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My 2018 Reading List

The last few years I have shared my “focused” reading list with you all. I love the suggestions you all have made via Facebook and commenting (some great suggestions!) and the accountability it has given me. There’s something about putting your goals out there for everyone to see that helps you kick into overdrive when it comes to meeting those goals. 

Each year I’ve tried to push myself a little bit more in what I am reading for non-fiction, and try to cover several different topics: parenting, personal growth, marriage, spiritual, and then there are those things that just catch my eye. 

I’m a sucker for a pretty cover. And texture – how it feels when I hold it in my hand makes a difference. I know it sounds odd. Call me crazy. :) 

While I only have fifteen books listed specifically for 2018, keep in mind this doesn’t list all of the fiction that somehow manages to make it to my list. My overall goal is to finish the 15 “growth” books and leave a little wiggle-room for new books that catch my eye over the course of the year.

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to track my reading over the last few years has been via the GoodReads app.   Following friends, seeing what others are reading, and being able to quickly rate a book I’m reading – love that (because my memory isn’t what it used to be!). Join me there and let’s read along together!

The Main Reading Pile

Fiction Books/Series to Look At

So, a lot of my books do tend to gravitate to historical fiction, but at times I pepper in teen lit (to stay on top of things before the kids read them) and lately more contemporary fiction. I personally have been a bit picky about much of the stuff I read, because for me too much language or other graphic stuff is a ‘trigger’ for me – so I tend to err on the side of books that aren’t raunchy or full of whatever.

Last year there were a few that I read (Lianne Moriarty, for starters) that were out of my comfort zone in some ways, but overall not bad (language mainly) – but generated conversation on topics in the books with friends for sure. All that said, I haven’t vetted all of the below series, so they may be complete busts! 

“If There is Time Pile”


If you’re interested, here are my 10 favorite books I read last year (a mix of fiction and non-fiction). I’d love to hear what books you have on your shelf for the 2018 year and and recommendations for me to add to my list! 

Happy reading!


My Top 10 Favorite Books from 2017

Overall my reading goal for 2017 was 70 books, specifically 12 non-fiction (since those are hardest for me) and then a whole lot of fiction (because that’s my favorite). 

All of you that read non-fiction without a problem – I’m jealous. 

For me, it’s been a work-in-progress over the years to step back from the “I can only read one chapter a day and need to thoughtfully contemplate all that I have read and take it to heart,” to reading through as I would any other book and marking areas that I would like to review in the future. I’ve also started a quotes book where I can note any things that really impacted me (and why). 

My book total for 2017 was 88: non-fiction – 21 and fiction – 67. You can see the full list of books I read here on Good Reads. 

Many of you have asked how I manage to read so much. My goal is one non-fiction a month and I try to set aside 20-30 minutes each afternoon to rest and read. At night, I literally fall asleep with a book (or Kindle) in hand. I’ve been like that since I was a little girl and don’t see it changing anytime soon. :) 

Top 10 Favorite Books from 2017

That said, there are ten books that I especially enjoyed reading this past year and would highly recommend. The list is a mix of both non-fiction, fun reading, and even a book I found very helpful in homeschooling. 

1. Come and Eat

Come and Eat was written by a lady I know (and love to death) in real life, Bri McCoy. While I know her from Compassion International, her personality and humor SHINE through in this book. 

Mixed in with her rich storytelling and humor, Bri challenges us to open our homes and tables to develop relationships with friends, strangers, and more. Rick and I will be leading a small group, and one of the things I really wanted to add in was a meal with one family each time we meet – because so much happens around the table (food is a fabulous neutral ground). 


2. Crazy Love

This book has been recommended to me multiple times over the years and it took me a bit to get moving on it. Crazy Love is both easy-to-read and one that will make you think/contemplate at the same time. There were quite a few spots of personal challenge for me (which I definitely need to happen). The book has been added to my shelf to read again in upcoming years – and pass along to my hubby as well. 


3. A Fall of Marigolds

Absolutely LOVED this book. The lives of two women, nearly 100 years apart, are paralleled through the journey of one colorful marigold-patterned scarf. Though living in different times, both have experienced deep losses and learn valuable lessons on life and love. 

Another thing I loved (because it is rare to find in current fiction) – no language or other content that is inappropriate, and still and amazing story was woven. Cannot recommend highly enough.


4. Finish

Finish is written in Acuff’s typical style – a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor and really something I needed to read in this moment because it focused a lot on how we set unrealistic/unattainable goals for ourselves and then don’t end up finishing things because our goals can’t be met, then drop the ball on that and more. For people who are perfectionists (hello, me), this ends up being a huge issue. Just read it! :) 


5. Growing Up Social

Some sobering information, but the book is also packed with practical tips and advice on maneuvering technology with kids, provides alternative ideas to get off technology, and also some great parenting helps overall. 


6. The Nightingale

This was probably my FAVORITE fiction read of the year. It focuses on the time period of WW2 and the lives of women left behind as their husbands go off to war and they are left to fend for their families in a country occupied by the Germans. There is some mature content, but sadly appropriate for the topic and storyline.  Overall it’s real, raw at times, and incredibly moving.


7. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare

if you have ever doubted your ability to form a way to work on Shakespeare with your kids, you need to check out this book. Yes, you will have to read the actual book itself, but it has a plethora of information inside (I promise, it’s worth it). Technically, there are a few chapters you really want to read first and the remainder you could skim through unless you are studying those plays (definitely read the intro and chapters 1 – 6, 10, 14, 21, 31, and the epilogue), but I would recommend reading the entire book.

Ludwig believes the younger you start kids learning and memorizing the better. While memorizing seems daunting, he breaks down the process, making it manageable and even something young children can work on. In addition to memorization techniques, Ludwig talks about Shakespeare’s life and history, components of Shakespeare’s plays (imagery, humor, poetry/prose, metaphors), and so much more.


8. Never Unfriended

Even though it wasn’t on my 2017 reading list, this book was one of those that I definitely wanted to add the moment I saw it, and I loved it enough to order copies for a few friends who I knew could use the encouragement and words as much as I did. This mom thing is hard, homeschooling adds another layer to that, and protecting the friendships I have is very important to me – I want to BE the best friend I can and also foster healthy relationships along the way.   


9. The Auschwitz Escape

Joel Rosenberg is one of my favorite thriller/suspense authors to read. They can sometimes take a bit to get into, but once you are pulled in, they are hard to put down. The Auschwitz Escape tells the story of a man who assumes the identity of another man as he is sent to Auschwitz and then works toward escaping the camp. It is a very sobering story, but extremely well-written. 


10. The Magnolia Story

While this isn’t a super in-depth read, it’s a great peek into Chip and Joanna Gaines’ life and how they built their business and incorporate family-life into their busy days. I loved this quote from the book, because it’s something I’ve repeated to myself frequently over the last few years: 

“It all came down to a mind shift in which I asked myself, “What am I going for in life?” Was it to achieve somebody else’s idea of what a perfect home should look like? Or was it to live fully in the perfection of the home and family I have?”


Honorable Mention: Seven Sisters

I feel I should at least give an honorable mention to The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley. However, I will give a bit of a warning: if you struggle mild sexual content, you will either need to skip (like I did) brief sections, or not read these books. The plot of the books kept me reading into the week hours of the morning with both books I’ve read so far. None of the added content is necessary for any plot issues in the book (which irritates me that it even needs to be included), but they have definitely been page turners. 


That’s it for 2017! What have you read this year that you would recommend for others to read? I’d love to hear from you and add a few more books to my 2018 pile! 

What I’m Reading (and the Kids too)

December is here. Chilly temps have really settled in, and books are becoming my most favorite thing – especially by the light of the Christmas tree. Admittedly, those non-fiction books are a little harder to pick up and dig into (it’s much easier to get lost in another world where I don’t have to focus on anything), but I am making progress.

The one thing I really need to focus on this month is decidedly making time to read for my growth – not just for fun. The last few weeks have been crazy with family visiting and traveling, so focusing on a more serious topic has been harder to do. Hence – the fiction. :) I will also admit that the last little bit I have been sidetracked by the Hallmark channel (we subscribed to Sling TV for the month so we could get all the holiday movies!!), and that may have put a damper on my reading.

My GoodReads app is helping me track the books that I’m reading. Only two books on my original reading list for 2017 remain, and one of them is already halfway finished. I’m definitely looking forward to our Christmas break and hoping to finish both of them prior to that so I can just relax and read all the FUN books that are still on my shelf.

To help me toward my goal of finishing those two books, I’m setting an alarm for every afternoon at 2pm so I can sit down and read for at least 15 minutes.  Here are the books on my pile to read this month: 

The Kids are Reading…

  • Laurianna – lots of assigned reading for her college classes
  • McKenna – Heart of Darkness
  • Zachary – Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
  • Kaleb – Boxcar Children book #3
  • Family read-aloud – Gregor the Overlander series

What I Finished in November

Here’s a peek at what I finished in the month of November – just fiction and working through some non-fiction too. 


  • Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason
  • Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden – HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!
  • five books in the Jacobite chronicles by Julia Brannon (there were some parts I had to skip). Otherwise a good series, but the parts I skipped seemed like they were token “add in” scenes that honestly could have been modified or left out completely. 

That’s it for this month – what is on YOUR reading list??

30 Activities, Crafts, and Printables for Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett

Books by Jan Brett have been huge favorites in our house, including her story Gingerbread Baby. The illustrations are simply amazing, and there are many activities that can be done to encourage learning as we read: sequencing, learning about different animals, and so much more!

Each of our children has enjoyed Gingerbread Baby – whether a board books, a paperpack, or hardcover. Like many of our books from Jan Brett, this is one that has earned a permanent spot on our shelves for years to come. There are some books that are just timeless!

Here is a collection of ideas and printables that you can use with your kids or classroom when reading Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.

Activities to Go-Along

Gingerbread Crafts

Science Tie-ins


Read the Story Online

If you don’t have a copy of Gingerbread Baby at home, or if you’d like to do something a little different, read it online here.


Additional Literature Based Learning Ideas

Like this? Don’t miss these other literature based activity posts focused on some of our favorite children’s books. 

activities, crafts, and printables to go along with The Snowy Day

Over 30 go-along crafts, activities, and printables for The Polar Express

What I’m Reading (and the Kids too) November 2017

November is here and along with it comes some busy night and company. On the other hand, the weather has also cooled down considerably, making Sunday afternoons a wonderful time to snuggle under a blanket and get lost in a book! 

My GoodReads app has been very handy in helping me track the books that I’m reading. Although I didn’t get much of one of the remaining books on my original reading list for 2017 read, I did finish one in my “extras” pile and a total of eight books overall. These last two months are dedicated to finishing the final two books in my “must read” list. 

Most afternoons I have a chance to sit down for about 15 minutes, but honestly I’ve been not focusing as much on reading as just relaxing and resting (I’m not going to get upset over that). Here are the books I’d like to focus on in November (and inevitably there will be books that manage to sneak their way onto my pile!): 

  • Abba’s Child by Brendan Manning
  • When God Seems Far Away by Joy Jacobs
  • Loving Our Kids on Purpose (re-reading this one)
  • Awaken (devotional) by Priscilla Shirer
  • Cherish by Gary Thomas (still working through this) 
  • random Kindle books (bedtime reading)

The Kids are Reading…

  • Laurianna – lots of assigned reading for her college classes
  • McKenna – finishing Count of Monte Cristo and starting Heart of Darkness
  • Zachary – finishing Treasure Island and starting Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
  • Kaleb – Boxcar Children book
  • Family read-aloud – Gregor the Overlander series

What I Finished in October

Here’s a peek at what I finished in the month of October. 

  • Moral Revolution by Kris & Jason Vallotton (our youth group is working through the video series based on this book)
  • Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber 
  • An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter
  • random Kindle books (bedtime reading), including Marrying Miss Marshal, To Win Her Favor, A Dangerous Engagement, A New Day Rising, and An Untamed Heart

That’s it for this month – what is on YOUR reading list??

Book Report Forms – Free Printable

Last week I shared a set of Scientific Method Printables with you all (a fun flipbook and poster). While this set of book report form printables is rather opposite of science, the clip art involved ties in with the Zoey and Sassafras series – but can be used for any book report your child may work on. (We just liked the clip art and thought it would be fun to make something else!)

These forms have been great for our children over the years (especially those who are more hesitant writers) because they have a limited space and clear direction. 

The set includes three forms that all include the following: 

  • space to record book information (title, author, copyright, etc)
  • story setting
  • characters
  • a brief summary
  • two vocabulary words
  • a book rating

The summary area is varies a bit on each form

. One page is blank so your child can write freely. If you have a child that needs a little assistance in keeping lines straight (or maybe writing a bit smaller), print off one of the lined pages. 

For those beginning the book report journey, this is a great look at important information to gather while reading and a fun way to document reading progress through the year.