Books: best of 2013, a look ahead to 2014

I’ve wrapped up my “official” reading for 2013, and I wanted to share with you the best of the best from this year. Also, I’m going to be doing things a bit differently next year when it comes to reviews. I’ll let you in on that as well.

So, here goes! The best books I read this year. So many to choose from, and I’m sure I’m leaving some out.

Let’s start with fiction.

sleeping in edenBEST OVERALL: Way back in January, I read an advanced copy of Nicole Baart’s Sleeping in Eden, and I predicted it would be among the best books I read all year. It set a high standard for books, and as the year closes, I have to say, I told me so. You can read my review here. It’s a book I want to read again because of its beauty and rich plot. It’s not a light read, but it’s well worth it.

BEST SERIES: The Cadence of Grace series by Joanne Bischof rocked. my. world. I read the first two books back to back in the same week. A mistake because I was SO emotional at the end of it. You can read my reviews of those here. And then I waited months for the finale, which I reviewed here. I couldn’t get the characters out of my head, and the story is a gritty look at the price of past mistakes and the cost of redemption and the beauty of grace. A new classic series for the historical Christian fiction fan. Cadence-of-Grace-1-1024x691

BEST UNFINISHED SERIES: I read several other unfinished series this year. Two, in particular, have me eagerly awaiting the conclusion.

Michael K. Reynolds’ Heirs of Ireland series, which began with Flight of the Earls and continued with In Golden Splendor, concludes next month with Songs of the Shenandoah. In Flight of the Earls, Reynolds wrote the best opening line I’ve read in a long time. And his writing continued to awe me through these books.

forsaken dreams coverAnd MaryLu Tyndall’s Escape to Paradise series, which began with Forsaken Dreams and continued with Elusive Hope, finishes next summer with Abandoned Memories. Forsaken Dreams was my first full-length read of Tyndall’s work, but I’m totally hooked. I’ve read four other books by her since March. Tyndall has a unique way of blending adventure, mystery and romance.

BEST NON-CHRISTIAN FICTION: Most of what I read falls in the Christian category. This year, I branched out a couple of times, something I hope to do more of. Neil Gaiman is an author I’ve been wanting to read, and his newest book The Ocean at the End of the Lane almost jumped off the new book shelf at the library. So, I took it home, and I LOVED it. It’s short, mystical and deep. I would read it again in a heartbeat.

MOST UNEXPECTED: I got the chance to read an advanced copy of Heather Day Gilbert’s debut, God’s godsdaughterDaughter, a self-published novel about Vikings. I’ve “met” Heather online and the premise was worth the risk. And let me say that this book shattered my preconceived notions about self-published books. This is totally worth it. A good story, well-written, with a gorgeous cover.  We haven’t seen the last of her.

BEST RE-READ: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. (insert sigh) Now that I have a copy, I will read this book often. There’s a reason it’s a classic in Christian fiction.

HONORABLE MENTION: Halfway through the year, I picked these as my best books for the first half of the year. I would include them still. In the second half of the year, I’d add Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron, In Broken Places by Michele Phoenix and Frame 232 by Wil Mara.

Now, to non-fiction. Here’s where my list stood at the halfway point of the year.

BEST OVERALL: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I avoided this book for a while because I expected something preachy from someone with a perfect life. Ha! I was so wrong. Gently challenging and beautiful. Voskamp has a way with words I can hardly describe. She sees things differently and opens readers to the beauty around. This book is her personal journey toward thankfulness from a bitter heart. A read and read again kind of book.

BEST RE-READ: Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. I read through this early in the year. This fall, our church’s book club has been reading it, and I’ve found it richer in community.

BEST MEMOIR: When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman. This account of growing up in evangelical Christianity in the ’90s brought tears and laughter, and at times felt like it was part of my own Christian journey. Honest, real. I love a good memoir and this is among the best. jesus feminist

MOST UNEXPECTED: Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. Five years ago, I would not have picked up a book with the word “feminist” in the title. Even after a shift in what I believe, I was still a bit nervous to read this. I thought it might be angry and demeaning toward men. Again, I’m happy to say I was wrong. (Are you sensing a theme here? I think I judge a book by its cover!!) A call to community. An affirmation of gifts. A tender tug toward wholeness as a body.

MOST CHALLENGING: The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. It took the author’s death for me to finally pick up one of his books. What was I waiting for? This book is challenging because of its radical emphasis on grace. These are words to ponder and ponder again. So glad I read them.

SpiritualDangerOfDoingGood_200rgb-662x1024HONORABLE MENTION: In addition to the ones I picked at the halfway point, I’d add The In-Between by Jeff Goins, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good by Peter Greer and Jesus, My Father, the CIA and me by Ian Morgan Cron.

And now, a few words about my reading and reviewing plan for 2014.

In years past I’ve committed to reviewing a book on this blog once a week, every week, for the entire year. I’ve found myself bogged down by that plan and requesting books to review that I’m only partially interested in. So, for 2014, I’m going to focus first on the books in my house that I haven’t read.

Here’s a sneak peek at those.

2014 TBR

I will be constantly reading but may not review everything with a blog post here. If you’re a book lover as well and want to keep up with what I’m reading, find me on Goodreads. At the very least, I give a rating to what I’m reading, and sometimes I’ll write a short review. I want to enjoy what I’m reading again, not read merely out of duty. So, you’ll still find the occasional review here, but not as many as before.

Your turn! What are among the best books you’ve read this year? What books are you looking forward to in 2014?


4 thoughts on “Books: best of 2013, a look ahead to 2014

  1. Lisa, what a sweet and wonderful shout-out! I’m so glad you enjoyed God’s Daughter and that it’s changing the way you see self-published novels. I’m so thrilled you were able to be an early reader!

  2. Pingback: How a book series made me long for a home I’ve never known: Review of Songs of the Shenandoah by Michael K. Reynolds | Living Echoes

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