As we come towards the end of the year, it’s always fun to take a look back over the books I’ve enjoyed and to select some favourites. This year I’ve narrowed it down to four fiction books and four non-fiction. These are listed in no particular order.
Top 4 Fiction Books:
The Couple At The Table by Sophie Hannah
I have read several books by Sophie Hannah, and she is a master at setting up a seemingly impossible situation and keeping you reading as you try to work out the solution. In this book, a woman on her honeymoon receives a note warning her, “Beware of the couple at the table next to yours,” but there are five tables with other couples all the same distance away. When the woman is murdered, all the evidence seems to show that no-one there that night could possibly have committed the crime.
The book jumps between two timelines – the days immediately leading up to the murder, and a few months later as some of the characters become increasingly unsettled that the truth has not yet been discovered.
It certainly kept me reading and kept me guessing!
The Violinist Of Auschwitz by Ellie Midwood
The Violinist of Auschwitz tells the beautiful and heartbreaking story of Alma Rose, a celebrated Austrian violinist who is sent to Auschwitz because she is a Jew. She is made conductor of the women’s orchestra and goes to great lengths to protect the women under her care and to ensure their survival.
The book is based on a true story, although elements of it are fictionalised. At points it is hard to read as it doesn’t shy away from the horrors of Auschwitz, but it also points to goodness and hope in the midst of that, through the power of music and through Alma’s courage and sacrificial care for the women in her orchestra.
The Castaways by Lucy Clarke
The Castaways is a thriller, telling the stories of two sisters Lori and Erin. While on a luxury holiday in Fiji, they are meant to get on a flight to one of the smaller islands, but, after they have an argument, Erin doesn’t board the flight. She later discovers that the plane never reached its destination. The book switches between the perspectives of the two sisters – Lori as she boards the flight, and Erin two years later as she continues to search for clues about what happened.
I was gripped by the story and read the book in about three days! It is full of unexpected twists and turns and very cleverly-plotted. This book wasn’t quite what I expected from the description, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Small Island by Andrea Levy
“It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn’t know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do?
Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It’s desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door.
Gilbert’s wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the golden city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was…” (blurb from Amazon)
Top 4 Non-Fiction Books:
12 Faithful Women, edited by Melissa Kruger and Kristen Wetherell
Since my word for the year is “faithfulness,” I was interested to read this book exploring the stories of twelve faithful women.
I appreciated the range of women that were featured. There were some, like Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada, whose stories I was already familiar with; some, like Helen Roseveare and Susannah Spurgeon, that I had heard of but didn’t know much about; and some, lie Wen Wei Chieh and Esther Ahn Kim, whose names were completely unfamiliar.
Each woman’s story is summed up in around fifteen pages, so it provides a brief introduction to their lives. What I particularly appreciated is that each chapter ends with a section entitled “Lessons from the faithful,” which draws out lessons from each woman’s life and provides Bible passages to read and questions to reflect on to help the reader apply the lessons to their own life.
I also appreciated that the book is honest about the flaws and failings of the women that are featured, as well as telling of their faithfulness. It’s a reassuring reminder that faithfulness does not equal perfection!
Gentle And Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund
“Christians know what Jesus Christ has done–but who is he? What is his deepest heart for his people, weary and faltering on their journey toward heaven? Jesus said he is “gentle and lowly in heart.” This book reflects on these words, opening up a neglected yet central truth about who he is for sinners and sufferers today.” (blurb from Amazon)
I have probably read more recommendations for this book than for any other I can think of. It is a comforting read, full of truth and encouragement.
Another book which ties in perfectly with my word for the year! It contains a series of reflections on different women of the Bible and how their stories display God’s faithfulness. Each reflection is contributed by a different author, and there is also an accompanying album with a song tying in with each reflection.
I really enjoyed the fresh takes on some familiar stories of women in the Bible (as well as a couple of less familiar ones like Jehosheba) and I loved how the music enhanced each of the reflections.
Live No Lies by John Mark Comer
I think this is the first time I’ve included a book in my favourites for the year before I’ve even finished reading it! However having read around half the book (and planning to finish before the new year), and also having loved John Mark Comer’s previous book “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,” I’m confident that it should make the list.
“As Christians, we’re all at war with three fierce adversaries of the soul that feed us deceptive ideas to harm our spiritual well-being: the world, the flesh and the devil. Live No Lies parses out the tactics, strengths and weaknesses of these enemies, giving you a clear battle plan and spiritual practices to outwit and overcome these evils.
Skilfully weaving together uplifting wisdom and reassuring, practical guidance, this is a book for anyone looking for everyday disciplines to help them care for their soul. Live No Lies will equip you with all you need to make practices for resisting evil an active part of your spiritual formation, and leave you motivated to find happiness and peace in Jesus.” (blurb from Amazon)
I hope you find something here that you will be able to enjoy in 2022, and I’d love to hear your recommendations too! Please share your favourites from this year in the comments!
I’d also like to wish you a very joyful, peaceful Christmas, and however you celebrate this year, I pray you know God with you.