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Since my son was born December 20, 2010, I read all twelve Christy Miller books (young adult), the three college Christy books (Until Tomorrow, As You Wish, I Promise), and all twelve Sierra Miller (young adult) books. These are all by Robin Jones Gunn, my favorite contemporary author. It was what my brain could handle with small baby.
Here’s what I read in the rest of 2011!
1. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist – This came highly recommended by several friends. I won’t say the essays made me think quite like Anne Lamott‘s do, but they are interesting and heart-warming. I look forward to reading Bittersweet.
2. Fearless by Max Lucado – Again, not the earth-shattering read I expected … but I love Lucado’s down-to-earth style and storytelling. I’m glad I read this book and I plan to reference it back when I get in the depths of fear.
3. Don’t Make Me Count to Three: A Mom’s Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline by Ginger Plowman – You may see a lot of books about disciplining children this year! I have entered the age of parenting a crazy strong-willed toddler. I did like the idea behind this book: knowing the biblical WHY when we are disciplining our kids. Libbie has already started to recite, “The Bible says obey Mommy and Daddy.” But the author really stresses spanking. While I am not totally anti-spanking, I don’t think it should be our first response. And I’m not sure I buy her reasoning since it is all Old Testament-based.
4. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy – Binchy is one of my favorite authors and it’s been a while since I got to indulge in one of her novels. I thought I was reading her “new” book until I found out it came out in 2008. Guess I’ve been a little busy since then with children! I loved this novel of hers. She used a lot of characters from Scarlet Feather, Evening Class, and Nights of Rain and Stars … I only wish I had read those recently enough that I could remember the characters! It made me want to go back and read Rain and Stars.
5. Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo – Just what I needed to read right now. Amazing tale of the author’s son, who literally visited heaven during a near-death experience. I think everyone should read this. Because Heaven IS for real, and sometimes we don’t act like it is.
6. Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs – I had never read anything by this prolific Christian author before, but the description of this book as a retelling of Ruth grabbed my attention. I loved it to pieces; the only fault in my opinion is the Scottish dialect being a little hard to read. I just don’t love reading dialect.
7. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult – I spent the first half of this book wondering just how much of The Green Mile she was going to rip off … but in the end, it took a different turn and I did finish it and enjoy it. I guessed the surprise twist long before it happened, but perhaps that’s inevitable after reading too many Picoults. (I believe this one was my ninth.)
8. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
9. Welcome to the Great Mysterious by Lorna Landvik
10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
11. Departures by Robin Jones Gunn
12. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
13. Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy
14. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
15. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
16. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson
17. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
18. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman
19. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
20. The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
21. Olive Kitteridge by Amy Strout
22. Protection for Hire by Camy Tang
23. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
24. Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman
25. Dreaming in Black and White by Laura Jensen Walker
26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – A wonderful true-life story. Well, maybe wonderful isn’t the right word. Skloot tells the background story of a woman whose life – and death – have been invaluable to science cell research. Henrietta Lacks died in her early thirties of cervical cancer, and her cells became the first cells that wouldn’t die. Her HeLa cells fuel cell research to this day. And her family didn’t even know until twenty years after her death. Skloot merges the family history, past and present, with the history of cell research. It was heavy on the science in some parts for me, but totally worth the read.
27. A Penny for Your Thoughts by Mindy Starns Clark – I absolutely loved Clark’s series that starts with The Trouble with Tulip. By far, I wasn’t as in love with this book. Perhaps it was the lack of any real romantic storyline. In this series, Callie is a young, widowed investigator who works for a mysterious millionaire wishing to endow needy non-profits. She gets stuck investigating a murder when the gentleman who was getting the check instead ends up getting killed. I might go further in the series, but I’m thinking I’ve already guessed the twist … so we’ll see.
28. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – There are very few times where I wish I was still in college just so I could discuss a book, but reading this was one of those times. Atwood’s dystopian universe is so fascinating, her writing so intense, the main character of Offred so interesting that it’s hard to put down. In this society, “handmaids” are women who had previously had children and are now forced to bed new men as a sort of mistress, in the hopes of giving them the child their wives could not provide. Way too complicated to explain here, but I would highly recommend it. Certainly not light beach reading, but not heavy enough that you won’t want to stay up til 2 a.m. to find out what happens!
29. Summer Snow by Nicole Baart – I picked this up off my grandmother’s bookshelf for a lighter read during the Thanksgiving break. Baart is a super-talented writer, and now I want to read everything else she’s written! This is Christian fiction, but her characters are so real I can see them, and her writing is just exquisite. Now I’m anxious to read the prequel to this one, After the Leaves Fall.
30. Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks – Brooks is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, and it shows. I’ve read every one of her fiction books, and they are all incredible. There are SO many historical details in each, along with vivid characters and gorgeous, lyrical writing. Caleb’s Crossing takes place in the 1600s on the island of Cape Cod, as the colonists have just occupied it along with the Native Americans. The story centers on the relationship between a young Native American boy and the daughter of the missionary-preacher on the island. Read it. That is all. Then read everything else Brooks has written.
31. Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon – the first in her Father Tim series. Enjoyable, happy, heart-warming. Good for Christmas breaks!
32. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf – I zipped through this book, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it or would recommend it. Is that strange? The story takes place over two days with a lot of flashing back. Two girls, best friends, one a selective mute, have disappeared from their homes before dawn. We follow the points-of-views of several characters: the girls, their parents, a sibling, a deputy. I was interested in the mystery but not especially sympathetic toward the characters. I think it would have helped to have the story develop before they go missing. I don’t know! Have you read it? [After glancing at some Amazon reviews, I think they hit the nail on the head: the writing is just a little amateurish and the author didn’t develop different voices for each character.]
33. After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart – I am only disappointed that I didn’t read this before I read Summer Snow (its sequel). The storyline isn’t anything super-original, but Baart’s writing is just so good I don’t care. I think she could write about James K. Polk and I would still read it and be fascinated.
34 & 35. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (audiobooks) by Suzanne Collins – Mr. V and I drove overnight twice during our Christmas travels. And that requires something really interesting to keep you awake. The Hunger Games was definitely it! While we found these two books leaning toward teenage angst and introspection a little too often, the first book definitely deserved the hype. They are innovative and interesting to say the least!
36. In the Company of Others by Jan Karon – I have loved reading every other Jan Karon book in the Mitford and Father Tim series, but this one I just couldn’t get into. I think having three distinct sets of characters didn’t help, plus I don’t enjoy reading dialect very much. I made it through to the end, but it’s not one I would especially recommend.