2016 book list

If you’ve been around a while, you know how this goes, but for any new people, this is my list of books completed this year. An asterisk means it’s a reread. Stats are at the end, along with a handful of other stuff.

January 13: Robert Kirkman, Outcast, Volume 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him
January 18: Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy
January 20: Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger, Creature of the Word
February 1: Colin Atrophy Hagendorf, Slice Harvester
February 4: Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought
February 8: Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
February 13: Erik Larson, The Devil In the White City
February 17: Kent Haruf, Our Souls At Night
February 24: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
March 4: James Dashner, The Maze Runner
March 24: James Dashner, The Scorch Trials
March 30: Trillia Newbell, United
March 30: Neil Gaiman, Coraline
*April 5: Sigmund Brouwer, The Weeping Chamber
April 14: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution
April 16: Alex Bledsoe, The Hum and the Shiver
April 17: Shusako Endo, Silence
May 5: Alex Bledsoe, Wisp of a Thing
May 10: Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
May 21: Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
May 22: Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before
June 1: Enda Walsh, Once
June 4: Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air
June 7: James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love
June 20: Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson, The Mingling of Souls
*June 23: Lauren Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath
June 25: Simon Chan, Liturgical Theology
July 18: Neil Gaiman, American Gods
July 28: Bryan Lee O’Malley, Lost at Sea
*July 31: Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb
*August 8: Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word
August 13: Michel Faber, The Book of Strange New Things
August 17: Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
*August 20: C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
*August 25: C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
September 3: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March, Book Three
*September 8: C.S Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
*September 8: Ray Ortlund, The Gospel
September 24: J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy
September 24: Noelle Stevenson, Nimona
October 2: Cara Nicoletti, Voracious
October 17: Gretchen Rubin, Happier At Home
October 21: Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness
*October 30: C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
*November 4: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods
*November 12: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy
November 18: Jan Karon, Light From Heaven
November 30: Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin
December 11: Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back to You
*December 22: Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
December 31: Elyse Fitzpatrick, Found In Him
total read: 51
fiction: 19
non-fiction: 25
graphic novels/plays: 7
library books: 39
e-books: 11
rereads: 12
books by women: 16
books by people of color: 7

top 10:

A trilogy of books about missionaries–Silence, The Sparrow, and The Book of Strange New Things. The first takes place in Japan (and is the basis for that Martin Scorsese movie that’s out), and the other two take place in space, on alien planets. They’re three very different books, but the threads they share in common are people going to share the gospel in foreign contexts, and the question of whether or not those foreign contexts can receive the gospel–and the crises of faith that happen when the protagonists grapple with that question. They’re unsettling, but in a year when I was wrestling with my own faith they were also surprisingly helpful.

Better Than Before and You Are What You Love. I have a thing about books about habits. As a liturgical creature, what I believe is tied to what I love, and what I love is tied to what I do. So says James K.A. Smith in You Are What You Love, a distilled version of his two previous, more academic books (Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom), and I want to form more habits that stir my affection for Jesus. Better Than Before is a secular book, and its author Gretchen Rubin offers no thoughts on spirituality, but it contains some great principles for forming new habits that I think I’ll take with me into the new year.

Between the World and Me and Hillbilly Elegy. Two books for our times, on race, class, and culture, and understanding the Other. But also, the writing’s really good.

Hamilton: The Revolution. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know about this one, it’s the libretto to, commentary on, and background for a little Broadway show called Hamilton that won a bajillion awards this year. This lives on my coffee table and I’ll pick it up once in a while to look at the photos and cry at the chapter on the song “It’s Quiet Uptown.”

American Gods. Imagine if every mythical god were real, but every country had its own version of said god; imagine if new gods were being formed depending on what the culture worshiped. You’d get one of the best road trip novels ever, an exercise in thinking about myth and religion and idolatry, and a good book to read before the TV show comes out in 2017.

Voracious. Autobiographical essays about books the author has loved all through her life, and recipes inspired by those books. For example, she follows a chapter on Moby-Dick with a recipe for clam chowder. It made me want to read and cook, and maybe pay more attention to the way writers write about food. (I wrote a paper in college on how domesticity and piety are tied together in literature, especially in regard to women; this feels like a book my 22-year-old English major self would have appreciated while writing that paper.)


“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple…” (John 10:22-23)

Tonight is Christmas Eve. Tonight, as occasionally happens, is also the first night of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication. The Jewish people celebrate the temple being rebuilt after the Maccabees defeated their Greek conquerors, and the lights in the temple staying miraculously lit for eight days while they waited for supplies in the winter. In the dark and cold, they, like so many others around the world, celebrate light and heat.

And Jesus, as an observant Jew, went down to Jerusalem to observe that feast as well, even though it’s not actually required in the Torah. But He went anyway, and it’s on that occasion that He’s asked by the religious leaders, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” And He almost gets killed by them because He declares His oneness with the Father. The Light that came into the world didn’t get snuffed out, not then. But He eventually would, not long after.

But He still burns, and He still shines. He would not stay in darkness for long, and while He was there He defeated the enemies of God’s people, the true enemies.

The world is still dark. The powers of this world still rage on. But the True Light has come, and He shines on us.