New year, new goals. And rather than setting lofty goals for myself to find a four-leaf clover, do the splits or even write every day, I’m trying to set myself up for success with totally doable and pleasurable plans that will only make my life better. So far they are exfoliate, drink more water and read good books.
I like the doable stuff.
So far I am drinking the water, taking better care of my skin, and stacking up books for the new year. Graciously, ideas of what to read aren’t hard to come by with a group of enthusiastic readers and writers that staff this site. I thought I would share some of the titles that we’re reading and suggesting this year. Here’s the conversation from the group, find your favorite blogger’s picks below:
Emily: Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King
Jessie: Do I have to pick just one? I’ll be lazy and link to my blog post. Also, I second Emily’s recommendation–The Serpent King was one of the best I read.
Kel: The Serpent King took my breath away. So did The Sun Is Also a Star, and Learning To Swear In America. (Strictly speaking all 3 are YA reads, just fyi, but very clever and addressing big themes really well). I read Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus this year for uni and it was amazing. Prayers for Sale gutted me beautifully.
Terresa: That title though…Learning To Swear In America. I’d read it on that alone.
Kel: I can’t recommend it highly enough! The Audible version is gorgeous too.
Rosalyn: The Serpent King has been winning lots of awards (he’s a finalist for the Morris award!) and is gorgeous, literary YA.
Linda: The Serpent King is great!
Sandra: Non-fiction books were big for me this past year. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Grit by Angella Duckworth (both of these have been game changers in making realize I don’t have to be brilliant, but I have to be clever, willing and hard-working to make my dreams into a reality and that talent pales in the face of persistence and passion), and Future Mormon by Adam Miller (in the ever going evolution of my faith, this text felt like fruit to my hungry spirit-soul). I read all of these books with a red pencil for highlighting and margin writing. That’s the sure sign of a good book, I turn it into a workbook… I’ve got more non-fictions in my stack already. I have copies of Tools For Titans by Tim Feris and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown waiting for me. Clearly I’m all about the motivational kick in the pants. And probably The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer for some devotional reading.
Hildie: I totally loved The Fair Fight. About female boxers in Regency England. As awesome as that sounds! (the middle section was a bit of a slog but overall I adored it. My book club, however, did not share my enthusiasm.
Karen: H Is for Hawk; genre defying
Terresa: Yup, it’s a keeper.
Melissa: I really liked that one.
Jessie: I loved that one too.
Terresa: How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Didion. Eat and Run by Jurek. Born to Run by McDougall. The Wednesday Wars by Schmidt (should be required reading for all YA). Cutting for Stone by Verghese — if you haven’t read it yet, you must.
Sharlee: Love The Wednesday Wars! Liked Okay For Now even more.
Rosalyn: Gary Schmidt is genius. I don’t know how he makes it look so effortless.
Terresa: Sharlee, yes, those are great books! Every kid should read them.
Teresa TL: I fell in love with Sarah Graves’s Home Repair Is Homicide series and zoomed through them last spring (16 titles so far). Through summer and early fall I kept my Kindle app engaged with Ben Hale’s multiple series set in the World of Lumineia. And while driving I listened to Cinda Williams Chima’s The Heir Chronicles. (Can you tell I enjoy series? 2016 was a year of escape reading.)
Sandra: Ashley Mae Hoiland’s new book, 100 Birds Taught Me To Fly, is stunning. And her reading at my house last weekend was delightful.
Rosalyn: Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa was excellent. (Another vote for The Serpent King here, too). Also, Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, which comes out this month but I got to read an early copy and it is a fantastic Russian-set historical fantasy. Ally Condie’s Summerlost. And my friend Elaine Vicker’s Like Magic (though I’m probably biased about the last because she’s one of my critique partners.)
Melissa: Between the World and Me was fantastic though at times uncomfortable–still thinking about it (insight into privilege based on race, what it’s like to grow up poor and black in Baltimore). David Whyte’s Consolations for a more solitary, gently philosophical and slow read.
Hildie: I also read a really wonderful book about a woman who discovers she has cancer (non-fiction). It was a funny, touching and wonderful book. I loved it But I CANNOT remember the name of it. I checked it out from the library and they don’t have a record I can access if the books I read. Dang it!
Sandra: In the cookbook department Kenji Lopez’s Food Lab an Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page is even more exciting than the original that I pored over forever. Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Dana Velden is so zen and reassuring. And I swear I’ll stop with these soon, but Marissa McClellan’s Naturally Sweet book about canning without sugar rocked my world. One more. Dorie Greenspan’s new cookie book took was nothing short of amazing creative work- truly innovative. (I think it’s obvious I read more cookbooks than any other genre.)
Angela: Heads up: today Amazon is offering a sale price on the Kindle versions of a number of their “best of the month” novels for $3.99 or less. The Last Painting of Sara DeVos is only $2.99 and I really liked it. The Forgetting Time was also a good one and it’s only $2.99 as well. I just bought Mischling and Before the Fall because I’d heard good things about them.
Jessie: Sara de Vos and Before the Fall were on my favorites list from last year
Angela: Oh! And The Longest Night is only $1.99 and I really liked it. Historical novel about a real-life nuclear reactor accident in Idaho Falls in 1959. Strong writing, interesting characters–one of them’s a Mormon. Good novel.
Jessie: That’s another one I liked last year!
Hildie: Oh, I have that Last Painting of Sara de Vos on audible and I got halfway through and forgot all about it! I need to listen to the end! And I found the name of that book I forgot earlier! A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles by Mary Elizabeth Williams. A book about a woman with Melanoma. So witty and so moving and just a wonderful book.
Sandra: And my kids are devouring everything by Raina Telgemeier. She remade the first four Babysitters Club books as graphic novels. It is non-stop awesome.
Kel: I finished Dark Matter on December 31st – it’s one of the best sci-fi books I read last year, with an adult male with real functioning emotions and family as the lead character. If you liked The Martian, this is similar but with WAY less detailed science (but still with some detail about – oddly enough – dark matter and alternate universes). There’s nowhere near the same amount of swearing in Dark Matter as in The Martian, if that helps with decision making.
Rosalyn: Also for sci-fi/fantasy, Kel and I both liked Illuminae (though there is some language in it). The format of the book was really cool.
Linda: I just finished listening/”reading” The Summit: A Novel by Harry Farthing. It’s the most gripping and suspenseful novel I’ve listened to in a long time. It’s a novel about climbing Mt. Everest but in two time periods – WW2 and contemporary. The time periods are linked by a particular artifact which ties the story line and lives together. I’m not really a war story or mountain adventure buff, but this caught me quickly and kept weaving in one new twist after another in excellent prose.
Catherine: Recommendations for historical fiction?
Sandra: I loved The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd for historical fiction this year, it’s all about the Grimke sisters, abolitionist dynamos.
Rosalyn: I listened to The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson (who also wrote Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand) and it was wonderful. Bonus: the narrator is the one RH is hiring to do my book.
Hildie: The audiobook of Invention of Wings is excellent too, BTW!
Kel: How to Bake a Perfect Life: A Novel is a great read, I guess of the “beach read” variety, though deals with big themes (mother/daughter particularly), and happily there’s baking in it, and some magical realism.
Linda: I just finished listening to “A Great Reckoning”, a mystery by Louise Penny. I’ve read all the others in her series set in Three Pines, Canada. This book was terrific – layered, smart, funny, redemptive, intricate. Big thumbs up from me.
Kel: Linda, does the reader have to know Canada for the story to work? My Mum loves mysteries so this sounds great!
Linda: No, you don’t need to know Canada. (I don’t.) It certainly has local color, but it’s not so idiosyncratic that it gets in the way.
Kel: And Rosalyn’s new book, The Blood Rose Rebellion is on everyone’s list this year.
So there it is. No fancy list, but so many good suggestions.
And for the water, a note on the wall asking if I’ve had enough today is helping. And for the skin care: Peter Thomas Roth Firmx Peeling Gel is changing my exfoliating life.
What plans have you laid and what books are you reading in the new year?