Tag: book list (page 2 of 5)

The Best Books I Read in 2019

So. Where did I go, exactly? I wish I could give you a flashy explanation for my sudden, unexplained absence—perhaps one involving time travel? Or the rescue of small, furry animals? But the truth is simpler and somewhat less impressive.

I was procrastinating on this post.

I love writing these posts—looking back on the past year, collecting my favorite titles, taking an opportunity to share books with you I wouldn’t usually cover on this blog. But some (don’t get me wrong, wonderful) changes hampered my usual stream-lined approach: we built a new window seat right where I usually photograph books (yay!), but that altered the lighting in that spot, which meant I had to recalibrate my photography set-up. My brother—who gets lots of props in this post—gave me a laptop (yay!), which meant I had to find my way around a new computer. Also, we all got sick.

Oddly, the form my procrastination took involved re-designing my entire website (no small feat, given the age and girth of this blog). That project was long overdue. (And I am still working out a few kinks on the mobile version!)

But I am sorry for keeping you waiting without explanation. That was, in the words of Captain Jas. Hook, “bad form.” I apologize. I do hope the blog’s newer, prettier look makes up for that somewhat.

There is one last thing I love about writing these annual book lists, though. Can you guess what it is? It’s you! Some of you share your favorite books of the year, either in the comments or by email, and I love hearing which books you loved. I make note of them. I often read them myself. They sometimes wind up on some future edition of “Best Books of My Year” (see the first book on this list).

So, thank you for your patience and for having excellent taste. I hope 2019 treated you well. May 2020 treat you better still.


The Heaven Tree Trilogy, by Edith Pargeter

The Heaven Tree Trilogy, by Edith Pargeter | Little Book, Big Story

Years ago, Christina—a reader in whose debt I shall forever remain—recommended this book to me. I picked it up mid-summer, when I was in the throes of planning for the homeschool-year-that-was-not-to-be and realized with a jolt that I’d gone months without reading anything I didn’t plan to teach. This book is now one of my very favorites.


A Little Book on the Christian Life, by John Calvin

A Little Book on the Christian Life, by John Calvin | Little Book, Big Story

This tiny book is actually a chapter from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. There is much to meditate on in here, much to apply, and oh-so-much to underline.


The Great British Bake Off: Get Baking for Friends and Family

The Great British Bake Off: Get Baking for Friends & Family | Little Book, Big Story

One fateful day, I checked the mail and found this book waiting mysteriously on the porch. My brother had sent it, with the brilliant idea that we indulge our love of The Great British Bake Off and bake our way through the book together. Thus began a winter memorable for nights when our family ate tuna sandwiches for dinner and ornate three-layer cakes for dessert. (No one was sad about that.)


ESV Study Bible

ESV Study Bible | Little Book, Big Story

When I was neck-deep in research for that Christmas article, I rediscovered this study Bible. I had primarily used it for the footnotes before, but this time I dug into the additional articles at the front, back, and middle of the Bible, and wow. This is like Bible Infographics for Kids for adults.


A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton Porter

A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton Porter | Little Book, Big Story

I finally encountered Gene Stratton Porter, and I’m not sorry it happened. A Girl of the Limberlost has been on my radar for years, and though I realized too late that it’s the second book in a pair, I loved it profusely. (Freckles, the first book in the pair, is lovely, too.)


Pie School, by Kate Lebo

Pie School, by Kate Lebo | Little Book, Big Story

I fell for the show Pushing Daisies years and years ago, and ever since I have wanted to bake pies. That is, I have wanted to confidently bake pies, with crusts that don’t crack or turn soggy beneath the filling. I’ve wanted to be so pie savvy I could find as much comfort in whipping up a double-crust pie as I do in eating pie warm from the oven.

Kate Lebo’s book is granting me this superpower. Her recipes are consistently delicious, and she knows just which details an aspiring pie-maker needs to demystify the process. Pie School taught me that ginger + apple = revelation, and that pie crusts are best made by hand and with lard. The next pie on my “to bake” list? Pear and gruyere, a la Charlotte Charles.


The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle

The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle | Little Book, Big Story

I first heard this book mentioned on Aslan’s Library, but it wasn’t until James K. A. Smith referenced it in You Are What You Love that I finally ordered a copy. This book is a collection of prayers (drawn from Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, the works of Augustine, and more) meant to be prayed as “the daily offices” (more about that here). This volume has been an excellent companion through the chillier months of both last year and this year.


Of Other Worlds, by C. S. Lewis

Of Other Worlds, by C. S. Lewis | Little Book, Big Story

If you want to know Lewis’s thoughts on science fiction, you’ll find them in here. Or if you’re interested in his approach to writing for children, that’s in here, too. This was a lovely collection of essays to read throughout the summer, on front porches and such.


Suffering is Never for Nothing, by Elisabeth Elliot

Suffering is Never for Nothing, by Elisabeth Elliot | Little Book, Big Story

This book is the edited transcription of a series of talks Elisabeth Elliot gave on suffering, and reading it is like listening to her talk to you, personally, about some of the hardest things any of us will face. Her tone is tender and direct; her message is beautiful.


What I Love About My Mom

What I Love About Mom | Little Book, Big Story

A few Christmases ago, my brother (still being awesome) gave Lydia and Sarah these books. I found them scattered around their room at various points after that but had no idea that Sarah was patiently, quietly, filling this one up for me until she surprised me with it. She must have known it would make me happy, but she couldn’t have known what a gift it was to me to get to see myself from her nine-year-old perspective for fifty short pages.

You can’t buy one of these filled out by your own kid, I know. But I had to include it on this list, because it most certainly was one of the best books I read this year.


Bonus!

These two have already appeared or will appear on the blog, but I wanted to include them again here because they were so beautifully significant to me. Is it too dramatic to call them “life-changing”? I kind of want to call them that.


Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy, by David & Karen Mains

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains | Little Book, Big Story

Part fairy tale, part fantasy, and with a sprinkling of allegory throughout, Tales of the Kingdom makes our world look different—better, brighter. (Read the full review.)


Hind’s Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

Hind's Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard | Little Book, Big Story

Hannah Hurnard tells the story of young Much-Afraid and the Shepherd who calls her to climb to the High Places (think Pilgrim’s Progress, but gentler somehow). Oh, it’s beautiful, and this edition—with its gorgeous illustrations and back-of-the-book essays—does the story justice.

A Giant List of Christmas Favorites

I love gathering information into neat little piles. It sometimes surprises people to learn that as arty and right-brained as I am, I enjoy spreadsheets and lists and charts, but it’s true: I make sense of ideas by sorting and labeling them.

I have reached the point with this blog now where I have reviewed so many Christmas books over the years that I find they need their own pile. Today’s post is my attempt to do that: here, for the first time ever, is a complete list of all the Christmas books I’ve reviewed since starting this blog in 2013 (plus a few extras I haven’t reviewed yet!).

A Giant List of Favorite Christmas Books | Little Book, Big Story

I hope this heap of book titles helps you find some new favorites. And, as always, if I’ve missed any of your favorites, please add them in the comments below!

Merry Christmas to you all, and happy Advent reading.


Advent Devotionals for Families

4 Family Devotionals for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

The Advent Jesse Tree, by Dean Lambert Smith
Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski
A Jesus Christmas, by Barbara Reoach
The Littlest Watchman Advent Devotional and Calendar, by Alison Mitchell
Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart, by Bobbie Wolgemuth & Joni Earekson Tada


Nativity Stories

A Very Noisy Christmas, by Tim Thornborough | Little Book, Big Story

The Christmas Promise, by Alison Mitchell
The Stable Where Jesus Was Born, by Rhonda Growler Greene
Song of the Stars, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Who is Coming to Our House?, by Joseph Slate
The Friendly Beasts, by Tomie dePaola
Little One, We Knew You’d Come, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James
Mary’s First Christmas, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
A Very Noisy Christmas, by Tim Thornborough


Other Christmas Stories

An Early American Christmas, by Tomie dePaola
One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham
Good King Wenceslas, by John M. Neale
Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo
Saint Nicholas, by Julie Stiegemeyer
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojcieowski
The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry
Shooting at the Stars, by John Hendrix


Christmas Chapter Books

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever | Little Book, Big Story

The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, by Madeleine L’Engle
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
Christmas With Anne, by L. M. Montgomery

4 Family Devotionals for Advent

One of the advantages of not having fully moved into your house is that you can put your Christmas tree pretty much anywhere. One of the disadvantages is that your Christmas decorations and books are buried somewhere in the shop behind all the other stuff, so you might not have any actual decorations on display at the start of Advent.

Ah, well. But we have a dining room. That’ll do.

We also have a handful of Advent devotionals I’m eager to share with you! At least one of us will be somewhat prepared for Advent this year. (Hint: you.)

4 Family Devotionals for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

The Advent Jesse Treeby Dean Lambert Smith

The Advent Jesse Tree: A Family Devotional for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

This is our tried-and-true, come-back-to-it-every-year favorite. The Advent Jesse Tree walks readers through the whole story of redemption, one day (and one tiny ornament) at a time. You can read my full review of the book here, or learn what a Jesse Tree is and how our family uses ours in this post right here.


A Jesus Christmasby Barbara Reaoch

A Jesus Christmas, by Barbara Reaoch | Little Book, Big Story

This is a brand-new, interactive devotional that reminds me a little of our beloved Exploring the Bible. There is family journaling space with each reading, as well as room to write answers to questions. You could simply read it as a family and ignore the journaling prompts; you could read it and then discuss it and have one person record answers to the questions; or you could do what we plan to do and get all the writers in your family their own copy. (Read the full review.)


The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James

The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

Through the story of the Watchmen, a fictional family tasked with watching and waiting for the Messiah’s coming, Scott James invites families to see what it might have been like for the Israelites to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait for the Messiah. That long wait makes his coming all the more joyous! This is a great devotional for families with young kids. You can even get a (very affordable) Advent calendar and devotional to go along with it. Our family used this book last year and loved it. (Read the full review.)


Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

If Marty Machowski keeps writing awesome devotionals, our family will keep buying them. Prepare Him Room follows the format of Wise Up (more so than, say, Long Story Short), in that it’s a series of daily devotions sprinkled liberally with hymns to sing and projects to do. This one also features a story that draws readers into the celebration. The Gospel saturates everything, as always.

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2018

My reading life didn’t begin with a bang or even a spark last year. It was more like a puff of smoke, drifting in from the year before. Which is to say: at the start of 2018, I read plenty, but few of the books I read in those early months are worth mentioning on this list, and the ones that are worth mentioning have already been mentioned here on the blog.

The rest of my selections seemed to be mostly functional: I read a lot about homeschooling, and I pre-read a lot of middle grade books that went from my nightstand to my daughters’. I read about writing—picture books and poetry this year—but I also spent an embarrassing amount of time reading reviews of paint colors online. And researching light fixtures. And pinning pictures of subway tile.

(A tragic thought: maybe my best reading energy went to Pinterest this year.)

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2018 | Little Book, Big Story

But then we moved out of our house, and I had to pack a single tote filled with everything I might want to read over the course of two nomadic months. It was hard to justify bringing functional books when I rightly suspected that I would need books to a source of both both rest and reinforcement. My portable library became a travelling source of truth, beauty, and goodness. And, excepting only the first one, all of the best books I read this year were in it.

(A thought worth considering: maybe I should read like books are a source of rest and reinforcement more often.)

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2018 | Little Book, Big Story

Writing Picture Booksby Ann Whitford Paul

Writing Picture Books, by Ann Whitford Paul | Little Book, Big Story

I asked a friend where I should start if I wanted to learn more about writing picture books and this is one of the many excellent resources she suggested. Writing Picture Books explores the different components of picture books and the mechanics of making them work, but discusses the music of language and gives some excellent practical advice for revising and tightening manuscripts. This was the class I wanted to take in college but couldn’t find.

Note: I read an older edition of this book but loved it so much I bought and photographed the new one, too, which I haven’t yet read.


Enjoying Godby Tim Chester

Enjoying God, by Tim Chester | Little Book, Big Story

In a year of utilitarian reading, I needed a book like Enjoying God. Tim Chester reminds readers that God doesn’t just intend for us to obey him and follow him but also to enjoy him. According to the Westminster Catechism, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever” is the chief end of man, so this is important stuff. Chester unpacks it well.


The Mistmantle Chronicles, by M. I. McAllister

The Mistmantle Chronicles, by M. I. McAllister | Little Book, Big Story

Go put these on hold at the library! Or, if you find them used, buy them immediately. I’ll explain why soon, I promise.


The Stars: A New Way to See Themby H. A. Rey

The Stars: A New Way to See Them, by H. A. Rey | Little Book, Big Story

Last winter I became besotted by stars. We studied them together during school, and H. A. Rey’s The Stars introduced helped us amateur stargazers make a little more sense of the night sky. Rey (better known for Curious George) has a knack for translating the abstract into the concrete, and his quirky sense of humor and his illustrations serve the subject well here. (Find the Constellations, his picture book for younger readers, is excellent, too.)


You Are What You Loveby James K. A. Smith

You Are What You Love, by James K. A. Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Many of us consider ourselves thinking beings (we think, therefore we are, right?), but James K. A. Smith asks “What if we’re not thinking beings but loving ones?” You Are What You Love  explores the idea that what we love determines far more of our actions and decisions than what we think. Consider the success rate of New Years’ resolutions: if we think we’d better get in shape and come up with a plan for getting up early, etc., but we love comfort and are willing to do pretty much anything to obtain it . . . how long will our plan hold out?

Smith’s thoughts on how liturgy and church life trains our affections was an especially rich part of the book for me as we found ourselves looking, rather abruptly and for the first time in thirteen years, for a church to call home. This book gave me much to ponder and is definitely a re-reader.


The Faithful Spy, by John Hendrix

The Faithful Spy, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

John Hendrix brought his A-game to this one. The Faithful Spy is somewhere in between a graphic novel and a young adult biography, and I can only spottily imagine the amount of work he must have put into researching, writing, lettering and illustrating this fabulous biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The book deserves (and shall have!) its own full-length review.


Botany For Gardenersby Brian Capon

Botany for Gardners, by Brian Capon | Little Book, Big Story

If Mr. Penderwick wrote a botany book for layfolk, it would be this one. I borrowed Botany for Gardeners from the library while researching a writing project and fell for it hard. Capon’s language as he describes cell growth or the emergence of a root tip from a seed is winsome: his delight in plant life is contagious and had me thinking happy thoughts of apical buds and meristems. Though decidedly a science layperson, I bought my own copy of this book and read it lingeringly.


A Blossom in the Desert, by Lilias Trotter

A Blossom in the Desert, by Lilias Trotter | Little Book, Big Story

A few years ago, I read a biography of Lilias Trotter and finished longing to study some of her artwork closely. A Blossom in the Desert is a compilation of both Trotter’s devotional writings and her paintings. I read this while we moved from home to home, and it was a great comfort. Trotter’s words have a way of reorienting one’s heart, as she draws lessons from both Scripture and creation, and connects the two into beautiful parables.

A Blossom in the Desert, by Lilias Trotter | Little Book, Big Story

An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler

An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler | Little Book, Big Story

Tamar Adler does for the egg what Robert Farrar Capon does for the onion: revels in it, writes about it with such delight that I had to poach one myself as soon as possible. An Everlasting Meal is Adler’s collection of food writing, based on M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf and with a nod to Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb. I’m reading this one slowly, not wanting it to end, and carrying it with me whenever I go to the kitchen.


The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs | Little Book, Big Story

This is a simmering book, one I am still reading. When in a season of unrest, when so many things are changing at once, and so many needs seem pressing, it is good to be reminded rather firmly that God is unchanging and in him we have everything we need. This book is a beauty.

14 Fantasy Stories That Nourish the Soul

Good fantasy stories have always felt to me like feasts worth savoring. Those are the stories I reread every few years, the ones that make sense of our world by introducing me to worlds utterly different from ours. I was never able to pinpoint exactly why that should be, though, until I encountered this passage in G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

When we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. . . . These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.

There is something about the delightful aspects of other worlds that makes our own seem more miraculous. We live in a world made from words, and it is filled with lemon-yellow tanagers, intricate columbine, and bugs that, when nudged, roll into armored balls. Is that less amazing that a world where the housework is finished with a wand? On the days when we’re folding laundry by hand, not magic, it seems so. But the best stories remind us of those moments when we first saw snow fall from the sky, and it seemed that anything could happen.

14 Fantasy Stories That Nourish the Soul | Little Book, Big Story

I must point out, of course, that not all fantasy stories are good or beautiful. But there are so many that point toward the beauty of our world, toward the beauty of order (sometimes by contrasting it with chaos), in a way that makes young readers hungry for the good and beautiful. This list features many of my favorites—the stories I reread every few years and share eagerly with my daughters. I hope you find a few new favorites here, too.


The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis | Little Book, Big Story

What better place to start a list of adventures than with The Chronicles of Narnia? This series has children all over the world tapping at the back of closets, hoping—just hoping—to reach Narnia. C.S. Lewis was adept at writing in a half dozen different literary genres, but he shines when writing for children. (Read the full review.)


The Peter Nimble Series, by Jonathan Auxier

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

This series begins with the story of Peter Nimble, a boy blinded as a baby when ravens pecked out his eyes. It continues with the story of Sophie Quire, a bookmender mending books in a city that burns nonsense. But this is not dark, heavy reading. There is exuberance here, and light and bravery and courage! There’s an enchanted horse-cat-knight and a vanished kingdom and a professor named Cake. (Read the full review.)

See also: The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier


The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge | Little Book, Big Story

It is not a coincidence that one of J. K. Rowling’s favorite books landed on our shelves and became one of our favorites, too. In it, Maria Merryweather finds herself in the wonderful (and mysterious) valley surrounding Moonacre Manor. Adventure of the loveliest sort ensues. (Read the full review.)


The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien | Little Book, Big Story

This classic is the granddaddy of the fantasy genre. Bilbo Baggins—not merely “a” hobbit, but The Hobbit, the first hobbit—steps out his front door without a handkerchief and finds the world of Middle Earth far bigger than he expected. (Read the full review.)

See also: The Lord of the Ringsby J.R.R. Tolkien


The 100 Cupboards Series, by N. D. Wilson

The 100 Cupboards series, by N. D. Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

Henry York discovers ninety-nine cupboards of varying sizes and shapes hidden under the plaster of his bedroom wall. Each door leads to a different place, including (but not limited to) Endor, Byzanthamum, Arizona. The first book in this trilogy is fun (and delightfully creepy); the second and third books are unforgettable. (Read the full review.)

See also: Anything else N. D. Wilson has ever written.


The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton | Little Book, Big Story

Quirky and charming, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic introduces us to Persimmony Smudge, the perfectly named heroine of Trafton’s adventure. When she learns that her island is in danger, she sets out to warn the other islanders, but they don’t believe her. (Can you blame them?) This is wonderful read-aloud for all ages. (Read the full review.)

See also: Henry and the Chalk Dragonby Jennifer Trafton


The Redwall Series, by Brian Jacques

The Redwall Books, by Brian Jacques | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah is currently at work on an “about me” book: you know, “I was born,” “I started school,” and so on. It may not surprise you to learn that “Lydia discovers Redwall” is one of the milestones she saw fit to include, as well as “I finished the Redwall series.” That’s a snapshot of our family’s affection for these books. (Read the full review.)


The Green Ember Series, by S. D. Smith

In a few short pages, Heather and Picket (both young bunnies) lose everything and find themselves adrift in a wood corrupted by war. Where will they go next? What will become of them? S.D. Smith tells a story that reads like a modern novel, but is, at its heart, an old-fashioned tale of honor, courage, and hope. There are five books in the series now (not pictured: The Last Archer and Ember Rising), but I’m behind on my reviews! Egad! (Read the full review.)


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Trilogy, by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Trilogy), by Grace Lin | Little Book, Big Story

Grace Lin’s trilogy is a mixed media collage: fantasy, fairy tale, and historical fiction all overlap to create story infused with the colors, flavors, and textures of Lin’s Chinese and Taiiwanese heritage. These books are beautiful from the first page of the first book to the last page of the last one. (Read the full review.)


A Wrinkle in Time Quartet, by Madeliene L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle | Little Book, Big Story

I have reread A Wrinkle in Time every few years since I was in college, and there is a good reason for that. It’s a beautiful book, and the three subsequent books don’t disappoint. (The remaining four books do disappoint a bit, though. Alas.) (Read the full review.)


The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers

The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers | Little Book, Big Story

Jonathan Rogers retells the story of King David, but in a swampy, fantastic setting, and he gets it just right. (It’s worth reading this trilogy just to meet Feechies.) These books also make a great introduction to fantasy for kids who are a bit sensitive, because they aren’t as intense as many other fantasy stories can be. And they are excellent. (Read the full review.)


The Harry Potter Series, by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling | Little Book, Big Story

If The Hobbit is one of the grand-daddies of the fantasy genre, then Harry Potter is the father of the genre as we know it today. J. K. Rowling’s series displays beautifully the contrast between a character who cultivates a mighty gift for good and one who exploits his gift for his own ends. And it does make one hungry for trifle. (Read the full review.)


Breadcrumbsby Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu | Little Book, Big Story

Anne Ursu retells the story of the Snow Queen here, but in an inventive way. Her world is a dreamy, almost-creepy fairy-tale land that merges with the recognizable world in surprising ways. She also deals quietly with issues of divorce and cross-cultural adoption in this book. How one book manages to be all those things, I don’t know, but this one does and it’s beautiful. (Read the full review.)


The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson

The Wingfeather Saga & Wingfeather Tales | Little Book, Big Story

This series is one of my favorites. I cannot speak glowingly enough about it. Go forth and read all four books (and don’t forget to finish the feast with Wingfeather Tales!). (Read the full review.)