My Reading Year

Books, books, books!

The start of Advent signals for me another start - the beginning of my reading year. For the second year in a row I kept track of the books I read. This year I read 58 books. Not since I served in the Peace Corps have I logged my books. I can still picture many of the books I read in The Gambia, where I was sitting when I read them, and the emotions they evoked.

After an all-night prayer vigil I can see myself in my backyard under a mosquito net lying on a bamboo bed reading Life of Pi. When I remember Fried Green Tomatoes I’m immediately transported to late nights in my bed by candlelight. It’s early in my PC service and I’m homesick and teary reading the book. The last book I read in country, Roots, opens with a typical village morning and all the accompanying sounds - chickens, women’s laughing and gossiping, and the pounding of grain. The same sounds filled my mornings too.

That’s what reading does - it takes us to new worlds and connects us more deeply to our world. I find reading to be both an escape from my day-to-day reality and a welcome look into my heart. The books I read this year kept me company after long days and many hours nursing Isaac. As I look back through my book list not only do I remember the stories I read, but I remember my experiences during each of the books.

If you’re looking to add books to your to-be read list - my favorites are below. Or if you want a peek into my reading life and day-to-day living, enjoy my list and a glimpse into my days.

Inspector Gamache Series: Louise Penny

I don’t know when I first heard of this series but I do know that the books kept coming up over and over again. It seemed that everyone was talking about the main character, Chief Inspector Gamache. I finally borrowed the first book in the series, Still Life, and was immediately hooked. More than any other books, these connect me to Isaac. I was so captivated by the books that I couldn’t stop reading. I’d find myself nursing Isaac and reading. Isaac would be asleep on my chest and I’d make sure the latest book was close at hand. The quaint town of Three Pines, the characters, and the mysteries keep me turning the pages. Thanks to Louise Penny Canada is top on my list of places to visit. Every single book touches on life, death, and what motivates us throughout our days.

Kwame Alexander - Everything by him!

The Festival of Faith and Writing introduced me to Kwame’s work. He writes in verse with every sound, phrase, and word singing off the page. Kwame’s work and words reinvigorated my appreciation for poetry along with the need to expose my kids to poems. Most days during breakfast I’ll read a poem or two to the kids. I want them to hear the beauty of words. I want them to know the power of words to bring beauty and hope to the world. I want them to know their words make a difference, and can change the world.

The War that Saved My Life: Kimberly Bradley

I’m a fan of WWII fiction. I’m also discovering I’m a fan of middle grade novels (and can’t wait to read these books with my kids when they’re in school!) This is a beautiful story of hope and unlikely friendships; and the reminder that we’re all carrying something, and in need of someone to really see us and love us as we are.

My Fight/Your Fight: Ronda Rousey

I wouldn’t classify this book as a favorite. It’s way out of my typical genres but it’s relevant to our family’s life in a deeply personal way. Charlotte’s speech therapist told us that Ronda Rousey - the MMA Fighter - had Childhood Apraxia of Speech, the same diagnosis as Charlotte. When Ronda was in speech therapy growing up they didn’t have the specific diagnosis of apraxia. Later in life Ronda came to understand that what she struggled with as a child was indeed apraxia, and now she is an advocate for apraxia awareness. When I first learned about her I googled everything I could find about her! I watched her interviews and sighed a deep sigh of relief - she talks like anyone else. She gave me a glimmer of hope. I checked her autobiography out from the library. I stuck with the book even though much of it chronicles her fighting history. Very little recounts her difficulty with speech growing up. And that’s what gives me hope - that this speech delay will not define Charlotte. It’s only making her stronger.

A few of my other favorite non-fiction reads include: The Girl who Smiled Beads - this is a powerful story of transformation, hope, and forgiveness through a period of history in Rwanda that would serve us all to learn about and remember. The Magic of Motherhood - a collection of essays on being a mom. The book felt like a group of friends sharing stories over coffee and reminding me that I’m not alone in the joys and challenges of raising children. I’d Rather Be Reading - I get a lot of my book recommendations from this author’s blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. This book was gifted to me by dear friends while on vacation during my birthday. This book is a series of essays giving thanks for all things reading. When I read it I gave thanks for my friends, our vacation, and the unending joys of the reading life.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter: Kate Morton

This is perhaps my favorite book of the year! Kate Morton’s language, vivid descriptions, and storytelling took me into this story immediately. It’s told from different perspectives and over many years. It’s also a mystery with many layers that keep you wondering and guessing.

What are your favorite books from the year? I’d love to hear. Now I’m off to read.