If I had to choose only one hobby for the rest of my life it would be reading. My degree was Secondary English Education, which I only used for a short time before staying home with my children, but I still love literature, learning through written word, and then talking about it! Actually, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m grateful to have such a simple, easily accessible, and cheap hobby (assuming I stick to our amazing library system and don’t buy ALL the books). Last year I was able to eke out 55 books, which I’m pretty sure is a personal best, and since I am ALWAYS looking for great book recommendations, I thought you might be, too (particularly in this bleak WI midwinter)!
I put together a little categorical round up of my favorite reads from 2016. Keep in mind, these are books I read in 2016, that is not necessarily the year they were published. Some are oldies, but goodies. Be sure to let me know what you think – love, hate, or neutral – and I would LOVE to hear your favorites/recommendations, too!
Peace Like a River – I savored this one. Reading it one or even half a chapter at a time. The language and prose are gorgeous and the familial love is enviable as a father and family show great love for one of their own in trouble.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – This book is about an elderly war veteran in England, which doesn’t sound all that appealing to some people; it was definitely the characterization that had me charmed. (On another note, the author’s second novel came out during this and while I was super excited to read something else by her, unfortunately, for me it fell flat and was actually a book I abandoned).
Rules of Civility – 1930’s New York, love, money, loss…need I say more? The author saunters through description with command of language (and audience), a tendency which can sometimes feel indulgent and lose my attention. Not in this case.
Maisie Dobbs – If you’re looking for a good mystery that is not gruesome but focuses more on the detective and intellect of the hunt, this is it. Again, descriptions in this can get a little winding, but I loved the elegance and propriety of our protagonist and left feeling like a better version of myself for having read it (could pass as literary fiction).
I Know How She Does It – Since many of you are moms who work outside the home (but I think is awesome for ANY woman; I stay home), this is an interesting read in how other women balance career, family, personal goals/rest, etc. We all have a set amount of time on any given day, but how we set up and use our time can make a huge difference in our enjoyment of all the different roles we play. Plus, she challenges the reader to keep a time log, which is beneficial whether you work outside or inside the home (I did and it was super revealing).
20 Lessons I Learned From Madame Chic – This one is for your inner Francophile. If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted read to satiate your travel bug and give a different cultural insight (on the French lifestyle…from an American), this is it! Okay, at times a little hoity, but really just a fun read about what one woman took away from her time living with a host family in France. Particularly about how to live a little more luxuriously in her everyday life.
I am a total sucker for this genre because I am fascinated to see how other people do things and love to glean practical tips and tricks (the last couple could fit in this category, too).
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Okay, now I do not adhere to her spiritual beliefs, nor have I totally drunk the Kool-Aid and do everything precisely according to her instruction; however, I LOVED this book. It is a slim, quick read that gives some practical advice on a new way of (hopefully) permanently decluttering. If nothing more, it is super motivating to dive in and get rid of things that are causing more stress than joy!
For the Creative:
Big Magic – I loved, loved, loved this book and will definitely be revisiting it in the year to come! We are ALL creatives in some way, shape, or form, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s premise for the book is “creative living beyond fear.” Again, we do not share the same spiritual beliefs, but she writes with passion and I was inspired as I nodded along and underlined 3/4 of the book.
Daily Rituals – A cross between Big Magic and I Know How She Does it, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work is literally exactly what it sounds like. It is a compilation of different artists – writers, composers, artists, philosophers, etc. – and their personal daily schedules/routines. If you’re fascinated by how other people balance their time and pursue their passions; particularly in regards to a creative life, pick it up.
An Ember in the Ashes – I read a couple YA Series this year, but this is the only one worth mentioning. A little darker than some YA, but really captivating as you enter a world of caste-systems in which there is corruption at the top (shocking) and teens wanting to escape and go their own way, but the only way that might be possible is by fighting their way out.
The Life-Giving Home – I adore Sally Clarkson and have appreciated so many of her books about this challenging, beautiful journey of motherhood. This book is co-written with her daughter and goes through the yearly traditions that made their house a home.
Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World – Written post-WWII, this is more poignant now than ever before as it calls people to pray for our countries, government leaders, and the world. It is convicting and calls people of faith to action not only in deed, but in prayer!
Last but not least, I have to recommend some of our favorite Kid Lit. For reference, my oldest boys are 7 & 5 and while this past year we started loving The Boxcar Children and enjoyed other classics like Mary Poppins and *always more* Roald Dahl. I thought I’d mention a couple that might not be as familiar.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – We listened to this one as an audiobook (which I highly recommend) and the boys loved it to the point of asking me to go around the block a couple more times so they could listen to more. It is about a glass bunny who starts off full of himself and unloving toward others and through a random serious of events (a miraculous journey, if you will) his heart softens and he begins to experience the joy and pain of love.
Tumtum & Nutmeg – We read this one by chance off the shelf at the library and am so glad I picked it up. Our copy contained three books about two little mice – Tumtum and Nutmeg – and their wild adventures living in a glamorous mouse house tucked inside a run-down cottage, which is the home of two small children whom they “befriend.” They have this darling love and marriage and as they work together to escape their predicaments clearly Nutmeg (unwittingly) runs the show!