First of all, I'm going to say that it was hard for me to make this list. Not because I read so many good books or because I read so many bad books. I am awful at keeping track of when I have read a book. I know that I have a Goodreads account and I did better this year than last year. However, that isn't saying much. So I clicked on my end of the year review thingy on Goodreads and I'm left thinking, "Didn't I read that this year? Is this really all of them?" I had to go back and add a few that I'm sure I read this year. There were some others that I wasn't sure about, so I left them out. I can say that I am really passionate the first 5. The last 5 were good and parts of them that stuck with me. However, I'm not sure that I would go back and read them again this year or for maybe several years. (I don't reread books very often.)
1. River's Edge by Erin Keyser Horn
By now you guys should know how I feel Erin's writing. If not, the fact that I have two of her books on this list should give you a hint. I really wanted to go back and reread this book just about as soon as I put it down. This is one of my all time favorite books ever!! The character is so realistic and her issues resonate with me, even if I can't completely understand. I am not turning into a monster from Slavic mythology. The fact that I didn't know anything about Slavic mythology before hand helped to interest me. The mythological characters are intriguing and addictive. I just can't get enough of them or seeing them get outwitted by Kasia. And I just love Kasia and Blayne, as individuals and as a couple. Plus the questions raised by Kasia about God are seeded deep in the heart of most people. Each person has to come to the answer on their own terms and Kasia is no different. I can't wait to read how she does that in the sequel, River Deep. If you like paranormal, romance, environmentalism, or legends, buy this and read it several times.
2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Yes, I really haven't ever read the book before this year. I knew a lot boys liked it, so I mistakenly assumed that I wouldn't like it. I'm pretty sure I came by that assumption in 7th grade, so I probably should have read it earlier. I was enchanted by the way he lured you into Middle Earth. I was enthralled by the action without being put off by the hurt the characters experienced. I could see the places he was talking about and the people he was describing. If you are interested in fantasy, epic journeys, or classic literature, read this now.
3. Fast Food Vindication by Lisa Tillinger Johansen
In a world of food books that demand avoiding this food and including this and never that and some of the other on the second Tuesday of months that begin with J, this one was so normal. I don't mean to be rude to anyone who might live your life according to a specific set of food rules. If you do, that's awesome and I'm so glad you have the self discipline and plan-ahead-ive-ness to do that. I am incapable of doing that. Besides the fact that I don't have the desire, I also don't plan ahead that well. AND when I can't ever have a something, it is all I can think about. So when I need to eat better and healthier, I need some regular anyone can do it solutions. This has them and more! It has a realistic view of how to eat out from a perspective of calories, of finances, and of professions. I just can't say enough how realistic the approach is and how easy it can fit in to ANYONE's lifestyle. If you are interested in business, food, nutrition, or a balanced approach, read this and feel more in control of your world.
4. Wings of Thunder by Erin Keyser Horn
So this is the second of Erin's books on my list AND the second one in the Thunderbird Trilogy. This book is paced SOOOO well. Nothing is held back for 'dramatic effect'. Also there is also information that is held back, but that information doesn't need to be revealed. I just can't get over how well paced it is. Also, Erin does a magnificent job of expressing the pain the characters go through without making you feel the pain. It reminds me of The Hobbit like that. There is pain, but I am not so close to it that I have to stop reading it and deal with that pain before moving on. There are so many series' that are not paced well or have annoying characters or are over dramatic or are too full of pain to read. This is not one of them! If you like romance, legends, family stories, supernatural, or young adult, buy this one now! (And make sure you pick up book 1 too.)
5. I am Ruth: A Story of Loss, Love, & Redemption by Kenneth Berg
This is a series of photos with the story of Ruth from the Bible. It also includes some information about the Jewish people and history to provide a wider setting for Ruth. The pictures are amazing! Ruth and Naomi, et. al. become real people. The story of Ruth jumps off the pages. More than that, the person of Ruth jumps off the page. She has become more than a story to me. She has become almost like a friend. Her life has become an inspiration and a constant reminder of the provision of God and the room in His Kingdom for anyone willing to seek him. If you are interested in reading about the ancient world, women, or the Bible, get this one. If you like looking at photos that tell a story, get this one.
6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
This book explained introverts and extroverts to well! I can recognize when I need a bit of quiet time for instance. I don't feel the need to apologize for it either. I am an introvert which means certain things will stress me out. However, there are other things at which I will excel. Neither group is better than the other because each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. This book has changed the way I see myself and made more comfortable with being an introvert. If you are interested in human personality and the effect on a person and society, read this one.
7. Death of a Glutton/Greedy Woman (Hamish MacBeth #8) by M.C. Beaton
Yes this is one of a series. I think that series is up to about 28 right now. You can start anywhere in the series and read them in any order. I love that about them. The setting is Highlands of Scotland and Hamish MacBeth is charmingly unambitious. Well not exactly unambitious, but he has no ambition to 'climb the ladder.' I have read several of the books in this series, but this one stuck with me because the description of the way this woman ate was so accurate and disturbing. I'm not sure why that made me enjoy it, but I did. I haven't read one that I didn't like, but this one is really great. If you like a rural foreign setting, mysteries, or detectives, pick this one up.
8. Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed
I picked this one up at our school book fair at a discount. I didn't realize it was part of a trilogy at the time. I generally prefer to wait and read them when the whole series has already come out. I also prefer to borrow them from the library or another person, so I don't have to buy all the books in case I don't like them. So I didn't have high hopes for this book. However, it surprised me. The characters are well written and at times sympathetic and at time annoying. You can't write any of them off and you can't separate them into groups of love and hate. They go back and forth between the two. This is also another well paced book. Secrets are revealed at a reasonable pace. It is not drawn out for the purpose of writing more pages. The story has a natural trajectory that makes it enjoyable. I'm looking forward to the next book. If you like young adult, books about family secrets, or paranormal, you will enjoy this one.
9. Secret Gospel of Ireland: The Untold Story of how Science and Democracy Descended from a Remarkable Form of Christianity that Developed in Ancient Ireland by James Behan & Leo Behan
I love the history packed into this book. The history of Christianity as well as the cultures it encounters along the way. There are people that you have heard of that shaped Christianity and there are people you have not heard of that shaped Christianity. There are multiple ancient civilizations that shaped Christianity as well. I had no clue that Christianity came from so many places and people. Although there is a heavy focus on Ireland, there is much information from ancient Roman civilizations in Africa as well as Roman Europe. There is also information from across medieval Europe. We are taken from St. Augustine to Thomas Jefferson, from ancient Rome to modern America, from the sun revolving around the Earth to the scientific method. Maybe 'The Dark Ages' weren't so dark after all. If you like reading about Christianity or history, you will enjoy this one.
10. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
I don't read many biographies or memoirs, but an Ethiopian boy raised in Sweeden trained to become a chef and now living in Harlem was too tempting to pass up. There is so much information packed into this book about what is needed to become a world class chef. I had no clue! It really puts "Chopped" and other shows into a whole new light. Most of the focus of the book is about his training and career as a chef and his relationship with food. I think that is what you would expect from a memoir with the above title. He does touch on some more personal incidents in his life, but he doesn't stay there long or use too many words about them. Some have taken issue with this. For my part, I assumed he was protecting the privacy of those in his life that did not wish to become famous like he is. I didn't feel it took anything away from the book. He also talks a bit about the development of Harlem, which was also eye opening. If you like reading about food, the restaurant business, other cultures, or racial issues, you would find something to like in this one.