is just that good. In fact, my copy is currently loaned out, so I wasn’t able to photograph it for this post.

PEACE LIKE A RIVER, by Leif Enger

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a beautiful blend of fiction and theology, recommended to me by many friends who said, “You like Gilead and Hannah Coulter? [I most certainly do.] Then you’ll love Peace Like a River.” They were right, my friends. So right.

THE THINGS OF EARTH, by Joe Rigney

The Things of Earth, by Joe Rigney | Little Book, Big Story

I loved everything about this book. I loved Rigney’s examination of how we can glorify God through enjoying his gifts, and I loved his writing style. I found myself wishing that more authors wrote about theology with the obvious joy and delight of Joe Rigney and was sorry to see this book end.

CAUGHT UP IN A STORY, by Sarah Clarkson

Caught Up in a Story, by Sarah Clarkson | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah Clarkson looks at childhood as a story, with an exposition, rising action, crisis, falling action and denouement.  This is a skinny book, but it gave me much to think about—and many books to buy. Each chapter closes with a list of books suited to that particular stage of childhood, so I can thank Clarkson for introducing me to some lovely new books and to renewing my interest in Hannah Coulter and The Wind in the Willows.

OUR MUTUAL FRIENDby Charles Dickens

Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens | Little Book, Big Story

I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up, only that it was by Dickens and I was in the mood for Dickens. But oh, my goodness! The twists in this plot, the subtle shades of the characters, the way Dickens gives us only the details we need when we need them—the man was such a master that even his lesser known books are incredible feats of storytelling. I won’t tell you more: I don’t want to rob you of the pleasure of discovering the story for yourself. But I will warn you not to watch the mini-series or even glance at its summary until you have finished Our Mutual Friend. There are some aspects of the plot that cannot be translated onto the screen.

WALKING ON WATER, by Madeleine L’Engle (Reread)

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L'Engle | Little Book, Big Story

I reread Walking on Water every few years. L’Engle’s “Reflections on Faith and Art” are lovely—loosely organized and sure to reignite certain fires in me that need periodic feeding. Her words on children’s literature and on her life as a writer have shaped the way I view the call and craft of writing. This is a beautiful book, and because I read it when I was young, I sit here now, writing passionately for you about children’s books.

What about you? What wonderful books did you discover this year?