I ended last year with some very specific goals for myself in 2015. One of those goals was to read more. Instead of waiting until the end of the year to make one gigantic list, I am going to post a monthly book report of what I’ve been reading. And instead of just listing the titles, I wanted to give my two cents while the books were still fresh on my mind.
How to Steal a Dog (O’Connor)
Written by one of my favorite, prolific children’s authors, the kids and I listened to this book on CD. We’ve been checking out many audio books for the time we spend in the car. This story was captivating and inspiring. We were all hooked when we learned the protagonist, Georgina, is forced to live in her family’s car and thinks she can save her family from their financial woes by stealing a dog and getting a large, cash reward for it’s return. This book gave the kids and me lots of opportunities to talk about integrity and whether or not stealing is still wrong even if it’s for a good reason. Also, my girls wanted to hang up sheets in our SUV and pretend that they, too, like Georgina, live in our vehicle.
The Best Yes! (TurKeurst)
I’ve waited several months to start this as I knew it would be offered at my women’s ministry group as a spring study. Spoiler alert. I have rushed ahead and devoured every word. This book felt like it was written just for me, just for this season. The author presents all the ways we allow choosing the many things we are offered can ultimately sidetrack us from what the BEST things we need to do may be. I will read this book again.
Tending the Heart of Virtue (Guroian)
I desperately wanted to love this book. But it took me next to forever to get through it. I love the idea of this book. I love the premise of this book. But the book itself, too many words and too dry. The idea here is that we can easily use classic literature as a gateway to discussions and opportunities to shape our children. I think this book didn’t particularly do “anything” for me because (a) I agree with the premise and (b) we have read through most of the selections the author suggests using with kids my kids’ ages. Meh.
The Hundred Dresses (Estes)
Another book on CD the kids and I listened to, get your tissues ready with this one. A 1945 Newberry Award winner, this book is full of great material for discussion. It depicts themes of prejudice, bullying, kindness and forgiveness. You want to cry for Wanda and then cheer for her at the end. This is an old, old story that is still very relevant today. If I were a public school elementary teacher, and I am not, I would read this book every year to my students. LOVED THIS STORY!
Give It All; Give It Now (Dillard)
Annie Dillard is known for her genius as a writer. I was surprised when this book came in on my Inter-Library-Loan (ILL) and it was more of a book of illustrations and few words. However, it was beautiful, inspiring and full of words I’ll keep close to my heart. For anyone who has dreams of writing and dreams in general this book makes you feel happy!
Small Steps (Sachar)
The same author of the popular book, Holes, I inadvertently assumed this audio book was a safe bet for a seven, nine and 11 year old. Some of the chapters had some innuendo and more mature themes than I think my kids are ready for, but overall, we all loved this story. The story follows Armpit and his adventures to get his life straightened out after time spent at a juvenile work center. His interactions with Ginny, Kaira DeLeon and X-Ray show that while he still has tendencies toward his old life, Armpit is ultimately capable of making better choices. We loved this story!
The Art of Social Media (Kawasaki & Fitzpatrick)
Our library is AWESOME about keeping great, new, current books on display for checkout. This book came at a good time for me as I transitioned a new look for my blog and created a separate Facebook page from my personal one. This book was a quick read with some practical suggestions on how to utilize social media to your advantage. Guess what, I’m still about five years behind the curve, but this book offered some great food for thought.
Educating the Wholehearted Child (Clarkson)
Although a library book, I’m probably going to go ahead and invest in a personal copy of this book. It is my new favorite, “go-to” homeschool manual. I wish I’d read this before I began. Clay and Sally Clarkson are Christian pioneers of the homeschool movement. Their years of practice and wisdom are all wrapped up in this one volume. The overall theme is “Christian discipleship” which is really the heart behind why most people choose to educate their children at home. I love this book and wish Clay and Sally would come be my neighbors across the street. They seem like they’d make great surrogate grandparent-types.
Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House (Daum)
This was my first experience with Meghan Daum, but I adored this memoir of her obsession with being a home-owner. As someone who also struggles often with contentment with where I live, what my house looks and feels like, I could so relate to Daum’s anecdotes, emotions and mis-haps related to her various homes. I love reading memoirs and this one did not disappoint. Daum is witty, smart and self-deprecating. I also appreciated her diverse and broad vocabulary.
Writing From Personal Experience (Kelton)
This book was written a few decades ago, and some of the writing shows its age. However, I LOVED this book and found myself shaking my head in the affirmative just about every chapter. This book is full of great wisdom for writers wishing to write about their own experiences. I love that each chapter ends with some practical writing exercises. I felt like I was back in graduate school with Dr. Eileen Meagher. This one might be one for purchase as well.
Living to Tell the Tale (McDonnell)
This was a great “how to” manual full of great tips and considerations for writing about your life. McDonnell does a great job of making a suggestion to incorporate into your writing and then follows it up with an example from her own writing or some successful student writing. I took away many good ideas that I plan to put into practice myself. Things like “stories in search of their subjects” and “the self in the story” were two of my particular favorites.
The Antelope in the Living Room (Shankle)
A follow up to her Sparkly Green Earrings, I was so happy when I found out this was a free download on (Ryan’s) Kindle a few weeks ago. I have loved Melanie “Big Mama” Shankle for years as one of my top blogger inspirations. This book was light, cute, and made me chuckle out loud often. It also reminded me of the roles Ryan and I have assumed in our own marriage. I found myself wanting to read Ryan snippets and passages that sounded just like us. Big Mama’s “blogger” voice was very strong throughout this book. And while wildly popular for her online persona, this book gave me several things to think about as a writer myself; voice, cadence, rabbit trails, and humor to name a few.
Through Painted Deserts (Donald Miller)
I consider Donald Miller one of my top authors from whom I find inspiration. I loved Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I do realize, TPD is a much earlier, more novice work of Miller’s. And while I found myself appreciating his voice, and his attention to detail, I will admit this book took me a little longer to get immersed in. I’m not sure what it was exactly, maybe I was holding him to a higher, more seasoned standard. I think part of it is the fact that I have come to love the way Miller uses the details and miniscule tidbits of light to shed insight on big, life changing reflections. This book was much heavier on details and too light on deepening connections from the writer.
Writing Life Stories (Roorbach)
Roorbach is a new-to-me writer and I my first impression of his writing is positive. I love the meaty chapters he provides in this book. He defends the writer and specifically defends the writer of memoir. He argues that many people want the reward of a finished book without the work that goes into writing it. This book is full of technical applications and exercises for both writing and revising your work. My favorite chapter was chapter 8, on “Metaphor and Meaning.” I’m constantly trying to find the connections in my day-to-day life and see the bigger picture. It’s this striving to find meaning that so often allows readers to find empathy and connection in our writing. That’s the goal at least for writers of memoir.
A New Season (Robertson)
I know that America’s obsession with the Robertson family and Duck Dynasty has waxed and waned over the past few years. We sometimes watch the show as a family and last season, I adored Sadie on DWTS. The oldest brother, Al and his wife Lisa have been in the news recently speaking out on the trouble they experienced earlier in their marriage. Our library had their book on the new release shelf. (And after reading Willie and Phil’s books a few years ago, I knew this one, also with a ghost writer, would take about an hour to read.) The book oscillates between Al and Lisa’s points-of-view. It isn’t supremely well written, but knowing the likely audience of the book, the story of redemption is one worth telling.