“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”
~Louisa May Alcott
My library obsession reached new heights in 2017, first by juggling three different library systems at once (Las Vegas, Scottsdale, and Phoenix), then by purchasing a readerly tote and, finally, by putting this case on my phone like some kind of dubious Disney-loving adult (only not that at all).
The result? 51 books finished, eight or so abandoned, and whole lot to think about and enjoy while the rest of the world binge watched Stranger Things (oh, wait, I did that, too). Below are a handful of titles I’ll remember from this year plus some bonus suggestions you might also like. The rest you can find over on my Goodreads and at #kklreads on Instagram.
A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold
Sue Klebold may have found herself at the center of a national tragedy, but she was, first and foremost, a mother mourning the death of her youngest child. In this gut-wrenching memoir, Sue relates 16 years of grief, horror and shame as she works out how her son came to carry out one of the deadliest school shootings in US history. A tough, important read for anyone, but especially for parents. Her story has forever altered the way I consume media, communicate with my kids, and understand the connection between brain health issues and violence. Pick this one up on audio to hear it in Sue’s voice.
“There is perhaps no harder truth for a parent to bear, but it is one that no parent on earth knows better than I do, and it is this: love is not enough. My love for Dylan, though infinite, did not keep Dylan safe, nor did it save the 13 people killed at Columbine High School, or the many others injured and traumatized. I missed the subtle signs of psychological deterioration that, had I noticed, might have made a difference for Dylan and his victims – all the difference in the world.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Columbine by Dave Cullen
And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick
Kate and her husband Britt live in my hometown. I credit their Santa Barbara college ministry-turned-church plant with hitching my wagon to Jesus’ star. So when their 5-year old daughter, Daisy Love, was diagnosed with cancer, you better believe my family and I said all of the prayers for all of the years. I wrote about the Merricks in this post, so do take a peek.
A n y w a y. This book. It’s most beautiful piece of writing and truth-telling I laid eyes on in 2017. Pick it up immediately, especially if life has you in a grief tailspin. First, though, note this disclaimer from Kate:
“I’ve been notified that some readers have put the book down sometime in the first two chapters because it’s so sad. Well, friends, there can’t be true happy without some terrible sad. ‘Though sorrow may last through the night (or the first two chapters), joy comes in the morning.’ If you can get through the first 2 chapters, you’ll find encouragement, sass, sunshine, TMI, and all kinds of other things that will make you glad you pressed on! Plus, there’s a poop story involving a pair of corduroy pants:) You’re welcome.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Beautiful Battlefields by Bo Stern
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
I don’t have words for this one beyond that it gutted and gifted me beyond measure.
“The wilderness is where all the creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lived, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
Finish by Jon Acuff
I didn’t plan it this way but, oddly enough, this was the last book I finished this year. Ta-da! As soon as I did, I all but demanded my husband read it, too (he did). Perfect for the start of a new year, Finish is an accessible, practical framework for overcoming perfectionism so that your goals don’t die on the vine or gather dust in a drawer. Can I get a witness?
“The sneakiest obstacle to meeting your goals is not laziness, but perfectionism. We’re our own worst critics, and if it looks like we’re not going to do something right, we prefer not to do it at all. That’s why we’re most likely to quit on day two, “the day after perfect”—when our results almost always underperform our aspirations.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf
Hope Heals is Katherine and Jay Wolf’s remarkable story of Katherine’s recovery from a massive brain stem stroke. It’s a story of irreparable loss, unrelenting love and the God who entered into both.
“Over the past seven years of this saga, I have learned to do many things well—to wait well, suffer well, cope well, persevere well, and even to lose well. Our culture tells us to succeed, be beautiful, avoid pain, and be happy. What if everything important in our lives is actually the opposite? Maybe it takes life being undeniably terrible before we can truly recognize its undeniable splendor.”
Love Lives Here by Maria Goff
Maria Goff was the wisest, most encouraging companion on the final, treacherous leg of our family’s transition from Las Vegas to Phoenix. This book was everything I never knew I needed as I stepped out of one season and into another.
“Loss visits all of us. None of us gets to opt out. Rather than praying that I never experience loss again, my prayer has been that God would show me what’s possible on the other side of the loss. While we’re waiting to find out what God might have for us, we might be sad for a while but we’re not going to be stuck. We’re going to move forward. Love keeps us going and hope moves our feet.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
When I was craving something breezy to devour in one weekend, this one came through for me. It won’t change your life, but it’s a good pallet cleanse if you need one in your reading life. The long and short of it: One woman is unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.
“Good things don’t wait until you’re ready. Sometimes they come right before, when you’re almost there. And, I figured when that happens, you can let them pass by like a bus not meant for you. Or, you can get ready. So I got ready.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
Forget what you know about the movie. Never mind the fact that you may never think about horse racing. Hillenbrand’s meticulous research will have you cheering (Kentucky Derby hat optional). It left me caring deeply, surprisingly, about a crooked-leg horse and the embattled men and women who, during the cruelest years of the Great Depression, overcame tremendous odds to help him become a champion.
“We had to rebuild him, both mentally and physically, but you don’t have to rebuild the heart when it’s already there, big as all outdoors.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
A fascinating, moving read for entrepreneurs, leaders and anyone who has ever owned a calling (or a pair of Nikes). I will never look at a swoosh the same way again.
“We wanted, as all great businesses do, to create, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me.” -Phil Knight
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton
Steal Away Home by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey
Just when I thought I couldn’t fall any harder for Charles Spurgeon, Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey go and write this moving story of Charles’ unexpected friendship with Virginia slave-turned-missionary Thomas Johnson. These two—and their plucky wives—flat out gutted it out, all the way home. I want to be like them when I grow up. Oh, yes I do. Theirs is a story of endurance, of courage, of keeping one’s hands on the plough, no matter how blistered or bruised. Ultimately their friendship reminds us that pastors are just like the rest of us: sons, brothers, husbands and fathers who never outgrow their need for friendship, for freedom, for Jesus.
“A sick wife…a freshly dug grave…a lonely and terrified slave…poverty…gout, depression and fear…they all teach us lessons we can’t learn nowhere else. Trials drive us to Jesus. Sickness has been more useful to the saints of God than health ever has. The furnace is a blessing, Charles. Embrace it.” – Thomas Johnson
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon and Alistair Begg
Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
I only made it 67 pages into this library book before one-click ordering it on Amazon. It’s a compelling, wise, important addition to any bookshelf. I underlined something on every page.
About the book: For twenty years, Gregory Boyle has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. In Tattoos on the Heart, he distills his experience working in the ghetto into a breathtaking series of parables inspired by faith.
“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin
The House of Riverton by Kate Morton
Kate Morton is my favorite novelist, mostly because I’m a sucker for books with houses as characters. No one sets family drama in sprawling estates better than Kate. I discovered her when her most recent book released in 2016, and since then have been working my way backward through her collection. The House at Riverton is her debut, set in England between the wars. It’s the story of an aristocratic family, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades. Of all of Kate’s novels, this one’s ending is the most heart wrenching, and I loved it.
“…for home is a magnet that lures back even its most abstracted children…”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner
The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
This historical novel, based on the real-life disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in 1930, blends fact and fiction to create a captivating tale—replete with corrupt New York police, politicians, and showgirls—about what might have become of the crooked judge (to this day no one actually knows). One of the best parts is the author’s note at the end where Lawhon explains which characters and situations were real and which ones she imagined.
“The truth is more important than protecting yourself. Regardless of the consequences.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
What Falls From the Sky by Esther Emery
This is Esther’s journey through a year away from the good, the bad, and the ugly of the digital world. There’s profound encouragement here for anyone trying, like I am, to live less life through–and for–a screen.
“Social networking is a natural enemy to humility. Certain kinds of changes are hard to make when you’re performing your identity for the appreciation of a crowd.”
If you like this, you may also enjoy: Unseen by Sara Hagerty