How do I measure a year? In books.


2015 was the third year I challenged myself to read at least one book a month. I dedicated this year to reading more classic science fiction, but I also joined a book club so I got to enjoy genres different from what I usually pick. Time for the end-of-year roundup! Are you ready? Let’s go.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

While Lewis has been a part of my life forever (Narnia, y’all), I didn’t know he wrote a science fiction series until recently. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of Lewis’ writing style, but I love the worlds he creates. So I was pleased by the themes and analogies in his book about a man who somehow finds himself on Mars. Through his journey he discovers that he should be far more scared of the humans who took him to the silent planet than the strange creatures he encounters.

Listening is an Act of Love by StoryCorps

Another great find in the $1 section at Half Priced Books. This was recommended by my coworker/friend. It’s a collection of personal anecdotes collected through the StoryCorp project some people might know from NPR. It’s funny, somber, joyful, and sad, painting a beautiful image of the people of our country and the history that has built us.

7 Men and the Secret to Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

If you remember, I’ve already read a few Metaxas biographies (One word: Bonhoeffer), so I figured I’d dive into his recounting of seven great men in history. What makes them great? Aside from the fact they all accomplished amazing things, they were also great men of God. It was an inspiring read and I learned a lot I hadn’t known before.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

I was really excited about this one. It’s number one on many people’s lists of the best science fiction books of all time. After reading it, I can definitely see why it was so novel for a science fiction novel of its time. It’s about a man born on Mars who, since both his astronaut parents are dead, becomes a phenomenon when he is brought back to earth. It is an interesting and theoretical look at culture, politics, love, and what it means to be human. It also introduced the word “grok” to the nerd world. So if you meet a nerd, throw it in your conversation and see what happens. The story had too many orgies in it for my liking, but I took away an appreciation for the overall concepts and themes.

Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker

Not typically something I would read, this was part of the book club I joined through my church. Hatmaker is kind of famous in the Christian world and is the wife of a pastor of a progressive church in Austin, TX. By progressive, I mean that they immerse themselves and their congregation in the lives of the poor and disenfranchised of their community. Her book is filled with lots of stats about the state of the world and the overwhelming issues and struggles facing people every day. From depression to hunger to poverty, she challenges us to live out our faith in an “uncomfortable” way, because that’s what Jesus did. It often stung a little, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Another book from the club, this was something that most of us finished in 2-3 days. It’s a thriller about girl who becomes part of a possible murder investigation because of something she witnesses while riding the train. And by witnesses, I mean she’s kind of an IRL Facebook stalker. So we can all relate a little. They’re turning into a movie, so if you decide not to read the book you can always see it on the silver screen.

Maze Runner by James Dashner

I wanted to see the movie, but in my fashion I wanted to read the book first. I thoroughly enjoyed both. About a boy put into a maze with a bunch of other boys who have had their memories wiped, this is another great dystopian young adult series. What I liked about it was that there really wasn’t much in the romance department – refreshing, eh?

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner 2) & The Death Cure (Maze Runner 3)

I’m just gonna lump the rest of the series together. While I didn’t enjoy these nearly as much as I did the first book, they were still fun reads with (again) very little in the romance department. It’s basically a dude-centric version of The Hunger Games/Divergent series. WARNING: If you watch the movie version of The Scorch Trials there is almost no similarity between the book and its film adaptation. Which I found disappointing, because Scorch was my favorite of the sequels.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Again. I wanted to see the movie so I read the book first. About a man stranded on Mars whens his crew is forced to abandon him in a storm, this book is chock-full of math and science and Mac-Guyvering, all in an effort to get him home. I would recommend reading the book first because the movie misses out on a lot of really cool and nerdy details (and some great storm dodging), but judging from box office numbers and award nominations, I’m sure you’ve already seen the film.

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

The last book read in my summer book club, this book led to all but two of us dropping out. Seriously. Me and one other girl were the only ones who read the whole book. A classic novel written by a classic author, it’s a futuristic look at what would happen if everything in our culture were automized and run by machines. Tackling questions like “what is the worth of work?”, “where do men get their value?”, and “how far is too far?” it was a fascinating and cautionary look at engineering as god. It was super good from a literary perspective, but it was also very, very, hard to get through.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Part of our family “Booksgiving” challenge, Neil picked this one out for me. Each section sees the same monastic community at different time intervals after a nuclear world war. It follows the remnants of the monastary as they try to preserve knowledge lost in the fallout. Full of hilarious misinterpretations of history long gone, a look at how Christianity could survive global devastation, a new Dark Age and a new Rebirth, it’s a fascinating read and one I recommend. [I technically didn’t finish this one in 2015. I’m actually still reading it (only 50 pages to go!). But hey, I got married last year and things got busy, so I’m still counting it toward my 12 books a year.]

Well, there you have it! My 12 books of 2015. I’m excited about the stories that will fill 2016 and I already have a stack of books growing by my bed. This year my husband has decided to read six books of his own for the year, so we’ll have more reading dates ahead of us. Here’s to another year of books!


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