It's that time of year where we look back and ruthlessly categorize all our activities from the past year, but most importantly what we've read. I feel as if I'm choosing between children because I read 50 books this year according to Goodreads, and most of them were good ones. But I'm being extremely cruel and picking a couple favourites. I did however, make categories because...yeah...that's as decisive as I could get.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I understand the criticisms of this book, but I still think it's a marvellous, sprawling, Dickensian-like novel with memorable characters, a twisty plot, and piles of worthwhile themes. It's ending is ambiguous but much more satisfying than Tartt's other great novel, The Secret History, which I also read and liked a lot this year.
Someone by Alice McDermott
This book is unassuming yet completely enthralling. A novel about the life of an ordinary woman but so beautifully told it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. It has a homey poignancy that I can't remember reading anything like it, and the prose is remarkably good. I would call this a Catholic novel because of it'd depth of understanding the hidden, inner, ordinary life being the key to spirituality and holiness.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
I thought this book was going to be something akin to romantic chick-lit but was blown away with what an incredible story was told. With descriptions that carry you to the Australian coast, insight into the mind of a veteran of World War I, and most importantly powerful and real telling of the sometimes tragic nature of love and family, this book has a lot going for it.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
I'm confident this will be a popular favourite in book lists this year but I feel it is deservedly so. The Rosie Project is a hilarious book but with a heartfelt story that doesn't feel sentimental or cloying when the writing could have easily ventured in those directions.
Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden
I know I feel as if I say this for each book I read by Rumer Godden: but she blows me away with her ability to bring together the gruesome reality of our fallen, sin-laden lives with the beautiful, unseen ways of grace and faith and how complicated it is when the two come together. This book is no exception and a real marvel.
Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler
I'm not just putting this book on my list because Jennifer Fulwiler's my hero, it's because this book is exceptionally written and I can't help but feel that anyone who reads this book will come away with a rational, honest, experience of how people come to faith.
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day was a lot of things; social justice advocate, journalist, most likely a saint, but within a handful of pages of reading this book you know she's a writer. I liked seeing all the different aspects of her life in her own eyes, how she made sense of things, how things were all connected to a God and Church who loved people about all else. A spiritual memoir that shouldn't be missed.
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
All literary nerds please raise your hands! I thought this was a brilliantly written literary biography/memoir/exploration of the novel that told a good story of how literature still affects our lives today. It treats the subject matter of Middlemarch as well as Eliot herself with a respect and humility that is so often missed in this genre (cough, I'm looking at you A Jane Austen Education, cough). If you're any kind of literary nerd you'll enjoy this not just learn from, but to share nerdy joy.
I've been curious about this book since it was announced a while ago and it more than lives up to my hopes. Insightfully written by a gay Catholic who respects and practices Church teaching on homosexuality, this book offers so much that has been lacking not only in Catholic circles but to our society at large. Discussion about chastity, what it means to actually live as a gay person who doesn't explain away the way they are or Church teaching, what friendship can give to everyone but especially the gay person, and how we can welcome and bring gay Catholics more fully to the Church are all written about with clarity, humour, and intelligence.
Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton
I've read a lot of Chesterton and a lot of saint biographies, but I was surprised by almost everything about this book. Chesterton's wonder and love of St. Francis bursts through on every page and although it isn't a typical biography, you can't help but pick up on the depth of holiness and why his singular holiness transformed the Church.
Ten books! I did it! As usual you can find everything I read on Goodreads, and all my book reviews in the books tab on the sidebar.
Can't wait to hear what your favourite books of the year were!
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