4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I just adored this book. It had so many elements that I enjoy : WWII-era England, letter writing, strong and interesting women characters, and books. The writing was at times a bit heavy-handed but still so enjoyable. Honestly, a delight.
5. A Square Meal : A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe
This was fascinating! So much interesting history through this lens. My favorite weird/fun fact was that early nutritional guidelines developed in the United States based a man’s daily caloric intake on his occupation (okay, that sort of makes sense) and based his wife’s and children’s on fractions of his (I forget the fractions, say, 1/3 of his intake for his young child). So what this meant was that their guidelines recommended less food for the wife and child of a watchmaker than the wife and child of a railroad worker. Isn’t that hilariously ridiculous? Anyway, this book had more than just fun facts and is definitely worth a read.
6. Like A Mother : A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes
I laughed out loud several times in this book and also learned a lot (especially about the placenta, holy wow). Garbes explores how in the US the main “pregnancy science” we (the general public) know is scary warnings (no alcohol! no deli meat!) but not the really interesting and amazing biology that actually takes place during pregnancy and birth. (Which is MINDBLOWING. Like, do you have any idea how complex and incredible the placenta is? Or the way that breast milk works, and how it can create antibodies specifically for the baby?? I thought I had a sense of these things but there is SO MUCH I didn’t know.) She also writes about her experiences as a woman of color in the medical/birth system, and interweaves her personal story with science and history. I’m handing this off to my husband to read next. I’d recommend it to anyone who plans to someday be pregnant (or whose partner or close friend plans to someday be pregnant!) or has an interest in feminism, pregnancy, or birth.
p.s. I also just read Garbes’ article, “Why Are We Only Talking About ‘Mom Books’ By White Women?” in The Cut and it was both a good piece on its own and provided me with books to add to my to-read list.
I really do mean to update this more regularly. I finished three books in January. 🙂
1. The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher
This is one of my mother-in-law’s most beloved books and she lent me her treasured copy in the fall. I waited until it was good and cold and began it on January 1st. What a pleasure it was to read! We trace a family through several generations in England. The descriptions are delicious, and although I made a wee bit of fun of the author for all the wooden scrubbed tables she mentions (do you all have any other kind of table over in England? seems unlikely), I also totally want a wooden scrubbed table and to be the kind of person who has half a roast chicken in the fridge at all times. I will be seeking more of her books in future when I want a good cozy novel to sink into, for sure.
2. The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
This was the third and final book in a fantasy series that I began in 2017. It was just released and I was SO excited. These books trace Vasya, a magically talented girl in medieval Russia. The books deal a lot with the meeting of folk traditions/pagan beliefs and Christianity — a topic I love to explore. They are also completely engrossing. I laughed with David about “fantasy book food,” a concept all of us who read fantasy are familiar with. Would I actually enjoy a stew of wild mushrooms, scented grasses, and pond fish cooked over a fire? Almost definitely not, but when I read about it in a fantasy novel I get mighty hungry. I definitely recommend these books to anyone who enjoys fantasy books, empowered girls, and the meeting place of magic and religion.
3. The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl
My brother gave me this book for Christmas, in our great tradition of unwrapped books as gifts to each other. It is a psychological thriller (I think this is the right term, it’s hard to say) set in Norway. I could almost literally not put it down. David even snapped a photo of me reading it while drying my hair.* It’s hard to tell much about the book without risking giving it away, but it begins with a wealthy mother and interior designer who takes in a little boy from her daughter’s swim class. The book switches perspectives from Cecilia (the mother & interior designer) to Tobias (the little boy) and journal entries from Anni (who we learn more about as the book goes on). It is creepy and fascinating. (A note : there are some scenes with sexual violence, so it might not be the best choice if you’re looking to avoid those.)
I’m part-way through several books at work, including The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. So far I am really impressed with her work. She is a pediatrician who began incorporating her understanding of ACEs into her practice. I’ll write up a full review when I finish it!
Happy February reading, everyone! 🙂
* This isn’t the first time I’ve done this though. I hate drying my hair and often try to read while doing so. I’ve also been known to read while getting dressed, while cooking, and while walking (while reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis I walked straight into a huge cement block next to a construction site and went flying over it, getting identical scrapes in both shins and a bonus scrape on my chin! And no, I wasn’t a child at the time…or a teenager…or drunk. I was a graduate student and it was the middle of the day.
January has been a month of big changes. Starting on the first Monday of the year (January 4!) I began my new job at our local domestic violence shelter. My job combines case management, intakes, paperwork, and organization with the regular job duty at any nonprofit of “coping with whatever comes up,” whether that involves washing dishes, cleaning out a broken mini-fridge, or comforting colleagues. I am so grateful to have this job and am already learning tons.
Outside of work, I’ve been trying to keep up the “self care” in the forms of reading, listening to podcasts and music, and enjoying downtime.
I finished 2015 reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell which I L-O-V-E-D. I just adored it! I had read Fangirl last spring and was really excited when Carry On came out but saw some reviews that were only so-so. However, I decided to buy it in Kindle form so that I could read it while David and I traveled to my in-laws’ house for Christmas (so fun). And I devoured this BOOK! It was just so well done, the characters were intricate, and it was so enjoyable to see how Rowell took the things from my beloved Harry Potter that were problematic or that I would maybe change in a fanfic, and used those elements in Carry On. So even though that technically wasn’t a book I read this month, I wanted to mention it. I think it’s a great book for anyone who likes Harry Potter for sure, as well as for those who have enjoyed Rowell’s work before.
I read two YA novels on my Kindle in the very beginning of January while lying around the house the weekend before I started my new job. Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli was a classic teenager-in-high-school book with an element of mystery. I loved Simon and cheered for him when he came out to his family and snagged a cute boyfriend. Emmy & Oliver explored complex topics such as how early traumas shape people’s lives and how it is possible (and normal) to love people who have done terrible things to you. There was also a lot of surfing.
After those two books, I picked up several books but nothing was “sticking.” Then I decided to try the book my brother gave me for Christmas a go, and it was great fun. It was my first Doctor Who novel, one of the 50th anniversary collection. The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett features the 11th Doctor (played by Matt Smith in the TV show) with companions Amy and Rory Pond. As indicated by the title, the book had a wintery and Christmasy vibe and was perfect to read while it was snowy and cold and we were eating lots of soup.
I added Carry On, Warrior to my holds request list at the library several weeks ago after I started following Glennon on Instagram and reading more of her blog posts. I had read mixed reviews and wasn’t sure what to expect, but let me tell you : I LOVED this book. I read so many passages aloud to David that he practically read it too — it was so funny. And honest, and at times sad. Occasionally I disagreed with Glennon about certain things, and once or twice some of her phrasing was a bit kitschy for my taste, but overall this book was a total delight and made me even more a fan of Glennon than I already was. It was also really nice to mix it up with some nonfiction.
And finally, I just now (10 PM, January 31st) finished reading The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett. It is the last book he ever wrote (he passed away in March 2015) and also happens to be in my very favorite Pratchett series. The Shepherd’s Crown is the fifth in the Tiffany Aching adventures, books that follow a young witch as she grows in her power. What I love about Tiffany (and about all witches in Discworld) is that they are all about work. They might use magic for some things, but most of witching is just doing what needs to be done — whether that’s cutting toenails for elderly folk who can’t bend down anymore, sitting up overnight with the dead and preparing them for burial, delivering babies (human, sheep, and cow alike), or breaking up disagreements, witches do dirty work every day. (Unlike wizards, who read fancy books in the universities and hardly do anything of value.) Tiffany Aching is my hero and I loved this book just as I have loved all of the Tiffany adventures (although Wintersmith, being my first, holds a special place in my heart). Terry Pratchett was a genius, a feminist, and a hilarious and talented writer. I miss him.
This month I discovered the podcast Dear Hank and John, which I have really enjoyed. As a longtime follower of John and Hank Green, I have had a hard time keeping up with the bazillion projects they are up to these days and often miss the Brotherhood 2.0 videos that started it all. Listening to this podcast makes me feel like I’m watching those old-school videos again! They’re HILARIOUS, and John starts each episode with a short poem, many of which have been familiar to me and all of which I have appreciated.
My other big discovery in January has been Jammie Dodger tea! My friend Leah gave me a certificate to Adagio Teas as a Christmas gift, and I spent quite a bit of time reading reviews and considering my own tea desires before I ordered. I finally decided upon a five ounce tin of Homemade Jammie Dodger tea. It’s delicious! I love it in the evenings before bed or in the afternoon while I’m reading or cooking. It basically tastes like what it sounds like — raspberry and shortbread. The tin is adorable and the tea is a gorgeous pink color.
Happy February, folks! There’s a lot coming up for me this month, both happy and sad. Lent begins February 10th and I am still deciding how to observe it. David and I already have tickets to a Valentine’s Day concert on February 13th that will encompass romantic classical music as well as poetry and essays. Later in the month will mark the anniversary of my father’s death, a day that my family and I observe with memories, reading his favorite authors, drinking Beck’s and eating Indian food. The month ends with my mother’s and Oma’s birthdays! So, lots coming up.
(Note: the images of the books link you to Amazon, but I really encourage that you check if your local library has the books before you buy them, just as a general practice! Libraries are the best, and I would make the books link to your library, but we all have different libraries. Okay, carry on.)