I read a lot of great books this year (and reread several more). Here are my favorites:
“The Blue Castle,” by L.M. Montgomery
This was a re-read that my Well-Read Mom group decided to read along with “Anne of Green Gables.” It sounded like a depressing setup but ended up being hilarious, charming, and a sweet love story. (I shared a brief reflection on rereading “Anne of Green Gables” on Instagram.) I reread most of the “Anne of Green Gables” series last year while I was pregnant and re-read most of the rest of them after “Anne of Green Gables.”
“The Heart of Perfection: How the Saints Taught Me to Trade My Dream of Perfect for God’s,” by Colleen Carroll Campbell
I’ve written before (here for example) about my struggle with perfectionism and was eager to read this book, which I listened to on Audible. A great read (or listen).
“Middlemarch,” by George Eliot
I read this one and immediately added it to my “books I checked out from the library and now must purchase” list. (I got it for Christmas from my mom!) A great story with possibly the best closing line of any book I’ve ever read.
“Jane Austen’s Genius Guide to Life: On Love, Friendship, and Becoming the Person God Created You to Be,” by Haley Stewart
I preordered this one as soon as it was available. It was enjoyable and, even for someone who’s spent a lot of time thinking about Jane Austen and her characters, thought-provoking. I reviewed it here.
“The Privilege of Being a Woman,” by Alice von Hildebrand
I finally read this short work that packs a powerful punch. It’s up there with St. Teresa Benedicta’s (Edith Stein’s) “Essays on Woman” in terms of shaping how I think about femininity.
“Food Saved Me,” by Danielle Walker
I’m a big fan of Danielle Walker’s cookbooks, so I enjoyed reading her memoir about her health journey. It was especially helpful in light of the fibromyalgia flareup I’ve been experiencing since becoming a mom.
“Sisterhood: Giving and Receiving the Gift of Friendship,” by Chloe Langr
I reviewed this one for Catholic Women in Business—an engaging read sharing both philosophical and practical aspects of feminine friendship.
“Hannah Coulter,” by Wendell Berry
Berry’s “Jayber Crow” was on my list last year. “Hannah Coulter” wasn’t quite as impactful but still an excellent read.
“The Genesis of Gender,” by Abigail Favale
I really enjoyed Favale’s conversion memoir, “Into the Deep,” and her new book was another one that I wanted to purchase as soon as I could. It’s a great look at how we got to the current moment in our culture’s understanding of and approach to gender.
“The Awakening of Miss Prim,” by Natalia Sanmartín Fenollera
This might be my favorite book of the year. It was delightful, thought-provoking, funny, charming, lighthearted and yet deep … basically everything I am looking for in a novel. I want to live in the village in this story and meet all the characters. I’m planning on buying my own copy ASAP.
“Other Birds,” by Sarah Addison Allen
Allen is one of my favorite contemporary novelists, and “Other Birds,” her first novel in several years, came out just in time for me to receive it as a birthday gift! I love magic realism, and her novels are so delightful.
“I Want to Thank You: How a Year of Gratitude Can Bring Joy and Meaning in a Disconnected World,” by Gina Hamadey Bergman
One of my favorite reads of the year—another book on my “must own” list. Bergman spent a year writing one thank you note per day. I love snail mail and really, really enjoyed this book.
“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” by Anne Brontë
Anne is my favorite of the Brontë sisters! This was a great story, but the preface to the second edition, which was included in the copy I checked out from the library, was my favorite part. Brontë explained why she wrote about some of the harsher aspects of human nature and life, and it’s an inspiration to me as a writer.
“Reclaiming Motherhood from a Culture Gone Mad,” by Samantha N. Stephenson
Samantha Stephenson is a writer and bioethicist I know through Catholic Women in Business and FemCatholic, and I was so excited when she announced she was publishing a book with OSV on motherhood. I didn’t read the chapter on breastfeeding due to my traumatic experience trying to breastfeed my daughter, but I can wholeheartedly recommend the rest of the book. It approaches motherhood and western culture from the perspective of a Catholic mother and bioethicist—an interesting, compassionate, and incisive read.
“The Little Way of Living with Less: Learning to Let Go with the Little Flower,” by Laraine Bennett
I reviewed this one for Catholic Women in Business (review is coming out on Jan. 2, so the URL won’t work until then).
“Start with Hello (And Other Simple Ways to Live as Neighbors),” by Shannan Martin
This book is the first I’ve ever requested from our public library system that was actually purchased. It was a great read; Martin has a wonderful writing style, and it also challenged me to think differently and get out of my comfort zone. Definitely recommended reading!
“Kristin Lavransdatter,” by Sigrid Undset
This trilogy is up there with “Emma” among my favorite novels. I reread it for my Well-Read Mom group this spring and enjoyed every minute of it. It was a different and even more meaningful read now that I am a wife and mother than when I first read it, when I was dating my husband.