I read 255 books in 2018! Here are some of the best:
Confessions by Saint Augustine
Augustine of Hippo is one of the great church fathers of the Christian faith. Confessions is his memoir, testimony, and prayer to God. It is beautiful and difficult. I should have read it long ago. But honestly, even at 25 I felt intimidated and pretentious picking up a book by a church father. Imagine 15-year-old me doing it. But 15-year-olds should read this book. And 25-year-olds. And 85-year-olds. Augustine is not as scary as he sounds. Confessions is an incredibly readable and beautiful book. It is a love letter to God. I found it challenging and profound; I will definitely be coming back. This is one of those books that calls for multiple re-reads.
The Ugly Duckling by A.A. Milne
To read the synopsis is to know the entire plot of this one-act play: a king and queen want to get their ugly daughter married, so they have her beautiful serving maid take her place when a prince comes calling. Little do they guess the prince decides to try the same ruse! Though short, this is a very sweet story and an immediate favorite. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (a favorite children’s book of mine) does a fun job retelling it. Very good for a quick read.
Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth by James Cross Giblin
With a title like “Good Brother, Bad Brother” I expected a picture book aimed at children. Then, when the book arrived, I realized it was 244 pages and not aimed at children at all. This is a full-fledge biography! I went through a phase in high school where I was all things obsessed with the Lincoln assassination and this book landed on my to-read list courtesy of that obsession. My memory has dimmed somewhat as to the actual assassination but this book’s focus on Edwin Booth filled in many fascinating details I’d either forgotten or never knew. Edwin was himself a remarkable man forced to forever live in the shadow of his infamous brother. This biography does an excellent job showing Edwin in a positive light (his acting, overcoming alcoholism, love for his daughter) while also not shying away from his flaws (failed theater, failed marriage, etc.) I definitely recommend this one as a fascinating look at John Wilkes Booth’s brother and as the biography of a remarkable actor basically forgotten by history.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, JR. by Clayborne Carson
A fascinating book and great audio with snip-its from Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual speeches. I especially liked what it had to say about organizing. It contains good tips, such as: pick a target, don’t protest generally. (Very Saul Alinsky.) Like most people, I assume, I am most familiar with MLK’s work in the South and was fascinated to learn about his efforts in Chicago. His methods and goals seem to have shifted at that point and perhaps not been as effective. It left me wanting to learn more.
Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain
So, you read Jane Austen. And she’s great! Classic, even. But possibly not an author you want to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. Then you discover Georgette Heyer. She is romantic and clean and everything you were looking for. However, eventually you run out of Heyer and you can only re-read those books so many times. (Trust me, I know.) Where do you turn next? I recommend Suzanne Allain. From a technical standpoint, Mr. Malcolm’s List isn’t a perfect book by a long shot. It plays fast and loose with historical detail (all that first-name calling!) and comfortably relies on some scandalous behavior. But It. Is. So. Fun! And best of all, it fills that Regency craving without causing you to blush. I found it unexpectedly funny and sweet. While reading it, I often flipped back to re-read scenes just for the pleasure of it. Quite a delightful book.
Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff
Speaking of funny…Stuff Christians Like caused me to laugh so hard that people kept staring at me on the bus. I seriously could not keep it in. The book gently satirizes many parts of Christian culture we take for granted. Though the book is starting to feel ever so slightly dated, I was continually delighted by how dead-on accurate it was. It also ends on a more serious note, combining humor and grace in a way that leaves the book more than just another funny read. It has depth. Mostly, though, I recommend it for a good laugh!