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Day 354: My 2016 Reading List

My nightstand. See below for details.*
I started something new (besides ye olde gratitude blog) in 2016 and the end of the year has me wishing I'd always been doing it: keeping track of books I've read.

I've always been a reader, but reading as a hobby became a casualty of parenthood for me. Then, when I became more interested in learning about my faith, I inadvertently stopped reading everything else, feeling like somehow any reading that wasn't furthering my knowledge wasn't useful. I'm glad that time has passed!

I follow a couple of bookish bloggers (namely Haley and Christy) who inspired me to actually keep track of what I read. It's nice for me as a stay-at-home mom to see something I've accomplished and completed, since so much of my work really never gets completely finished. My list has been a great tool for me to recommend books to others or to help me remember authors I'd like to read more of.

One of my resolutions, if you will, for 2016 was to read more. I didn't really set SMART goals here; I just decided to try to read each day. I did pretty well, and found my groove reading for at least 15 minutes before bed most nights, even if I was really tired. At any given time, I usually have a hard copy book, a Kindle book and an audio book going and I try to keep them somewhat different in genre so I can always have something available that I feel like reading.

I engaged in an internal debate because I didn't want it to seem like some sort of humble brag. I finished 27 books this year. I have no idea what most people read in a year, and it doesn't matter, but two books a month seems like a legit goal for me so I'm happy with it. Note that this total includes 10 books I "read" on Audible and at least two books that I started in 2015 and finished this year. I think I also have three on my nightstand now that will not get finished until 2017.

Audiobooks have greatly increased the "reading" I can get done, because I can listen to them while I clean, fold laundry or cook supper. I have loved my subscription to Audible, but I recently changed mine to every other month, because I am no longer getting through a book a month, or even every two months. (I blame you, Mark Twain's Joan of Arc! So good, but so very, very long.) I finally figured out how to use Overdrive for audio books, too, so I may take a break from Audible and listen to more free books in 2017.

Here are a few of my favorites from 2016 in case anyone cares:
  • All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr. Amazing. I heard about this on a podcast and then suddenly everyone in the world had read it but me. I listened on Audible and was glad I did because of all the French and German. It's an amazing story. Please go read or listen to it ASAP. It was part of a little WWII kick for me this year, with 5 or 6 of my finished list falling into that category. Always compelling, that greatest of wars. 
  • The WaitingCathy LaGrow. Wow! I picked this up at my mom's when my Kindle died and ended up reading it in a weekend. It's a stunning story of a young mother forced to give her baby up for adoption and how they find each other. 
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt - Edmund MorrisOh yes, yes to this! I bought it a couple of years ago when it was a $2 Kindle deal, and finally decided to check it out this year. It's amazing. Roosevelt is such an interesting and enchanting character. I followed it up with Theodore Rex, which was also interesting but not quite as compelling. I've yet to read the trilogy's final installment, Colonel Roosevelt, because I think it will make me sad. It's on my list for 2017 though. 
  • Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne. It's almost embarrassing that I felt the need to read this book, because everything he said seemed so, dare I say, simple. Get rid of crazy schedules, elaborate meals, an excess of toys and clothes. Reduce visual and audio noise. Make being a kid easier, not by giving in to their every whim, but by setting reasonable limits and using common sense concepts to reduce stress on kids. It's a really interesting and insightful book and I'd recommend it to any parent. 
  • Fill These Hearts - Christopher West. This is written by one of the experts on John Paul II's Theology of the Body and I remember wanting to underline and shout to the world what seemed like every other sentence. I'll be going back to reread this one for sure. 
  • The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James. This is a book I guarantee I wouldn't have picked up, if my trusted and well-read godmother hadn't recommended it. She recommended at least three books on this year's list and they were all excellent. I've been telling EVERYONE to read or listen to this book. It's about the 1936 Olympic rowing team out of the University of Washington. I finished it right before the summer Olympics, so it was fun to watch rowing and actually know a little bit about it. I'm not sure my description has really sold this book as one you need to check out, but it really is. I loved it, and you should, too.
Honorable Mention:
  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo. Has anyone not read it? I can't get on board with everything she says, but I definitely appreciate the end goal. 
  • The Greatest Generation - Tom Brokaw. WWII heroes. I love 'em.
  • Like A River From It's Course - Kelli Stuart. This was a  WWII story Kindle Deal I bought impulsively that turned out to be really good.
  • The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah. More WWII historical fiction. I'd describe this one as gut-wrenching. I'm really glad I listened to this one, because French. 
  • Render Unto Caesar - Abp. Charles Chaput - I am a big Chaput fan. I think this should be required reading for Americans. 
  • The Awakening of Miss Prim - Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera. Such a cute, fun novel to read. Listen to a discussion of it here
This is getting super long, so I'll post more about my 2017 list in a separate post. If you've made it this far, wow. Tell me what your favorite book (of 2016 or ever) is in the comments, please!

*This post was sitting in draft, because I actually wanted to try to have a legit corresponding photo. Like one of those ones where you stack up the books all pretty and photograph them in natural light? But I remembered a 5:45 p.m., long past natural light in North Dakota winters. I thought I'd give it a try anyway, but then I could only find one book, because library, Kindle, Audible. My Kindle was dead. My nightstand was a disaster. So what you see is real life. I slapped a "pearl" filter on it and called it good. My apologies. 

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