2016 in reading.

2016 in reading. Erika Spitler's 12 favourite books of the year. | www.erikaspitler.com

It's 10pm on December 31, 2016. Fireworks have begun their rhythmic beats in the skies and I just finished reading my 50th book of the year. That's right, I snuggled up with my beloved copy of The Calvary Road tonight, making sure 2016 wouldn't leap over the finish line without me fulfilling my reading challenge. 

This year was the hardest yet. Even so, I'm grateful for the company of books over the last 12 months. When I didn't have the ability or strength to leave my house, I was given the treat of words to take me on adventures. I went places I never could otherwise. And I learned things. Oh, how I learned things.

If one must have any sort of card to carry in their wallet, may it be a library card. That little plastic will provide you access to the hearts and souls of thousands. I'm indebted to the kind librarians who collected title after title on my behalf. I think my largest number of holds placed was 17.

Finishing this challenge was important to me. I wasn't sure I could do it because fatigue and cognitive impairment make reading feel impossible at times. But I pressed on and just kept flipping.

It was Anne Lamott who wrote, "Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul."

As we move into the coming year, I'd like to introduce you to the 12 books which expanded my understanding, creativity, empathy, and "sense of life" in 2016.


* If you have any recommendations, please do send them to me. I'd love to hear what you're enjoying these days. 

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

This is an exceptionally intimate story set during WWII. I was left breathless and broken for those who have experienced the tragedy of war. Doerr has written a book unlike any I've previously read.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver

Although much of the food industry facts and details were lost on me, I thoroughly enjoyed glimpses of the Kingsolver-Hopp family's locavore year. My introduction to Kingsolver's writings was everything I'd hoped for.

Assimilate or Go Home
Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith
by D.L. Mayfield

I consumed all 207 pages in one sitting, fully captivated by D.L. Mayfield's essays. I hope to swoop her into a giant hug one day, thanking her for giving language to my unkempt thoughts, questions, and convictions on the gospel.

Behold the Lamb of God
by Russ Ramsey

As I wrote in my last post, this narrative reshaped my perspective on the Advent season and brought new meaning to our celebration and expectation. I'd recommend this at any time of the year, not just Christmas.

Bird by Bird
Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott

If you're a writer, I hope you're able to get your hands on a copy of Bird by Bird. I recently gifted my best friend with it, believing Lamott's instructions will profoundly touch her writing life. I know it did for me.

A Chance to Die
The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

by Elisabeth Elliot

After reading raw and moving stories of Amy Carmichael, my love for missionary biographies only grew. I'm so thankful we get to learn from those who have given their lives to serve the Lord. You'll be challenged in all the right ways.

The Cross and the Switchblade
by David Wilkerson

A short, but powerful book. If you need reminding that no heart is too hard or addiction too binding, read this. My 11 year-old brother also loved it.

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd

Rich friendship, beekeeping, and lessons about prejudice, forgiveness, and a mother's love... what else could a novel ask for? Sue Monk Kidd writes in a way that is poetic, vulnerable, and educational. I also really liked The Invention of Wings by her.

A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini

This book covers thirty years of history in Afghanistan while closely following the lives of two women and the tragedies, losses, hope, and friendship they encountered. It's heartbreaking and enthralling. I plan to read The Kite Runner in 2017.

Walking on Water
Reflections on Faith and Art

by Madeleine L'Engle

Be forewarned, once you start reading these reflections, you might not be able to stop. You just might find yourself up till 2:30, soaking in every last word. Yep, don't say I didn't warn you. Artists, (or nourishers and creators as L'Engle would say), consider this a gift penned for you.

When God Weeps
by Joni Eareckson Tada & Steve Estes

I was so impressed by this book. Both authors take a delicate subject like suffering and instruct readers so well without compromising in compassion. I found it biblical, comforting, and a much-needed read.

Wild in the Hollow
On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home

by Amber C. Haines

Pain, questions, hopes, and desires are weaved through this memoir in a way that's enchanting and relatable. I saw how I tend to run from the things my soul really needs: church, community, and creativity.

2016 in reading. Erika Spitler's 12 favourite books of the year. | www.erikaspitler.com

All 50 books Erika read in 2016:

All In by Mark Batterson

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Assimilate or Go Home by D.L. Mayfield

Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Calvary Road by Roy Hession

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller

Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter

Hiroshima by John Hersey

If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story by Joni & Ken Eareckson Tada

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

My Name is Hope by John Mark Comer

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan

Scary Close by Donald Miller

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Seeing Through the Fog by Ed Dobson

Seeking Refuge by Issam Smeir, Matthew Soerens, Stephan Bauman 

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada & Steve Estes

Wild and Free by Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan

Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Wonder by R.J. Palacio 

#1 Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

#2 When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket

#3 Shouldn't You Be in School? by Lemony Snicket

#4 Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? by Lemony Snicket

はじめてのキャンプ by Akiko Hayashi