Favorite books of 2015

I finished out 2015 with 82 books read, beating my goal of 75 despite my rough first trimester and sleeping 12 hours a day for a full three months.

When I started working on this list of my favorites, I thought it would be simple. I’ve used Goodreads religiously for the past couple of years, so I figured I’d just make a list of the 5-star books and be done.

It turns out, though, that I don’t always agree with my initial rating of a book.

For example, I’d only given Daring Greatly four stars when I finished it (I think because it took me so long to get through), but it’s a book that I think about often, and I’m planning to reread the parenting chapter again this month. Clearly it was one of my favorites!

Similarly, I rated Die Empty higher than The Creative Habit from last year’s personal retreat, but The Creative Habit is the one that’s stuck with me longer and impacted me more.

And I loved both Winter and The Winner’s Curse…but not enough to call them my favorites, even though I gave them 5 stars at the time.

I guess the moral of the story is you should only give so much weight to my initial Goodreads ratings, and I probably need to go back and revise those after six months or so. 🙂

With that said, here are a dozen of my very favorite books from 2015…

Favorite book of 2015:

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines

One thing that has not changed is my opinion of this book. I said when I finished it that I thought it was probably my favorite read of the year, and it definitely was. I wish I had the words to convince you to read it rather than just putting it on your to-read list.

I don’t know Seth Haines personally, and I’ve found myself slightly cynical about bloggers-turned-authors recently, but this book? SO GOOD. On the surface, it’s the story of Seth’s journey to sobriety, but it’s so much more. If you’ve ever doubted the existence, presence or interest of God…if you’ve wrestled with your faith and prayers unanswered…if you’ve sought religious rules and systems to simplify your beliefs…you need to read this. It’s a beautiful, vulnerable, authentic story of faith and doubt and pain and prayer. And yes, sobriety too. SO GOOD!

P.S. My favorite entry? October 5th.

Favorite Fiction of 2015

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

I recently read a review for a different book that described it as one long exhale. If I was going to wax poetic about this one, I’d describe it as taking a deep breath. The story, the characters, the prose…all of it was simply beautiful. And while some good books leave me frantically reading in every spare moment of the day, this was one I savored as I read. I would highly, highly recommend it.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

And then there’s this one, which may be the complete opposite. It was quirky, irreverent and completely ridiculous, but I always found myself reading “just one more page” of this hilarious political satire. It was also the first book I both read and listened to using Whispersync because I didn’t want to give it up during those times when I couldn’t be reading.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

I liked the first three-quarters of this book, but I loved the ending. It’s heartbreaking and thought-provoking and sad and awful and beautiful all in one.

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

I have to be honest: I was skeptical of this one because there was so much hype when it came out, in part because S.D. Smith is a homeschool dad and popular blogger. The noncomformist, maverick side of my personality didn’t want to become a follower and pick it up just because everyone else was, so I held off for a long time.

However, I did finally add it to our collection in the fall, and when I started reading it one afternoon after my 9-year-old left it sitting on the couch, I was immediately hooked. It’s a captivating story of two rabbits who set out on an unexpected adventure and discover what courage, honor and love really mean.

Favorite Classics of 2015

I started 2015 with a goal of reading at least one classic each month…and failed. However, I discovered two things about myself in the process: 1) I don’t actually like reading from a set reading list all that much. And 2) I much prefer children’s classics to adult classics.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I had forgotten how much I love this book, with all of its nonsense and hysterical puns. I’ve loved it since we put the play on in junior high—Carroll’s Jabberwocky is also one of my favorites—and I enjoyed every bit of it this time around!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I had forgotten how much I love this story about the little girl nicknamed “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” and her discovery of love, companionship, and beauty through both the secret garden on her grieving uncle’s estate and her relationships with the people around her.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Shockingly, I had not read To Kill a Mockingbird before, and during a discussion of classics, it was the most strongly recommended by several friends. As they predicted, I loved this story and the characters so much, although I still haven’t finished Go Set a Watchman, which I also started mid-2015.

Favorite Nonfiction of 2015

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

So much of this book kept me nodding along and highlighting every other sentence while I read, so I can’t say for sure why it took me so many months to get through. Regardless of the reason, Brene Brown’s work in general and this book in particular have changed me, and I think there are a lot of really important principles here.

I do wish I’d skipped to the last chapter, Wholehearted Parenting, right from the start because it may contain the most important words about parenting that I’ve ever read. It’s on my list to read again and again this year as part of my 2016 goals (I’ll share more about that next week!).

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

This is the second time I’ve received a Humans of New York book on Christmas Day and read the whole thing straight through. I love Brandon’s work so much, and it’s always fun to reread my favorite HONYs plus discover so many new ones. This is a book that reminds us of the inherent dignity of each and every person and that we never really know what other people are facing!

Understanding Girls with ADHD: How They Feel and Why They Do What They Do by Kathleen Nadeau, Ellen Littman and Patricia Quinn

Understanding Girls with ADHD: How They Feel and Why They Do What They Do by Kathleen Nadeau, Ellen Littman and Patricia Quinn

I’m not sure I’ve ever marked up, underlined, and bookmarked a book as much as I have this one; it almost felt like I was reading that long-awaited manual that didn’t arrive with any of our children at birth! I feel like I gained new understanding into our oldest daughter’s thinking and how our reactions as parents are exacerbating the ADHD symptoms we’re seeing.

We’re still early in this diagnosis process, taking it slowly and considering several different options, but the information in this book has both confirmed our need to pursue diagnosis and help in managing it and reminded me of her uniqueness and strengths as an individual.

 

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

Anne recommended this as the #1 book I should read during my 2015 retreat, and I’m glad she did. With stories and examples, Twyla Tharp makes the case for making creativity a habit rather than a whim. Although I felt at times like she was overestimating the worth of some of her personal exercises for other creatives, I found it to be a refreshing and inspiring look at creativity as a whole, and one that has stuck with me all year.

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Have you read any of these? What did you think? What were your top books of 2015?