Favorite Books of 2013

This past year was one of many firsts—my first year of blogging here at ASH, my first trip to Canada, and my first vacation with only our little family.

It was full of unexpected blessings.  It was also full of books.

Partly due to a new freedom I feel to read books the way I always have—about six a time, starting new ones before others are finished, discarding about a third without finishing—and partly due to great recommendations, it was also the year of books.

Here are my favorites.

Favorite Books of 2013


All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Really, I can’t say enough about this one.  I want to write like James Herriot.

I laughed and teared up on the same page, learned more about cows than I ever thought I’d want to, and put Yorkshire on my list of places to see.


Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

I also want to write like Shauna Niequist.

No wonder everyone loves this book.  I love her heart for hospitality, appreciation of a good meal, and storytelling.   If I’d read it before my thirty-one days series on Real, Simple Hospitality, I’d have been tempted to totally plagiarize.


Echoes of Eden by Jerram Barrs

I mean, you really can’t go wrong with a book that explores and venerates the writings of Tolkien, Lewis, Austen, Shakespeare, and J.K. Rowling.  Right?

Barr guides us to reexamine how we think about film, literature, and art in a way that is gracious and gospel-centered.

I picture it being a helpful tool in navigating literature for my kids as they get older.  In that way, it reminds me of For the Children’s Sake.


The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I started this one when I was twelve-ish and have repeatedly tried to finish it since then.  Why I couldn’t get into it, I don’t know—I enjoyed the Hobbit and annually watch LOTR.

But this year, I reopened it and couldn’t put it down.  Or the next two books in the trilogy.

Nerd alert: I even read the appendices. Don’t worry, I’m not going to learn Elvish.


Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

A freeing, hope-giving book that both let me off the hook and challenged me to examine why I do what I do in parenting. I’ll be ruminating on this one for a while.


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

I can’t wait to read this one to my kids.  Endearing characters, loved the settings.

Bonus: unexpected lessons on home and hospitality.


Quiet by Susan Cain

I’m not even an introvert and this book was liberating.  The part about “highly sensitive people” (who can be extroverts or introverts) helped me better understand why I prefer certain books, avoid certain movies, and am overwhelmed by certain situations.


Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Hallelujah, I’m not alone in the world.

While I’ve picked the rampant (RAMPANT) misuse of the apostrophe as my grammatical hill to die on, Lynne Truss dies on every hill with wit and hilarity.


Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey

The Myers-Briggs Bible.  Fantastic date night fodder.  (Kidding. Ish.)

Why don’t I own a copy yet?

What books did you love in 2013?  Please share!

And then hop over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more great recommendations!

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About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • Jen E @ things momma loves

    Great list! I just bought a copy of Bread & Wine – hoping to read it this year!

  • Caroline Starr Rose

    Eats Shoots and Leaves. I devoured this! There are children’s versions I used in my classroom, too. I have so meant to pick up Echoes of Eden. Glad to know it’s as good as it sounds.

    • I think I’d heard of it when I was teaching, actually. I can’t believe I didn’t pick it up until this year! 🙂

  • Heidi McCahan

    Bread & Wine and Quiet are both languishing on my Kindle right now. Must. Read. Thanks for sharing and blessing for a happy new year (with more great reads, of course).

  • Give Them Grace sounds so good. And Bread and Wine has now made it onto my must read in 2014 list, I think it was on everyone else’s best of 2013. =)

    • I think you’d love Bread and Wine. And I’d love to chat about Give Them Grace (and the little ones we’re giving the grace to :)).

  • Love James Herriot and Shauna! Just added Quiet to my list- and I am an introvert. =) And I’m ashamed to tell you I’ve never read The Wind in the Willows. Thanks for your list~ Happy New Year, Jenn!

  • Ooh! Great list! I finally got a copy of Bread and Wine a few weeks ago and can’t wait to settle in with it. I think I must be the last person left that hasn’t read it!

  • I hope to read Give Them Grace this year! Thanks for sharing!

  • I loved Give Them Grace when I read it last year and have wanted to re-read it again. I tried to start Quiet this year but abandoned it, however I keep hearing so many rave reviews on it so maybe I need to give it another go.

  • I loved Quiet! I’m a serious introvert so it was nice to have my personality explained and affirmed a bit 🙂

  • Christy

    Love it.

    On James Herriot: You SHOULD visit Yorkshire. A#1 it is gorgeous b#2 there is a brilliant famous tearoom in York called Betty’s. C. It has the Pennines running through.. i.e. baby “mountains” in England D. It is NOT london (And your hubs cannot say he has seen all he needs to see in England just because he has been to London Z. and most important it is a very short journey from me.. the county below! Yee haw!

  • emmillerwrites

    Oh, I read Eats, Shoots and Leaves ages ago. As a writer/editor, I will gladly have your back in any grammatical argument! FOTR and Bread & Wine were great, too, and I think I’m going to have to check out Echoes of Eden.

    Also, hospitality is one of my favorite topics. If you’re ever doing a series or synchroblog or inviting guest posts, count me in. The only thing I might like better than writing about hospitality is offering it! Do you haave any favorite books on the subject?

    Happy New Year!

    • I’d heard of E, S, and L when I was teaching and am just sorry I only picked it up this year!
      Love hearing your heart for hospitality! Just you mentioning that makes me want to do another series :). I actually don’t have any favorite books on the topic, just some really great real life role models.

  • Anne Bogel

    I’ve never read ANY James Herriot–to my mother’s dismay, he’s one of her favorites! Bread and Wine was one of my top picks for 2013 (and Quiet and the Kiersey were faves in previous years). Eats, Shoots, and Leaves cracked me up!

    • I picked up Kiersey at your recommendation–so glad I did :). And yes, I laughed out loud so much while reading E, S, and L.

  • Lots of books I haven’t heard of on your list. I was inspired by For the Children’s Sake, so will have to pick up Echos of Eden. I’ve listened to Susan Cain’s TedTalk on being an introvert. The older I get, the more I embrace my introvert nature.

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  • Life of an Expat Parent

    I read The Wind in the Willows to Layla when she was tiny and feeding and she’d fall asleep on my lap as I read. It is superbly written. Such stunning description on almost every paragraph. We have two copies in our home and I’ve just started reading it aloud to Finn. 🙂

    Also, answer me this re: grammar. I would initially write The Duchess’ when doing possessive for L, but later read it should actually be The Duchess’s. Explain please! It’s been driving me crazy to think I may somehow still be getting it wrong.

    • Love that you read it to Layla! I read the original Winnie the Pooh to Julia when she was a tiny baby–those were the days ;).

      And Finn! Love it :).

      I’m with you on the extra “s” stuff: my tendency is to just leave it out. I’m certainly no expert, but I have read that you add an extra “s” after the apostrophe if it’s a word that requires you to say an extra “s”. Does that make sense?
      But then I guess you’d have to know if you’re supposed to say it or not :/ And evidently there are exceptions: Jesus, etc. So that’s helpful. 🙂

      • Life of an Expat Parent

        Ah! Is that the first time you’ve seen his actual name?!

        He’s our Finn Arthur. (Should be noted that “Arthur” also sounds much cooler in a British accent than in my american one!)

        • Yes! I only knew him as The Duke prior :), but was curious!

          And let’s be honest: everything sounds cooler in a British accent.