The Return to Reading

Almost a year ago, I announced that I was beginning to read again now that I’ve emerged from the fog of infant and toddler years. At that time, my readers responded with an insane amount of good book recommendations. I’m happy to report that I have read the following since then (and probably some more that I forgot to record.  I put an asterisk by the ones I enjoyed the most.):

The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Help*

Kathryn Stockett

I obviously haven’t made a ton of progress, but I’m ready to really dig in to your suggestions this year. Matt got me a Kindle for Christmas, and I really love it. My favorite thing about it is easy one-handed reading while I’m all tucked in to my bed covers. Anyway, I’ve made a list from your recommendations of 49 books I’d like to read. Do you think it’s possible I can read them all in 2011?! My goal* is to at least start all of them. Despite my undying trust in your taste, I’m a super picky reader and sometimes things turn me off that don’t bother other people. However, I want to at least give them all a chance, even if I decide partway through that they’re not for me. You can click here to see my list of books I want to read, courtesy of YOU.

*by “goal,” I mean I really want to try.  I’m not going to freak out if  I don’t finish the whole list, but I bet I get a lot more read this year just by trying.

Do you have any must-reads to add to the list that you’ve read in the last year?  Keep in mind my picky criteria:  I’m kind of a book prude (hate blatant sexuality, especially sexual violence, or casual coming-of-age experimentation, as well as child abuse or crass language) and I try to steer clear of dark, brooding, or depressing literature (Seriously, I get discouraged for days just from reading sad news headlines).

Favorite Christmas Books for Families (including a giveaway)

I hope this doesn’t count as playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  I just want to give you some great ideas so you can get a jump start on the holiday season.  We love to read around here anyway, but come Christmas time, I hit the library and clean them out of nativity-related stories (I know, I’m selfish).  We also own several that we love to read every year.  I keep a basket full of Christmas books by the fireplace, and send my children there anytime I want them to settle down.  We all cuddle on the couch and read stories for a while, and we usually read several stories at bedtime as well.  Here are some of our favorites:  (I got the pictures from Amazon.com)

What is Christmas? by Michele Medlock Adams is a sweet rhyming book that talks about the true meaning of the day.

The Donkey’s Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri:  I love this one about how Jesus loves us all just as we are.

The Fourth Wise Man by Susan Summers and Jackie Morris: You might have to tell it in simpler words to the youngest children, but the story and pictures are beautiful.  (Incidentally, I watched the movie “The Fourth Wise Man” at a zone conference on my mission and it fast became a holiday favorite for me.  I really recommend it as a great Christmas movie to watch with your family.)
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson.  This is one of my favorite stories about a mouse whose selfish ways turn around when the real story of Christmas changes his heart. So sweet.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas is by the same author,but this one doesn’t count for the nativity-type.  The rhyming text is just whimsical, the story is cute, and my kids love it.

my very first Christmas Story: a very simple board book that tells the true story of Christmas with cute pictures

The Shepherd Boy’s Story: another cute Christmas story board book that encourages children to tell others about Jesus.



The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is an excellent read-aloud about some rotten kids from a troubled family who forced their way into roles in the local Christmas play.  Your children will love reading about all their mischievous antics, and I’ll be surprised if you can read about the actual performance without tearing up.  It’s a great story about the goodness in all of us, even where we least expect it.

Okay, so technically this is not a book. Classic Holiday Stories is a Disney DVD.  I like to read my children some kid-friendly version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or maybe the original text this year. This DVD has the Disney cartoon, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which I think is cute and my boys really liked it last year. It will be fun to watch it again after reading the story.

Finally, I recieved this book as a gift from Jana Parkin (a.k.a. Charette in the blogging world) a few weeks ago.  It is called What Think Ye of Christmas? by Ester Rasband. 

Jana did all the artwork for the book in beautiful watercolor paintings.  It is really a lovely book that explains the Christian message behind all the symbols of Christmas time.  It helps you to find and recognize Christ even amidst a commercial wonderland.  “All things bear record of Him.” It encourages you to live out that Spirit of Christ as you celebrate the holiday.  And Jana’s paintings are so masterful and charming.  We went out to lunch the day she gave me the book as a gift, and after I took it home and read through it, I wished I had kidnapped her to come home with me and paint something beautiful like that on my walls.  Would you like to win a free copy of “What Think Ye of Christmas?” Anyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a drawing for this fantastic Christmas book, courtesy of the artist herself.  For anyone who would like to purchase copies as gifts, you can do so here (you can find a discount code on Jana’s blog).  Drawing will be open through Thanksgiving Day.

Do you have any favorite Christmas books in your family?

Seize the day.

I’m staying at my parents’ house for a few weeks in an attempt to keep my own house clean for longer than 3 or 4 hours while it’s on the market.  The good news is that we’ve had several showings in the first week.  The bad news is that the real estate market bites right now if you’re a seller. (Read:  everyone who’s buying a house thinks you should sell it to them for $1.99.)

On the 1,100 mile drive down, I somehow managed to read a book.  (I also managed to get a raw spot on my neck where the seatbelt rubbed it 100 times from turning around to solve a problem, hand out snacks, or pick up dropped items.)  I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which has apparently sold millions of copies worldwide and been life-changing for many people.  It was a very nice story, and I applaud any book that makes its point without resorting to trashy subplots, but I didn’t find it excessively inspirational.  Perhaps that’s because it felt like a lot of philosophical embellishment about simple principles that I already believe to be true. It reminded me a lot of the French novel The Little Prince, only less cheesy. So, while I didn’t love, love, love the book like many people seem to do, I did like it.  There were a couple of quotes from the book that were stand-outs for me, maybe just for where I am right now, but I thought I’d share:

“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.”

Isn’t that a lovely way to say Carpe Diem?

So, I’ve been trying hard to just live more in the moments of each day and to do things like play games with my children and not wish they were over so I could do something else.  (What? You don’t do that?)  Here are a few other thoughts I love about the right way to live in the moment:

“The past of each of us is now inflexible. We need to concentrate on what has been called “the holy present,” for now is sacred; we never really live in the future. The holy gift of life always takes the form of now.” ~Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“You have “today” within your grasp. But unless you “seize” it, it will slip through your fingers like quicksilver and be gone. Oh, certainly, the sun will come up each morning throughout your life, and each day will present an opportunity of sorts for good works and happiness. But no other “today” will ever again be quite like the one that is now in your grasp.” ~Elder Lance B. Wickman

“Learn the true value of time. Seize, snatch, and enjoy every minute of it, for it is limited unto each individual. Live today! Jesus pointed the way when he said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” (Matt. 6:34.) We must resolve to live one day at a time, and live that one day to the full. Resolve also that we will extract from every experience of this day something that will make us wiser, happier, more efficient.” ~ Elder Hugh B. Brown

So what about you?  What good things came with the sunrise this morning?

Book report

I wrote a post about a month ago declaring my rediscovered loved for reading and asking for your recommendations.  Since I have the coolest little group of readers ever, your response was phenomenal.  So, here’s my report.

Since then, I finished reading:

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, which I liked more than I thought I would, but would have appreciated a less detailed description of some things, one in particular.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  I 90% loved this book, but it makes me feel yucky inside when people swear at children, and the narrative voice felt forced to me.  I loved the overall character development and the historical setting.

Mother Teresa:  A Complete Authorized Biography by Kathryn Spink, which I actually still haven’t quite finished and I’m not sure I will.  M.T. did and said so many amazing things, but the book is very slow moving and spends way too much time on her organizations and their administrative details.  I find myself scanning to find more about her and the details of her daily life.

I went to the library and checked out these books, which are currently on my nightstand: Continue reading

Let’s talk about books, baby. Let’s talk about you and me…

The title of this post is inspired by a popular song in the 90s that my roommates and I might have been blasting loudly through our open windows once when our home teachers arrived.  Ahem.  Where’s that stupid life eraser when you need it?

Anyway,

Books.

Only in the past year have I begun to read books again.  I have a college minor in English Teaching, people, and for the last 7 years, I have stumbled through an almost completely bookless fog of raising little children.  If you are currently in that fog and long to read something besides Maisy goes to the Hospital or the nutritional information on a box of Fruit Loops, you are normal.  And I promise you that the time when you and your brain become reacquainted is not as far, far away as it seems.

So my brain and I have begun a new quest for literature.  Toward the end of 2009, I read The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society.  Lots of people had mentioned it on their blogs, so I got curious enough to try it out, and I really liked it.  I also read Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons because I eventually want to read The DaVinci Code and I had heard that A&D was the prequel.  (By the way, I saw the movie after I read the book and there were some MAJOR plot deviations that bugged me.)  Despite that fact that I’ve seen all the Jane Austen movies several times, I had not read any of the books, except for one back in 2003 when I went on a cruise.  So last month, I read all three favorites:  Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.  Loved them, of course.  Somewhere in there, I also read The Journal of Curious Letters, book one in a trilogy called The 13th Reality by James Dashner.  I have to admit that young adult sci-fi is not usually my genre of choice, but I figured that since the author took me to Homecoming in high school, I ought to give it a try.  It was pretty darn good, and I think any of your kids that liked Harry Potter would like James’ series.

Let’s see, what else?  (Be right back, I’m going to check Goodreads.com.)  Oh that’s right.  I started Wuthering Heights but didn’t really like it so I didn’t finish.  Is that bad?  I loved, loved, loved Jane Eyre.  It was the first one I read on my return to literature.  I couldn’t believe I’d never read it before.  Matt recently read The Undaunted by Gerald Lund and thinks I’ll like it.  I just finished Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl and right now I’m reading the “authorized” biography of Mother Teresa.

Here’s my current “Books I want to read list.”  There are so many that I feel like I should have read AGES ago but I never have yet:

John Adams (Paperback) by David McCullough John Adams (Paperback)
The Hiding Place (Mass Market Paperback) by Corrie Ten Boom The Hiding Place (Mass Market Paperback)
With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln (Paperback) by Stephen B. Oates With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln (Paperback)
Man's Search for Meaning (Mass Market Paperback) by Viktor E. Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning (Mass Market Paperback)
Les Misérables (Penguin Classics) by Victor Hugo Les Misérables (Penguin Classics)

So, help me out, O wise readers, and build my request list at the library.  Please.  (I almost forgot my manners.)

1.  What books have you always wanted to read and never have?

2.  Out of all your reading, if you could give me one or two must-reads, what would they be?

3.  I’m not in the mood for dark, depressing stuff.  (This is also why I never finished Crime and Punishment.)  I can appreciate it sometimes, but lately I’m in the mood for inspirational literature.  What’s been one of your favorite inspiring books?

And if you read any LDS literature, do me a favor and fill out this quick survey for my author friend, Rebecca Irvine.  It’s only 8 questions and helps her with some market research.

Thanks!  I can’t wait to see your recommendations.

p.s.  I am kind of a book prude, so show a tiny bit of restraint in your suggestions.  If the book cover looks anything like this, consider me uninterested.  (Sorry, Kristina and DeNae. *wink*)

Getting it right

Alright, there are plenty of things I mess up.  I’m not the most patient mother in the world, I’m always running late and forgetting things, and even Matt admits I’m no laundry maven, and well, let’s face it, that list could go on and on.  But I would like to focus on the positive here and publicly declare that there is one thing I do right:

Books.

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I read to my kids.  A lot.  It’s the one area I spoil them in and don’t feel guilt about it.  Holiday gifts always include books.  I’m also a sucker for book orders from school.  I love that their rooms have shelves full of books that are theirs to keep and read whenever they want.  We go to the library (almost) every Monday and they check out more books.  (Due to my skill of running late and forgetting things, I also pay enough fines every few months to keep most of the library workers employed.)

And you know what?  My kids love to read now.  Grant has started trying to read chapter books, and Clark reads so well that, despite being 4 1/2, he helps Grant with the hard words like “information,” “Philistines,” and “chrysanthemum.”  Even Natalie prefers to read books on her own than be read to.  She’ll sit down, turn the pages, look at the pictures, and narrate the story by herself, making it up as she goes along.  And if I try to get them to go to bed without reading them a scripture story, they won’t let me get away with it.

I don’t usually brag.  Hopefully my readers know that.  But this is one thing I’ve done right.  And I would now like to confess that my motivation is mostly selfish.  Consider the following:

  1. When my kids are out-of-control hyper, I know I can settle them down if I offer to read them stories.  They cuddle and listen quietly.
  2. The library is a free outing that also requires a certain level of quiet.
  3. They almost always bring a book with them when we go anywhere in the car.  Translation:  quiet.
  4. Now that they are “independent” readers, I start getting them ready an hour before bedtime and then let them have reading time until lights out.  Again, extra quiet time for me.  Books are awesome.

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So I’m curious, what’s something you do right?  Give yourself a little credit.

And p.s.  I am loving the General Conference book club.  You guys have made the greatest comments already and it’s not even halfway through the week.  Remember that you can click on the reply button under any comment if you want to respond directly to someone else’s comment.  And though many people have written long, awesome commentaries, yours can be as “small and simple” as you want.  There are no rules and I love just knowing that people are reading.  It seriously made me feel connected to a bunch of strangers to know that we’re all studying the same thing together and collectively getting inspired and motivated.  Awesome, ladies, keep it up!