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
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
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.
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.)
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.