Of the sixty-five books I read last year, only nine of them earned a five-star rating from me on Goodreads. Three of those were rereads (The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien, plus That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. In this post, I’ll share the remaining six.
The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch
In many ways this book is not my type at all. It’s full of irresponsible, destructive behavior and relationships. I loved it so much because of its setting: the city of Oxford. Like me, the main character was an American student coming of age while studying in England. Charles Finch beautifully captures the magic of Oxford below:
“Venerable and serene, how its gardens spread themselves under the moonlight, home to forsaken beliefs and impossible loyalties, the city itself a mystery and a charm: whispering, from her towers, the last enchantments of the Middle Ages.”
Glittering Images by Susan Howatch
Reading this book marked a spiritual epiphany for me, the details of which are not right to share here. Profoundly moving, this story of an Episcopal priest who must face the truth of who he is rather than the “glittering image” he presents to the world, was very formative during the first year of my marriage.
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
I wanted to dismiss this book as pop Christian psychology, but it won me over. The most helpful concept was that setting boundaries is a form of stewardship, defining who you can control (yourself) and who you can’t (everyone else). Boundaries define your realm of responsibility and enable you to release what falls outside.
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
This book goes hand-in-hand with another favorite of mine, The Nesting Place by Myquillen Smith. (In fact, the two of them together would make a great wedding or bridal shower present.) While I’m no foodie, I’m deeply drawn to the kind of community and rich conversations that Shauna describes here. Don’t mistake Bread and Wine for a cookbook; while there are recipes, it’s much more about rediscovering the sacramental nature of the table.
The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle
In some ways this is the hardest book to review here—it feels like sharing a secret. With such a title, you would think this is a Christian book about how to be a submissive, Proverbs 31 wife. Well, it’s not. It’s not even Christian. Was the effect of reading this book a more peaceful, relaxed marriage? Absolutely yes!
Planet Narnia by Michael Ward
I’ve heard the author, Michael Ward, speak several times (most memorably at C. S. Lewis’s home in Headington, near Oxford.) That was impressive enough, but Planet Narnia exceeded my expectations. This is a must-read for anyone who loves Narnia, though be forewarned: it may make you want to reread everything Lewis has written or run away to England to become an academic. Or both.