what I read Fall '19 and Winter '20

I'm woefully behind on a book roundup so I'm just going to throw them all at you at once. Not just a tad behind, we're talking this post will span two years and decades, my friends! I do want to get back into the monthly updates because I find it so much easier to gather my thoughts when the books I read are in my recent memory and not months back, but this time we'll have to do with a compilation of everything I've read (that I can remember!) from October, November, December of 2019 and onto January and February of 2020. Hope you're up to it!

Educated by Tara Westover

This was a more recent book from 2020 but I'm starting the non-chronological list with it because it was hands down my favourite book I've read in months. Absolutely spellbinding, deeply sad and frustating, but also a great David and Goliath underdog story that happens to be true. The author described her stranger than fiction life growing up in a hyper-conservative, far-right, doomsday-preparing Morman family. In short, she is an abuse survivor both of physical abuse from her pseudo-sadist older brother, emotional abuse from her mentally unstable parents, and general neglect, never being allowed medical care or an education. Through unimaginable effort on her part, the author passes a GED test, having taught herself algebra from a secondhand text book and gains admission to university. She goes on to study at Cambridge and Harvard and very slowly begins to heal from her abusive childhood. You cry and cringe and cheer your way through her story, which she writes in such beautiful prose. Can't recommend enough!

The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, The Rosie Result, all by Graeme Simsion.

These were fun, light reads that brought along a good heap of empathy and moral conviction for how we respond to difficult people, particularly those on the Autism spectrum. I listened to the audiobook version for two of these and read the paper copy for another and while I always enjoy both, the audio version really was entertaining as the books take place in Australia and the varied Aussie accents were such a treat. Don Tillman, the protagonist (who falls for a girl so opposite of himself, named Rosie) is excellently written and portrayed, but I have to say Rosie wasn't as well written at all. It's rare that men write romantic comedies and I wonder if it has to do with men not having an easy time writing female characters. Don was a star, Rosie was a dud, so the writing was fun but not ground breaking.

The Boy Mom by Monica Swanson

I've mentioned this book and the author's podcast in my Top Parenting Resources blog post, so I won't repeat much. I'll just say that I absolutely love Monica Swanson's approach to parenting, her wisdom, and the way she writes with a grand vision for parenting but also a ton of very practical help. Some parenting books are all help and no heart, others offer a lot of theological framework but nothing very practical or specific, but The Boy Mom is one of those rare Christian parenting books that delivers both. I read this book over Christmas and have already referred back to it several times. I'm also giving away a copy next week on my Instagram!

Triggers: Exchanging Parents' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake

I first heard about this book when Wendy Speake was a guest on the Boy Mom Podcast and I knew I had to read it. The glimpses of Speake's wisdom on the episode were nothing compared to the depths I'd find in her book, Triggers. If you've ever struggled with anger in your parenting (and who hasn't!?) you need to read this book! The audiobook is narrated by the author, which I love. Truly, this book is such a blessing. Some chapters didn't apply to my stage of life as my kids are past the toddler years, but there was plenty for my stage and the ones to come! This book helps identify what triggers your children and you towards anger and gives wise advice on how to diffuse and defeat it.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

This author is also a writer for the PBS series by the same name and as I'm a fan of the show, I recognizes many of the historical events and the way they were perceived and written. Even though I didn't learn anything new about the great Queen, I loved this book for light reading. The book follows a young Queen Victoria ascending to the throne, falling in love with Albert, and the earliest months of their marriage; essentially season one of Victoria on PBS.

The Crown Companion Series Part I and Part II by Robert Lacey

You must know by now how much I love The Crown miniseries, so these books were a must for me. They are written by a bonafide royal historian who takes you episode by episode and tells you what The Crown got right, what was embellished or straight up created with artistic license, and what happened in a different sequence of time. It's fascinating! Both Part I and Part II were temporarily available on Scribd so I listened to them there for free, but I think they've been taken down. Worth checking, and if not, find them elsewhere or buy the paper copies because they are such a treat for any history geek or royal watcher (hi, I'm both!) The best part about the audio is that they're narrated by Alex Jennings who plays David, Elizabeth II's runaway would-be King uncle in The Crown.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This was a book club read and not one any of us really loved. It's a WWII historical fiction which is usually a guarenteed win for me, but I couldn't get excited about one of the two protagonists. The book follows two leading ladies, one young and looking for answers after WWII and the other a retired and embittered spy from WWI's famous Alice Network of female spies. Eve, the elder protagonist had a story that really drew me in (she was a spy after all, so you know she's seen some horrible things) but Charlie, the young girl looking for her missing cousin fell flat to me. I just didn't care enough about her character, so her victories didn't boon me and her searching didn't interest me.

Open Book: A Memoir by Jessica Simpson

I have to admit, in late high school and early university I was a closet Jessica Simpson fan. Never cared for her music, but I was really drawn to her persona. I was also a young Christian and was fascinated by a celebrity who also professed faith and remained a virgin until her wedding night (albeit to a non-Christian which soon after ended in divorce, etc, etc). I wouldn't say I saw her as a role model, but I just found her lovable and interesting. I probably hadn't thought of her in a decade when I read some press about her new book, and I was intrigued. Honestly, it's a great read (even better listen, as it's narrated by her) as her story is quite something. She shares about childhood sexual abuse, her longtime battle with body image, her faith (and at times, lack thereof), and gets pretty personal about the many people who have let her down (including all of her ex's and her parents). It's intimate and brave and funny and I'm glad I read it even if I'm not a current celebrity watcher or Jessica Simpson fan.

The Life-Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

I read this for the second (or maybe third?) time this month and still found myself underlining new parts and taking new notes from Sally Clarkson's bottomless well of wisdom. I have always found her writing encouraging and the unique way she looks at everything as an opportunity to bless others and tell a story. I love her thoughts on beauty, hospitality, simplicity, and homemaking. She co-authors this book with her adult daughter Sarah and they each take turns writing chapters. Sarah writes more poetically than Sally, which was beautiful to read. Both women have such a huge vision for what the home can be and they walk you through a year, each chapter being another month, of how they invest in others by way of their space. It's not a book that champions materialism or tells you how to be the perfect hostess - far from it! It's a book that invites us to see how we can communicate love and welcome and faith and rest to those who cross our thresholds, and shares practical ideas for ways to try. This book has influenced the daily tea times I have with my kids after school, the sourdough-ish bread I make every week, and our practice of Advent and Lent. I will likely re-read it every few years because it's that inspiring and helpful!

I'm sure there were more books that I listened to or read in the last couple of months but that's all I can seem to remember for now. If more come to me, I'll add them to the list!

1 comment:

  1. great list,a very good friend of my recommended " educated " to me and it has fantastic reviews, I am definitely going to read it. I was wondering where you find the time to read so many books, but you also listen to books, I love audible, I always have several books downloaded on my phone so that if am stuck in traffic or in a situation where I have to wait I can listen to a book. I have recently been painting our new apartment and I put on an audio book and the chore of painting becomes easy.