A Dozen or So of Our Favorite Books From 2016

Jeremy and I were both voracious readers as kids and young adults. We look back fondly on our first two years of marriage, before kids, (and before we had a tv or Netflix) were would spend most of the weekends and evenings curled up on the couch reading books. Kids obviously make getting lost in books harder. Sadly, we've also gotten in to the habit of spending too much of our free time staring at our devices instead of pages. 

We want our kids to have a love for books so we spend a lot of time reading aloud to them. I start off most weekdays by reading part of a children's bible (we have three we rotate through) to them and Jeremy always has a chapter book he reads night. Plus, we usually have a couple books the correspond with whatever time period we are learning about in history. In addition to these, I try to find good quality books to read to the kiddos when we have spare time. I don't find much joy in playing pretend or building legos so reading has become my go-to for spending intentional time with them. Here are six of our favorite read alouds from 2016.

1 - All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, this is a book I wish I had known about as a girl. I quickly fell in love with this Jewish family and it's endearing daughters. I had so much fun reading it that right after we'd finished I insisted reading a few of the sequels. This book was a given as a gift to Little Lady but the story also caught the boys' imagination as well.

2 - Kingdom Tales Trilogy by David and Karen Mains. these were a favorite of Jeremy's. It took me awhile to get in to the books but once I did I was completely sold. I don't cry very often but all three of these books left me in tears; they paint such a vivid picture of Christ's love and redemption.

3 - Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace, this was another book that was given to Little Lady as a gift.  I think it's one ever girl should read; it's such great example of female friendship. Despite the main characters being girls the boys also enjoyed hearing about their adventures.

4 - Little Men by Lousia May Alcott, I personally like this book so much more than Little Women...which I'm also a huge fan of 😉.  It follows Jo into adulthood and tells about her school for boys. I think every mother of boys should read this book; it will help you laugh at and savor the crazy moments. Since this is one of my favorite stories it was a lot fun sharing it with the kiddos and watching them also fall in love with Jo's boys.

5 - Wing Feather Saga by Andrew Peterson, these are the books that Jeremy spent most of the evenings of 2016 reading. It follows the adventures of the Igiby children who just happen to be two older boys and a baby sister - it obviously fit well for our family and my kiddos loved acting out Igibys' adventures. The author describes these books are a cross between Princess Bride and Lord of the Rings which I think is an accurate description. I've been a fan of Peterson's music for a long time - seriously, you should check it out. He's an amazing song writer but you could tell tackling a book was a bit out of his wheel house. I found the first half of the first book a bit hard to get through but if you stick with it the story is amazing. It will draw you in despite the hiccups in the prose. As the series goes on Peterson starts to find his groove and the writing improves.

6 - A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson, this was another favorite of mine as a kid...it's so much fun sharing my favorites with my kiddos! Even though 'princess' is in the title I think most boys could still get lost in the tragedy and adventure of Sara's life.

We didn't do it very often in 2016 but when I first started reading chapter books to the kids I'd purposely pick one that had been made in to a movie. It's something to look forward to at the end of the book and it's fun to make comparisons. I personally like the 1995 A Little Princess movie the best.

Reading aloud to kids is great but we've recently been convicted that if we want our kids to be life-long book lovers they need to see that books aren't just for kids. They need to see that books have value and that adults enjoy them too. Therefore, I have made an effort to read while my children are awake. It's been a challenge for me because I don't do well with interruptions...in anything not just in reading 😬 I've stuck with it though and it's getting easier. It's also helped me read a lot more this past year. Here are six of my favorite books.

1 - The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler, most Christian books on dating, marriage, and sex make me want to toss them across the room. This book was different, though, it takes a balanced biblical look at what the Bible has to say about relationships from the start to the end. Both Jeremy and I agree that this is a book we will suggesting to our children someday.

2 - The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriaty, I read a couple of Moriarty's books this year. They are  captivating fast easy reads. They make you think but not to point were you have to lay the book down to analyze. This book was my favorite of hers. I found the mother daughter struggle intriguing. I understood the desire to want to do everything perfect and right. The desire to give our children more that what we've had, but still feeling like it falls short...like it's still not right or enough.

3 - Basic Christianity by John Stott, I've read this book a couple times in the past. Faith is not something that comes easy to me - I have to hold on to it tightly. The hypocrisy that can sometimes be seen in the church as a whole can shake me and this past political season hasn't been easy. In times like those I pick up Basic Christianity or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; they remind of why I choose to continue to walk this path and what the tenets of Christianity really are.

4 - Hillibilly Elegy by JD Vance, this book seemed to be on everyones' lips toward than end of 2016. I agree that it deserves the praise. It's well written and Vance does great job of presenting the honorable and the not so honorable parts of lower class families. Most people were talking about this book because of the political insights it offered on poor white Americans. I, however, found this book interesting for different reasons.  Growing up my family was also poor and I found it intriguing how relative the word 'poor' is. As I was reading I kept thinking, "this isn't poor." The stuff Vance talked about were things I only dreamed of as a kid. I had friends who did/had those things and I thought they were rich. I also realize that their are people who'd look at childhood and think I was wealthy in comparison to theirs. It just makes me ponder the ways the that we define wealth and poverty. 

The other thing that stood out to my was the observation that Vance made about how peoples' fortunes are closely related to who they choose to fall in love with. Poverty is so much more than just money - it's a lifestyle. A way of thinking that you learn. I have friends and family who grew up in a similar situation as me but have yet to make it out. It's not because they aren't as smart, or as capable, or that they have less gumption. It really believe it comes down to relationships. Most of my friends from high school and college were all from the other side of the tracks. Plus when it came to getting married, I married out. When I've been tempted to slip into destructive habits I've been lucky enough to have people show me a better way.

5 - Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, over the last several years I've tried make it a goal to read at least one adult classic every year. I didn't find myself rooting for any of the characters in this novel. The writing, however, is phenomenal and it speaks volumes about the human condition. As I'm writing this, I'm not sure I should of included this book in the collage above...I guess I could say it's a favorite because I'm proud I read it and I'm happy to cross it off my "great books I need to read list". 

6 - A Girl of The Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter, Elnora, the protagonist in this book is one of my favorite characters of all time of all time...seriously, she gives Anne a run for her money. She is wise, compassionate, and full grit. There were parts in the book that got a little slow but my adoration for Elnora kept going. I can't wait to share this book with Little Lady someday. 

Have you read any good books this past year? If so I'd love to hear any recommendations.   

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