Top 10 Best Reads from 2016

hello2017-1Top 10 Best Reads from 2016? But Kristen, we’re in 2017 now.

Yes, I know this post may seem late, but I spent the last week moving and everything that comes with it. Besides, there are 12 new months to fill with good books, which gives all of us some time to add a title or two to our lists.

My top picks are in no special order and range from fiction to non-fiction, from fantasy to historical romance to personal growth. You might just find one that fits your favorite genre or something that pleasantly surprises you. I did.

#1: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Though written as a children’s book, The Hobbit is perfect for imaginations of all ages. Tolkein’s reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins bucks up his courage to go on an adventure and help the Dwarves reclaim their homeland from the evil dragon Smaug. Even if you’ve seen the movies with Martin Freeman, you should still read the book.

#2: I Dare You by William Danforth

I read this short book at least twice every year. Danforth develops the concept of a four-fold life, based on Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially)” (NKJV, parenthesis added).

I once gave copies of I Dare You to my entire eighth grade class and share this book with friends whenever I can. It’s a must read for teens and adults who want their lives to make a difference.

#3: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is my favorite author and continues to surprise me with his stories, which are so varied in nature. Till We Have Faces retells the tragedy of Cupid and Psyche from the perspective of Psyche’s jealous older sister. It’s a riveting read that reveals much about human nature.

#4: The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

Several years back, this book dared me to leave a “good job” to completely switch careers and pursue my dream to be a writer. After a crazy journey, I have an online teaching job I love and will release my first book with Write Integrity Press in June.

Read Guillebeau’s book; it will dare you to face your fears, abandon your comfort zone, and reach for the moon. As the saying goes, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

#5: GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon

This book is my top pick for fiction writers. It has revolutionized how I plan my novels and helped me write tighter scenes. If you write fiction or want to write fiction, read it. The full title is GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction.

#6: Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson

If you know me well, you might be surprised a historical romance novel made this list. I’m surprised too, but I honestly couldn’t put Everson’s book down. Based loosely on a real-life story, the plot follows five roommates in Chicago who jointly buy one wedding dress they all plan to wear. Everson weaves their five love stories together into one page-turning tale which reminds us that everyone’s story is different.

#7: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Although I read this Holocaust story as a student, re-reading it as an adult moved me even more. If Corrie Ten Boom’s story doesn’t challenge your faith and redefine your limits of forgiveness and self-sacrifice, I don’t know what will.

#8: In His Steps by Charles Sheldon

Personally challenging and convicting, In His Steps challenged me to walk as Jesus walked in every aspect of my life and revealed how much I fall short. Growing up, I probably had a WWJD wristband like other teens my age, but anyone who wears one should read this book first. The plot of this fictional story surrounds a church that pledged to live as Jesus did for one year, based on the text of I Peter 2:21: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (NKJV).

#9: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Here’s another delightful tale by C.S. Lewis (a re-read for me)! It’s the prequel to the Chronicles of Narnia. So if you ever wondered how that magical wardrobe ended up in Professor Digory’s house or how the evil White Witch came to be in Narnia, this book is for you. Even if you’ve never read the Narnia series, I highly recommend The Magician’s Nephew as a standalone story.

#10: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

What are we making of life’s opportunities? Are we hoarding for ourselves or sharing with others? Are we so stuck in our routines that we fail to see the needs around us?

This classic tale convicts the Scrooge inside each of us. Christmas may be over, but the moral of A Christmas Carol is worth considering as we begin a new year.

What are your top book recommendations for 2017? I’d love to hear from you, so please share in the comments below. 

~ Kristen


Top 10 Best Reads from 2016 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)


2017 Keyword: Simplicity

micah-6-8Looking ahead holds such hope and excitement, but before we talk about the New Year, we should take a moment to look back and be thankful for all God has done.

My word for 2016 was convergence, and the idea was to move toward a central goal or purpose. As I think back over all that God has done, I see how He guided, not as I expected, but oh so much better.

Gratitude for 2016

Most unexpectedly, He opened a new job teaching online for an outstanding private Christian school. He’s surrounded me with godly leadership, a lead teacher I admire and count as a good friend, and co-teachers who have incredible talents and senses of humor. He’s given me students who desire to learn and treat me with such respect and appreciation that my heart wants to burst at times.

Beyond that, He answered my prayer for a publishing house to contract me for a book, but not just one book: three. I’m honored and excited to work with Write Integrity Press, my editor Marji, and a team of other writers who treat each other like family. My first book in a new trilogy releases in June (more on that in a future post).

Finally, after months of searching, God has also opened the opportunity for me to purchase my very first home.

Yes, I still have many unanswered prayer requests for some of my dear friends and for myself, but by looking back over what God has done, I know He will answer them in the best time and way possible, or reveal His wisdom in leaving some of them unanswered.

Convergence may have been the word I chose, but I can’t take credit for the work God did. The year 2016 reminds me that His plans are so much higher and greater than mine.

What has God done for you in 2016? In what ways did He surprise you?

Anticipation for 2017

So for 2017, I more meekly pick the word simplicity.

After all, I think of the Lord’s commands. They’re simple.

  • “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved …” (Acts 16:31 NKJV)
  • “… Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I said simple, not always easy. Striving for simplicity may not be easy either.

However, simplicity lets us focus on what matters most while minimizing distractions. It implies we might have to cut back in some areas to focus more on others. It means *gasp* we might have to say no to good things to give our time to better things.

One way I’m simplifying is to move all my posts to this website: I love the journey has taken, and in 2017, it’s merging with my main website.

The challenges, giveaways, and goodies you found at aren’t going away! They’re just moving here. If you’ve subscribed, you will still receive the email newsletter; it will just have a different name.

Something Karen Ehman said in her book Listen, Love, Repeat ties beautifully into the idea of simplicity. In her chapter that focuses on the home (and yes, I’m taking notes!), she talks about “living a life of welcome.”

I want this to be true in all areas of my life, including: relationships, writing, ministry, and hospitality.

Karen uses the example of homemaking to highlight the difference between impressing and refreshing.

Entertaining puts the emphasis on you and your home and seeks to impress others. In contrast, hospitality puts the emphasis on your guest and seeks to help them to feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home.

I don’t want to impress people. I want to bless them. Impressive people intimidate. Welcoming people refresh.

Irresistible Simplicity

Yes, I think there’s something irresistibly refreshing about simplicity.

When we focus on what matters most, everything else should fall into place. This keyword for 2017 has nothing to do with perfection; it has everything to do with God’s perfecting work in our lives.

I am so thankful for you, my friends! Wishing you all a blessed and simplified New Year!

What is your word for the year, or would you join me in embracing simplicity? I’m looking forward to more adventures together.

~ Kristen



2017 Keyword: Simplicity – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Embracing Simplicity in the New Year – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)