9.29.2020

some books

My life has changed a lot this year, and in turn I've changed my reading habits. I drastically lowered my reading goal, I've gotten VERY choosy about what I read, and I'm taking my time to work through books. I realized that I had been stressing myself out trying to keep up on my to-read list and get through it as fast as I can. Life is too busy for that, and I no longer have the brain power to speed read books. I'm lucky to make it through a chapter before bed these days. I want to keep reading a happy hobby and not make it a chore. With the library shutdowns, I've also been reading a lot of books I've had on my shelves that I hadn't made it through yet. 

Here are some of the books I've read this summer that I've really enjoyed. I've also read some I didn't like very much, but who cares about those.


Followers by Megan Angelo: This one was a mixed bag. It's a very dystopian look at what social media and the influencer culture has the power to do to civilization. It was haunting and not the best thing to read during quarantine, but it's a book that I've been thinking about since I read it in April. Two friends use social media to become successful---until it massively backfires. It's like The Hunger Games meets The Truman Show. We watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix earlier this week (WATCH IT NOW AND TALK TO ME) and all I could think about was this book. WE ARE ALL SOCIAL MEDIA-POWERED ROBOTS.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery: For some reason I've held off reading this novel for awhile, but WHY? It's made the list of my favorite books of all time. It was one that I read during hours-long 3am nursing sessions. I had the book hangover of a lifetime when I finished it. "Old Maid" Valancy Stirling finally decides to move out of her overbearing and controlling mother's house and make a life for herself. It is charming, it is delightful, and I can't wait to read it again. And I'm not a re-reader! This cemented L.M. Montgomery as my favorite author.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn: This was another one I read solely during the middle of the night, so details are hazy, but it was wonderful. Flinn graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and after observing a woman loading her cart in the store with unhealthy, packaged foods, she offers her advice and how to swap those for healthy alternatives. She starts a class where she teaches women who can't cook. She demonstrates knife skills, gives them the tools to experiment with flavors, and they even taste test every canned tomato and kind of salt on the market to find out which has the most flavor and is the highest quality. It was so interesting, and it made me think about food in a way I hadn't before. I would love to read this one again when I have more time to devote to cooking.

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley: This is a novella from 1917 I believe, and it's about an old maid who runs a farm and suddenly decides to buy a traveling bookstore. It was adorable. It felt like the Victorianish version of Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner.

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon: I don't find myself reaching for much new fiction these days, but this book was all-consuming. It was based on a true story about an Australian female journalist and spy in WWII. I know everyone is getting weary of the WWII thing, but I COULD NOT put this book down. As war books go, it wasn't a sunshine and rainbows ending, but it felt important to read during The Great Quarantine as a reminder of how much worse things have been and could be.

Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons: I requested this from the library on a whim, and I now need to buy it. It was so, so good. It was full of gospel-centered encouragement and Ruth's beautiful artwork. I won't even lie, I read this during the newborn phase so I remember basically nothing other than the fact that it encouraged me and I loved it. 

Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause: This is one of my favorite books of the year so far. Three people who have been ghosted by someone in their lives form an unlikely friendship while trying to heal from their past relationships. There's also a ghost story of sorts interwoven. I was a teensy bit skeptical at first over the ghost story aspect, but this book was just so good. Incredibly quirky, witty, charming, relatable...just wonderful. There is nothing new under the sun, but this is by far the most original novel I've read. I was so sad when I finished it, but so pleased with how it all wrapped up.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon: Since I have been a hardcore Downton Abbey fan since it started, I had to read this. DA was filmed at Highclere Castle, and the current Countess living there wrote about Lady Almina, the Countess (aka the Cora Crawley) who lived there during the Downton era. I thought the writing felt more akin to a textbook than a fascinating deep dive into the history of the castle, and it was a bit detail-heavy at times, but as a history lover I was into it. She spends a lot of time talking about WWI and how Lady Almina turned the castle into a hospital, much like Downton. There were a lot of similarities to the show, as well as many differences. I mean, duh, but some of the similarities were fun to read about.

Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay--This was the sequel, I believe, to The Printed Letter Bookshop which I loved. This book was basically if a Hallmark movie met Bad Blood. It had the quintessential charming small town setting which is just DETESTABLE for some reason to the main character, a quaint bookstore, a trendy coffeeshop that is Too Big City for the local clientele, and a dash of scandal and intrigue of a disgraced tech startup. It was cheesy and heartwarming. You can't go wrong.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan: I read a couple novels (which turned out to be duds) earlier this summer that took place during the Depression, and it got me curious. Ever since reading The Grapes of Wrath and finding out my family was part of the great migration from Oklahoma to California, I wanted to learn more about the Dust Bowl, plus during These Times it's important to remember that things have been much worse in recent history. It was far from happy reading, but it was absolutely fascinating. It read a bit like a thriller at times to the point that I woke up screaming in the middle of the night because I was dreaming there was a dust storm coming. I knew the Dust Bowl was a manmade issue, but I had no idea the extent of damage that farming had done. Definitely read this if you have any interest in that time period or just want a kick in the pants and a new perspective. 

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman: A friend gave me this book when Gracie was a baby, and to be honest, it didn’t feel very applicable. She was my only kid, and a pretty easy one at that, and my hands didn’t feel terribly full. On the shelf it went. Fast forward 5 years, and that baby is a kindergartener I’m homeschooling, and she has a baby sister. Suddenly, my hands feel very full and also very tired at all times. I thought of the book one day, cracked it open, and I read bits and pieces of it each morning. It was so good. It met me right where I am in life, to the point that it was scary, like the morning both kids woke up super early and messed with my morning quiet time, and the section I read that morning was about dealing with your bad attitude when your kids wake up early and mess up your plans. That sort of providential thing happened MULTIPLE times reading  this book. I’m going to read it again soon so all the truths will soak in. 

I’ve also read the first 4 or so books in the Mitford series. They are as delightful as everyone has said they are. I needed a break from them, but I plan to go back to them soon.

Another thing I’ve changed this year is letting myself read multiple books at a time. I’m a proud book polygamist now and it feels liberating. Reading is so mood-driven for me, and I don’t want to be confined to a wordy biography if I need to be swept away by something Hallmarky. I no longer have that kind of self-discipline. 

As of right now, I’m reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte before bed, Mama Bear Apologetics in the morning, a compilation of Edgar Allen Poe stories I’m going through with a friend, Risen Motherhood for a 2nd time for an online bookclub, and when I have a second I’m trying to get through You’re Not Enough by Allie Beth Stuckey. I’ve had it for weeks and have yet to get past the intro, because every time I pick it up, my kids have the audacity to need me. I’m also trying to get through The Home Edit that I grabbed from the library, because I binged their show on Netflix and fell in love and my home desperately needs to be edited.  And then there’s the stacks of picture books I read with the girls every day.

And just writing that all out made me feel stressed again. 

We’ve come full circle. 

6 comments:

  1. I always look forward to hearing about your book list! I think I should definitely pick up Parnassus on Wheels, because it sounds utterly delightful. And I am so excited that you read The Blue Castle! I love that book so much, and this makes me want to re-read it :)

    You know, it's funny, about reading multiple books at a time-I just had four (I think?) going at once, and the problem with that for me, is I tend to never finish any of them (also I just watched through all 8 seasons of Psych for the first time, which made it even harder to focus on my book stack). So now I'm just trying to focus on one at a time, and I've been giving everything priority over Lorna Doone, because it's 700 pages and has been going very slowly for me.

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  2. Aw! What an amazing review. THANK YOU. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. (PS: From the reviews and emails, I guess lots of people were wary of the ghost aspect at first! Haha if they knew me they'd know I could never write something truly creepy. I've been telling people this is "a ghost story for good old-school wimps like myself." 😂)

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  3. My book polygamy has actually become a problem, because now I start too many books and never finish anything (learn from my mistakes!). I started Followers and The Worst Hard Time! Didn’t finish either. 🤦🏻‍♀️ I will eventually though. I’m glad you loved The Blue Castle, it’s one of my favorites from Montgomery! I just picked up The Grapes Of Wrath from the library, and I’ve started You Are Not Enough too!

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  4. OK>>>>>> I'm gonna have to try again. I tried Sorry I Missed You & just couldnt get into it. You're making me want to give it another try.

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  5. I have read one Anne of Green Gables book and I wasn't in love. It was okay? I think I just missed the boat on the Anne love. But I would potential try another of her books.

    I'm always reading like 3 books at a time. It's a stressful way to live.

    If you like historical fiction, Dear America has a great diary about the Dust Bowl (and several about the Great Depression!). I read it in middle school and that was where my initial knowledge of that time came from.

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  6. Babies do tend to make you choosier about what you read (that's a nice way to say you don't have time to read anymore.) I've also gotten more open about reading multiple books at a time. I usually have one that I keep in the car for whenever I'm waiting to pick someone up and have time to kill, a boring one beside the bed for when I can't sleep, and if I'm lucky, another one somewhere around the house that I really enjoy.

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