2015 Reading List (Part I)

It’s that time of year again! We have passed the midpoint of 2015, with Christmas only 23 Fridays away.

I know. It was shocking to me when I realized it, too.

I like to share my reading habits throughout the year, and June/July means it is time for Part I of my 2015 book list!

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When making my reading goals at the beginning of this year, I was determined to remain flexible. I knew I wouldn’t have as much time to read with a newborn baby, so I decided to read 24 books if I could, but not worry about it if I couldn’t. I didn’t read a lot in the first couple months of Violet’s life, but because I was so paranoid focused on my book goal in the months leading up to her birth, I read more than usual, and made up for all the lost time. I’m on track to read at least 24 books this year–my modest but satisfying personal goal.

Here is what I read from January to June of 2015:

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

I have wanted to read this series for a while, because I love children’s lit and I had heard good things. I was actually reminded of the series because of the oldest daughter’s name in the series, Violet. Ha! I was disappointed, though. While the “sadness” of the book didn’t bother me, I thought the story line was a little creepy, especially for kids. I thought his style of writing was clever at first, until he started to repeat many of his “tricks”. The series might get better, but I will just never know. The author gets points for an awesome pen name, however.

Letters to an American Lady, letters by C.S. Lewis

I loved this collection of letters, written from C.S. Lewis to an American friend, because I love everything Lewis ever penned. Reading the personal letters of authors I love is always such an insightful treat. However, aside from learning a little more of C.S. Lewis’s personality (he was such a very kind man), this book didn’t offer too much. I am very glad I read it for one reason alone, however: in one letter, he briefly mentions that he is “very impressed” by a book written by an American monk. I found the book, called No Man is An Island, and couldn’t get enough of it (see below).

How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish 

I had never heard of this book before my brother and sister-in-law gave it to me for Christmas. It was absolutely fascinating! If you are a writer, I definitely recommend it for its uniqueness and fresh perspective on writing. If you are a reader, I recommend it for its insights into appreciating good writing. I wrote a more in-depth review of the book here, if you are interested.

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

I can’t believe I hadn’t read this C.S. Lewis book before now! I recognized so many famous quotes, including the one I like to call my blog’s thesis statement. Needless to say, this collection of essays is a goldmine. I have marked many to go back and re-read.

Harry Potter books 5-7 by J.K. Rowling

This was my second time reading the series, and doing so while pregnant was a fantastic distraction. It was also a great break from reading all things pregnancy/birth related. And yes, I think the series was even better the second time around. If you haven’t read them, might I encourage you to read my blog post, 5 Reasons to Read Harry Potter as an Adult?

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I read this book very quickly, and always looked forward to it. And yet, I didn’t love it. I wanted more! Not more pages (there were plenty of those), but a little more insight. I felt that she wasn’t ready to talk about many of the topics in her book (Will Arnett and Parks and Rec, namely). To me it read like a decent first draft. I wish she had taken a long vacation before writing this book. That said, I’ll read the next book she writes! I do love Amy.

Bringing up Bebe by Pamala Druckerman

I know, another book on how perfect the French are. Sometimes I wonder if the French are as French as we think they are. But this book really isn’t about how the French do everything right. Pamela Druckerman is an American mom in Paris, writing about her observations on French vs. American parenting. And it is fascinating. I loved learning about the creche system–government subsidized day care–mainly because of the three-course meals those kids get to eat every day. I loved this book. And the chapter on how the French get their babies to sleep was worth reading the whole book, for sure.

The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan, M.D. 

Hands down the most helpful book I read while pregnant. It starts to get a little weird when it strays from nutrition and basic baby care (like, specifically stating what kids should and shouldn’t watch). But for the most part, this book is full of really helpful information. It’s science based, but written in a very readable way. I followed the pregnancy dietary guidelines of this book (based on the Weston A. Price dietary recommendations) and attribute my fairly easy pregnancy to it.

A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery

This was one of the few books by L.M. Montgomery that I had not read. I have a hard time saying I don’t like a book of hers, but this was probably my least favorite. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sad when it ended. The premise–that so many lives were affected by the unknown fate of a family heirloom–was clever, but the amount of characters and story lines meant that each felt a little lacking. While Montgomery’s talent for capturing human nature in such a good-natured way was still present, I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters. Overall, the story was spread too thin for my taste.

No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton

This is the book referred to above, mentioned in a letter by C.S. Lewis. I don’t quite know how to describe this book, except to say that it is one of the most encouraging spiritual books I have read in a long time. It’s written in a series of essays, of sorts, so it can easily be read in short increments over a long period of time. I don’t think I can write a proper review of this book until I read it a few more times. So, if your interest is piqued, you might read the reviews here.

What are you reading right now? Anything I should add to my list for the second half of the year? I am currently reading Villette, by Charlotte Bronte, and loving it.

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P.S. Are we friends on goodreads?

Well Said: on worrying about the future

Well Said is a new series I have started to highlight beautiful sentences and words well-arranged. Sometimes they are uncovered after hunting for them, but more often they leap from their pages when I least expect them.

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I used to scratch my head in wonder at the people who said they didn’t want to have kids because they couldn’t be responsible for bringing kids into “a world like this”. And because it is exactly the way things work, I found myself saying almost those exact words once we had a kid of our own. Sleep deprivation and postpartum hormones may have had something to do with it, but the fact still remains that in a moment of panic, I said these words to Eric: “What have we done? What kind of world have we brought Violet into?” There are so many things to worry about.

It was then that Eric hit me over the head with a metaphorical hammer: “WE didn’t bring her into this world. She is a gift to us, and we are just responsible for taking care of her”. Never mind how terrifying the words “just responsible” are. The fact that WE are not in control of our daughter’s fate was an obvious and much-needed reminder.

And so as it often is that we hear the words we most need to hear at just the right time, we read the words we need to read when we most need to read them, I sincerely believe.

These words are from a book I am reading by Archbishop Francois Fenelon, in a letter he wrote in the 18th century to a woman working in the Palace of Versailles. (Emphasis added)

“The crosses which we make for ourselves by over-anxiety as to the future are not Heaven-sent crosses. We tempt God by our false wisdom, seeking to forestall His arrangements, and struggling to supplement His Providence by our own provisions. The fruit of our wisdom is always bitter. God suffers it to be so that we may be discomfited when we forsake His Fatherly guidance. The future is not ours: we may never have a future; or, if it comes, it may be wholly different to all we foresaw. Let us shut our eyes to that which God hides from us in the hidden depths of His Wisdom. Let us worship without seeing; let us be silent and lie still.”

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P.S. A practical guide to worrying.