Tag Archives: book list

Books that have had the most impact on me

Back in December, when the current meme of Top Ten Most Influential books was going around Facebook for the first time, I made a list but never got around to sharing it. I was just tagged (this time it says Top Ten Favorite books, but since I struggle so with choosing favorites, even in multiples, I’m going forward with the initial idea), so I’m sharing now.

This is the list I jotted down in December 2013, so it naturally doesn’t include any book I’ve read since then. And if I wrote it today, it might be different, but.

  1. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  2. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Traveling Mercies / Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  4. Dakota by Kathleen Norris
  5. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  8. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
  9. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  10. The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue
  11. A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz
  12. CS Lewis’ space trilogy / The Screwtape Letters

I’m not tagging anyone because I’m not that kind of person but also because I think nearly everyone has already done this. I’d love to see your lists, though!

Best reads 2010

Not all of these books were published in 2010; what they have in common is that I *read* them in 2010. Well, they have other traits in common, perhaps most notably that they’re all fiction this year. These are not necessarily the universal, objective bests; these are the books that most sunk into me, became a part of me.

Best reads, 2010 (in some order)

Wounded: A Love Story by Claudia Mair Burney (2008)
I read this one in February, and it definitely settled into me. I’ve compared countless books to it, held it up as a shining example. I fell in love. This is what Christian fiction should be.

A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz (2009)
One of my first forays into science fiction, and I loved it. A brilliant book, and I’ve been pushing it on people left and right.

Lucky Baby by Meredith Efken (2010)
I laughed, I cried. A beautiful, touching book.

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell (2010)
I think I loved everything about this book. I love the China setting, the dual perspectives, the characters, the language. Not the fastest-moving book on the list, certainly, but gorgeous. Wonderfully evocative.

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart (2010)
The setting shines in this book, mostly about a girl’s internal life. It revealed an aspect of this favorite author that I knew existed but that I hadn’t experienced before.

Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers (2010)
Sadly, I haven’t yet read the second book of this duology (Thank you, Twitter, for helping me recall that word!), but I was thrilled by Rivers this outing.

The Fiddler’s Green by A.S. “Pete” Peterson (2010) (review pending)
I just finished this one, so I haven’t written my review yet. I’ll just say it’s thrilling to watch a writer come into his/her own like Pete does in this second book of his debut duology, just as Jason Gray said.

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson (2010)
A beautiful story of healing, poignantly told. I’m looking forward to reading more from Samson in 2011.

The Mailbox by MaryBeth Whalen (2010)
This is a book that feels deeply. Really a great story.

The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry (2009)
A great blend of drama and action, with excellent characters and a heart-rending back story.

All of these books were published recently, with the oldest originally released in 2008. I’m planning to read more old books in 2011. I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t read many of the ‘big’ books this year, but I’m also not. I’m happy with the books I did read, although — as in any year — I’ve got some titles on my shelves that I wish I had time for, now.

Discovered authors, 2010
(other than those mentioned above):

Sibella Giorello (The Rivers Run Dry)
Mitali Perkins (Secret Keeper)
Jean Kwok (Girl in Translation)
Kersten Hamilton (Tyger Tyger)
Mary DeMuth (Daisy Chain)

Some of the above books were provided to me for review.

Happy New Year, all! I hope 2011 is a great year — reading and otherwise — for each of you.

2011 reading

Reading with AmyAt the end of October, Amy tweeted about how cool Chris and Debi’s mutual challenge was (which has completely ballooned from there) and asking if anyone wanted to tackle such a reading plan with her. Well, I too thought the idea was fantastic and offered immediately.

We each chose five books for the other to read, as well choosing five for ourselves. Oh, and we’re reading one together.

I am so completely excited about the books and my 2011 reading!

To the lists, then, shall I?

I will be reading (chosen by myself, for myself)

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
    I loved Silas Marner when I read it years ago, and this is a huge all-time favorite of a good friend. I didn’t get around to reading it when she loaned me her copy, but I’m looking forward to reading it in 2011!
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    I have a brother-in-law on each side of the family who might slay me if I don’t get around to this one soon. I’ve owned it, fully intending to read it, since 2007. This is another foray into sci-fi.
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    I read parts of this one aloud to my husband way back when it was assigned reading for him. I’ve intended to read it myself since then (he says it’s quite funny, and I believe it), and I’ll be glad that it will be shared knowledge as well.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
    I actually own a copy now, and as much as I love this story I’ve never read it. Now is the time to change that.
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
    I’ve wanted to read this one for years, too! It’s described as “an experimental medieval whodunit set in a monastic library”; how much more perfect could it be?

I will also be reading (chosen by Amy, for me)

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    I was scared of this one for the first bit after it came out, because it sounded similar to The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, which I quite disliked. But in the last six months, I’ve come around. I’m glad for a push to read this one.
  • Songbird by Lisa Samson
    I just recently read my first book by Samson, but I already own two others. I’m quite looking forward to this one! I love that I hadn’t even heard of this title before.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    I remember trying to read (and failing) at this book, but that was a really long time ago. Amy said it’s one of her favorites, so I’m up for the challenge.
  • A Great Deliverance (Inspector Lynley, book 1) by Elizabeth George
    Amy and I talked about this series when we saw each other at Hutchmoot. It’s one I wrote down at that time, and I’m definitely excited to read it!
  • The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
    We talked about this author, too, although this book is a standalone. It sounds good!

One we’ll read together

  • Lilith by George MacDonald
    I think we’ve both wanted to read this one. I intended to get to it this year, but it hasn’t happened.

The books I chose for Amy

  • Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
    I absolutely love this mystery series, and I think Amy will love the characters, too. On choosing the actual title: This one isn’t the first in the series, but this one has better characterization *and* it has Harriet Vane. (I conferred with Ana in nailing down which title, though.)
  • Saints in Limbo by River Jordan [my review]
    I completely adored this book when I read it last year, and I think Amy has been missing out, having not — yet! — read it.
  • Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen [my review]
    This one is referenced in Claudia Mair Burney’s Wounded: A Love Story [my post], which Amy and I both read for a Faith and Fiction round table discussion earlier this year. We both loved that one, and I hope she’ll enjoy this one, too.
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon [my review]
    I’m not sure it’s possible for me to love a novel more than I do this one. The writing is thrilling, beautiful. The atmosphere is lovely, and it’s a little bit mystery, a little bit spooky. I think Amy will love it, too.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
    It’s been a long time since I read this one, but I remember loving the writing as well as the faith aspects of the book.

You should also check out Amy’s post on the challenge, too!

This isn’t the only plan I have for my 2011 reading (maybe I should have added a Part 1 to the post title), but I couldn’t wait to share this list! Have you started planning your reading for next year yet?


I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Reading while traveling

I’m excited to attend Hutchmoot this coming weekend — and while I’m at it to meet My Friend Amy!

One positive aspect of pre-trip preparations (I really don’t like packing) is choosing what books to take. Here’s what I’m currently thinking:

It’s not a long trip but not just a weekend, either. Sometimes I read less on the road than I would at home, but sometimes I get some quality book time in. I do have a knitting project on the needles for the trip, as well. It’s a new design I’m working on from handspun, as part of the 4! Ounce! Challenge!

Even if I don’t end up reading a ton, though, I need to take more books than this to feel comfortable (Those two for me are both quite short, and I’m already partway through one of them!), but I haven’t figured out yet what else to take. Guess I’d better go stare at the bookcase for a bit …

The INSPY Awards: The Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Lit

In early 2006 I stumbled across the Image Journal’s list of its Top 100 writers (with one book by each listed) of the 20th century. The list only references creative writing by writers of faith and the works must “manifest a genuine engagement with the Judeo-Christian heritage of faith.” [I’ve posted and organized the list here.]

At first the list was simply daunting. I’d read so very few of them. I stuck the list in my purse and pulled it out sometimes when I was at the library. Less than a month after I started blogging in this space, in April 2007, I made this list a project. I aimed to read all the books on the list.

As I read and posted about these books, my estimation of the books as a group only grew — each one I read was so amazing! These are the kind of books I love, these are the kind of books that make me happy I’m a reader, I thought.

From that time, though, even as I’ve continued to make my way through the list, a longing has been growing steadily inside me. I’ve wondered, over and over, where are the new books? Yes, that’s a funny question to ask when your TBR shelf is overflowing with mostly new books. But what I wanted — and still want — is to find new books, new authors, whose books rise to the standard of these older ones. Sure, a few of the list’s authors are still alive and writing, but I want more.

After reading a post in March 2010 from My Friend Amy about the state of Christian Fiction, I was inspired to write, here, about my own unmet desire for books that really dig into what it means to believe, what this walk-by-faith thing is about, and do so with writing that thrills me. As much as I dug, as much as I asked others, I couldn’t to see a way to find these books. Sometimes they’re published by Christian publishing houses, sometimes by indie presses, sometimes by the large general-market publishers. Sometimes they’re even self-published. And as much as I’d love to, there’s no way I can read all the books published in a year [just] to find the ones I really want to read.

Note: This story isn’t exactly in chronological order, but it is how I remembered it.

So when Amy asked if I wanted to be involved in creating a new award that would honor exactly these books, I was hugely excited.

After months of brainstorming and discussion and planning, today we launched the INSPY Awards. And I’m so excited! Like Amy, “I’m so very excited and hopeful that we’ll be able to discover the very best books that grapple with the Christian faith that are being published today.”

Now we need your help. For this to be successful, we need book nominations. We need judges. We need word of the INSPYs to be spread far and wide.

If you’re interested in being a judge, please head over to the INSPYs site and read over the criteria and apply. If you’re interested in nominating the great books of Christian faith you’ve read in the last year, then please read the criteria for books and nominate the books you think should be considered.

It’s been a blast working with the whole advisory committee: Amy of My Friend Amy, Carrie of Books and Movies, Deborah of Books, Movies & Chinese Food, and Rel of Relz Reviewz.

Oh, one last thing: Help us spread the word! Please subscribe to the INSPYs blog, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Favorite authors

I can’t choose a single favorite of hardly anything — a favorite color, a favorite candy, a favorite cereal, a favorite meal, a favorite fiber, a favorite place. My preferences change depending in large part, I think, on my mood, but I also like crave variety. So when it comes to favorite books and favorite authors, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve got lists (and even those are in flux) rather than singular ultimate favorites.

I can’t be alone in this, can I?

My favorite authors — in no particular order

  • Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Francine Rivers
  • Randy Alcorn
  • Sibella Giorello
  • Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Beth Kephart
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • C.S. Lewis
  • J.R.R Tolkien
  • Patrick O’Brian
  • Anne Lamott

Some of these are new favorites, some of them are old favorites.

And then, because I can’t stop there, I made a [probably also incomplete] list of authors who are potential favorites, but since I’ve only, alas, read one of their books so far, I can’t be sure.

Potential favorite authors

  • River Jordan
  • Kathleen Norris
  • Athol Dickson
  • Walker Percy
  • Claudia Mair Burney
  • Mitali Perkins
  • John Irving

Who are your favorites? Any potential favorites?

National Grammar Day: Grammar books

Today is National Grammar Day! Hosted this year by Grammar Girl, aka Mignon Fogarty, hopefully the discourse this time around will be more civil — productive, even? As Fogarty says, “Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!” (My post from 2009.)

This year, I thought, rather than simply announcing this great day here (I have no reason, really, to get involved in a discussion about the pros and cons of grammar) I’d do something different.

So, without further ado, a list of grammar books (and no, these aren’t exactly textbooks, although I could perhaps make a list of those too, hmm …):

Grammar books I’ve read:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

Grammar books on my wish list:

On the Dot: The Speck That Changed the World by Alexander Humez and Nicholas Humez

Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World by Martha Brockenbrough

I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar: A Collection of Egregious Errors, Disconcerting Bloopers, and Other Linguistic Slip-Ups by Sharon Eliza Nichols (I think I’m still a member, albeit inactive, of this Facebook group)

The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty
I used to listen to Fogarty’s podcast.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga
Good title, right?

Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner

Have you read any grammar books?

NOTE: I’m using a broad definition of grammar here. Punctuation may not exactly be the same thing as grammar, but it’s close enough.

If you’re more a person of action, John McIntyre has a list of tasks one can undertake in honor of National Grammar Day.

Book club books (Faith ‘n’ Fiction Saturday)

Today’s topic for Faith ‘n’ Fiction Saturday — a day set aside each week to examine the intersection of faith and fiction — is book club picks for a Christian (fiction) book club:

Finding good books for book club can be really difficult. Generally, you want a book that raises questions so that you have something to discuss. Christian fiction often provides discussion questions (even in romance novels!) but I’m not always sure the books themselves have that much to discuss. Today I thought it would be fun if we compiled a list of books that would make good book club books for Christian book clubs. Since this is faith and FICTION Saturday, I’m asking you to keep your answers to works of fiction. The books, however, do not need to be published by a Christian publishing house, but they should have some elements that would make them appealing to Christian book groups to discuss.

I’ve never been in such a book club (actually, I’ve never been a member of any book club), but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to be.

Using the filter of when-I read-this-I-really-wanted-to-talk-about-it-with-someone-like-minded, I’d recommend:

Silence by Shusaku Endo definitely fits the bill (as My Friend Amy suggested).

Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler

Ironweed by William Kennedy

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

Others that broach good topics for discussion:

• Francine Rivers’ The Scarlet Thread, The Last Sin Eater

• Julie Lessman’s Daughters of Boston series (I had a great discussion with a friend about some of the characters in these books)

Robert Morgan’s The Truest Pleasure

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

• Most any of Penelope Stokes’ books (Well, I wouldn’t recommend her historical fiction for this purpose, but other than that, yes.) — The Amber Photograph may be my favorite

Most of these books are on the Image Journal Top 100 list. It’s comprised of creative writing published in the 20th century that “manifest(s) a genuine engagement with the Judeo-Christian heritage of faith.”