10. The Embassy Row trilogy by Ally Carter
Ally Carter is one of my favorite YA (young adult) authors, and I've managed to make most of my middle school girls fall in love with her Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series. Embassy Row is her latest series, and the first book is called All Fall Down. I'll admit, the first book wasn't my favorite, but the second and third more than made up for it. I am a sucker for books about secret societies, international politics and mysteries, and whodunnits.
9. The List by Robert Whitlow
I tore through all of Whitlow's Christian crime novels this year. I loved a few, liked some more, and felt indifferent towards several. But this one was my favorite of all of them. That's probably because this is also about a secret society. However, this is an overtly Christian novel, and I love seeing spiritual warfare played out on the pages of a fictional book.
8. Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
Miller's YA novel could probably have been a fantastic trilogy. Instead, it's a pretty good novel. I say that because she packed a lot of plot and action into a book where she could have developed it more and spread it among three. I'm pigeonholing myself, and I didn't even realize it until I began summarizing my list, but this book is a dystopian novel where the main character unlocks the mysteries behind...you guessed it... a secret society. Unlike the Carter trilogy, this book is set in a technological future where citizens are guided through their days by a device that reminded me eerily of Siri. But what happens when we dismiss our consciences and rely only on what can be proven?
7. Dishonor: One Soldier's Journey from Desertion to Redemption by David Mike
I have the privilege of calling David Mike my friend, and I was able to watch his story unfold on his blog before he published this beautiful memoir this year. Mike spent several years in the 90s as an inmate in Fort Leavenworth after a severe drug addition and deserting the Army. Mike recounts those years in this deeply personal account. You'll be amazed at the journey he takes through these pages. And if you could meet him now, like I've been able to do, you'll see how deeply changed he is from the troubled young man in these memories.
6. After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
I first read a Sonnenblick novel a decade ago with some of my middle school students. The narration is funny and fast-paced, and unlike most YA literature, it's usually told from a male perspective. After Ever After is the sequel to that first novel, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, but this could easily read as a standalone because it occurs so many years later. Like all Sonnenblick's books, his happy ending doesn't tie up all nice and perfect, but there's always redemptive hope.
5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
People had been telling me to read this book for years, but it took me until this past year to finally pick it up. I was blown away. I won't lie; it was a heavy read. The book centers in a small French village during World War II. Deaths, abuses, starvation...this book will tug on every emotion. But I didn't choose it because it made me have happy feels; I chose it because it painted a picture of the side of WWII I never knew. And it was captivating.
The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron
I have fiercely talented friends, and Anna LeBaron is another. In this memoir, LeBaron recounts her childhood living under the oppression of a polygamist cult. As the daughter of the cult leader and one of 50 children, LeBaron shares how growing up in poverty, hunger, and confusion shaped who she was. This redemptive story also explains her escape and the freedom and healing she found later in life. Scenes from LeBaron's life are painted in riveting detail. I read this book in one sitting; I couldn't put it down. This book doesn't release until March, but it's available for pre-order!
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
I'm not sure there are words in the English language to begin to explain or describe this book. It's a novel about a magical circus and two young illusionists who are pitted against each other by their teachers. Elements of this book reminded me of the movies The Prestige and The Illusionist but with less creepy and more whimsy. It was a magical, enchanting, surreal read.
2. Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny by Christine Caine
1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This was the first book I've ever read that helped shape and shift an entire mindset and social view. Not only is this historical novel loosely based on real-life sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke in the American Civil War era, but it's a rich and captivating narrative that explores racism, sexism, and destiny in a powerful way. I can't recommend this book enough. It's also a heavy read, but hope soars throughout, especially when you finish the final page and begin to research all that the Grimke sisters accomplished in America.
Bonus: Walking Dauntlessly: The Search for a Meaningful Story by, well, me. And Deedra Mager.
Yes, this is a shameless plug. But can I really write a top 10 list of books the year I publish a book without at least mentioning it? It's short. It's a quick read. But it's extremely precious to me. It's my story; it's her story; and it's our story of how God heals in community. If you haven't read it yet, you probably should. And then write a review because as long as I'm shamelessly plugging...well, can't hurt.
Have you read any of these?
What are your thoughts?
What was the best book you read this year?