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

 

January Reads

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I can’t believe it, but I believe this is my THIRD year through with monthly book lists! Fun stuff! You can read my other years under the Year In Books category in my topic cloud, if interested. I love nosing around in other’s book lists. So, I did very well this month on working on my 2019 – 30 books that I want to finish or read from my shelf. I got many started and finished a few! 🙂 Exciting stuff! I also bought NO new books for myself, except I accidentally bought a couple of Kindle books, forgetting my pledge not to buy books, probably because I don’t really LOVE digital books, therefore, mentally don’t count them as books, if you can follow that logic. LOL! 😉 Without further adieu, here is my first reading pile of the year…

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler (****) – This is sort of a cheat book, because I was almost finished with this in December of last year. This is a beautiful cooking memoir unlike anything I’ve read in that genre so far. Adler writes BEAUTIFULLY and helps you see how each simple, delicious meal can be the basis for your next one. The water you just cooked your vegetables in, can be the start of the soup for dinner. I really, really enjoyed this and found her recipes simple and for the most part just so nice for a normal, home cook. I was encouraged and inspired by her.

Sitting by My Laughing Fire by Ruth Bell Graham (*****) – This was a reread for me, simple, beautiful, thoughtful poetry by the mother of five and wife to Billy Graham. Soothing and challenging, I really enjoy pulling this title out occasionally.

The Life Around Us: Selected Poems on Nature (****) and Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov – Levertov is a beautiful poet, I must have been in the mood for poetry this month, because I’ve read a lot! The Life Around Us  was good, a tad preachy about protecting the earth…I love poems that make us appreciate the beauty of nature and encourage stewardship, but ones that kind of beat us over the head about pollution aren’t always my favorite. For the most part, they were beautiful and interesting. I loved Breathing the Water, just gorgeous.

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman (***) – 2.5 -This is the fifth in a fantasy series about a magic library with a side of dragons and fairies. This title was just ok, entertaining, but I wouldn’t say stunning or anything. I keep reading and hoping they will get better! HA! Librarian Spy Irene is caught in the middle of talks between the dragons and fairies, when a murder takes place! Suspicions fly through the air and threaten the peace treaty.

Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – This was a lovely Christmas gift and wow, so encouraging and inspiring! Mrs. Andreola is one of the people that has constantly blessed and encouraged me in my Christian faith, mothering, and home educating path. She writes with a sweet, encouraging spirit, and you come away refreshed and your heart’s burdens lightened. This book speaks to the mother and/or home maker, gently showing us how to live life to our fullest, filling ourselves, so we can spill out and share encouragement, servant-hood, and love to others. It is a balanced look at a well-rounded home maker’s life. I found this lovely and I’m sure I will reread this book often and it already is treasured. Highly recommend!

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello (***) – I’ve been following Giorello’s Raleigh Harmon detective series for years and this new one was an interesting and well thought out. The mystery is set around a Native American man’s murder and investigation on a reservation. Creepy and with a good twist at the end. The romance was a bit cheesy, but overall this was a interesting murder mystery.

The Wonderful O by James Thurber (*****) – I love children’s literature, especially older titles, and this one was wonderful. Intriguing and fascinating idea of the island of Ooroo and what would happen if the letter O was banished. My oldest and I both read it and talked about it a lot. My middle son then picked it up too and we all had some very interesting discussions about letters, the importance of language, and evil people controlling others through manipulation and censorship.

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaimen (***) – 2.5ish – Again, hyped on Instagram, not that great. Ha! 😉 A very basic call to creativity and freedom of speech mixed with political correctness of today. This was a short, illustrated book and the black-line type drawings were intriguing. I don’t know if this is really worth reading.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) – I’m STILL thinking on this BEAUTIFUL title. This follows Virgil Wander after a freak accident leaves him without some of his memory. He sort of feels like a different person, a new person. I think there are a lot of underling themes in this story, and Enger is AMAZING at drawing out and making fascinating characters. Rune and Virgil are my favorite and their friendship and stumbling through their troubles together is so intriguing and interesting. The towns people and the intricacies of kite building and flying and old reel movie theaters was so wonderful…Enger lending a transcendence to the ordinary and commonplace. The first 3/4ths of this book were amazing to me, for some reason, some of the ending was too neat, or dissatisfying to me, but I can’t place my finger on why. Maybe it was just because it was over! Thank you, Mr. Enger, for your books…they sort of feel like they are about nothing, but in the end, maybe they are about everything. One walks away with more questions than answers, and yet that feels ok and like someone else out there understands.

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger (*****) – after reading, Virgil Wander, I had a major book hangover, but then remembered I had this other Enger on my shelf. Yay! I had hesitated on this one after reading Peace Like a River, because of mixed reviews out there. Wow. That was foolish. I found this just lovely and fascinating. I was drawn into Mr. Enger’s characters and the beauty one slowly found and considered as you followed their own life questions. Enger’s plots are interesting and slow moving, yet they really step aside and allow for his character’s to deeply shine through. Monte Beckett is a struggling one-hit wonder author who is floundering around. He ends up on the run with a fugitive from the law! An unbalanced ex-Pinkerton is on their trail and this guy is a piece of work. I loved how Beckett’s heart gradually grew and turned toward home and how the letting go of the tightly clenched thought of what his life was suppose to be, unwound his words. Wow. Again, so many interesting thoughts and questions after reading.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) – my oldest told me I HAD to read this, but that it was very sad! So, I read it and oh wow. I loved it. It did make me cry though! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

The Holy Bible (always 5 stars 😉 ) – Matthew, Mark

 

A fantastic reading month for me! So much goodness! What did you read this month? Have you read any of Leif Enger’s 3 books? 🙂

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Monday Ponderings {January 28th}

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“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 houseguest, 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

{emphasis mine}

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