I can still remember the first chapter book I really loved. I was a sixth grader when Mr. Smith placed The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill in my hands. Something about it captivated me, and it was the first of many books that has long stayed with me even into my adult years. To Kill a Mockingbird. Harry Potter. The Help. The Fault in Our Stars. The Nightingale. Even today, I’m moved by the experiences I had looking at life through a different character’s lens.
But, interestingly enough, 2018 wasn’t my year for fiction even though, historically, that’s typically the lane I stay in. I read 20 books last year, and only seven of them were novels.
The other 13 were a mixture of memoir, essay collections, christian living, and general nonfiction, so to sum it up, I spent much of 2018 thinking about the implications of all the things I have have read.
It does seem fitting though that I ended the year with a novel, and there was a line in C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian that brought everything I have read this year full circle. It came toward the end as the Penvensie children and Trumpkin the Dwarf are attempting to make it to Prince Caspian and his ragtag army. Aslan the Lion shows up in the middle of the night to help, but it is only Lucy who can see him at first. Upon spotting him, she runs to him, and they have this exchange:
“Welcome child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
God became bigger to me this year, but He’s not the one who changed. There are a lot of factors at play, but many of the books I read last year challenged my thinking and revealed to me ways I needed to grow. And, the more I grew, the bigger I found God.
Needless to say, this has been one of my favorite years as far as books go.
I’ve already written about all of these books, so I’ll just include them in list form below. If you’re interested in any of my longer form thoughts, just click on the link attached to each month. For quick scanning purposes, I’ve included a five-star rating behind each book.
- Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham ⭐️⭐️
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han ⭐️⭐️⭐️
- The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng ⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground by Jess Connolly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- The Teacher Diaries: Romeo and Juliet by Callie Feyen ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs by Sara Wallace ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It completely reframed so much of my parenting for the better.)
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️
- Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilken ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(This is another one that led to an incredible amount of personal growth for me. It challenged me in all the right ways.)
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis ⭐️
- American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You by Shannan Martin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️
A Few Other Things
I wrote a few things this month too. Over at Mighty Moms, I rounded up 21 of our favorite children’s books and wrote a little something about swaddle blankets. I also wrote a few words on Instagram about my internal struggle with Christmas traditions each year.
Also, as a bonus, I fell in love with a few other things besides just books and words this year, so if you’re in the market for recommendations, here are a few of my other favorite things, compliments of 2018.
- We discovered some new children’s books this year, and we all (kids and adults) are better for it. I wish you could hear my kids howl with laughter when we read The Book with No Pictures and our newest favorite is The Storm that Stopped (one book in a larger, wonderful collection).
- barkTHINS snacking chocolate. Special shoutout to my friend, Breanna, for sending me a bag of this for my birthday and Costco for selling it in bulk.
- These joggers and this tinted lip balm were two of my favorite purchases this year.
- This recipe for white chicken chili and my friend Cara’s recipe for crusty bread have become well-loved staples in our house this fall/winter.
- The Great British Baking Show. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Parks and Recreation. (Okay, so that last one is an old love, but every year I go back to it, and I’m never disappointed.)
The Last Thing (an action step!)
These monthly reviews have become one of my most favorite things to write. Not only is it helpful for my own means of processing, but I also just really love to tell people about the things I read and think about.
I’m going to keep reflecting at the end of each month, but (here’s the action step) moving into 2019, I’m going to format these monthly musings as an email rather than a blog post. That means if you’re someone who enjoys reading these posts, you’re going to need to subscribe to my email list. It’s as easy as clicking right here, but if you’re worried I’m going to start spamming you with daily emails, fear not. You’re only signing up for a single email at the end of every month in which I will regale you with tales of books read, summaries of articles written, and lists of things I can’t live without (have I mentioned this chocolate cookie recipe I recently discovered?).
In my quest to keep moving forward as a writer, this is my next right thing (oh! I loved The Next Right Thing podcast this year, too!). I’d be so honored if you’d stay with me. Writers aren’t anything, after all, if there isn’t anyone out there to read what they have to say.
No More Things
(I bet you didn’t know how good I am at coming up with heading titles.)
2019 promises almost as much as 2018 threw at us. First, I’m going to kick off the year with a couple of books about the enneagram because I need to understand what this whole thing is about. But, on a more major scale, the Flinkman team is also getting ready to move back to Iowa in just a few months. Will knowing my enneagram number help with all the moving things? Stay tuned.
I can’t predict everything the future has in store, but I do know this: God is bound to seem bigger by this time next year as long as I keep growing myself.