Favorite Reads of 2019

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Happiest New Year! Here are my favorite reads from 2019. I’ve categorized them so you can scroll to a genre that interests you, if you only have a few moments.  Otherwise, I welcome you to stay and scroll around for awhile! The above photo shows a couple of things non-book related that I loved reading.  Commonplace Quarterly is a Charlotte Mason book quality magazine which is so encouraging.  The Letters From the Sea Tower is a monthly subscription based handwritten-letter and art piece, and I can’t tell you how much we’ve all loved these letters. The thoughts and ideas in them have enriched our lives. Ourselves by Charlotte Mason Book 2, I was privileged to go through as apart of Nancy’s Living Education Lessons.

My Favorite Book of  2019 

The Cloud of Witness – A Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds following the Christian Seasons (*****)

~2019 was a harder and richer year for me in many ways. I honestly struggle so much emotionally and physically with pregnancy. And yet…there is this precious little person here smiling at me as I type with his little two-bottom tooth grin. Sigh. So darling! This above devotional poured out it’s life-giving water to a parched woman-mama soul over and over again. Even just one small line or word from one of the daily snippets meant the world to me very often. A faith lifeline, really. I highly, highly recommend it. You can purchased it here and I check this helpful calendar and there is an Instagram and Facebook account to keep you current as well. My church tradition doesn’t follow these days/feasts so those are all so useful. I love to know if I’m keeping up with all the others sharing in the beauty and encouragement.

Faith Encouragement

The Holy Bible, OF COURSE. I read and reread the four Gospels many times as well as my favorites Psalms, John, James, and others.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (*****) – This title has been on my shelf and TBR forever!  One of “the Read and Finish things on my shelf books”. I am so glad I did. This is probably will be a favorite forever for me and I hope to make it a yearly reread.  The title of the book is a bit strange and misleading, don’t let that stop you from soaking in lovely book from Whitall Smith. There were a few things, I may quibble with, but overall this was the most challenging and encouraging read for my faith in a very long time. Highly recommend!

Memoir

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)– This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

Letters of a Women Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (*****) – A friend recommended this to me and I’m so glad! This is hilarious and super inspring. I listened to it on Librivox and was so charmed by her hard-working spirit, love of nature, and resilience. Eye-opening, turn of the century real letters between two women. My children enjoyed listening to some of it as well. Page turner! Just FYI: racial slurs and some scary/intense situations.

General Fiction

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (*****) – A favorite reread! In the back of my mind, I remembered really enjoying this fictional account of two English women, who on a whim, answer an advert for month in Italy at a medieval castle. They end up inviting two other women to share the costs and space with them. Sigh. This is so lovely in that I think it does a wonderful job in relating the struggles and internal battles women in different circumstances and life stages go through. The beauty of Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy and the gardens are so soothing and there’s a subtle deepness underlying the story line of these women. I highly recommend this one. I then watched the movie and really, really enjoyed it.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign house guest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

Poetry

Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov {gorgeous nature poetry}

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems by Robert Siegel (*****) – This took me awhile to really get into and appreciate, but as I read further along, I fell in love with many of these detailed, observant poems. I’m so glad I finally picked this up off of my TBR pile. I found one of my favorites here online.

Children’s Literature

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) –This one did made me cry! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty.

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Long Classics

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (****) – I did it! I finished this massive classic. I read some and listened to the rest on Librivox while waiting on my baby and then during the long nursing sessions. It took me a long time to get into this, but then I really started to appreciate it. The different characters and marriages in and around the town of Middlemarch were very interesting to me. My favorite character (s) was (were) Mr. Garth and possibly Dorothea Brooke. There are many deep, wonderful lines that I’d love to go back through and copy down in my commonplace. My brain was sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

General Non-Fiction 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) One of my favorite home education and parenting books ever. I reread it again this year!

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

 

~What richness! I was so blessed by my reading year in 2019! You can always look through my Year in Books category for hours of book browsing, if you so choose. Here are my past years favorite books as well! Ever upward and onward to our 2020 bookstack! 🙂

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016

 

December Reads

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Here’s what I finished in December!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (***) – Beautifully written and so disturbing to me. I have intense feelings on all the questions and ideas this book raises. I can’t wait to go through this with my teen and discuss. I will say having learned a little about Mary Shelley beforehand helped me approach this book. I’m glad I didn’t go into it completely blind about the author’s background.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Very fun!!! It took me a bit to get into it, but then I really enjoyed it. Wizard Howl shows up in a hilarious disguise in this unique adventure. In some ways, I liked this one better then Howl’s Moving Castle.

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Amazing and very weird. I’m going to be thinking on this one for awhile! This was a modern retelling of a few myths/ancient stories all melded together. This definitely isn’t for everyone, but I found it interesting.

The Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber (****) – This one took me a long time, but full of gems one comes to expect by a friend like Gladys. A sad overtone to some of this title as her longtime friend, Jill dies, and she flounders about a bit. Her dogs are a big part of her life, which sometimes seems out of proportion to reality. But I suspect it’s just me, as I have many children to care for, so the excessive care of dogs seems overwhelming to me. Ha! A few of my favorite quotes from this one:

“Perhaps maturity is realizing this childish self but not letting it dominate situations. Or perhaps it lies in accepting life as it is without rebellion…There is only today and what we make of it. We may still be happy, in one sense of the word, but we do not look for perfection ever after. The other side of this coin, is that we value more what happiness we may have instead of dreaming ahead for the ultimate.” p. 216

“But since we have just so much time allotted us, some of it should be spent in reflecting, and some in pursuits which have nothing to do with our daily lives, such as enriching our spirits with music, nourishing our minds with literature, enlarging our horizons by looking at great paintings. Because life isn’t a business, it is a precious gift.” p. 200

“Faith runs like a golden thread through our lives.” p. 204

I love how the Stillmeadow books are set up by months. Ideally, I’d love to read these and recommend taking these titles over a year, a month at a time. I have a new-to-me one for 2020!

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Acts, and Romans.

{What a great year of reading! I have many half finished and unfinished reads, but overall, really enjoyed my pages this year. Having a new baby this year definitely slowed me down a bit, which is a good thing, I think, and I did read a lot of middle grade which is my favorite for relaxing.  I completed quite a few on this list of books on my shelf I was hoping to get to, but not all of them. I will hopefully be back NEXT week with my plan for 2020! I have some ideas to streamline my reading and to help me with my toppling TBR.}

How was your reading year?

~

Monday Ponderings {December 23 aka Christmas Adam}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

In every gladness, LORD, Thou art

The deeper Joy behind.

 

~George MacDonald

p. 29, The Cloud of Witness

(emphasis mine)

 

{Take Joy home. Considering the words from J. Ingelow in the above photograph and Mr. MacDonald’s from a few days ago. Just perfection for contemplation while gazing at Azarian’s lovely woodcut. Christmas blessings to you all!}

 

Monday Ponderings {December 16th}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

…Heaven within the reed

Lists for the flute-note; in the folded seed

It sees the bud, and in the Will the Deed…

~D. Greenwell

 

How shall we judge their present, we who have never seen

That which is past forever, and that which might have been?

Measuring by ourselves, unwise indeed we are!

Measuring what we know by what we can hardly see.

~F.R. Havergal

 

Be not proud of well-doing;

for the judgment of God is far different

from the judgement of men, and that

often offendeth, Him which pleaseth them. 

~Thomas A Kempis

 

God judges by a light Which baffles mortal sight;

And the useless – seeing man the crown hath won

In His vast world above, –

A world of broader love, –

God hath some grand employment for His Son.

~Fabor

 

all  partial or full selections above from The Cloud of Witness, p. 20

 

~

Monday Ponderings {Azarian Advent ~ December 2nd}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian.

It may be in the evening,

When the work of the day is done,

And you have time to sit in the twilight,

And watch the sinking sun,

While the long bright day dies slowly

Over the sea,

And the hour grows quiet and holy

With thoughts of ME:

While you hear the village children

passing along the street –

Among those thronging footsteps

May come the sound of my feet

Therefore I tell you, Watch!

By the light of the evening star

When the moon is growing dusky

As the clouds afar,

Let the door be on the latch

In your home,

For it may be through the gloaming

I will come.

 

~B.M. , p. 4

The Cloud of Witness

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{Join me this month in quiet contemplation and prayer on our Savior’s coming…}

~

Patience {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #10

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Gratitude list for today:

91. unexpected compassion from a daughter that really blessed me
92. writing ideas, goals, and plans – resurrecting dreams
93. forgiveness
94. good talks with husband and kids about a hard situation, discussing deep feelings, the Bible, and conflict resolution
95. possible lead for online driver’s ed that read lessons for my dyslexic child, encouraging and helpful
96. baby boy banana grins
97. 5 yo asking to make newspaper boat in his Curious George book
98. anticipation over getting some areas organized over our lighter holiday school break
99. talking about Anne Frank with my oldest daughter
100. patience that comes when I give up expectations and rest in the Lord
~
How ’bout you? Anything on your list today?
{Thank you for joining me again this year! May our hearts be overflowing with thanksgiving always!}

Dimples {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #9

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Gratitude for today:

81. anticipation over seeing the Nutcracker in a few weeks

82. listening in on The Girl of the Limberlost, fond memories of listening to it years ago
83. dimples on my baby boy’s knuckles
84. learning to accept all the bulges and curves of my body,
silencing hateful self-talk and lies
85. getting out occasionally without nursling dear
86. baby wipes, miraculous invention, good for everything
87. plays organized and performed to youtube music by 10yo, 7 yo, and 5 yo
88. realizing that where I end, You begin – You are always with me, Jesus
89. that my husband is so handy, knows how to do so many things
90. 12 yo hugging me more, may I always receive them with pleasure, being touched out is a real thing
~
What’s on your list?

Here and Now {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #8

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Happy American Thanksgiving!

71. continually learning to live in the now, instead of always thinking of another season

72. seeing my oldest daughter in her room crocheting and listening to Shakespeare
73. the words to “Come to Jesus” by Fredrick William Faber
74. approaching Advent and the beauty of the season, namely – Jesus, Light of the World
75. Jo and Biddy in Dicken’s Great Expectations
76. dog’s ears flying behind her as she runs like the wind, her body listing to one side
77. noticing a gorgeous giant maple leaf in church parking lot, same leaf brought later unknowingly by 5yo to me
78. back of baby’s knobby, fuzzy head, stick-out ears, and darling soft neck
79. anticipation over Instagram classic book read-along next year
80. son mentioning that he thought he saw a Cedar Waxwing while hunting
(I will try to finish these tomorrow and Saturday! A little behind, but oh, such a blessing!) 
~
What’s on your list today?

Thanksgiving Eve {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #7

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Gratitude spilling over for these today:

61. playing ‘peek a boo” with 5 yo and “Tom” who is thawing in frig, “Gobble, gobble!” (our celebration with my side is on Saturday)

62.  my washing machine and dryer
63. an extra crock-pot my husband bought last year at a garage sale for .50 cents, it works great
64. hot coffee swirling with cream
65. 14 yo asking to listen to folksongs
66. son in comfy chair near window, sun shining in on him, reading
67. magnet toys and Schleich animals bring hours of fun play
68. talking of making a fabric bunting for Christmas tree with my 10yo
69. sitting with husband in deer fort while he hunts, quiet and gorgeous sunset
70. 10 yo playing Bird Bingo with 5 yo early in the morning
~
What’s on your list today?

Sky-Full of Stars {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #6

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Full of gratitude today for:

51. staring out my bedroom window in the dark, on our bellies, my 5 yo and I, looking at a sky-full of stars, endless and amazing

52. a clean desk, even just for a few moments 😉
53. the gift of prayer, something we can always do, Someone who will always listen
54. 14 yo old making baby giggle and coo, baby loves, listens, and looks for his brother’s voice
55. breakfast devotions – a favorite moment of our days, Golden Key devotional, Gospel of Mark, and poetry (Thanksgiving themed at present)
56.  5 yo delight over a simple maze in coloring book
57. making a winter bird stamp order from USPS
58. JRR Tolkien tshirt gift I know will bless my 12 yo – Tolkien’s signature symbol
59. the weather, coldish, but no snow, glimpses of sun
60. the chipping sound of a sparrow on the hedge outside the window
~
What is on your gratitude list today?

Gladsome Time {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #5

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I am grateful for…

41. potato peels on counter in interesting patterns, beauty is everywhere, even in the refuse of the day

42. Psalm 141

43. Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason discussion with mom friends, we laughed and had such a “gladsome” time

44. baby boy’s face earnestly looking up into mine, perhaps looking for milk?
45. fresh, invigorating smell of a misty, warm, foggy, and boggy morning
46. blistering hot showers, soothing sore necks, washing away tension
47. load of apples for a good price
48. talking over Christmas plans with oldest son, anticipation
49. planning and making a few Christmas surprises, Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas book inspiring me so much
50. fluffy, warm duvet to fall into after each late night nursing session
~
What are you grateful for today?

Sundogs {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #4

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I’m grateful for…

31. Rereading old, silly Ogden Nash poems with my younger kids, my older kids chiming in with “Isabel, Isabel,” my husband telling of how he said this poem as a child, also

32. Baking peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with 5yo, his little apron, and his excitement over getting to lick the beater
33. Thanksgiving picture books out and favorites being looked at…reading Cranberry Thanksgiving for the first time to younger child
34. Colorful children’s art on windows, helping brighten the white landscape
35.baby giggles
36. reading a picture book about the Sky Boys (workers who built the Empire State Building), intriguing conversation with children about Great Depression era and laughs about a Three Stooges parody of the Sky Boys my older children remembered
37. delicious smell of chicken simmering in crock-pot
38. Celtic flute music playing in snatches today
39. sundogs flaring out gorgeously as I drove home
40. husband and I’s Mexican food and thrifting date, little treasures found…snow-pants, a couple of books, 2 mugs, and a couple of art pieces
~
What’s on your gratitude list today?