Thursday, January 27, 2011

Favorite Books of 2010

I determined to post my list of favorite books earlier this year -- last year I didn’t get the post up until February 1! If last year was “the year of the re-read,” this was probably best described as “the year of the biography” because I read some good ones.

I think 2010 was one of the spottiest reading years I’ve had in ages. It wasn’t that I didn’t read a lot – I always do – but 2010 truly was the busiest year I can ever remember in my entire life (even including 5th grade which, at the wise old age of ten, I thought I’d never top). All humor aside, I spent a lot of the past year feeling stretched and exhausted. Reading was a real refuge, but somehow the tiredness lurking in the background made it more challenging than usual to see patterns in my reading or to note reading trails. I have a feeling this list may feel more fragmented than usual, but here goes. Links are to my reviews on Epinions.

Favorite History Book of the Year: Introducing Early Christianity by Laurie Guy. Rarely indeed do I choose a text book I’ve taught from as a favorite on my personal reading list, but this book was such a delight both to read and to see students engage. Helpful, readable, basic but never boring. Excellent grounding for any study of patristic history and theology.

Favorite Children’s Biography of the Year: Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Runner by Kathleen Krull, illustrations by David Diaz. I don’t think the sweet girl has ever been more inspired by a biography.

Favorite Biography of the Year: This is a hard call, only because I read several good ones, including biographies of two of my favorite writers, Alcott and Austen. But I’m going with Eric Metaxas’ Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. Yes, I know I’m behind…this was the year Metaxas brought out his huge book on Bonhoeffer (which I’m currently reading) but I just now got around to his book on Wilberforce, and oh I’m glad I did.

Picture Book Author of the Year: Mo Willems. Hands down. Though my eight year old is finally starting to move away from total devotion to picture books (weep, weep) our whole family fell in love with Mo, especially his Pigeon books and especially Knuffle Bunny.

Best Devotional Book: I really didn’t read one straight through this year (and think I need to remedy that in 2011). Many blogs functioned as devotional material for me, however, and I did read often from A Year With C.S. Lewis, a daybook of quotations mostly from Lewis’ non-fiction.

Best Novel I Read This Year: Emma, by Jane Austen. Which is cheating, because it’s a re-read. I will cheat even further and say, as a close runner-up, The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong, which is actually a mid-grade novel (and I have a separate category for that below...where I'll choose something else because it's really a tie between Wheel and that one). And did I miss reviewing either of these favorite novels this year?

Best Novel I Re-Read This Year: So as not to bore you by saying Emma again, I’ll go with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.

Favorite Book of Literary Analysis/Criticism: Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James. I’m stretching a little here too, as this wasn’t a deeply analytical book. But James did a marvelous job of unpacking the history of the detective writing genre and thoughtfully considering its present and possible future.

Best “pop culture” book: no award this year.

Favorite “new to me” children’s book, mid-grade reader (8-12 year olds): A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.

Favorite “new to me” young adult book (12-15 year olds): The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

Best Children’s Book I Re-Read This Year: I honestly can’t choose. We’re doing so many wonderful (and long beloved) favorites with the sweet girl during family read-aloud time. The Long Winter and The Magician’s Nephew were the best re-reads of the year for me -- books I love that read aloud so beautifully. I also thoroughly enjoyed re-reading The Great Gilly Hopkins (on my own) and reviewing it for banned books week.

Classic Book I Can’t Believe I’d Never Read Before Now: On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius

Favorite “new to me” picture book: Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems. (As Larry the Cucumber might say: “I laughed. I cried. It moved me, Bob.”)

Book I Wish I Hadn’t Wasted My Time Reading: None really, but I do wish I’d found some other mystery writers in the summer besides Katherine Hall Page. I like her work, but it feels quite uneven.

Book I Should Have Finished (and still plan to): Hmm…I’m sure there are a lot of unfinished books in my piles, but I can’t think of one I’m particularly stuck in.

The Book That Surprised Me The Most: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

The Book That Made Me Laugh the Most: Oh my goodness, I didn’t read anything really funny! Must remedy that this year. (I almost listed the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice, but those laughs were mostly unintentional, so I don’t think I’ll count it.)

Book That Challenged Me the Most: Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

Favorite “new to me” mystery writer: G.M. Malliet.

Favorite “new to me” fantasy writer: N.D. Wilson

Favorite “new to me” Spiritual Resource or Bible for Children: none this year, as we used a lot of resources we already knew and loved. But we’re already using new devotional resources in 2011 (and the sweet girl has a new Bible this year as well) so I suspect this category will be interesting to reflect on next year.

Favorite Book of Theological Reflections: Athanasius’ On the Incarnation

Favorite Book of Church History Reflections: The Changing Shape of Church History by Justo Gonzalez

Favorite Poetry: The Trouble With Poetry by Billy Collins


Erin said...

Always love reading your book lists! And they give me so many great options for my own reading. I'm especially interested in Knuffle Bunny Free (though I need to read the second one first, and review both still). I love that you used that VeggieTales quote; it's probably the line from VeggieTales that I pull out most often!

Here's to another year of great reads!

Janet said...

Thank you for this, Beth! I made my own list from your list, and that's always fun. I'll let you know how I like them. Many blessings to you, Dana, and Sarah-Bear!

Janet Z

Beth said...

Erin, that's one of my favorite Veggie Tale quotes ever too. :)

Last I checked, Knuffle Bunny Free was not in the Eps database, which is why I've not yet reviewed it. I keep meaning to have it added but just haven't gotten around to it. I seem to be keeping the CLs in books quite busy with requests these days!

Yes, here's to another good reading year!

Beth said...

Janet, so glad you stopped by! Don't you love book lists? Like you, I often build my reading list from bits and pieces of others' lists!

Blessings to you and your family too!

Kelly said...

Great book list!
Thanks for your comment on my cardinal poem. I hope one day to have a collection published. I'm a former teacher, and I would have liked to have a similar book in my classroom. So I wrote one! (if I don't find a publisher, I may just selfpublish!)

Beth said...

Kelly, thanks so much for stopping by! Your cardinal poem was truly a blessing to us yesterday. My little girl was eager to copy a poem that connected to our cardinal studies, but nothing I could find was appropriate. She just lit up when I read her your poem. I knew immediately that was the one we'd use!

Best wishes to you in finding a publisher. I think we're definitely the kind of audience who would love a book of poems like that!