I know I haven’t been keeping up with my blog lately (I hope to be here more this year), but I couldn’t
miss out on my annual top books post, especially when I’ve enjoyed
reading several other bloggers’ great lists. For my 2018 countdown
of books that impacted me the most out of all those I read, I’m
doing the top 13 plus some honorable mentions. I read 66 books, short
stories, plays, and editing manuscripts this year.




First, the honorable mentions: Shakespeare’s The Tempest and
MacBeth, Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic, and Leif
Enger’s So Brave, Young, and Handsome.




And now the countdown:



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16299.And_Then_There_Were_None?ac=1&from_search=true 
#13
And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie



This
pulse-pounding mystery made it to the list of America’s 100
best-loved novels, according to the Great American Read put on by
PBS. It was eerie in a psychological, character-driven sort of way,
and like everyone else who reads it, I asked myself in every chapter,

“Who will be next? Will there
be anyone left at the end?” Definitely a memorable whodunit that
satisfied my thirst for a thought-provoking mystery.





https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25643863-celia-s-house 
#12
Celia’s House
D. E. Stevenson



I
was introduced to a new-to-me author this year, D. E. Stevenson, a
niece of Robert Louis Stevenson. Her books are light, cozy, and
heart-warming, the types of novels you picture reading with a cup of
tea in a British cottage garden.
Celia’s House
focuses on a growing family who inherits an estate in the Scottish
Border Country from their aunt Celia in the early 1900s. It follows
them as the children are born, grow up, and have adventures, all the
while emphasizing the importance of family ties.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35187184-the-not-quite-states-of-america?from_search=true 
#11
The Not-Quite States of America
Doug Mack




Few of us who live in the States often think about the U.S.
territories—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana
Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This book was enlightening and
entertaining as it delved into the history and current conditions of
the five territories. I found value in being informed about these
far-flung islands and discovering what we share. (Warning: language
in a few chapters.)






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3079278-anna-and-the-king-of-siam 
#10
Anna and the King of Siam
Margaret Landon




A semi-fictionalized biography, this tells the story of Anna
Leonowens, an amazing Englishwoman who taught for five years in the
Siamese court in the 1860s. Beloved movies were based off this book.
I was inspired by Mrs. Leonowens’s faith in God and courageous
perseverance to make a difference, and I was fascinated by the
glimpse into this exotic country I knew little about.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35138417-reading-the-bible-with-rabbi-jesus?ac=1&from_search=true 
#9
Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus
Lois Tverberg




The Jewish roots of Christianity are very important to me, and I
found this book to be an accessible study of the Jewish understanding
of the Bible and how it seamlessly fits Jesus’ worldview. Tverberg
excels at explaining Hebraisms and making them relevant to
Christians, enriching our reading of the Bible and reigniting our
excitement for God’s truth. Read my review here.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13531815-jerusalem 
#8
Jerusalem: The Biography
Simon Sebag Montefiore




Admittedly, this book was hard to get through at times, between being
graphic and pessimistic. I gave it only 3.5 stars because of that.
But I was impressed with the author’s objectivity and thoroughness.
In my opinion (and the opinion of many others throughout the
centuries and millennia), Jerusalem is the most important city in the
world, and I love learning about it, even if it’s impossible to
cover every detail of its history. This book did a fine job and
filled in the many holes in my historical knowledge. Read my review here.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31168.Shirley?ac=1&from_search=true 
#7
Shirley
Charlotte Brontë


Shirley
is a very different novel from
Jane
Eyre
,
but they both demonstrate Charlotte Brontë’s genius and make her
one of the classic novelists I admire the most.
Shirley
is full of richly developed characters and complicated relationships
set against a backdrop of early nineteenth-century England, when the
Napoleonic wars raged abroad and conflicts between mill owners and
mill workers raged at home. My favorite part of the book, however,
was the friendship between vivacious landowner Shirley Keeldar and
gentle minister’s niece Caroline Helstone. It’s one of the best
literary female friendships I’ve ever read. Read my review here.









https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46793.Uncle_Tom_s_Cabin 
#6
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe




Although it may not be as respected now as it has been over the past
century and a half, I saw a lot of great things in this book. Before
slavery was abolished, when half of America supported it and hardly
any white person considered black people as equals, Uncle Tom’s
Cabin
entered the scene and became the best-selling novel of the
19th century. It profoundly moved the United States. It
was one of the first novels to put African Americans in heroic
positions, and though there was still a long road ahead and we’re
still working on race relations now, this book was groundbreaking.
Uncle Tom’s faith in God and his life witness were inspiring.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/229123.Christy 
#5
Christy
Catherine Marshall




I read this book for the first time about ten years ago and found it
influential as I struggled with my faith and what it means to follow
God. This year, the second time through was almost as rich and
affected me in slightly different ways. Above all, I found conviction
and encouragement to live and love selflessly. Catherine Marshall’s
writing is mature and beautiful as she word-paints images you can
experience with the senses of your mind and creates characters you
can know and understand.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31242.Bleak_House?ac=1&from_search=true 
#4
Bleak House
Charles Dickens



Dickens
always amazes me. In every novel, he creates a whole world—full of
intriguing fictional characters as individual and quirky as real
people; situations that seem disparate but intertwine as the story
progresses, revealing mysteries and tying characters together in
satisfying endings; and details that make everything come alive.
Bleak House
is no exception, but the best part in my opinion is Esther Summerson.
I learned valuable lessons from her sweet, unconscious humility and
charity. In fact, every single character and puzzle piece of this book was interesting to me. It’s sad, funny, intriguing, and inspirational by turns. It could have been longer and I wouldn’t have minded. Read my review here.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40694143-he-s-making-diamonds?ac=1&from_search=true 
#3
He’s Making Diamonds
S. G. Willoughby




The title says it all. God uses our suffering to make us into
diamonds.
None of us choose to go through hard circumstances, but
we can choose how we cope and nurture our relationship with God in
the midst of them. This book is geared toward teens who are
chronically ill, but any Christian can read it and benefit. Sara
Willoughby is the perfect person to write it, as she is a teenager
who suffers from Lyme disease and other health issues. She shares how
to navigate chronic illness with a healthy perspective fixed firmly
on God, demonstrating how trials like that can bring us closer to
Him.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11138.Mere_Christianity?ac=1&from_search=true 
#2
Mere Christianity
C. S. Lewis




This spiritual classic has been on my to-read list for years, and I
was not disappointed when I finally read it this year. From the
existence of God to the rationale for morality to the root of sin, it
wades deep (but not too deep) into the beautiful mysteries of
Christianity. Not only a logical defense for belief, it’s
compelling and convicting, inspiring love and awe for God and the
desire to be a better follower of His. This is worth reading over and
over.






https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/561909.The_Hiding_Place?ac=1&from_search=true 
#1
The Hiding Place
Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill




Corrie ten Boom is one of my heroes. This well-written book (which I read for the second time) tells the
story of how she and her family, in obedience to God, risked their
lives in the Dutch resistance, saving the lives of His people the
Jews when the Nazis sought to destroy them. Her story is incredibly
faith-building as she tells how the Lord worked during those
excruciatingly difficult years. She and her family learned many
lessons—love for enemies, joy in the little mercies, faith that God
knows what He’s doing and will bring His children triumphantly
through trials they could never survive on their own.






Have
you read any of these books? What are your top reads of 2018?
It’s
that time of year again: the very end, when readers reflect on their
reading choices throughout the year and pick their favorites! I’m
here to do exactly that. I read 55 books this year (not counting my
editing projects). Hmm . . . when I compare that to the number of
books others have read, it seems so small, but rest assured, I read
whenever I can. Besides being a slow reader, maybe it was all that
time away from home this year (six weeks).




Out
of those 55, I selected 16 that impacted me most. Six of those are in
a special category to themselves, however, which I’ll save for the
end. Let’s start out with the basic Top Ten:



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/337113.The_Tenant_of_Wildfell_Hall?ac=1&from_search=true


#10


The
Tenant of Wildfell Hall


Anne
Brontë


Anne
was the youngest of the Brontë
sisters and the only one I hadn’t read yet. She wrote two novels,
The Tenant
being her second. I was delighted to find it possessed the depth that
I’ve come to expect from the Brontës, complete with a strong
female lead and high-stakes moral issues. Controversial in its day
for its depiction of dissipation, Anne intended it as a cautionary
tale. I liked the heroine, Helen, for her strength, morality,
spiritual growth, and resourcefulness. Read my review.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5659.The_Wind_in_the_Willows?from_search=true


#9


The
Wind in the Willows


Kenneth
Grahame


This
iconic children’s story I’ve known practically my whole life, but
I never actually read it. I’m so glad I finally did. Delightful and
ageless, cozy and quaint, it’s a book that lingers in your
consciousness long after you’ve read it. It represents some of the
best things about British literature: well-crafted writing, engaging
characters (in this case, mostly woodland animals), witty dialogue,
and idyllic settings where you wish you could live. (If I were a
badger or a water rat, that is.) Read my review.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25018230-the-sea-keeper-s-daughters?ac=1&from_search=true


#8


The
Sea Keeper’s Daughters


Lisa
Wingate


I’ve
enjoyed all of the novels I’ve read by Lisa Wingate, but this was
my favorite yet. Wingate is one of my modern-day inspirations. I
admire many things about her writing: her flowing, descriptive prose;
her intricate, interpersonal plots that create tension without cheap
suspense; her rounded, unique characters; and the emotional depth she
portrays. The Sea Keeper’s Daughters combines two
storylines, one contemporary and one 1930s, in a mystery and a race
to save a family heirloom building on the North Carolina coast.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/782050.The_Mind_of_the_Maker?ac=1&from_search=true#


#7


The
Mind of the Maker


Dorothy
L. Sayers


Sayers
is one of the most intelligent writers I’ve ever read. This
relatively short book had so much wisdom packed into it that I really
need to reread it to harvest even more. It compares God’s
creativity to our creativity while exploring the tenets of
Christianity. It’s a fascinating, eye-opening examination of
language, art, and theology and how they are interconnected. Read my review.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5849597-julius-caesar#


#6


Julius
Caesar


William
Shakespeare


Within
a month, I read this play, listened to it on Librivox, and watched a
live performance at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre in
Stratford-upon-Avon with my Oxford Creative Writing Class. I’ve
only read a couple of Shakespeare’s plays, so his genius is still
new to me, and because I experienced this play in three different
ways, I appreciated it even more than otherwise. The performance was
unforgettable, and I’ll always associate Julius Caesar with
my trip to England.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/420180.The_Little_White_Horse?ac=1&from_search=true

#5


The
Little White Horse


Elizabeth
Goudge


How
could a book by Elizabeth Goudge not make it to my top reads list?
This children’s book was everything I could wish: well-written,
whimsical, descriptive, moral, mysterious, British, set in a grand
mansion in the English countryside, and peopled by wonderful
characters. It includes a touch of magic, mainly to do with a family
curse and magical creatures, but that just adds to the appealing
storyline. This would probably have been my favorite book growing up
if I’d read it during those years. Read my review.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26027620-yeshua-mattershttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26027629-israel-matters?ac=1&from_search=true

#4


Yeshua
Matters
and Israel
Matters


Jacob
Fronczak


I
really appreciated the solid theological insights in these two books
by First Fruits of Zion author Jacob Fronczak. Delving into the
Jewish roots of our faith, he emphasizes our Messiah, His identity,
and how He fulfilled Scripture in Yeshua Matters, and
the history and continued significance of God’s people Israel in
Israel Matters. Read my review of Yeshua Matters.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31250.Little_Dorrit?ac=1&from_search=true#


#3


Little
Dorrit


Charles
Dickens


Reading
a thick classic gives me a quiet thrill that no other book can give.
Spending so much time in an intricately crafted world gives me the
feel of living a dual life. The protagonists, Amy Dorrit and Arthur
Clennam, stepped up to second place on my list of favorite literary
couples (after Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars of Sense and
Sensibility
). I was struck by Dickens’s masterful writing and
by these two characters’ strength and goodness in the midst of
endless challenges, including a hapless father in a London debtor’s
prison and a heartless mother with a crime on her conscience.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/824062.God_s_Smuggler?ac=1&from_search=true#


#2


God’s
Smuggler


Brother
Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill


There’s
nothing like a missionary biography to renew your passion and
encourage you to continue following God with all your heart. Not only
did God’s Smuggler accomplish that for me, it was an
enjoyable, exciting read. It built my faith as I witnessed how
Brother Andrew heard the Lord’s voice and acted in faith and
courage to bless God’s people and expand His Kingdom.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35427576-the-siege-of-jerusalem#https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35604887-window-on-mount-zion


#1


The
Siege of Jerusalem
and Window
on Mount Zion


Pauline
Rose


I’m
always fascinated by Israel’s history because it so clearly shows
God at work in the world. I especially valued these books by Pauline
Rose, written in the mid-twentieth century, because Rose was a
Messianic Jew with a desire to see God and her fellow Jews fully
reconciled. She provides a glimpse into the nation’s struggles in
its early decades of modern independence (1940s-1960s) and recounts
God’s miracles in her life and in the life of the nation. Read my review of The Siege of Jerusalem and Window on Mount Zion.



~*~


And
now, for the special category of six books that impacted me the most this year (and in the case of one of them, the past couple of years):

http://www.vintagejaneausten.com/

 The
Vintage Jane Austen Series


Emmeline
(Sarah Holman), Second
Impressions
(Hannah Scheele and
other authors),
Suit and Suitability (Kelsey
Bryant),
Bellevere House (Sarah
Scheele),
Perception
(Emily Ann Benedict), and
Presumption and Partiality
(Rebekah Jones)


If
you follow me or any of these authors, you’ve probably become
familiar with this series over the course of 2017, so I won’t go
into details of how the impacted me; you already know! This has
definitely been the highlight of my short writing career thus far,
and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

Happy end-of-2017! What books impacted you most this year?

The year will be ending soon, so it’s time for me to safely tally up the fifteen most impacting books I’ve read in 2016! I love making this list, though, as usual, it was rather difficult to narrow down and rank the best ones. Please comment and let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you think of them, or if any of them pique your interest. Also, which books in the vast array of literature were your favorite reads of 2016?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26031177-the-joy-of-less#
#15
The Joy of Less
Francine Jay
Although this book itself was not heavily influential on me, it encapsulated what I’ve been learning this year about minimalism and how less is more where it comes to possessions. Francine Jay, “Miss Minimalist,” was able to make me think very positively of this concept . . . and when you’re a packrat, the first step is to change your thinking. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26031177-the-joy-of-less#
#14
Captain Blood
Rafael Sabatini
This swashbuckling adventure was a lot of fun! It’s the favorite book of my character Marion in my upcoming novel, Suit and Suitability. Besides that, I, like Marion, found depth in the honor and courage portrayed by Captain Peter Blood as he faced his hardships.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33398822-coffee-with-cooper?ac=1&from_search=true
#13
Coffee With Cooper
Daniel Lee Cooper III
This is a book I proofread, actually. It’s the story of an inspiring journey taken by the author to connect with strangers across North America. Having survived a battle with cancer, Cooper wants to spread hope among people going through life struggles. It’s a fun, honest, thought-provoking look at our problems and how we can cope and move forward.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/223838.In_His_Steps?ac=1&from_search=true
#12
In His Steps
Charles Sheldon
This Christian classic sparked a movement in the late nineteenth century, prompting Christians to ask, “What would Jesus do?” and follow the honest response. Its timeless message encouraged me to look at my life and how I should act out the answer to that question.

#11
Before Jane Austen
Harrison R. Steeves
This wasn’t just a book of literary criticism; it was a history that gave me a sweeping view of the eighteenth century through its literature. I knew hardly anything about English literature before Jane Austen, besides the most famous classics, and this book enlightened me on many different levels—including why Jane Austen is such a landmark.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6969.Emma?ac=1&from_search=true#
#10
Emma
Jane Austen
I delighted in rereading one of my favorite novels of all time. The familiarity was comforting, the characters and humor were always fresh, and the new insights enriched my appreciation for Austen’s talent.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/763588.Anne_of_Green_Gables
#9
Anne of Green Gables
L. M. Montgomery
Another reread this year, I opened this beloved novel when I found out I was going to Prince Edward Island. I loved it just as much, delighting in its beauty and character, savoring the story I know so well, and being surprised by the situations I had forgotten. Above all it prepped me for PEI!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/694516.Grey_is_the_Color_of_Hope?ac=1&from_search=true#
#8
Grey Is the Color of Hope
Irina Ratuskinskaya
This haunting memoir was difficult to read at times, but it taught an important lesson I had never encountered before: how not to give in to your tormentors and suppressors. How to remain strong and look down on them as the misguided wrongdoers that they are. How to emerge from captivity with your spirit unbroken. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/182381.Cranford?ac=1&from_search=true#
#7
Cranford
Elizabeth Gaskell
I read this lovely story partially when I was sick (the only time I was sick this year, thank God), and it was one of the most comforting books I could read. With its cozy storyline and cast of sweet and amusing characters and its rich portrait of Victorian village life, it wrapped me in its arms. Miss Matty is delightful and I was of course reminded of the A&E miniseries I love so much.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3580.Pat_of_Silver_Bush?ac=1&from_search=true#https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3580.Pat_of_Silver_Bush?ac=1&from_search=true#
#6
Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat
L. M. Montgomery
Although I prefer Anne over Pat of Montgomery’s heroines, it was my first time reading these books, so they impacted me more this year. And the last portion of Mistress Pat affected me like few fiction does (i.e., had me sobbing because its resolution touched me right where I was raw at the time). I read these books on my way to and from Prince Edward Island. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3206011-crazy-love?ac=1&from_search=true
#5
Crazy Love
Francis Chan
This best-selling book about God’s love and how it should inspire us to live had me both convicted and encouraged. It was a faith-strengthening book that I needed when I read it. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18874152-the-bird-in-the-treehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18907508-pilgrim-s-inn
#4
The Bird in the Tree and Pilgrim’s Inn
Elizabeth Goudge
Again, these novels hit me right when and where I needed them. I’m excited to read the third book of their trilogy. Goudge’s beautiful prose sinks into my soul and reminds me of what is beautiful in this world, both in nature and spirit. The characters go through situations that challenge them to die to themselves and to choose the path of real love.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25999795-green-dolphin-street
#3
Green Dolphin Country
Elizabeth Goudge
Wow. This was one of the hardest-hitting novels I’ve ever read. The characters, like in all Goudge novels, are extremely well drawn, and their lives take on epic proportions when some of them emigrate from the Channel Islands to New Zealand. All of them had much to learn about God, life, and love. I’ll never forget Marianne, Marguerite, and William and what their lives taught me. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15864595-pursuing-justice?ac=1&from_search=true
#2
Pursuing Justice
Ken Wytsma
This book almost made number one. In some ways, it should be in that position. It forever changed my view of how Christians should live; it made me ponder our mission to the world and realize things need to change . . . starting in my own life. It’s a true wakeup call to serve.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/277152.Sparkling_Gems_from_the_Greek?ac=1&from_search=true
#1
Sparkling Gems
Richard Renner
I’d say at least 100 of these daily devotionals touched me on the exact day I was experiencing whatever they addressed. It answered many questions and soothed many issues I was going through, pointing me to the greatest and deepest source of all, God’s Word, and pressing me to take my cares to Him.

Another year draws to a close. Ever since October or so, I’ve been absurdly excited about my last blog post of the year, because I have a tradition of listing my top reads of 2015. Usually I do fifteen books, but this year I couldn’t trim the list lower than seventeen. (I read too many good ones this year!) These books all impacted me profoundly in one way or another; they’ll reside in my mind for years to come. I tried to list them more or less in order, but that’s really hard for me to do, so don’t take the order too literally. So…out of almost sixty books, here are the TOP SEVENTEEN.

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
#17
Girl
Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her

Melanie
Rehak
I had so much fun revisiting my girlhood fictional hero,
Nancy Drew. In a thoroughly engaging manner, this book presented lots
of what there is to know about the history of her existence.
The Challengers Beauty for Ashes The Patch of Blue Rainbow Cottage
#16
The
Challengers
, Beauty for Ashes, The Patch of Blue,
Rainbow Cottage
Grace Livingston Hill
Together, these
four sweet Christian romance books, published in the 1930s, enhanced
my feel for and understanding of the 1930s American
experience.

The Moonstone
#15
The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
A
forerunner of the “detective” genre, this thick Victorian novel
had intrigue on basically every page. It combined Eastern mystery, an
old country estate with secrets in northeast England, and the maze of
London with the puzzle of a missing diamond and a romance in
turmoil.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
#14
Alice in Wonderland
Lewis
Carroll
This children’s classic that I ought to have read years
ago was fun, quirky, and strangely insightful.

Heidi (Heidi, #1)
#13
Heidi
Johanna
Spyri
Ditto on this children’s classic, only it was a bit more
life-altering than Alice. The Christian lesson was
heart-warming, and it made me long for beauty—in nature, in simple
living, and in helping others.

From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome
#12
From the Dark to the
Dawn

Alicia A. Willis
This impacting book took me back to
ancient Rome and the persecution of the early Christians. It
strengthened my resolve to live for God and to be a witness of
Him.
Paradise Lost
#11
Paradise Lost
John Milton
This epic
poem reaches across the centuries. I especially loved the latter half
of the book; besides understanding it more than the first half, I
thought the Biblical themes put into lyrical verse was lovely and
profound.

Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children
#10
Caught Up in a Story
Sarah
Clarkson
I thoroughly enjoyed this nonfiction book about reading,
particularly choosing good books for kids to read. I closely
identified with the author’s reading journey, and came away with a
strengthened understanding and conviction of how essential reading
good books is. It’s called being “story-formed.”

Grace Triumphant: A Tale of the Slave Trade
#9
Grace
Triumphant

Alicia A. Willis
Like Alicia Willis’s other
books, this novel, about the 1700s British slave trade, was exciting,
convicting, and encouraging. I was always on pins and needles over
what would happen next. The characters felt so real. And the
spiritual lessons—they were serious and rich.

Julie
#8
Julie
Catherine
Marshall
This well-written and -researched novel about a rural
Pennsylvania factory town in the Great Depression was very powerful
and hard to put down. What made it absolutely fantastic was how
hard-hitting spiritual themes were woven into the very fabric of the
story.

Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt
#7
Day of Atonement
David deSilva
This
novel about the Maccabean Revolt filled a hole in historical fiction
that I always wanted filled. It was well-researched and detailed, and
gave me a better understanding of how Israel could have slid into
assimilation with the Greeks in inter-testament times. The ending was
powerful and made me more determined than ever to stand for God’s
ways.

The Map Across Time (The Gates of Heaven, #2)
#6
The Map Across Time
C. S. Lakin
This
lengthy fantasy adventure was one long joy to read. I thoroughly
enjoyed the writing style, world-building, and characters of C. S.
Lakin, especially the myriad of ways she alluded to Scripture and
ancient Hebrew. Although it’s the second in a series, it felt
strong enough to stand on its own. So much adventure, so many twists,
so much mystery, so many beautiful descriptions and lessons….

A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness & a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression
#5
The
Secret Gift

Ted Gup
This nonfiction memoir-type book was
extremely helpful for my Great Depression research, being about
Canton, Ohio (the setting of my WIP), in the 1930s. Not only was it
helpful, it was extremely touching as the author explored a
fascinating true story and traced the many lives connected to it.

Least of All Saints
#4

Least of All Saints
Grace Irwin
The top four are
difficult to order, but I’ll do my best. This was an incredibly
well-written Christian novel from the 1950s. The author starts out
with a distinctive premise—that of an intellectual unbeliever who
becomes a Methodist minister because he believes the tenets of
Christian living are compelling, even if he doesn’t believe in God.
What follows is a thought-provoking, character-driven story that left
me strengthened in my faith.

Les Misérables
#3
Les Miserables
Victor
Hugo
Finally reading this beloved classic, I was able to see what
all the hype was about. It was truly a solid, satisfying, memorable
read. Although I did read an abridged version (the vast majority of
versions are abridged), it was plenty long enough. The scope of this
story was incredible. Jean Valjean is a wonderful character!

The Dean's Watch
#2
The
Dean’s Watch

Elizabeth Goudge
With breathtakingly
beautiful prose, Goudge weaves a heart-warming, thought-provoking
story about the enigmatic Dean of a city in the northeast England fen
country. The spiritual lessons sent chills down me, and the author’s
writing style is the most beautiful I’ve ever read!

The Scent of Water
#1
The
Scent of Water

Elizabeth Goudge
Although I may have liked
the story of The Dean’s Watch a tad better, The Scent of
Water
had several scenes of beauty in it that touched me to the
core. Plus, it was my first Goudge novel; thus, it was the most
impacting. Set in England, the story took place contemporaneously to
when it was written (1950s, early 1960s) and involved a retired
teacher searching for something more to life.

What were some of your top reads of 2015? Which of the books on my list have you read, and what did you think of them?

Last
year, I did an “awards ceremony” for the fifteen books that
impacted me most in the year … they didn’t win awards per se, but
they did win recognition and commendation. Like last year, this
year’s list represents many genresand also,
because it’s limited to fifteen, is unable to include all
the books that impacted me. I read 51, which beats last year’s
score by quite a bit, but that also makes the decisions harder! These
are more or less in order, but a bunch of them ranked very close
together, so don’t pay too much attention to the numbers. (If I
were to do this list again without referring to the order here, I
would probably discover that I had rearranged them.)




Without
further ado …


#
15


The
Perilous Gard


Elizabeth
Marie Pope


This
YA novel brought me back to the type of books I enjoyed most when I
was younger: historical fiction with a dash of fantasy and wonder.
About Tudor England, mysterious cults, and the beautiful landscape,
it’s no wonder this was captivating enough for me to exclaim, “I’d
love to write a book like this someday!”




#14


The
Kings and Queens of England


Jane
Murray


This
fun history book untangled the English monarchs enough for me to have
them memorized at one point. It’s proved helpful several times just
in the few months since I’ve read it!




#13


DahveedYahweh’s
Chosen


Terri
Fivash


This
was an adventurous, hard-hitting novel about David as a boy and young
man, the first of seven in a series. Fivash has an excellent
understanding of ancient Hebrew history. Since I’ve been studying
David this whole year, I know how fantastic his story is … so I
look forward to the rest of the series!




#12


Friendship
and Folly


Meredith
Allady


Although
I’m not finished yet, I plan to be before the New Year, and I
already know this book belongs here. I’ve been wanting to read a
modern author that hearkens back to Jane Austen, and while there are
some differences (which are delightful), I think I’ve found her!




#11


Rose
in Bloom


Louisa
May Alcott


I
love Louisa May Alcott, and I was very glad to revisit her story of
the Eight Cousins. This book was filled with what I love best about
her writinggentle moralizing,
character-driven plots, family relationships, and comforting
evocation of 19th-century America.




#10


Emily
Climbs
and Emily’s
Quest


L.
M. Montgomery


Montgomery
is a very satisfying writer, and I loved being able to finish the
Emily stories that I started two years ago. Emily is a writer with a
whole lot of depth, and these books were beautiful.




#9


The
Pickwick Papers


Charles
Dickens


and


Consuela


Sarah
Scheele


These
two have to be linked together, because after I read Dickens’s
funny serial novel, I was privileged to edit Scheele’s funny
retelling and laugh at all the inside jokes. Pickwick will
always be special to me as the book I brought with me to England (and
did not have much time to read).




#8


Thaw:
Winter’s Child, Winter Queen, and Prince of Demargen


E.
Kaiser Writes


This
hasn’t been released yet, but it’s another book I had the
privilege of editing, and I enjoyed every part of it. It’s a
retelling of Frozen and The Snow Queen, so it has light
fantasy but a historical feel. The characters are richly endearing
and constantly tugged at my heartstrings.




#7


Mansfield
Park


Jane
Austen


I
seldom reread a book, but Jane Austen has been the consistent
exception. This classic’s 200th anniversary was in May,
and I had a lovely time studying it and savoring Austen’s words
again. The story with all its moral richness sank into me even more
upon a second reading.




#6


Mary
Barton


Elizabeth
Gaskell


I
read this Victorian novel in anticipation of visiting Manchester
myself during my tour to England. Like all Gaskell’s works, the
characters were extremely well drawn, every social issue was fairly
dealt with, and Christianity was shown to be the light that it is.




#5


Remembering
the Alamo


Alicia
A. Willis


As
a Texan, the story of the Alamo grips me. This was a very good
telling of that story from a different perspective than I’ve heard
before, and my emotions at reading it are still fresh in my mind …
that’s how I know it belonged here, near the top of the list.




#4


Kisses
from Katie


Katie
Davis, with Beth Clark


This
memoir of a contemporary young woman who began a ministry in Uganda
taking care of orphan girls was a very thought-provoking, inspiring
read. I appreciated the look at modern Africa, and was encouraged to
do what God has called us all to do: live with more love (among other
things)!




#3


The
War of the Worlds


H.
G. Wells


I
myself am very, very (need I put another very?)
surprised to see this so high on the list. But perhaps because it was
such a different book is why it stuck with me and made me realize it
had to be here. It was mildly disturbing, but fascinating, and made
me think of the Apocalypse. I didn’t see the resolution coming,
which doubled its impact.




#2


Twenty
Years at Hull-House


Jane
Addams


This
memoir about the humanitarian Jane Addams and her laudable projects
was powerful for its history, smooth prose, and thought-provocation.
Although it’s 100 years old, it made me want to do something and be
in some ways more like Jane Addams.




#1


Majestic
Is Your Name


Theresa
of Avila; edited by David Hazard


This
devotional really got to the heart of spirituality, and it was
something I really needed after feeling dry earlier this year. I see
now that it was the first step in drawing close to God again after
feeling disconnected.




As
far as years go, 2014 was an excellent one. The high point was
England and all the time I got to spend with my very dear, but
distant, friend Laura. There were several disappointments, but none
that I can’t see the reason for … instead, they opened up other
things! I thank God for this year!
What
was your favorite book(s) of 2014? Your favorite part of the year?