2015 Reading List (Part I)

Thursday, July 23, 2015 0 No tags

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?

10 Inspiring and Uplifting Books for Spring

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 0 No tags

I’m feeling more sane today, guys! Thanks for all of your encouraging comments in my last post. The great* thing about pregnancy is that every day is different. The past few days I have had a hard time believing this baby would ever come out. But today I am more hopeful–still impatient, but hopeful.

I watched a Ted Talk by renowned midwife, Ina May Gaskin, about how we should stop making birth out to be a scary thing. She pointed out that humans are the only creatures on earth who doubt their ability to give birth. Which is why I plan on pretending I am a horse or a lioness in the hospital room. My birth team will love it. But really, it’s true. Why do we doubt what our bodies were made to do?

But I’m not here to talk about birth today. I want to talk about books!

Do you think of books as seasonal? I wouldn’t say that I do, but then I find myself holding off reading certain books for fall (Dracula) or winter (certain lengthier novels or Dickens). Summer reading lists are usually filled with lighter novels or re-reads. And spring? Spring is for inspiring ideas, getting out of ruts, and uplifting stories.

Here are the ten books for spring I think would make an ideal reading list:

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1) The Elegance of the Hedgehog  by Muriel Barbery

And now is the moment I realize that the first book on my inspiring and uplifting books list is one that deals primarily with the theme of death. But this book is far from depressing. Told from two perspectives, this book takes place in Paris and is about an observant, middle-aged concierge and a brilliant twelve-year-old tenant who has made plans to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. The two believe themselves to be misunderstood, until a wealthy tenant moves in and causes them to cross paths, and a surprising friendship is born. It’s charming and thought-provoking and just the thing for your reading stack, I know it.

2) Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Everyone has read this book by now, right? If you’ve only seen the movie, that doesn’t count at all. Don’t even get me started on the movie.

The book, though…the book. The best way to convince you to read this book would be to tell you all the best parts, and I won’t do that because I’m not that kind of person. But this is a book for everyone, and falls under both the “inspiring” and “uplifting” categories so perfect for this season. It’s the true story of an Olympic athlete who serves in the Army Air Force during WWII. After his plane is shot down over the Pacific Ocean, a chain of events occurs that would be totally unbelievable as a fictional story. You will be moved at every turn, and the ending will make you want to sit in silence for a few hours before possibly considering moving on with everyday life. You don’t have to love WWII history to love this book. You just have to love a good story. And this is one of the best.

3-4) Lessons from Madame Chic and At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

I’ve talked about both of these books many times before on Jeneric Generation (here and here, for starters), so I won’t beat a dead horse. But these books on personal style, living every moment to the fullest, organizing your day-to-day routine in a meaningful way, and loving your home, provide perfect motivation to get your spring cleaning underway and give you a fresh outlook on life.

5) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I haven’t read this book since I was a young girl, but it was one of the first books I thought of for my spring book list. Yes, this book is about a garden and springtime and enjoying the outdoors, but it is also a children’s book, which I think is a necessary category for all adults to engage in every once in a while. It’s a story of friendship between two lonely children, and the hope they find in an unusual garden.

6) The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

A study of four kinds of human love: affection, friendship, erotic love, and the love of God. “Love” means so many different things in our world today. Lewis’s reflections on these four types of love are so insightful and helpful in categorizing our thoughts on such a broad subject. One of my favorite Lewis quotes comes from this book:

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

I know. And there’s more where that came from. Have your highlighter ready.

7) My Life in France by Julia Child

I didn’t mean for such a strong French theme to evolve through this list, but so be it. This memoir by the wonderful Julia Child documents her move to France and the journey it leads her on–a journey of loving and learning to cook French food, and sharing that love and enthusiasm with her fellow Americans. If you like food or France or determined women who live life to the fullest, then you will love this book.

8) The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon

I also didn’t mean for a food theme to emerge in this list, but what is Springtime without a little inspiration to try new things in the kitchen? Not only is this one of my favorite books about food, it is one of my favorite books in general. It is written by an Episcopalian priest and chef–the perfect combination for thoughtful reflections on homecooked food.

The majority of this book is devoted to a single recipe: lamb for eight persons four times. Now if that doesn’t make you want to head to the library right now, I don’t know what will. The recipe takes so long because he inserts so many antidotes about whatever else comes to mind–like how amazing and complex the onion is (there is an entire, wonderful, chapter on the onion). You will laugh out loud, poke the person nearest to you repeatedly until they agree to listen to another delightful paragraph, and run to the kitchen to see for yourself what magical things can happen in such a small room.

9) An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

 And another book about food (I also talked about it here). This one is perfect whether you are scared of the kitchen and the vast amount of choices it presents, or are an experienced cook looking to think more creatively about the possibilities the kitchen presents. The first chapter is called “How to Boil Water”. If you thought boiling water was simply a boring and necessary step to cooking bigger and better things, think again. The possibilities of a boiling pot of water will blow your mind after reading this chapter. Read this book if you feel like you have been cooking the same things over and over again for a long time. Or, if you just like to read about food.
 
10) The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
This is one of my favorite memoirs, and another one that most of you have probably read. But if you haven’t, please do. It’s another one of those true stories that would be hard to believe if it were fiction. Jeannette Walls recounts her dysfunctional childhood, one crazy story at a time. Constantly on the brink of homelessness, she and her resourceful siblings manage to escape the nomadic lives their eccentric parents created for them, and move to New York City where the author becomes a well-known journalist. A beautifully told story of resilience and determination in the face of overwhelming hardship.

And those are my ten book recommendations for spring. What do you love on this list? Want to read? What is on your spring reading list? I’d love to know! Are we friends on goodreads?

*worst?

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5 Reasons to Read Harry Potter as an Adult

Monday, March 16, 2015 0 No tags

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Fun fact: I have been experiencing a Harry Potter revival in my life recently. I started re-reading the series this past October (I’m currently on book 7 for the second time!), Eric started re-reading them again shortly after I started (he finished re-reading the entire series over a month ago. Ugh.), my Mom started reading the series for the first time (she is on book 5!), and some good friends of ours just finished listening to all seven books via audio with reader Jim Dale (he is amazing).

It has been so much fun discussing the books all over again with friends and family. I have a renewed appreciation for the series after our many talks about the deeper meanings in the books, and J.K. Rowling’s overall brilliance in creating the series.

Interesting fact: I didn’t read Harry Potter for the first time until I was an adult. It was my senior year of college and a trustworthy friend of mine convinced me to read the series, and loaned me the first book. She told me I would read it in a day. I think I read it in two.

I didn’t do a lot of pleasure reading in college, but when I did, it was such a refreshing escape, and reading the Harry Potter series was especially delightful in that way. I would get up early before my first morning class, make a cup of tea, and sit on the fluffy red couch next to the big window. I imagined I was sitting in the Gryffindor common room, naturally. My two sisters quickly got on board, and soon we were all glued to the series.

I realize most Harry Potter fans around my age read the books as they came out, as children, but if you are like me and were late coming to the game, here are a few reasons I think you shouldn’t put off reading Harry Potter any longer. 

Continue Reading…

My Bad Habit

Friday, February 27, 2015 0 ,

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I used to think that the stack of books on my nightstand, all bookmarked in various places, was a bad habit.

Shouldn’t I be able to finish one book before starting the next? I obviously cannot answer that. But I certainly don’t feel compelled to break my multiple-book-reading habit when I come across something in one book that feels eerily similar to a passage in another book.

Having a pile of books that you are in the middle of is like having coffee with a few good friends, instead of just one. The conversation often benefits. And one person’s ideas inspire a similar thought from someone else–and the ideas keep building.

Books, of course, cannot hear each other speak. So when two quotes from two different books overlap so beautifully, it seems almost magical.

So I won’t break my habit. Not as long as my books are able to maintain a civil conversation.

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