Friday, November 3, 2017

On the Bookshelf: Falltime Reads

Falltime is in full swing, and I have been reading up a storm over here. Somehow, I wound up reading tons of non-fiction over the past couple months, and only a couple fiction books, so I think in the coming months I'll make a concerted effort to balance that out with more fiction reads. Without further ado, let's talk literature!





Surprised by Oxford, by Carolyn Weber.  This was a delightful memoir about a woman who went to Oxford as an agnostic and, during the course of her life there, had a conversion to Christianity. I loved how this book was filled with quotations from the Romantics (Blake! Coleridge! Keats!), C.S. Lewis, and that Flannery O'Connor even made an appearance :) I also loved how respectfully the author touched on some elements of Catholicism. This was really eye-opening about the process of conversion for someone who was an academic, and I enjoyed it quite a bit! (it also influenced my recent decision to start memorizing poetry, which I hope to talk about on the blog within the next few weeks!)

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. I LOVED this book, in which McDougall learns about distance running, ultra-marathoners, and becomes connected with the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico. Reading this totally made me want to start running barefoot, but since I'm not so sure about the safety of the ground in my normal route, I'll stick with shoes for now ;) And in the first few days after I read this, when I pulled myself out of bed to run, I kept mentally chanting, I WAS BORN TO DO THIS! courtesy of what I learned in this book. Even if you're not a runner, I think this book is really educational, entertaining, and gives a fascinating glimpse at people who do pretty crazy things. Note-this is a book about the lives of different people, some of whom are very...interesting...and there's some bits of language and sexual references, so I'd read this over before handing it to your teen.

Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home, by Juliette Kayyem. This was a really interesting book by a woman who used to work as the assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. I didn't agree with all of her views, but I thought her "insider's perspective" to the process of dealing with natural disasters and tragedies was really fascinating. It helped show me that even if I disagree with how the government handles different things, the government is made of normal people just like me, who are stressed-out and trying to find a good, safe way to take care of others during a crisis. It wasn't my favorite book out there, but it was still fairly enlightening.

Super Girls and Halos, by Maria Morera Johnson. This was such a fun little book in which Johnson paired up the four cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude) with different superheroes and corresponding female saints. It gave me an even greater appreciation for Storm (X-Men comics, I think she's pretty cool), and it made me want to watch a bunch of superhero movies and read about the saints, both of which are great things. My one main complaint is that in the section on Black Widow, Johnson mainly referenced the Avengers movie for information, instead of going to other sources (for other characters like Wonder Woman, Johnson did a great job diving into the comic history, so her treatment of Black Widow just didn't seem to match up). Otherwise, I enjoyed this book!

Modern Eclairs, by Jenny McCoy. This was a delightful cookbook focused on the eclair and other related treats (some sweet, some savory). I'd long desired to make homemade eclairs, and this book seemed like a great starting point with lots of photographs and delicious-looking recipes. Using this book, I successfully made my first-ever batch of eclairs, and in the future I want to pick up this book from the library again to try some of the other recipes!

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them,by Jennifer Wright. This book on plagues throughout history was so entertaining! The author has a very conversational writing style, and her frank discussion of plagues through a modern viewpoint is really engaging. I didn't agree with all of her views or commentary, but I really enjoyed this discussion of a topic that we usually push to the side with dusty history books.

The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes. This book was an interesting discussion in which the author basically argues that sugar is a main cause of many of the health problems out there. Parts of this book were a bit too heavy with technical information and terminology for me when I was trying to read it during nursing sessions or in the spare moments while the toddler was playing, but I'm still really glad that I picked this up. While I still am eating (and enjoying!) my sugar, I have been consciously cutting down the amount that I eat since reading this book, and I'm trying to be a lot more aware of how much sugar sneaks into various foods.

Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. How had I never read this before? It's so good. Frankl discusses his experience during the Holocaust as a survivor of a concentration camp, but as he does so, he doesn't focus on the chronological experience that you might find in other WWII memoirs. Instead, he focuses on the psychology behind it all. This book was small, easy to pick up and read, but so deep and so, so good. I think everyone should read it at some point and learn from his wisdom.


The Screwtape letters, by C. S. Lewis. This was a re-read, since Halloween draws near (remember my post on how to have a creepy, Catholic Halloween?) and I realized that I hadn't read it in a while. I forgot how much I love this book. It's actually a really good examination of conscience, and it's also pretty funny in parts. For those of you unfamiliar with this book, it's a collection of letters from Screwtape, a demon, to Wormwood, his nephew, about their work as demons and temptors, and their battle against "the Enemy" (God). It's pretty awesome :) 
Boundaries : When to Say Yes; How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book had been on the back of my mind for several months, and finally I got myself a copy and read it. WOW. This is an eye-opening, frank discussion of the necessity and importance of boundaries in all of our lives. Cloud and Townsend talk about struggles that Christians in particular have because of the way that they use Scripture and the command to "love your neighbor" to basically become doormats for other people, which I found extremely important to think about. One of my favorite things about this book is that it discusses how we cannot change other people, but what we can change is ourselves, and how we aren't responsible for other people. Seriously, every church out there should be using this book for adult faith formation, and this needs to be part of marriage prep programs. There's lots of good stuff in here. 

The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey. This was a delightful mystery novel about an inspector, Alan Grant, who-while he recovers from a broken leg and is stuck in bed-tries to solve the historical mystery of Richard III and the Little Princes in the Tower. I enjoyed this, but I found it hard to keep up with the names and historical references (even though there's a handy family tree included) because I am not well-versed in English history.

Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. I encountered this beautiful book through our local Well-Read Mom group, and I quite loved it! It's a quiet book, written as a long letter from John Ames, a minister who is close-ish to death, to his young son. It talks about his life, father-son-relationships, and hope in the midst of brokenness. It can be rambly and sort of hard to follow at times, since it's one long letter, but it's such a beautiful, gorgeous book (it reminded me quite a bit of Wendell Berry). 

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. This book kept me up late at night because I couldn't stop reading it. Wade Watts is a high schooler who, like numerous other individuals, spends much of his waking hours plugged into OASIS, a massively multiplayer online game. Why? Because the real world is pretty horrible. When Halliday, the creator of the OASIS dies and it's revealed that his fortune is left in an Easter Egg somewhere in the OASIS, Watts and other people join the hunt to find it. References to 1980s fandoms abound (especially D&D) and a sense of fun and whimsy crosses the pages. I do think this book lost its momentum a bit about halfway through (probably because Watts is narrating the whole thing, and since he spends most of his time physically by himself, there's not much interaction with other actual people), but it did get back up to speed towards the end, I think. Also, content-wise, there are a few things I took issue with: Towards the beginning, there's about a page-long description of the atheistic worldview that the characters accept, which basically says that Science rules and is much better than any belief in a God. Second, there was about a page and a half that described the sex industry within the OASIS and even went so far as to give a one-paragraph "defense" of masturbation. NOPE. Skipped over that, but still...*shudders.* Finally, there is a bit of profane language. So, overall, I recommend this book aside from those problematic pages, and I did really enjoy the story! 

Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. This Western-themed retelling of the biblical book of Hosea had been highly recommended to me by various female friends, so I finally picked it up. It's a sweet story about Michael, a man living in California during the Gold Rush, and his wooing and eventual marriage to Angel, a woman who has been abused and prostituted for most of her life. It's a story of the forgiveness, healing, and love that takes place within their marriage, and I really like how it showed that healing is a process. This was a sweet, biblical love story, and I mostly enjoyed it. I didn't like how it being a retelling of Hosea was handled, though-giving the main character the last name of "Hosea" seemed a bit much to me, and having him talk about the book of Hosea in this story just felt...redundant? I like a good allegory (Tolkien and Lewis have some good ones!), and this just didn't hit the standard I had hoped for. Also, I have some major complaints with how physical affection outside of marriage is handled in Christian romances, and that comes into this story a little bit. Ultimately, I enjoyed this-not as much as I thought I would, but each to their own, right?  

The Property, by Rutu Modan. This was an intriguing graphic novel about an old woman, Regina Segal, and Mica, her adult granddaughter going to Poland to recover property lost during WWII. I really liked it, the illustrations were simple and I thought it was a sweet story about family and love. There was a small amount of sexual content and partial nudity, though. Otherwise, I enjoyed this!

The New Annotated Dracula, edited by Leslie Klinger. I realized that I needed to re-read at least part of Dracula in the month of October, and naturally every single copy was checked out in the library. Except for this one! (must be because it was in the non-fiction section and is HUGE) This book is a beast. There are tons of footnotes analyzing the text of Stoker's novel and giving historical context, and at times, the story breaks off and is followed by a few pages of just footnotes. So, if you just want to read the story, this book is kind of hard to follow. But, it gives some awesome insight that helps you dive deeper into the text! And there was a fabulous introductory section that went into the history of vampire literature in Europe leading up to the publication of Dracula. Even though I couldn't read much of this (because there is so much to read here!), I liked it quite a bit and it seems like a great resource for anyone who is interested in Dracula and/or that genre of literature. 

Letter to a Young Farmer, by Gene Logsdon. Finished just weeks before Logsdon's death, this book is his reflection on the current state of farming in America, and his words of wisdom and advice that he wishes to impart to the next generation of farmers. I liked reading this rambly reflection, and found it really helped me think more about farming (though I admittedly don't know much about farming!). It was a pretty interesting read. 


Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. This graphic novel is Marjane's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution. I thought the graphic format was a really profound way to tell this story; the black-and-white comics and simple images really showed the stark changes that were made in society in that time period. Aside from some content that I could've done without (sex and drugs), I really liked this and found it really eye-opening. 

Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagel. This is an exploration into the ways that modern dentistry has failed to acknowledge the importance of diet in healing tooth decay. Citing several studies that have been done over the years, Nagel shows how people in cultures across the world which have healthy, natural, wholesome diets high in fat-soluble vitamins and raw dairy experience much greater dental health than people in cultures who eat processed foods. I took a lot of this book with a grain of salt (my general rule whenever I read books that are dramatically for or opposed to something health-wise!), but it really built a conviction in me that diet is important for our teeth, and accepting the normal standard of dental care in the U.S. may not be exactly what I want. And that you can remineralize your teeth through nutrition-how cool is that??? There were parts where this book got a little too weird for me (the author has a background in two types of yoga, and it comes out at times-for instance, he talks about "asking" your teeth what they need, and waiting for a little inner voice to reveal the answer to you), but I still really enjoyed this book. There is a lot of good, thought-provoking material here, and it's definitely causing me to look at my dental health more intentionally, so that I can create beneficial dietary and lifestyle changes. 


Well, friends, I think that about covers what I've been reading lately! Let me know if you have any fiction books you recommend me picking up in the next couple months, because I love to try out new authors and genres! 

13 comments:

  1. Girl, you read a ton!! I always love seeing the variety of topics you read!

    Also, looking forward to the post about memorizing poetry!!

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  2. Wow! I am amazed at how much you read! You read such an interesting mix of genres. I've added a couple to my list, and love hearing about these.

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  3. Awesome list. I read almost exclusively nonfiction (not even 1 fiction/year). I think you would like this book: https://www.amazon.com/Gospel-According-Worlds-Greatest-Superhero/dp/0736918124 (not an affiliate link)

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    1. Wow, Kathleen, thanks for that recommendation! It looks really interesting, and it'd probably help me appreciate Superman more too (he's not my favorite superhero, though he is pretty great). I started reading more nonfiction a few years back, and I really enjoy it-there are so many cool things I've learned about through nonfiction books and memoirs!

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  4. Love your list! I really enjoy The
    Screwtape Letters as an audio book. The reader is fantastic and it makes it super enjoyable. I'd recommend Fall of Marigolds as a good fiction read. It's historical fiction dealing with two women across time who witness terrible things - Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and September 11th. It's excellent.

    And, I'm currently reading Boundaries, and just bought Boundaries for Kids!

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    1. That's so great that the Screwtape Letters audio book is so good. I've listened to audiobooks occasionally with Libri Vox, but it's honestly easier for me to follow the story if I'm reading it myself (in part, I think, because I'm not multitasking-doing chores or making food-like I do when I listen to audiobooks). Thanks for the recommendation! I just added Fall of Marigolds to my library list, so hopefully I'll get to it sometime soon. I'm glad to hear that you're reading Boundaries! I hope you are benefiting from it! I know I just finished it, but already I'm wanting to re-read it and start marking my favorite parts, because it has so much good wisdom.

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  5. I'm jealous that you are able to devote that much time to reading. Maybe you are a speed reader! I would like to recommend my "historical romance," The Fisherman's Wife: The Gospel According to St. Peter's Spouse. Because Jesus lived in Peter's house while he ministered in Capernaum, obviously Peter's wife was an eyewitness to his work. I imagined how she felt when Peter left her and their kids to follow this "man," a rival for Peter's affection.

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    1. I am a bit of a speed reader! The downside of it is that I don't absorb details well in my brain (I'm more of a "big concepts" type of person), but the benefit is that I'm able to read a lot of different stuff :) Thanks for mentioning your book. That's such a creative idea-I find it interesting that even though we hear about Peter's mother-in-law in the Bible, many of us rarely think about the fact that he had a wife, and what being married to a disciple of Jesus entailed!

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  6. Super inspiring post!!! All these books sound so interesting, and now I am adding many of them to my list :)

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    1. Awesome! I'm glad I can help you expand your reading list :)

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  7. Do you have an ereader, AnneMarie, or do you read the old-fashioned way? Just curious because my husband is considering getting an ereader or tablet for Christmas. I'm trying to get a feel for how others do or don't like using the technology.

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    1. Shannon, I do things the old-fashioned way ;) I prefer physical books I can pick up (and smell) and feel, and not looking at a screen or some sort is a plus for me. The downside is that I have loads of ebooks (from signing up for different blog newsletters and free Amazon ebooks or ebooks that are free in the Kindle store), and the only way to read them is off of my clunky laptop, which is a hassle. So if I did have an ereader, I'd be able to read all the ebooks I have quite easily, which would be grand...but even that isn't enough to make me want to dive into the technology jump of an ereader. Maybe someday I'll reconsider and go for an ereader, but now is not the time. I've actually started keeping my laptop tucked away in my closet the vast majority of the time now, because having it out-even if I'm not using it-seems to make life more chaotic. I guess I'm just a really simple person who prefers less technology in my environment!

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    2. I prefer print books, too, but I can see the benefits of an ereader. We still have plenty of time to decide. :-)

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