2017 Books in Review.

Alternate Title: The Big Ol’ Book Roundup

A year ago on January 1, I resolved to read more books in 2017. A book every two weeks, to be specific.

Two years of reading like it was my job in grad school burned me out, and I needed a grace period to enjoy reading again. But largely due to many of these books, I’m refreshed and reminded why I’m a lifelong student of literature.

For accountability and my own record-keeping, I posted a picture of each book on Instagram under the hashtag #carissareads. I’m so glad I (finally) followed through on a resolution because it’s been endlessly fun to look back and reflect on what I’ve read.

Without further ado, here they are: my 2017 book collection. I recommend them all on varying levels (from “this will flip you inside out” to “I don’t hate it”).


If you want to read the book before you see the movie…

Wonder – RJ Palacio

Heartbreaking, heartwarming, will make you a kinder human being. (And make you want the same for your kids or students or neighbors or siblings.)

The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

Both the book and the movie will draw you in and rip out your heart. (So you should experience them.)

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

I still remember how I felt coming out of the movie theater several years ago after this film, and the book gave me that same feeling. It’s surreal and deeply human.

If you want to see a fresh vision for church, prayer and community…

Oikonomics – Mike Breen

I read this book right before meeting and hosting Mike Breen for a conference. This guy gets it and is moving the church in a good direction, and he’s got a great accent.

Falling Free – Shannan Martin

Another author who gets it and is passionate about being the person who sees the marginalized and going straight to them with courage and Christlike love.

Love Lives Here – Maria Goff

Sweet Maria is one of those women that you want to sip coffee with for hours and just listen. I loved her perspective on hospitality and faithfulness in small details, which beautifully complements the wildness of her husband Bob.

Whisper – Mark Batterson

All I knew about Mark Batterson before I joined his book launch team was that I’d visited his coffee shop in DC. This book was an interesting read to see his perspective on the important topic of hearing God’s voice.

If you want a casual, feel-good read…

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love celebrity memoirs. As a student of literature, I don’t think they belong in the same 50-mile radius as most serious books, but they’re super fun behind-the-scenes glimpses into celebrity lives, and I’m all the way in.

Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis is a lifestyle blogger and party planner in LA, so this book was a different kind of celebrity memoir. Again, I’m not inducting it into the hall of literary classics anytime soon, but it was fun to read anyway. (And I got it for free by being on her launch team, so no complaints. PS – It releases Feb. 6 and there’s preorder goodies.)

Of Mess and Moxie – Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker is the fun aunt that everyone needs. I’ll keep reading every word she writes, whether it has profound ramifications for social justice and the Gospel or she’s telling a crazy story about her life. She also makes me laugh out loud in public.

If you want engaging, good fiction…

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

After that post-grad school slump, this was the book that reminded me why I love to read.

Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson

I could read Robinson’s books over and over for the rest of my years and never soak up all the beautiful insights on faith that she weaves into her stories.

The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson

Once I start his fiction, I cannot put it down. This is engaging, well-woven storytelling.

If you want to be inspired to live differently…

Let’s All Be Brave – Annie Downs

I love when I hear the right thing the right time. I read this book on my flight to California to interview for teaching jobs, and there’s no time when you need to be brave more than planning a cross-country move.

Through Painted Deserts – Donald Miller

This book was perfectly timed too–while Don documented his cross-country road trip, I was on my own. The rest of the book is neat, but the Author’s Note of this book is the theme song to my Virginia-to-California transition.

(That 2-page section is in the Amazon book preview, so if you’re in a season of transition, go click on the book cover & scroll down to the section titled “Author’s Note.”)

Scary Close – Donald Miller

Okay, I went through a bit of a Don Miller phase this summer. And for good reason: his books challenge me and make me feel seen. Sometimes like an X-ray. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable. It’s fine, I’m fine.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver

In the last few years, I’ve learned so much about sustainability in our food systems and the value of eating whole, clean, and responsibly. (Shoutout to Lynchburg Grows & Imperfect Produce.) So to read about how a family grew all their own food for a year and studied the state of food in America? A little piece of heaven.

If you want to learn from someone who leads by example…

Free of Me – Sharon Hodde Miller

This year, I learned about book launch teams and subsequently joined a million. (Okay, like 5 or 6.) This book was so easy to promote because the message is true and important for every person’s faith. I gifted it for Christmas, read a passage for a staff devotion, and reread several chapters. The book is awesome, Sharon is a fantastic leader, and I am a total fangirl.

Tramp for the Lord – Corrie Ten Boom

What a fierce little lady. This book is no-nonsense conviction from a woman who was tested and proved to be faithful.

The Sacrament of Happy – Lisa Harper

This author is the most joyful woman you could ever follow on Instagram, and her book sings the same tune.

Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller

Okay, one more book from my new best friend, Don. Everyone and their pastor’s mom read this book in like 2006, but when I read it in 2017 the timing was perfect, and it hit me square between the eyes.

Daring to Hope – Katie Davis Majors

Katie has lived about 100 lifetimes in her adult years in Uganda as a wife and mom of 14, and this book shows it.

If you want a well-loved classic…

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

The last time I read this book, I was a junior in high school, so I loved rereading it with my junior class. Even though my students struggled with the dialect, they also had some good, important conversations.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

I skipped this book in high school, so when I was assigned to teach American Literature this year, I figured I couldn’t take the job in good conscience until I’d read it. I’m excited to read it again with my juniors this year.

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Another classic that I skipped in school. What crazy person hired me as a high school English teacher, anyway? I somehow made it through life without hearing spoilers, so I was shocked, disturbed, and intrigued right alongside my 9th graders.

If you want a new perspective on a tough issue…

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

This novel drew me into a world I’d never been to before. It stares into the face of colonialism and family dynamics through a million poignant moments.

The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros

Rereading this book was moving, and watching my 9th grade students study the topic of identity through these vignettes was an amazing experience.

Convicted – Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins

This is another tale of a white cop and a black man who’s wrongfully convicted, but instead of the anger and heartbreak and injustice we see too often on the news, they experience reconciliation. It’s a special story that gave me a sliver of hope.

Party of One – Joy Beth Smith

I loved that this book debunked so much of my weird upbringing in purity culture surrounded by messages on marriage but unsure what to do with myself in the meantime (or my whole life) besides “wait.” I’m glad JB had the courage to write it all down, and when the book comes out in February, I know it will help a lot of people.

Wow! What a random, fun collection of my 29 books from this year. I’m hopeful, expectant, and ready for more great works in 2018.

My new reading goal is to meet or beat 2017’s tally. What’s yours?

2 thoughts on “2017 Books in Review.

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