Monday, December 26, 2011

The 2011 Reading Log Superlatives! (Or, My Year In Books)

These are some of the books I have read this year - and I would like to hear about what you have read!  Take some time, think it over, if you have anything really good you want to finish, please do so! But share your best of the best (and worst of the worst!)! All categories are not applicable to all readers, and I know some of these categories may overlap - actually, your best-of-the-best will most likely show up twice! So, pick and choose which apply from your own list.

And the winners are........

Best History:
Bohhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes. I originally gave this 4.5 out of 5, only because parts of it bogged down in the middle. I know the discussion of politics and parties in Germany was crucial to the story, but it was hard for me to follow. I actually had to set the book aside for a bit and read something light and come bask to it later. Overall, though, an incredibly well-done biography of one of the great heroes of the faith. My runner up is Jesus, Made in America: A Cultural History From the Puritans to The Passion of the Christ by Stephen J. Nichols.

Best Homeschooling Book:
Didn’t read one this year. Odd.

Best Parenting Book:
Hmmm. Didn’t read one of these this year, either. Started Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp and Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp, but haven’t finished either yet.

Best Theology/Doctrine Book:
Justification and Regeneration by Charles Leiter. Gave it 4.5 in my original review. Excellent resource for understanding these two critical doctrines. Written in simple, compelling language.

Best Current Event Book:
I think I am going to take a “health” book for this topic: The No-Fad Diet by The American Heart Association. Very helpful, boils it down to the basics – you have to use more calories than you eat, otherwise you gain weight. No fads, no certain foods to avoid. Basic counting calories, exercise, making good food choices. I got it from the library, but I think this is going to be a Christmas present to myself to help me with my health goals for the year. A 5, in the original review. My runner-up would be My Life From Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a Time by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Sandra Bullock’s sister, tells of leaving the world of Hollywood (working with her sister’s production company) and starting a bakery in a small town in Vermont.

Best Biography/Autobiography:
A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall. Biography of Peter Marshall, who was known as the most beloved pastor in America in the 1940s. Catherine Marshall, who wrote Christy and Julie was married to Peter. Originally received a 4.

Best Mystery:
A Trick of the Light: An Inspector Gamache Mystery by Louise Penny. This will probably show up again – worth waiting a year for. These are some of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. Detailed, not gross and gory, very real characters that you come to feel like you know. Original review was a 5.

Best New-To-You-Author:
This is difficult, as I have read a lot of series this year, with not many really new authors. I will say it is a toss-up between Jack McDevitt (Time Travelers Never Die, a 4.5) and Mignon F. Ballard (Miss Dimple Disappears, a 4)

Best New Book in a Series:
I will have to go with A Trick of the Light: An Inspector Gamache Mystery by Louise Penny again. There were several good ones, including A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia deLuce) by Alan Bradley, Who Is My Shelter? (House of Hope Novel) by Neta Jackson, A Heart For Home (Home To Blessing #4) by Lauraine Snelling, and Naughty In Nice (A Royal Spyness Mystery) by Rhys Bowen.

Most Disappointing New Book in a Series:
There were several bad ones, but overall, I was MOST disappointed in The Pirate King: A Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes Mystery by Laurie R. King. I love these books, and after waiting a year for a new one, was sadly underwhelmed. A silly plot with no connection to the other books, Holmes missing for half the book, characters running amuck…..hopefully Ms. King will be back in form for next year. I think runner-up would be One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. Another hard-to-follow mess.

Biggest Let Down Outside of a Series:
Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova. Still Alice is one of my favorite books, and a hard act to follow, but this one just wasn’t that great.

Best New-To-You Series:
The Edwardian Murder Mystery series by Marion Chesney. Marion Chesney is M.C. Beaton, who writes the Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin mysteries. I was sorry that this series only had four books. It was a nice little tide-me-over this fall while I was waiting for the next Agatha Raisin to arrive.

Book That Made You Laugh Out-Loud:
No big laughs this year. Maybe a few chuckles from Of Thee I Zing by Laura Ingaham (a December book, so the review for that has not yet been posted). The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is always good for a few laughs. Those Herdman kids!

Book That Made You Cry:
The end of Bonhoeffer and Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody.

Best Series Overall:
This was my year of Hamish Macbeth. I read 16 of the books, up to the current one (which will appear in February of 2012).

Best Classic:
I am going to go with Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. I read this aloud with my two older boys. Parts of it were quite….wordy. Overall, though, a great story of one families’ faith and survival.

Best Plot Twist (beware of spoilers!):
John Grisham, The Confession, which got a 5. Not a great book technically – heavy on melodrama, light on character development, but a page-turner that gave me food for thought and had several unexpected twists and turns. I have read many of Grisham’s books (A Time to Kill is still one of my all-time favorite thrillers). Many of them are okay, several I haven’t been able to finish (his newest, The Associate got added to that stack this year). But this, while not in the same category as A Time To Kill, stood up with say, The Pelican Brief.

Most Over-Hyped Book:
A toss-up between Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and The Help. I had a hard time with Voskamp’s meandering (I guess she writes that way because she is a poet) but after reading articles and interviews in WORLD Magazine I was really expecting life-changing prose. I gave it a 2. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett was good, fast-paced, and interesting, in a voyeuristic sort of way. I had tried to read it when it first came out, and then put it down. After the movie came out I managed to read and finish it. I gave it 4.25 for being a page turner, but it still was just not my cup of tea.

Worst Book-To-Movie Transition:
I didn’t see any that would qualify.

BEST Book-To-Movie Transition:
Definitely True Grit by Charles Portiss. I had never seen the movie, and read the book first. The new version of the movie is very, very close to the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t enjoy many books-made-into-movies. I then watched the original movie with John Wayne. Still a good movie, but nothing on the book. Another good book-to-movie was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I read that with the two older boys this year, and then watched the movie. Of course a lot had to be left out, but overall, still a good movie. I love Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Best Historical Fiction:
A Country of Strangers by Conrad Richter. This is a companion book to his more well-known book A Light in the Forest (which was turned into a Disney movie and did NOT end up like the book, go figure). The story of Stone Girl, a white woman who was captured by Indians in the late 1700s. She is now a grown woman with a husband and child, and as part of a negotiation is being returned to the white people. A heart-wrenching story, told from the viewpoint of the Indians. I highly recommend both of these books for high school students.

Best Contemporary Christian Fiction:
Bound By Guilt by C.J. Darlington. A stand-alone book, but it continues the storylines of some of her characters in Thicker Than Blood. 4.5 in the original review. C.J. has finished the third book in the trilogy, and I am anxiously awaiting its’ publication.

Best Childrens’ or YA Book:
We read a lot of good ones this year. I am going to go with Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody. Described as Little House on the Prairie for boys, but grittier. We gave this a 5.

Book You Hated So Much You Almost Couldn’t Finish It:
Lucifer’s Flood by Linda Blood Rios. Just plain stupid, bordering on heresy. I only finished it because it was a book club read.

Book You Hated So Much You Actually DIDN’T Finish It:
That is a really long list….the most recent was of all things, the latest Aunt Dimity mystery, Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree.. It was just borriiinnng. And it looked like it was going to be a madcap caper of mixed-identity. I hate that sort of thing. There were a LOT of books, though, that were just boring. I actually managed to finish a few that I hated, just because I wanted to find out how they ended.

Best Book-You’ve-Been-Meaning-To-Read-For-Years:
I am going to go with the 4th, 5th and 6th books in the Anne of Green Gables series. I read the first three, and then set them aside for a year or so. Everything else was fairly new.

Best Re-Read From Years Gone By:
A tie between Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with the older boys and The Wizard of Oz and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with the younger ones.

And, Last But Certainly Not Least……

Your Number One Favorite Book of the Year:
I am narrowing this down by books that received a 5 out of 5:

True Grit by Charles Portiss

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

The No-Fad Diet by The American Heart Association

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Lord, Is It Warfare? Teach Me To Stand by Kay Arthur (Bible study)

The Confession by John Grisham

The winner is:

TRUE GRIT by Charles Portiss

Note – I reserve the right to change any and all, since there is still a week left in the year and I plan to finish at least a couple books on Christmas break!

Have at it – comment away! I am also posting this at The Homeschool Library if you are a member there (and membership is FREE, btw, to the Best Homeschooling Forum On The Web!)


  1. Wow! Thanks so much for listing Bound by Guilt in your list. I'm truly honored. :)

  2. A real author on my blog!

    C.J., I loved the book. I especially loved getting to have you sit in on our book club's discussion of this one and Thicker Than Blood. It made the characters even more real, and we really appreciated getting some insight into the writing process. Looking forward to #3!

  3. I almost missed this post. ACK! But, I'm glad I found it. I saw the movie True Grit, but I didn't read the book. Maybe I should remedy that. :)


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