22 Favorite Reads from 2022

2022 was SUCH a great reading year for me! I learned more about what I really love, what encourages me, inspires, and challenges. I’m hoping to bring my insights into my 2023 reading and have an thoughtful and nourishing year. In no particular order here are my favorites in small snippets!

1. High Rising by Angela Thirkell ~ English humor, a widowed author and her young son embroiled in village life.

2. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson ~ orphan Maia travels to live with distant relatives on the Amazon. Brazil, found family, nature, and a wonderful governess, Miss Minton!

3. Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink ~ Professor Ridgeway is heading to France with his authoress wife and three children. In the same vein as the first book, they have heartwarming family adventures.

4. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot ~ a lovely, humorous memoir on a Yorkshire Dale veterinarian’s adventures.

5. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson ~ a quiet, introspective look at the relationship of a grandmother & granddaughter and the natural world.A gentle look at youth and aging.

6. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith ~ a coming-of-age story with an eccentric, surprisingly human bunch of characters. A peek at a writer’s soul in Cassandra.

7. All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner ~ gentle historical fiction set around Vietnam War and one family’s love and lessons in a small Midwest town.

8. Skellig by David Almond ~ grief, fear, and new beginnings through the eyes of a young boy as he befriends an angelic being.

9. Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace ~ a coming-of-age story with a deep theme of sacrifice and selflessness. Young girl changes the lives of those around her in a meaningful way, gifting herself beauty in the process.

10. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens ~ lovely, deep characters ! So many favorites, Mrs. Boffin, Mr. Wilfer, and Bella – John Harmon was so interesting. The antagonist, Bradley Headstone reminds me of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. May be my current favorite Dickens!

11. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn ~ sobering look at one day in a Soviet work camp. I read this in January and STILL think about it!

12. Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell {reread} ~ such a lovely, introspective look at a widower doctor and his daughter and the surrounding village. Mr. Gibson’s remarriage brings about change and growth.

13. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge {reread} ~ a second chance for a single older woman as she inherits her aunts cottage and memories in the countryside.

14. Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch {reread} ~ Susan’s thoughts and dreams as she begins again after a hard divorce. Domestic and creative, so inspiring!

15. Christy by Catherine Marshall {reread} ~ a young girl travels to teach in the Smokey Mountains, growing in faith and love. The strong female friendships in this story touched me deeply. This was probably my favorite of the year.

16. The Magic Summer by Noel Streitfeild ~ four children have to stay in remote Scotland with their great aunt. They learn resourcefulness and cooperation toward each other.

17. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery {reread} ~ lovely second chance of life story. There is SO much to love about this. Parts are a little far fetched, but Valancy’s story is so inspiring!

18. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange ~ Henrietta’s care and concern for her ill mother and her baby sister are so inspiring. I love that nature and books help in this slightly scary tale of courage.

19. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen {reread} ~ I found the antagonists in this book to be SUCH amazing character studies. Mrs. Norris in particular, her sly, manipulative ways, so disturbing. This book is a lesson in what NOT to be.

20. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell ~ Murder, selfishness, growth, classism, forgiveness, redemption, and so much more made this an amazing read. So many great characters, Job & Margaret Leigh, Jem Wilson, and the Sturgis couple…Alice & Will…all stand out to me!

21. The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon {audio book – performed by Richard Armitage} ~ this was a charming, heartfelt story about a selfish grandfather estranged from his daughter and grandchildren. It hit me just at the right moment and Armitage was an AMAZING reader.

22. Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson ~ a lovely Christian nonfiction that touched me deeply. About knowing you are loved by God and living content in whatever season you find yourself.

Have you read any of these? What were your favorite reads of last year? 😍♥️🌿📚

Favorite Reads {4th Quarter 2022} 🐈❄️☕️🫖📚📬

Currently, dipping into a lot of Christian non-fiction…

Hello, friends! Hope this bookish update finds you well. We’ve had a bout of illness in our family, but thankfully, we’ve been able to cuddle up and hunker down a bit. I had a great 2022 4th reading quarter, starting in October with a readalong on Booktube called Victober. It’s focusing on reading Victorian literature and I so enjoyed the relationship between the father and daughter and the internal workings of the Church of England in The Warden by Anthony Trollope. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell was a lovely group of characters trying to make their way as mill workers and masters in the harsh industrial climate of north England. A murder and false accusations bring the class tensions to the forefront. Gaskell is quickly becoming a favorite author! I extended my Victorian reading into November where I read Man & Wife by Wilkie Collins, a sensationalist novel with murder and bittersweet moments. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the characters and story as I haven’t finished any other Collins book.

Poetry ♥️

November brought a fantasy duo-logy with hints of the 12 Dancing Princesses, sparkling intrigue, Arabian nights, pirates, and fairyland. I wasn’t sure I would like Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier, but I really did! Being pulled away into these worlds was fascinating and I loved the character growth. These were intense, but YA so not as dark as her adult fiction. Marillier is a beautiful writer. I also reread a favorite fantasy A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos with an online friend and this political thriller in a fantastical world was so fun to return too! I really enjoy Ophelia, the main protagonist and her animated scarf. She is betrothed to a stranger and on her way to his polar land and there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of this political matchup. I rounded out the month with sweet classic children’s stories, Family Sabbatical by Carol Ryrie Brink and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. These both were so lovely and heartwarming. Brink sends a family of five on a research trip to France and they have so many delightful adventures. Ibbotson wrote the Amazon River area so beautifully and her nature writing really brought the story to life.

December’s reading was wonderful with the British family story, High Rising by Angela Thirkell making me laugh. An widowed author and her son and village’s highjinks. I also loved listening to The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, read and performed by Richard Armitage while I held a sick little boy. It was heartwarming and inspiring. Braddon is a new-to-me Victorian author and I can’t wait to try more of her. I read a novella?/ short story by Emily Hayse called Yours, Constance, and I’m still thinking on this one. The setting was a glittery 1920’s party scene. We are in the head of Constance, a wealthy, cynical young woman who has recently lost her sister. The glitz and the glam don’t fool her, but something strange is happening in the crowd she runs with. This has a supernatural element and is very fast paced, but you quickly grow to appreciate Constance and understand the internal tensions she’s going through. Last but not least, I picked up the nonfiction Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson and wow. This packed a powerful punch about how to live loved and to embrace all the seasons of our life in a meaningful way. These were my favorites from the fourth quarter of the year, what were yours? I’ll be back soon hopefully with my favorites of 2022!

Favorite Reads {1st Quarter 2022} 📚🌿📚

What’s up, Doc? Can you tell what my children have watching lately? 🐰 I thought it would be easier and fun to just highlight my favorite reads this year in a quarterly fashion. 🌿📚🌿

…January favorites…

I had some BEAUTIFUL reads in January. Surprising reads, too, as Out of Silent Planet was a reread and was so much better this time around. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was a semi-autobiographical, heart wrenching look at a Soviet work-camp. The Scent of a Water was a favorite, so introspective and lovely. About an older woman starting afresh and the things she learns from the journals of her relative, her new neighbors, and nature. Wives and Daughters just a pure character dive into depth and insight, people to root for and love. Gaskell is SO accessible and lovely. You don’t have to work hard to be rewarded.

February brought the the lovely read of Emily of Deep Valley, a book that’s been on my TBR list for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. A coming of age story with so much to learn for this almost 42 yo! My reread of Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch was just perfect. My favorite memoir from her! I really enjoyed finding the work of Austin Kleon, his encouragement on creativity really resonating with me.

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered.

C.S. Lewis

March brought the beginning of a huge reading slump, but I did manage to enjoy the adult historical fiction, The Morning Gift, by Eva Ibbotson, a new to me author whom I’m enjoying. This was about an girl trapped in Nazi-occupied Vienna and it was different, well done, and I really enjoyed it.

Me attempting to break out of reading slump! 🤪 Do you do this? Try chapters of many different things to see if anything grabs you? 🌿📚🌿 Did you read anything lovely the first few months of 2022? I’d love to hear! How do you break reading slumps? What books are you anticipating soon? 😄🌿♥️May your books be long & delicious, your coffees hot, and your days sunshiny!

Love, Amy ♥️🌿

January Hope : Green Growing Things, Light Chasing, and Books are Most Definitely Friends

The early morning tickle of light burns pink and delightful over the snow and cuts through the intense cold. I’ve been snuggling into warm sweaters {sometimes, two at a time!}, jackets, and soothing stories. Early mornings, especially, have been for putzing around, fiddling with my coffee, rearranging books, obsessively checking my paperwhites to see if they are blooming, trying to suck any bit of hope into my spirit from green things. And let’s talk of light chasing. I often find a patch of sun and close my eyes as I stand in its comforting square. Or gaze at the flicker of candlelight, or hold my hands to the wood burner’s glow. Light around corners, light from the heavens, crystal shards through the sharp refrigerator nights, my breath puffing a halo around me. My rereading of Elizabeth Goudge stories is going to be one of endless delight and delicious mind sustenance. I can tell already and I’ve barely dipped into her massive pile of beautiful words. Yes, I’ve slowly begin rereading her and searching for those I don’t yet have in my collection. The crockpot has been bubbling nonstop {my Instapot, too, albeit something seems to be amiss with the cover! 😦 } with chicken taco soup and chilis. Big fluffy socks, moccasin slippers, peppermint mint tea, and finishing off the coffee with a hint of Christmas scent, along with the children’s copious amounts of hot chocolates with a large side of books have been the order of our days.

We finally packed dear ‘ole man Christmas away, wistfully, and full of gratitude for the cheer, remembrance, and sparkle he brings to winter. Back to Miss Goudge, The Scent of Water, brought me through a tough week mentally, mid January, and Snow & Rose, added a sprinkle of whimsy, too. Although, I’m jealous of those that read Emily Winfield Martin’s sweet book for the first time, the little surprises weren’t there on my second read. Wives & Daughters is bringing me so many friends I wish to know and others I’d not care to be around, looking at you Hyacinth Clare *glares*. Poor Mr. Gibson and Molly!

Taking my tea with me to the post! Sending penpal letters and cards is really a delight!

The class system in Elizabeth Gaskell’s story is so unfathomable to me in my independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps 21st American mentality. How women had to move about to be proper is fascinating and sobering. But for all its flaws, this Victorian novel is showing the love of one’s family, connections, and it can’t help but pull you in. Gaskell’s characters are so intriguing, mirror-like for ones soul. Molly Gibson’s too accommodating nature, a peace lover at all costs, even to the determent of herself and those she loves is a bit to close to home for comfort. I wonder if she’s an Enneagram 9? HA! 😉 Mr. Gibson’s deep, interesting character, but his extreme resistance to showing his true feelings reminding me a little of Elinor Dashwood. He keeps his regrets, mistakes, and joys close to his heart. Roger Hamley’s open, curious, kindhearted character falling for beauty without the careful observation that he gives his scientific life, Osborne and Squire Hamley. The Hamley family being probably my favorite friends to follow from Wives & Daughters. The 1999 tv mini series has actually been pretty true to the book! Yes, I watched before reading. I can’t wait to tackle the rest of Gaskell’s novels that I’ve yet to read, as North & South, Ruth, and Wives & Daughters, haven’t disappointed. I know just which one to pull into my lap next as I already have it on my shelves. Mary Barton is waiting and beckoning to me from my TBR pile of possibilities for this year.

My heart is anticipating and super excited to join a book challenge on Instagram/Booktube next month called FebRegency. We will be reading Regency plays, poetry, nonfic, and Regency novels mentioned in Jane Austen’s work. I actually want to reread Mansfield Park, dip my toes in William Wordsworth and William Blake’s poetry, try a Richard Sheridan play, read a few diary entries by Dorothy Wordsworth, and maybe a novelist that inspired Jane Austen, Maria Edgeworth, or Fanny Burnley. The cold, hard Kindle is coming through for me, due to a lot of these things above being free or inexpensive. ❤ So exciting! But, I’m choosing to curb the expectation a bit and S-L-O-W-L-Y enjoy the ten remaining days of January.

If all else fails and my heart needs a little lighter fare, but no less deep, the kindly post brought a volume containing the richness that is Professor Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham with lovely illustrations by Pauline Baynes of Narnia fame.

Our reading together and nature gratitude continues in our homeschool with our first ever phenology wheel nature journaling project for the year and interesting dips and conversations surrounding The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Yearling and White Fang have been spotted curled up with various children and Rosemary Sutcliff’s illustrated-by-Alan-Lee versions of The Illiad and The Odyssey are well loved. We keep stumbling forward through the mysterious, beautiful, and maddening world of maths, spelling, the frightening current news, topping it all off with a generous dollop of poetry and music. I’ve been enjoying listening to Spiers & Boden, The Hobbit Soundtrack, Enya, Louis Armstrong, Studio Ghibli Soundtracks, and BTS Kpop. How’s that for eclectic? But the good Lord’s earth is a veritable feast of delights for the taking. I for one want to fight back against the ice, darkness, and cold of this world with a tenacity that rages against it all with a whisper of gratitude, open-handed humility, and a shard of Beauty and Truth – He is strength to the poor, strength to the needy in their distress, a refuge from the storm, and shade from the heat {paraphrasing a tender morsel from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 25}. I see Jesus as my lighthouse, stalwart and aflame in this black, inkiness that enshrouds earth. I grab ahold of a beam of the light, drink it down, eat it up, and try to let it shine out, so others can join me along the murky path. Shine on, friends, keep drinking in, soaking in His beauty so we can spill a little out, a drip, a dribble of Hope. We need Hope. Hope on. ~