2016 in Books 

Happy New Year, everyone!

It may very well be that I only started this blog so I could write annual book wrap-up posts.  I love them.

2016 was an intense reading year for me.  I wrestled with a lot, challenged some long-held beliefs and assumptions and refined my understanding of what it means to be a human being created in God’s image.  Here are some of the highlights (asterisks refer to the number of times I’ve read something, if it was a re-read):

Favorite Family Read-Aloud

A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne   51srx2kzbjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

A dreamy combination of New England country living and vivid Greek mythology, this book is an AO Free Read, but I think it has fostered some of the most discussion, connections and spontaneous narrations of anything we read this past fall.  I relished the imagery and several passages made it into my commonplace.

Most Spiritually Impactful Read

the-broken-way-ann-voskampThe Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

I knew I definitely wanted to read this book when I got around to it, but one day in November I felt an almost overwhelming need to find a copy right away.  I was in a terrible mood, so it’s hard to say confidently that it was the Holy Spirit, who knows, but from the first page, it was an almost instant correction, call to repentance, call to something more, and the truths it preaches have gotten me through a very difficult holiday season.  I don’t usually ask my husband to read my favorite books, because we have very different tastes, but I’ve been begging him to read this one.

I’m also thinking this will become an annual read for me, a ritual I’ve never practiced before but often admired.

Biggest Reading Challenge

Norms and Nobility by David V. Hicks

This book 6b9b5b4270c1d2a6fc8d19ccff9a5b2ajust required such slow, careful, researched reading, but it was worth the time and effort.  The chapter on Christian paideia cleared up some significant questions I’ve had for the last three years about the Christian classical education movement.

Honorable Mention: America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis (this one I labeled a challenge because it addresses some very painful issues in our country that are much easier not to acknowledge, but I found it a very helpful, clarifying read when I pushed through the discomfort).

Most Pleasurable Re-Read

wind-in-the-willows-kenneth-grahame-ernest-h-shepardThe Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame***

This book came alive for me in a big way the third time through, and I absolutely loved reading along with the Close Reads podcast and discussing further on Facebook–one of my comments even got mentioned in an episode!  I developed a new admiration and affection for Mole this time.

  • Honorable Mention: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis** (I read this immediately after finishing a year-long study of Revelation with BSF…a perfect conclusion)

Favorite Fiction

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson**housekeeping

I’m SUCH a Marilynne Robinson groupie and am moving on to her essays in 2017.  This is her first novel, published way back in 1980, long before she breathed life into the inhabitants of Gilead, Iowa (aka, my family…I think they will be in heaven…just kidding, but possibly?).  Anyway, Housekeeping is difficult (I read it twice in a row) and haunting, and it speaks deep truths about the homelessness all humans feel in this life on earth.

  • Honorable Mention: Lila by Marilynne Robinson (the third of the Gilead novels, also about home, homelessness and transience)

The Rest of the Books of 2016

Novels: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows, Doc and Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, Possession by A.S. Byatt, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen***, The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Short Stories: “Fidelity” by Wendell Berry, “Revelation,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and “Parker’s Back” by Flannery O’Connor, “The Chief Mourner of Marne” by G.K. Chesterton

Epic Poetry: Dante’s Inferno

Nonfiction: Generous Justice by Tim Keller, The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie, Minds More Awake by Anne White, Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins

AO Years 1/2 (with Ellary): Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney, Tree In the Trail by Holling C. Holling, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling**, The Door In the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli, Pocahontas, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Buffalo Bill and George Washington by the d’Aulaires

AO Year 11 (for my own education): Ezekiel, II Corinthians, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff,  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (on audio). 


Coming Soon…my reading plans for 2017!


Do You Make Yourself Narrate?

Well, do you?

Sometimes I’m so focused on growing Ellary up in her own narrating capabilities, that I forget how difficult it actually is, even for an adult.

For the last decade or so, I’ve been apart of Bible Study Fellowship or something like it, depending on where we lived.  I’ve often described these communities as anchors in a storm. They keep me coming back to Scripture daily, they force me to get out of my Scriptural comfort zones, and they allow me a space to discuss God’s Word in community.

Unfortunately, this year schedules didn’t align, and I’m not participating.  Sob.  So I’ve been trying to re-learn how to study the Bible on my own.  Enter narration.

Um, guys?  It works.

I read through some of the later Ambleside Online years, looking for a Bible reading plan, because I like someone else to give me structure.  I landed on Year 11, which is going through several of the prophets, along with some New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.  I am loving it.

Here is my narration for Lamentations 1-2 with responsive prayer.


Chapter 1

Zion (Jerusalem) is a princess turned whore, whose beauty, grandeur, influence and riches have been plundered and destroyed, as a result of her promiscuity. She is exposed before the nations as what she really is, naked, with her uncleanness on her skirts (her menstrual blood?). The young men and women of Judah have been taken captive; they have nowhere to turn for safety, like hunted animals with nowhere to hide.

Zion calls out and asks if anyone has ever seen sorrow like hers. She wonders how long she will have to suffer. She hopes that the nations which have plundered her will be plundered in like manner. But does she call upon God? [She does, she approves of this discipline. She sees that Judah’s overthrow was prophesied and that it is a result of her iniquity.]

Chapter 2

The walls of Jerusalem are broken down, the princes and maidens of Zion are dying or dead. Most remarkably, God has profaned His own Temple, destroying it, spurning it, and rejecting its priests. This is a physical picture of what has been the case spiritually for so long–the people have profaned the Temple for centuries. Now God will show them the reality of this Temple, empty and in ruins. Judah’s enemies are still surrounding it and laughing in delight, so pleased that finally this nation they have hated for so long is done for.

Jeremiah cries out on behalf of the people–“Help, God, please!” Children are starving, people are lying dead in the streets, and there is cannibalism.

Jeremiah urges the people to mourn and grieve and pour their hearts out to God, to turn back to relationship with Him, even/especially in this time of great devastation and desolation. He is still there, waiting to respond. Don’t be prideful, Judah. Don’t be independent and angry in your suffering. Approve of this discipline and mourn, and you will be comforted.

Abba, I approve of Your discipline, like Moses looking out at the Promised Land, knowing he cannot enter. I want to see reality, even if that means structures I have built up in my life must be torn down, because they’ve become places of idolatry and desecration. I praise You that when great destruction happens as a result of sin, this is never the end of the story. Even in this country right now, it is not the end of the story. You are always good. You are always loving. You always have a plan for restoration and redemption at the ready. I thank You for Your Wrath. I thank You for Your Justice. I thank You for Your Mercy. I thank You for Your Love.


Does anyone else do this?  I know Charlotte Mason did, and whole volumes resulted from it.