In these busy days with many very small children time to write (let alone edit) is precious and rare. I don’t pressure myself to blog regularly but get to it when I can in little snatches and bursts. I enjoy having a written record of anything I’ve managed to blog, even if it’s only a snapshot of one brief season in our lives. Whatever slips through the written cracks is still life fully lived, and there’s nothing to regret in that.
Every year I record new books I’ve read, not counting books only read partially, books re-read, or picture books read with the kids. At the end of the year I write a review. In 2015 I read 74 new books. I read a lot fewer old classics than usual this year and a lot more 20th century literature. In this brief season of tiny children I lean toward lighter or quicker reading because there just aren’t wide blocks of time to engage deeply and work through heavy topics. I don’t mind. Children are tiny for a very short period, and there are likely many seasons of meatier reading ahead. Memoirs took up a big chunk of my reading list this year, as did gleefully binging on Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. The Modern Mrs. Darcy site sparked a lot of my reading choices this year as well. It’s always a bit hard to categorize books, as some cross genres (e.g., many of the parenting or marriage books I read are also Christian, some memoirs are classics, etc.).
- Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker. There’s a lot of food for thought packed into this concise and practical volume. Drucker discusses analyzing strengths and weaknesses, learning and performance styles, ethics and values, relationships, communication, and developing interests and strengths. He speaks from a business viewpoint but his ideas are widely applicable.
- Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. It is easy to become preoccupied with society’s “big” sins while ignoring or even condoning sins in our own lives or our Christian communities. Bridges briefly tackles “respectable” sins like frustration, discontentment, pride, impatience, irritability, gossip, lack of self-control, and others. So-so writing but meaty ideas.
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I’m not usually a big Steinbeck fan but, as promised by others, this one completely hooked me. The Hamilton and Trask families’ stories are often dark but they’re also full of tremendous warmth and beauty.
- Laughing Without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas. Dumas has a wonderful sense of humor, and her stories will have a special ring of familiarity to anyone who is the child or relative of immigrants. I like that Dumas approaches both Iran and the US with a gently critical eye and with appreciation vs. blanket generalizations. I also like that this book poked fun without humiliating the subjects. The same cannot be said for her first book, Funny in Farsi, which left me cringing for the objects of her jokes.
- Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books. I discovered this series about a detective in Quebec via Modern Mrs. Darcy. I succumbed to addiction and only emerged after bingeing my way through the entire saga during midnight feedings with the newborn. You know books are fun if you’re happy when the baby wakes you in the wee hours! Beautiful writing, enjoyable characters, and good dialogue. I appreciate that Penny thoughtfully tackles issues of ethics, honor, and virtue. While I don’t always agree with her conclusions or base assumptions, these books are more thought-provoking than your typical mystery. They follow both individual stories in each book as well as a broader story arc so they are best read in order. Not all of the books are equally good (especially toward the end of the series) but overall I loved them.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. My sister-in-law introduced me to Gaiman. This is his newest book. Gaiman’s writing tends to be spooky and macabre but also beautiful and evocative. His writings freely explore evil, but always in contrast to good. The Man and I both loved this book although the ending feels a bit weak. Like the Narnia books it is also an allegory of the central themes of Christianity – someone has evil/darkness placed in his heart and owes his life to dark forces because of it. There is a Christ figure, a trinity, incarnation, the second coming… Frankly the choices surprised me as Gaiman publicly rejects Christianity.
- The Martian by Andy Weir. I picked this up because it was getting such good press, and because I wanted to read it before seeing the movie. For the first chapter or two I had a pretty “meh” reaction, thought it wasn’t for me, and wondered why it got the good reviews. I’m glad I stuck with it though – creative and so much fun, a perfect vacation read!
- My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I loved this book. Durrell later became a famous naturalist and conservationist. This memoir covers his boyhood on the Greek island of Corfu. Think Cheaper by the Dozen with a splash of P.G. Wodehouse and several hundred animals and bugs shaken in. I laughed like a loon while my husband shot me concerned looks, then passed it on to my Mom. I can’t wait to try Durrell’s other books.
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. I never actually read this one as a kid. The twins love Pooh bear so I read them the novel and was surprised by how much fun it is. A lot of the humor is over kids’ heads, but it’s so clever and wry for adult readers.
Here’s the full list for this year:
Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life by Donald Rumsfeld
I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World by Marguerite A. Wright
Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford
Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trisha Davis (could also file under memoir)
The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner
The Four Seasons of Marriage by Gary Chapman
The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark
How to Really Love Your Child by D. Ross Campbell
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne
The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
A Legacy by Sybille Bedford
Here is New York by E.B. White
Talking with God by Francois Fenelon
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Greer – a tough one to categorize
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon
I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith
Emma by Alexander McCall Smith
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Martian by Andy Weir
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
Going Solo by Roald Dahl
Boy by Roald Dahl
Laughing Without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas
Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin
A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story by Brenda Ashford
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (read with the kids)
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Garnett (read with the kids)
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (read with the kids)
The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin
Still Life by Louise Penny
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition by Susan McCutcheon
What did you read this year? Any favorites? Do you have a preferred way of tracking books like Goodreads? I used to record everything in a notebook, but prefer Pinterest these days.