Rachel’s Top Five of 2019 {Book Club}

top 5 books

I can easily get sucked into reading a lot of forgettable fiction. I consume it in a few relaxing hours and forget almost everything about the book within days. One easy fiction book fades into another. I have to be intentional about my book choices to make sure that my reading is not only enjoyable but also feeds my mind – even if it’s easy fiction. How do you choose books intentionally? I was intentional in a few specific ways this year.

First of all, we started homeschooling. Pre-reading books that will be assigned to my kids to read will take up a bigger and bigger portion of my reading as they advance through school. The good news, though, is that they are going to read some great books.

Second, I realized that most of the authors I read are white and speak English as a first language. About this time last year, I decided to seek out diverse voices to read in 2019, and the results were so rich. I am going to continue this! Can you recommend any books in this category?

Finally, I like devotional reading, but I don’t like daily devotionals. With homeschooling, I started a habit of reading a Christian biography or “Christian living” book for a few minutes each morning between my prayer/Bible study and breakfast. This was such a good idea.

With those intentions set, I ended up reading over 70 books this year (granted: 20 or so were for the 2nd and 4th grader). It’s possibly my busiest year in books. And I loved it! It wasn’t easy to choose my top 5 books. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

This was a re-read that I first read in junior high. Though there were many parts I remembered, it affected me differently reading it as an adult. It is an inspiring story of innovation and perseverance.

I would also like to reread Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I came across this title in my search for African authors. Adeyemi is Nigerian-American. Children of Blood and Bone is a fantasy novel set in an Africa with magic. The story is captivating, exciting, and I couldn’t put it down! The second book in the series (Children of Virtue and Vengeance) was released last week, and it is at the top of my reading list for 2020.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

File this one under “books I’ve been meaning to read for years but finally picked up.” I don’t know why I thought it would be dry – it’s not! There is suspense, as well as spiritual edification. This story inspires the reader to live faithfully because God will always be faithful.

Another book I’ll soon be taking off my “too long on the to-read” list, is Unbowed by Wanagari Maathai.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This was read in book club a few years ago, but I skipped that month. From the beginning, it was both painfully and hilariously relatable, as an American living in Africa. Each woman in the family (who narrate chapters in turns) has her own voice, her own perspective. I got attached to all of them.

Next year, I plan on reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

This ought to be required reading for cross-cultural work or, actually, anyone living by faith. It was the very best devotional book I read this year. I was encouraged to trust God with our finances and work – which I thought I was doing already, but I have room to grow.

My first devotional book of 2020 will probably be Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

Pagoo by Holling Clancy Holling

As an Honorable Mention, this was my favorite book to pre-read for homeschool. There were a lot of contenders! I was surprised that a scientifically accurate book about a hermit crab could be so exciting.

Join me in the comments! What are the best books you read this year? What are your plans for next year?

Next week: We are reading another short story, At Christmas Time by Anton Chekhov

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash


  1. Sarah Hilkemann December 9, 2019

    Book lists are my absolute favorite! It was fun to see some of your favorites this year. 🙂 I have years where I’m much more intentional with my reading choices and other times not so much. I do like to have a variety of books that are just absolutely for fun- usually fiction- and books that make me learn something, like a biography or non-fiction. I tend to stock up on the non-fiction variety on Kindle because of someone’s high recommendation, but don’t like to buy fiction in case I don’t like it. 🙂 I’m grateful for a library where I can check out books, both in print, and also Kindle and audio!

    The Poisonwood Bible is one that has been on my list- I skipped reading along with book club that time as well. I need to circle back to that one!

    1. Rachel Kahindi December 10, 2019

      I also love book lists! It’s interesting to see who likes which books and why.

    2. Amy Young December 15, 2019

      You and Rachel simply must read Poisonwood Bible!!!!!! It’s on my all-time top 10 list :)!!!

  2. Spring Davis December 9, 2019

    I love your list. I agree I could go through fiction books without thinking about it. I did decide only Christian Fiction for the time being.

    I am amazed at your amount of books read. I don’t pre-read our books(homeschool) but I am realizing I should sometimes. My older kids use this Christian self paced class and I trust the content. My younger two are struggling readers, so I am sitting with them reading anyway
    Thank you for the admonission to be intentional about the books I choose. I grew up reading fiction. I enjoy non-fiction, but I have to process it, which means I take longer to get through it and often stop reading before finishing.

    As a side note, you are the third person who has said good things about The Poisonwood Bible. I think I will put it on my to read list.

    1. Rachel Kahindi December 10, 2019

      I am the same way with non-fiction. I need to read it in small doses.

      We’re a little Charlotte Mason inspired in our homeschool, so there’s a lot of reading books.

  3. Michele December 10, 2019

    I wasn’t following VA when they read The Poisonwood Bible, but read it on my own last night summer and loved it too. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret was one that made it into my suitcase my very first year on the field- in Kenya, btw! 🙂 That is one I refer to when asked what book outside of the Bible has most impacted my life. I read it in 1994!
    I have been trying to be more intentional by sitting with a notebook after I read anything, even easy fiction, and jotting some notes about anything that struck me. I’m also trying to balance types of books more. Including more from cultures different than my own used a great idea!

    1. Rachel Kahindi December 11, 2019

      What a coincidence! The copy of Hudson Taylor that I read had previously belonged to another expat who repatriated and left his entire library with my husband’s nephew. I should have read it long before now, but when I spotted it in nephew’s office, I knew it was time. Poisonwood Bible was also in that stash.

  4. Grace L December 11, 2019

    I love reading historical fiction. I have just finished a novel by Tessa Afshar, an author who is originally from the Middle East before moving to UK and then to the US. I highly recommend “In the Field of Grace” by this author. It is based on the life of Ruth and Boaz. I love how she develops the characters and how she describes their faith walks. I have just started reading “Pearl in the Sand” by this same author which is based on the story of Rahab. As I read her historical novels I find my own faith being built up.
    Another historical novel that I recently read and loved is “A Holy Passion: A Novel of David Brainerd and Jerusha Edwards” by Alicia G. Ruggieri. Wow, this account of a missionary and the daughter of Jonathan Edwards was so well written and captivating and inspiring.
    Another favorite author is Ann Tatlock, who writes historical fiction based in the USA. I loved her book, “All The Way Home”, a novel that starts in California just prior to the start of WWII about a friendship between a German-Irish girl and a Japanese-American girl and what happens when the Japanese Americans are sent to internment camps. Their stories continue through the Civil Rights struggle in the South in the 1960’s. I have read all of Tatlock’s books and love them all.

    1. Rachel Kahindi December 12, 2019

      Ooh! These all look good! Thanks for sharing!

      1. Grace L December 12, 2019

        Hope you enjoy them. I am recuperating from a back injury and have been having extra time to rest and read. Love finding these good books.

    2. M December 13, 2019

      Thank you thank you! I am always looking for my next read. This gives me a number to put on my list. I find non fiction the best but when I am feeling a bit ‘fragile inspired Christian fiction can help restore me

  5. M December 13, 2019

    Thank you thank you! I am always looking for my next read. This gives me a number to put on my list. I find non fiction the best but when I am feeling a bit ‘fragile inspired Christian fiction can help restore me

  6. Phyllis December 15, 2019

    I thought I had a big non-fiction year, but as I look back at my list, it’s about even on fiction and non-fiction.

    I wasn’t specifically going for diversity, but I did start reading from a list this year that added some:
    I got Things Fall Apart from that list. (Didn’t love it, but don’t regret reading it.)

    My two favourites of the year are Champagne for the Soul and Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (Tim Keller). I’m not finished with the latter, because I’m dragging it out one little section a day. It’s exactly what I need to be chewing on this year. Also, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing by Henri Nouwen.

    Best fiction… I’m waffling between Britt-Marie (loved her!), Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard (children’s book), and Gentian Hill.

    Honorable mention goes to a book I’m reading now, thanks to a VA link a few weeks ago: Breathe Again. Her story of hardships is weirdly similar to mine; we both lost a sister and were diagnosed with cancer, one right after the other. Lots of good stuff in this book!

    1. Rachel Kahindi December 15, 2019

      What a great list! I’m going to bookmark that.

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