Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Books & Reading

    The 2018 Afterthoughts Book Awards

    January 3, 2018 by Brandy Vencel

    Every year, this gets harder. How in the world do I choose favorites? The pickier I become at choosing titles in the first place, the more difficult it is to choose a favorite because they are all so good. In fact, this year, I’m listing all the contenders, because they are worth getting to know, too.

    This post contains affiliate links.

    The main rule I have for myself is that I have to finish a book for it to be a contender. Because I love to start books, this is a form of self-discipline that has been very helpful for me. I often spend my spare December reading time finishing books rather than doing what I would more like to do: starting new ones. How many books did I finish this year? 32. How many did I begin? I have no idea. I only mention the ones I don’t finish if I don’t plan to ever finish them — what I mean is, if I selected a book I think is bad, I warn you! He he.

    Now, on with the awards! (Book of the Year is always given at the end….)

    Best Read Aloud

    My read aloud titles are listed here and aren’t part of my total of 32. I don’t know why I count them separately; I guess I like to know what I’ve done on my own. It was oh so hard to choose, and I feel a little guilty about Mr. Richard Hannay not winning, but Andrew Peterson totally takes the prize this year with his Wingfeather Saga.

    North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
    The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson
    The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

    On the Edge of the Dark Sea of DarknessNorth! or Be EatenThe Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King were all so good. We loved every moment and were sad when it was over.

    Best Parenting Book

    The Happy Dinner Table by Anna Migeon

    The Happy Dinner Table wins the prize for this category. You can read my more detailed review of it here if you like. I mainly read this as a review book to see if I could recommend it, but I found myself wishing I’d had it when my children were younger. I wouldn’t say I completely failed the food battles, but there is much I would have improved had I had the author’s advice. I highly recommend it!

    Other contenders in this category: Being There by Erica Komisar (click here to read what I said about it on Instagram)

    Best Government/History/Economics Book

    If you read books in any of these categories, then you already know they often overlap. That history book gives you a brief economics lesson. This government book is full of history. It seems economical (ha) to combine the categories rather than split hairs.

    This year, we’ve got a tie between Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery and Jane Marcet’s John Hopkins’s Notions on Political Economy. I loved both of these books, but they are too different to compare to one another.

    Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

    Up From Slavery is amazing and Washington is both brilliant and wise. I filled pages in my commonplace book with his quotes. My only regret is that the book wasn’t twice as long. Do any of you know if Washington wrote other books? I haven’t checked, but I’d love to get to know him better.

    John Hopkin’s Notions on Political Economy is an entirely different animal. Marcet uses a fictional, fairy tale style to teach basic principles of free market economics. I was raised on economics, so I can’t say I learned much from it; nothing in it was really new to me. But I cannot get over how brilliant she was for trying to teach economics using this approach! It was delightful and easy to understand. I think such a style would help resistant people warm up to such topics. I wish more writers attempted this level of innovation.

    Other contenders in this category: Common Sense by Thomas Paine, The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot, The Age of Revolution by Winston Churchill, Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, and Evaluating Books by Richard Maybury

    Best Geography/Nature Lore

    Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

    These categories don’t overlap as much as the previous categories, but I still combined them this year. This year’s winner was a fun read: Eothen by Alexander Kinglake. I read this as part of my reading of AmblesideOnline Year 10, and the discussions I ended up having with my son were many!

    Other contender in this category: The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin (extra fun because we live near the area she was writing about)

    Best Theology/Church History

    Against the Gods by John Currid

    One of my favorite categories, as you likely know! The books I read for this category this year were a delightful feast! In the end, Against the Gods by John Currid was my favorite. It was just such an intriguing read! If you aren’t familiar with polemical theology, I won’t say this is an easy read, but books on this topic aren’t usually written for laypeople, so if you want to try your hand at it, this is a good book for it.

    Other contenders in this category: Eusebius: The Church History translated by Paul Maier (downloadable recommended reading schedule is here) and The Didache by Thomas O’Loughlin

    Best Homeopathy

    Ack. I hesitate to share these books because they are not for beginners. This is an area of study I’ve been pursuing for many years now. If you want to start studying homeopathy, don’t start with any of the titles I list here. Instead, start here.

    Homoeopathy in Epidemic Diseases by Dr. Dorothy Shepherd

    Someone once told me to read everything Dr. Dorothy Shepherd wrote, but it wasn’t until this year that I got around to reading her. Homoeopathy in Epidemic Diseases was my first Shepherd, but now I see why people say this, and I plan to read more of her books as I find them.

    Other contenders in this category: Autism: Beyond Despair and Inspiring Homeopathy (both by Tinus Smits), and Abridged Therapeutics Founded Upon Histology and Cellular Pathology by Wilhelm Schüessler

    Please note that I can only recommend the works of Tinus Smits with reservation. Some of his work — for example, that which concerns saccharum officinalis is truly profound. But much of it is convoluted. This was one of those rare instances where I wondered if someone’s world view was so far from reality that it had affected his ability to perceive truth. If you are willing to mine for the jewels, by all means do so. But if you want a book where the majority of it is helpful, choose a different author.

    Best Education

    Home Education by Charlotte Mason

    Unfortunately for Anne White, I finished a volume of Charlotte Mason this year. (Sorry, Anne!) Nothing beats Miss Mason, as you well know. I finished leading my local group through Home Education, and I cannot tell you how rich it was, even though I’d read the volume who knows how many times before. This was also a poignant moment for me. Home Education was the first book by Miss Mason I ever read, back when my 15-year-old was a little guy. The subtitle of this book is Training and Educating Children Under Nine. My youngest (sob) is now nine. This is my last time reading the volume with children in the age range! Truly, it’s the end of an era. Of course I will revisit it in the future, but it won’t ever be the same.

    Other contenders in this category: Minds More Awake by Anne White and In Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte Mason published by yours truly

    Best Other Nonfiction

    Ah, yes, the “other” category, that universal catch-all. It’s hard to compare these books because they’re quite different from one another, but my definite favorite was Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Dr. Paul Brand. It’s a book like no other book and very hard to describe. One part theology, one part physiology, one part biography, and one part philosophy, it is a book every Christian should read.

    Other contenders in this category: The Four Loves by CS Lewis, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield, and The Small Woman by Alan Burgess

    Best Literature/Fiction

    The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    Here it is: everyone’s favorite category! I read a lot of wonderful books in this category this year, but The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas was my absolute favorite. It was my first time reading it, and what a fabulous read it turned out to be (although I’d call the ending unsatisfactory).

    Other contenders in this category: She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith; The School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan; The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia by Samuel Johnson; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Faust (Part I) by Johann Goethe; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson; and Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (click here to read what I said about it on Instagram)

    Book of the Year!

    Drumroll, please….

    (I still can’t get over the gorgeous cover.)

    Is it wrong to give the award to a book I published myself? I mean, it’s not like I wrote it. I figure it’s not wrong because it’s only because of how good the book was that I decided to become a publisher in the first place. No other book could have compelled me to do such a crazy thing. I spent a lot of time with this book during the publication process, and still came away thinking it was good, even after all of that time and concentration.

    It’s moving. It’s inspiring. It’s compelling. It’s a glimpse at Charlotte Mason’s personal life, but it’s not bogged down in boring details — in fact, so much of her philosophy is evident and incarnated through the pages!

    You can watch my video about this book here.

    What’s your book of the year? Leave the title in the comments!

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Julie Z January 18, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Hey there! Just wanted to thank you for recommending Being There. I just finished it, and am having to hold myself back from giving it to every young mother in our church who is confident she is headed right back to work 6 weeks after her baby comes. Ugh! I have begun praying for these mothers that I might be able to come alongside them during these first weeks and perhaps be able to share some of this information with them. Truth in love, of course. Even as a 8th time mother, who has always been more or less at home, I was challenged by how I could grow in this area and found myself wishing I had had this book a decade ago. Thank you!!

  • Reply Rebecca Beck January 14, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    My first thought was that I never have time to read but when I started to think about all the books I’ve read this year…wow!
    For my book awards I would say the best audible book was The Trials of Saint Patrick. Fiction was Anna Karina. Nature book was the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. History book was Saint Athanasius by Forbes. For schooling, I loved Minds More Awake and the living page. And my religious book was, Saint Benedict and Saint Therese which had quite a few connections with CMs habit training. Someday soon I will read In Memoriam, can’t wait!

  • Reply Jessica January 11, 2018 at 3:25 am

    Did your Year 10 student read John Hopkin’s Notions on Political Economy as well?

  • Reply Crystin January 5, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Liturgy of the Ordinary is my book of the year. So many good choices this year, but that one takes the cake. I bought it after hearing Pam’s Schole RDE on….. oh, I can’t remember which episode. So, so thought provoking. It’s a rare book that changes your thinking AND behavior completely authentically, without much analyzing on your part. This book did that for me. <3

  • Reply Raquel January 4, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    I forgot that I had purchased “The Happy Dinner Table” (on your recommendation) – Kindle books are a bummer like that, I never remember what I have on there.
    The books I gave 5 stars too in 2017 were “Pride & Prejudice” (audio book version narrated by Rosamund Pike – it was a steal, thanks to Sarah Mackenzie’s Audible book deals emails); “Anne of Green Gables” (once again, the audio book, narrated by Rachel McAdams), “Follow the River” by James Alexander Thom (historical fiction); “We Were The Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter (contemporary Holocaust fiction); and “The Skin Above My Knee” (memoir by oboist Marcia Butler). That’s out of 38 books in total (and not counting the unfinished ones, like “Beauty in the Word”). Favourite podcast of the year: Schole Sisters 🙂 And Brandy, I’m going to recommend “Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms” by Holly Ordway to you again this year, Lol!

  • Reply Jane January 4, 2018 at 7:42 am

    I’m surprised that Beauty in the Word didn’t get on your list. I believe you read that this year?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 4, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      Ha. I still have one chapter left!! If I hadn’t gotten sick last week, it likely would have made the list. But rules are rules. It’ll have to go on next year’s list. 🙂

  • Reply Brittany January 3, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    My book of the year was Everything That Rises Must Converge. It was my first introduction to O’Connor and she is amazing! I am certain I wouldn’t have gleaned nearly as much from it without the Close Reads podcast though.

  • Reply Anna January 3, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    I guess I’d have to give my Book of the Year to the Iliad, because my eldest two and I had such great discussions, not to mention many laughs because of it and the Circe reading guide. I really hope we can do it again with the Odyssey or even another book sometime…
    I need to finish In Memoriam – almost halfway through! ❤

  • Leave a Reply