This being the year of birth and breastfeeding, there were some long nursing sessions when I could read away on my kindle. So I was able to read 45 books this year. Those that I found especially compelling/worth a read I have put in yellow. Happy reading in 2017 to you and yours!
1. March 2016 Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman *kindle
I’d heard reference to this book many times, and I enjoyed the read. The writing style was good, and the content interesting. The premise is that an American living in Paris examines and contrasts the French and American ways of bringing up children. There are definitely principles I’d like to apply in my own parenting (cooking with kids, creating clear boundaries but giving freedom within those boundaries, etc.) and there are also principles I don’t agree with (crying it out, scheduled breastfeeding, epidurals, crèche care—though if there were crèches accessible like those described in this book . . . ) I think what I enjoyed most was the peek into another culture. However, having lived in Europe for 5 years now, many of the ideas in the book didn't seem to shocking or unfamiliar to me.
2. March 2016 Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid *kindle
I’m not sure who recommended this book. It’s not really the kind of book I’d normally read (fluffy read), but for entertainment it was fine. The writing style isn’t very special or notable, but there’s an interesting structure in that the book alternates chapters based on whether the protagonist had followed decision A or decision B at the beginning of the book. It's kind of a choose-your-own-ending book, but for adults.
3. March 2016 The No Brainer Wardrobe: Feel More Like Yourself by Hayley E. Morgan *kindle
I saw this book recommended on a blog. It was a bit of a disappointment to me. It was a quick read and most of what I’d read was all familiar knowledge. It basically explores how to choose clothing items/create a wardrobe that fits to your body shape, lifestyle, etc. As it was a short read, it didn’t go much into depth.
4. March/April 2016 Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott *kindle
A friend recommended this book, which consists of journal entries from Lamott’s pregnancy and then the first year of life with her son. As always, I appreciate Lamott’s frank nature and wonderful use of metaphor and simile. She candidly expresses the myriad of joys and aggravations of pregnancy and motherhood. (Commenting now after giving birth: this book is so very true. It expresses keenly those aspects of becoming a mother that are sometimes forgotten and that aren’t understood by non-moms.)
5. March 2016 St. Brendan edited by Iain McDonald
This book was given to me by my Irish friend Rowan at Christmas. It recounts the journey of St. Brendan as he sails in search of a holy island. Having not known about this saint before, it was an unusual read, recalling to mind epic tales and adventure stories.
6. April 2016 The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater *kindle
A friend recommended this when I was looking for some engaging fiction to occupy my mind while awaiting baby girl to be born. The book targets a younger audience (teen fiction), but the mix of folklore with regular life made the book compelling and an enjoyable read. A key part of the book are the wild horses of the sea, dangerous horses that are caught and trained with to compete in a yearly race. If I had a library handy with English books, I’d probably check out more from this author.
7. 17 April 2016 Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth by Judy Norsigian *kindle
This book had a very nice approach to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and motherhood. It nicely explained various aspects in depth with a holistic approach. It also gives a lot of great resources, especially for American moms living in America. Though helpful for me as an expat, some of the information just didn’t apply to a foreign healthcare system.
8. 21 April 2016 The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business by Gabrielle Palmer (borrowed from Jana H.)
I can’t say I read every page (my pregnancy hormones just couldn’t handle the section about the lack of clean water in many parts of the world and what that means for mothers who are feeding infants formula mixed with impure water), but what I did read was very compelling. This book explores the origins of infant formulas as well as the social impact that breastfeeding or formula feeding has—economically, medically, psychologically, socially, and so forth. I think for anyone interested in politics, rights, nutrition, or society in general could find this book quite gripping.
9. April 2016 What to Eat When You’re Pregnant by Dr. Nicole M. Avena*kindle
I’m not sure that I read every page of this either, but I read the majority of it. I was quite enthusiastic when I heard about the book (before becoming pregnant) and bought it quickly after becoming pregnant. The author first guides the reader through the nutrients and vitamins that are key during pregnancy, with explanation as to why they're important, and also explains the significance of weight gain at proper rates and times in pregnancy. She does both of these without being judgmental or pushy. Then she goes week by week through the pregnancy with a “key food of the week” which corresponds to the particular nutritional needs of the baby at that time. She also includes a recipe and a description of what’s developmentally happening that week. I wish I had the book as a physical book instead of on Kindle, since I would have been happy to flip back to read about a specific nutrient or through the recipes. Still, I think the book is well done and is written in a way that can reach a large range of people – both those who know nothing of nutrition and those who know a great deal. One effect it had on my pregnancy was that I took fish oil tablets all the way through.
10. April 2016 Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
This was recommended to me by a friend as the “best book [she] read concerning natural birth.” It has a lot of great recommendations for poses for preparing the body for birth and also poses to assume during and after birth. Of course, as any birth book goes, it also discusses how a natural birth proceeds and the effects of interventions. I would definitely recommend it.
11. Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay *kindle
I’ve read Teaching with Love and Logic multiple times, so it was no surprise that this book resonated with me as well. The first half includes an explanation of the general Love and Logic approach and the second half of the book applies those ideas to specific situations (like too much computer game time or bullying). I appreciate the practicality of the book. It contains lots of scenarios and dialogues that give parents very concrete ideas of how to apply the principles and how to express yourself to your children.
12. April 2016 Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
I pulled out the book in order to lend it to a friend and ended up reading it in its entirety before seeing her. As usual I appreciate Lamott’s tone – her general honesty, sometimes sweet, sometime snarky – and I appreciate her reflections on her experiences.
13. 22 May 2016 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (borrowed from Vanessa)
We meet the protagonist of this book as a young boy and continue on with him into adulthood. A single choice made as a boy grips him and affects all his future choices. Though the initial choice is innocent, we see the character go down a darker and darker path. I struggled with continuing on with such a flawed character, but the writing was so compelling that I did. This long book flew by and the depth of detail only strengthened the story. As any good book, we see a transformation happen to the character. As someone who always likes to see a bit of redemption in a story, I can say that this book fulfilled that criteria as well.
14. 25 May 2016 The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (borrowed from Vanessa)
This book is told from the perspective of two residents of an upscale block of flats in France. One is the concierge and another a young, intelligent girl from a wealthy family. The initial commonality that we see (besides the address) is that each one is exceptionally intelligent, and yet each one conceals this fact. At first I found them to be quite pretentious in their musings. However, as more and more interactions unfold within the book, you start to see each of them soften a bit and find beauty around them. Moreover you see them develop in relationships with those around them. Finally I was quite charmed by the characters and the book.
15. 26 May 2016 Kiss Me! By Carlos Gonzales (borrowed from Jana H.)
This book is about interaction with babies and toddlers especially. The author (a Spanish pediatrician) champions quick response to babies’ needs, especially responding with love and affection. The book argues against any belief that children can be spoiled by affection, encourages practices like breastfeeding and babywearing and disagrees with practices like sleep-training and beliefs that infants are capricious and manipulative. I found it to be written with a clear logic and the ideas resounded with me. Moreover, I especially appreciated that the author included specific ideas with which he disagreed and he explained thoroughly why. I would love to have this book in my library.
16. 7 June 2016 The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (borrowed from Vanessa)
Reading this again as an expat (and now a mother) who’s lived nearly 5 years as a foreigner, the concepts, conflicts, and characters’ experiences resounded with me powerfully. Many aspects that I didn’t grasp or fully appreciate while reading this in college now resonated more. Who knows what the next reading may bring.
17. 17 June 2016 The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (borrowed from Vanessa)
I don’t know if I would ever have read this book if Vanessa hadn’t leant it to me after I’d put out a call for book recommendations (I’d put out this call shortly after starting maternity leave). This book is rich in imagery. It focuses on 4 characters in a villa in Italy in 1945. We get to know the characters through short glimpses into their histories, given in snaps and stories interspersed in intervals throughout. The plot isn’t what drives this book, but rather the imagery and the characters. I haven’t seen the film, but I can understand why Vanessa told me the book is “way better than the film” when she handed it to me.
18. 22 June 2016 Magyk by Angie Sage *kindle
While listening to the Reading Aloud Revival podcast, this book was mentioned. During the time (day and night) spent breastfeeding, an easy-to-read and easy-to-hold book is helpful. So I purchased this one, and it was a delightful read to have at 2 in the morning. It’s the first book in a 7-book fantasy series. Its characters are easy to form an affinity for, and there’s a clear good-evil distinction, which I think is great for the Christian reader of fantasy. I’ve bought the second book already.
19. 24 June 2016 Flyte by Angie Sage * kindle
This is the second book in the Septimus Heap series. What I enjoyed about the book is that though I was able to predict the initial conflict, I was still regularly surprised by how this conflict and those that followed were finally resolved. The developments were unexpected, and I continue to enjoy this series.
20. 26 June 2016 Physik by Angie Sage *kindle
I finished this on our train ride to Prague. Once again I was pleased with how I am not able to completely predict how things will be solved, nor do I anticipate at which point the book will end. I then bought the 4th book to continue my train reading.
21. 30 June 2016 Queste by Angie Sage *kindle
22. 3 July 2016 Syren by Angie Sage *kindle
23. 6 July 2016 Darke by Angie Sage *kindle
This book was (as implied) dark. It made me enjoy the book less, though I can see that important plot developments were made.
24. July Fyre by Angie Sage *kindle
All-in-all I enjoyed the series very much. There are aspects that make me think Sage takes a bit from Rowling (in this day and age you can't ignore Rowling when you read contemporary fantasy that includes magic), but simultaneously it feels as if she is trying intentionally not to follow Rowling.
25. 15 July 2016 My Child Won’t Eat by Carlos Gonzales (lent by Jana H.)
So easy to read. This book is about transitioning babies to solids and about the complaint “my child won’t eat.” The main ideas are to not force the child to eat, to realize that children’s bellies are small and can’t receive much food, and to continue to rely on breastfeeding for nutrition as long as possible. This book was written by the same pediatrician that wrote Kiss Me and I would love to have this book in my library.
26. 16 July 2016 Just David by Eleanor H. Porter *kindle
Written by the same author as wrote Pollyanna, I was happy to hear of this book. It has a similar storyline to Pollyanna – orphaned child taken in by others influences his hosts and the surrounding community for good. It’s a delight.
27. July 2016 Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth *kindle
This was a delightful read and I enjoyed it very much. It is the story of the Gilbreth family, which consists of a couple and their 12 children (written by two of the siblings) growing up in the early 1900s. This book emphasizes the father’s presence in the family, and it’s worth noting that it was written after his death and after WWII, when people were eager for positive books with strong family values. Some criticize the book as downplaying the mother, who in addition to managing such a large household also was an innovator in industrial engineering and a psychologist. She also had close connections to many movers and shakers of her time. As I read the book, however, it was clear to me that she must have been a remarkable woman, and her career contributions didn't seem to be ignored. In addition to being interested in reading one of her biographies, I’d like to read the sequel to this book (Belles on Their Toes), but I’ve bought quite a lot of books lately so I’ll have to delay that desire.
28. July 2016 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen *kindle
I started reading this when there wasn’t any other reading readily available and I was bored. I ended up choosing to finish it, and I think I enjoyed it more than the first time I read it since I took more time with it this reading.
29. 1 August 2016 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling *kindle
This is a play script and not a novel; of course, as a reader, a novel would have been more thrilling and engaging. Nonetheless I enjoyed the read and made quick work of it. This, of course, does make me very much wish to see the play (which is sold out till mid-next year from what I hear). I only wish that this book explored more “new” developments in the Harry Potter world.
30. 15 July 2016 Travelling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor (Ebook library check out)
This nonfiction book – a joint memoir between mother and daughter - was quite enjoyable. I’m familiar with Sue Monk Kidd from her books The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. This book alternates between her and her daughter as they each face their identities: Sue in entering her 50s and Ann in seeking vocational purpose and direction. At first I didn’t really enjoy Ann’s writing style, but it matured with the story. It’s a reflective and contemplative book.
31. 16 July 2016 The Children Act by Ian McEwan (lent by Vanessa)
I didn’t plan to read this book, but one day while breastfeeding I asked the husband to bring me a book, any book, and he brought me this one. I find the characters compelling and the conflicts interesting. The emotions are real. I disagree with some worldviews expressed and disagree with a choice the judge makes early on, but it doesn’t make the book any less compelling. In fact, as the book develops and concludes, you see the protagonist also questions her decision.
32. 18 July 2016 Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (Ebook library check out)
I enjoyed these essays on faith, food, and family. I’ve only tried out one recipe so far. Generally the recipes look promising, but I don’t like her heavy use of balsamic vinegar and Dijon. As these flavours are so strong, I feel they can easily overwhelm the taste of other ingredients.
33. 27 August 2016 All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot (Ebook library check out)
I had heard of Herriot at various times and though his titles were familiar, but I hadn’t read them for myself. Now I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the anecdotes included as well as the writing style. I also appreciate his pure worldview and optimistic outlook. I’ve got another of his books checked out and another lent from Jana, and I look forward to reading them.
34. 31 August 2016 Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson (Ebook library check out)
This autobiography/memoir is an interesting look into the world of chefs and kitchens. I always enjoy reading about food and Samuelsson also has an interesting life story including dialogue on racial and cultural identity (he was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden and now lives in the USA). Sometimes I didn’t quite like his tone (it felt a little arrogant--but he does have something to be proud of), but generally I enjoyed his writing and this exploration into a world which I don’t know (that of chefs and the culinary world).
35. 3 September 2016 Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (E-Book library check-out)
I was told of this series by Jana H. with hopes of it being a gripping fantasy book/series. I was curious about the story and where it would lead and was happy when not all of my predicted turns were fulfilled. Yet I found the content too gruesome for me (which makes sense when fantasy meets detective novel). So though it has its literary merits, I don’t intend to continue with this author.
36. 12 October All things Great and Small by James Herriot (Ebook library check out)
Again, a delightful read from Herriot
37. 18 October 2016 The Signature of All things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Ebook library check-out)
I can’t remember who recommended this, but I did find the story and the characters very interesting. The heavy place of botany in the book was a point of interest and one of the aspects that kept me engaged. The historical time period was fascinating and necessary as a theme appeared. There were some aspects of content I didn’t enjoy (erotic content, evolutionary ideas), but these elements were necessary to the story. I found the book to be compelling--in a sense that it kept me reading, not in the sense of affecting me as a person. One moment I appreciated is when the protagonist realizes how she’s been unfair in her thoughts towards another character, not realizing how much the other character has sacrificed for her. I found this scene moving as it reminds me that we never see the whole story of someone. There is always missing information, and we ought to be generous with one another.
38. 21 October 2016 And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Housseini (Ebook library check out)
I enjoyed Housseini’s previous two novels. Or rather, I should say that I find his books very emotionally striking and his writing style excellent. He consistently captures core emotions of people and their relationships with one another. As with his previous two books, the book concerns itself with Afghanistan, but also extends beyond its borders. In reading this so soon after finishing The Signature of All Things, the latter pales in significance. I find Housseini’s book much more important because whereas The Signature of All Things seems mostly like a story, And the Mountains Echoed shows me so many aspects of humanity. The opening bedtime story alone, which the father tells his two children, gives the reader plenty to reflect and dwell on. The theme of people taking care of others (a paralyzed sibling, a stroke sufferer, an incapacitated patient, an aging parent, a victim of violence) also is widely explored as we see the different motivations and feelings of the caretaker come out as well as the wishes of the ones being cared for. I would highly recommend this book.
39. 24 October 2016 Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers By Anne Lamott (Ebook library check out)
I stumbled across this while browsing Ramsey County’s E-library collection. As with the other Lamott nonfiction I’ve read, I found this book to be extremely valuable in how directly she talks about real life, real people, real prayers. She doesn’t talk about prayer like a theologian. She talks about prayer like someone ho knows Jesus and knows how much she needs him. A quick read that I should have read more slowly.
40. 1 November 2016 A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy (Ebook library check out)
I enjoyed reading this book and did so within 36 hours of checking it out. I enjoy that it’s more optimistic than other reading I’ve done of Irish authors. As an escapist book to fill moments of midnight breastfeeding, it’s perfect. From a literary perspective, it’s a bit difficult to suspend disbelief as you see each guest in a bed and breakfast have a significant life change/discovery during one week of holiday.
41. 2 November 2016 Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy (Ebook library check out)
So I’m seeing that Binchy likes to develop her characters (breadth, not depth) and her world. Now that I’ve read a bit more about her, I see that she created her own world of towns and neighbourhoods of characters that reappear in various books. I read these two books quickly, which helped me to keep characters straight. Otherwise that could have been a challenge. I’d say that the books are good light reading. Binchy’s optimistic in her stories and it’s nice to see the characters have some hope. (It’s nice to read in the 2016 election year.) But I would categorize it as light reading good to cheer one up and not as quality literature. It’s neither deep nor super realistic (Emily is a bit of a perfect Mary Poppins solving problems left and right with little trouble) but interesting. Maybe a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
41. 13 November 16 Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy (Ebook library check out)
42. 20 November 16 Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy (Ebook library check out)
Binchy’s work is a bit addictive because it contains so many familiar characters that you’re kind of pleased with yourself when you remember who’s who. However, the work is just too idealistic. The conflicts are solved much too quickly and the characters don’t seem to change much in any of her work, or if they do, they transform so quickly that it’s hard to believe the change could be very permanent or significant. Kudos to Binchy on her thought-through world and her knowledge of her characters, but the conflict and development aren’t compelling enough for me. (Some minor conflicts seem to last only a few paragraphs.) Still, I appreciated it when pacing with a crying baby or when feeding in the middle of the night.
43. 7. December 16 My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologies by Frederik Backman *book club book
This was the first book of our newly founded book club, and I loved it. It focuses on a 7-year-old character who is quite precocious and holds her 77-year-old granny as a superhero. Her granny is wild, chaotic, and in love with her granddaughter. After her granny’s passing, Elsa must go on an adventurous scavenger hunt set up by her grandmother, causing her to meet the others in her building and learn about their lives as well as make friends. The dialogue is highly amusing and the characters so endearing. I just loved this book.
44. 29 December 16 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas *kindle
This was my brother’s favourite book – or at least among his favourites – and I first tried to read it when I was 10 years old. It was beyond me at that age, but now I found it quite an easy read. I’d seen the film as a teenager, and I think that deterred me from reading it right away since I knew some big plot points. However, in the reading of this I realized that the extent of the plans of vengeance by Dantes cannot be shown in film. So the book contained plenty of developments and plot points that I was unaware of. I enjoyed that though the reader knew who the targets of vengeance would be, it wasn’t possible to predict all the details of how that would be fulfilled. My enjoyment of the book is demonstrated by the fact that multiple nights I stayed up late reading (that’s high praise when you’re waking multiple times in the night to breastfeed).
45. 30 December 2016 We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (borrowed from Vanessa)
This book centers on family interactions and social norms. We meet Rosemary “in the middle” of her story. The book explores parts of her childhood and college years, especially focusing on her absent siblings. There’s a big twist, which I did not see coming, though a more observant reader might have anticipated it. It’s definitely a heart-rending story, and at times I needed the emotional relief of picking up a different book. I’d recommend it.
In progress/partially read:
The Baby Book by Dr. Sears
This book was leant to me, and I find it useful as I have questions about raising Ella—certain health concerns (her first major cold), or developmental steps, etc. It’s nice having a book of concentrated advice from a pediatrician that I find trustworthy. I’m interested in buying the newest edition for myself.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
Having given birth this year, it’s not much of a surprise that someone passed on this book to me. I found it a useful resource, especially for its week-by-week texts about baby development. In contrast to a book like Active Birth, which clearly advocates natural birth, this book is written more from the approach of laying out all the “options” and not casting judgement. It goes through some advantages and disadvantages of different birthing choices, but doesn’t lean too heavily on either side (of nursing vs. bottle feeding, epidural vs. none, etc.).