2017 was the best reading year I’ve had since my first child was born seven years ago. I credit that to a few reading strategies I adopted. First, at the recommendation of a friend, I started listening to Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next podcast. Listening to other readers gush over their favorites and hearing Anne’s recommendations inspired me to fill more of my limited free time with reading.
I also started using the Kindle reading app more frequently. I used to be a hard-core, physical-books-only reader, but it’s not always practical. For example, holding a 400-page novel while nursing…Nope. Not gonna happen. So now, I use Overdrive to borrow the Kindle version of whatever book I’m reading. I read the physical version either early in the morning or at bedtime, and then I pull out my phone when I have those few minutes to read throughout the day.
In addition to Kindle books, Overdrive is stocked full of amazing audiobooks. FREE audiobooks. To use Overdrive, you simply need to select your library and enter your library card information. This year, I’ll be using Overdrive to listen to classic works of literature. I used to think listening to an audiobook was cheating, but research is showing it’s no less beneficial for your mind.
Another strategy I’m using is keeping closer track of what I’ve read. And you know what? I also track chapter books I’ve read aloud to my kids, such as The Indian in the Cupboard and On the Banks of Plum Creek. Writing down the name of a recently finished book is inherently rewarding, at least to me. It’s an accomplishment. It means that’s several more hours I’ve spent nourishing the brain cells I have left rather than binging on Netflix (except for, of course, The Crown, season 2).
That brings me to my recap of 2017. Instead of listing every single book I read, I’m going to highlight my top 4.
THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, by Kate Morton
Magical and mysterious. Read my full review here.
THE BEAN TREES, by Barbara Kingsolver
I wanted to read a book set in my current state of residence, Arizona (see review here). I still think about this book often. Twenty-something Taylor decides to leave her native Kentucky for a job and adventure. Halfway through her trip, a woman leaves a child in Taylor’s car. Sensing the child was in danger, Taylor decides to keep the child and continues her journey, ending up in Tucson, AZ. This is a story about sacrifice, community, friendship, and love.
THE 100 CUPBOARDS SERIES, by N.D. Wilson
You can read my review of the first book in the series here. I finished the series and then also read the prequel, The Door Before. The Door Before fleshes out the history of Henry York’s parents, but also opens a door (ha!) to another fantastic N. D. Wilson series, the Ashtown Burials series. Overall, the 100 Cupboards closed with a supremely satisfying ending. What I love most about N. D. Wilson’s books is the strong theme of a boy facing extreme difficulty and choosing courage in the face of imminent death.
11/22/63, by Stephen King
This was my first Stephen King novel. BUT WAIT — this is not a horror story — but rather a time-travel story. The day after my birthday, I injured my neck so badly I couldn’t turn my head at all. I spent the entire weekend on the couch reading (and finishing) this book until I could get to the chiropractor. It was truly riveting. A diner owner divulges the location of a wormhole to Jake, a schoolteacher, in the hopes that Jake can stop the eventual assassination of President Kennedy. Think Stephen King is a second-rate author because he writes horror and sci-fi? Think again. He crafts beautiful, thought-provoking literature. Would you change history if you could? Would the present actually be better if we could change the past? I love this exploration of the role of tragedies in our history.