Thursday, December 8, 2016

On the Bookshelf: A Multitude of Random Books

I suppose this post could also be titled, "This is what teething does to me." My little guy has been very chompy, very drooly, and has bouts of crankiness. For many afternoons, over the past several weeks, he is happiest if he's nursing and/or snoozing in my lap. So, I've been unable to blog, but I have been reading quite a bit-and I've enjoyed a variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Let's talk literature! 

The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery. This small book is a delightful gem. It follows Valancy, a woman seen as an old maid by her clannish relatives. One day, Valancy realizes that she wants a chance to really live before she dies. So, she takes matters into her own hands and her life is changed forever. I loved this book. I love the character of Valancy, and how she grows and changes. I love how this story follows a couple after they get married (too often, stories end once two people get married). I recommend this book to teens and adults who like a sweet romance story, or who were disappointed in the way that Anne and Gil's relationship falls flat in the later books of the Anne of Green Gables series.

Minding the Manor, by Mollie Moran. This is the delightful memoir of Mollie, a woman who became a scullery maid in England in the 1930s. It follows her escapades as she learns the ropes of being a scullery maid and works her way up the ranks. It was so much fun to read this. It was a bit Downton Abbey-esque, and each chapter ended with a recipe and household tip that Mollie learned during her years of domestic service. One of the aspects I really enjoyed about this book was that it at publication, Mollie was a vibrant 97-year-old, so she gives a fascinating perspective in the book-talking about how things were then as opposed to how they are now. This book provides an awesome look at life in the domestic service, as well as what it was like to live through two world wars and have life turned completely topsy-turvy. I recommend it for teens and adults!

Something Other than God, by Jennifer Fulwiler. I've known about Jennifer Fulwiler for quite some time, but I've never known much about her story-except that it involved her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. I loved this book for a variety of reasons: her conversion story is fascinating, her writing style is so engaging and entertaining, her life in general is awesome, and I thought it was cool to see what kinds of evangelization did and did not work when people tried to bring the young atheist Jennifer to God. I highly recommend this book! 

Forming Intentional Disciples, by Sherry Weddell. This book begins with sobering numbers and statistics about people who fall away from the Faith. Then, it dives into the ways in which we can form intentional disciples. Not just getting people's backsides into church pews, but actually helping them choose to be disciples. The book presented startling studies and anecdotes about active Catholics (regularly attend Mass, volunteer at their parishes, etc.) who-upon being asked-confessed that they didn't really know Jesus or trust Him. Isn't this sad??? Sherry Weddell thinks so, too, and she spends the bulk of the book discussing ways to choose Christ and help others reach that point of commitment. I thought it was very enlightening, and really interesting. 

Drinking Water, by James Salzman. I'm fairly obsessed with consuming a lot of water each day, so when I saw this book on the library shelf, I knew I had to read it. Salzman runs through the history of drinking water-from aqueducts to modern water systems-and it's quite fascinating. He also discusses the various controversies that surround drinking water, like "how much arsenic is acceptable to consume?" or, "should water be something that we turn into a commodity and sell, or should it always be available to anyone, as a basic human right?" I thought the author did a fairly good job at objectively presenting various sides to arguments, which was nice. The one element I could have done without in this book was when he went on an anti-Lourdes tangent, but that was such a small section of an initial chapter, it did not sour the whole book. I recommend this book-it will cause you to never look at water (bottled or tap) the same way again. 

Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones. This is a fictional book about people stuck on their island, which is devastated by war. The lone white man, Mr. Watts, becomes the schoolteacher of the children, and together, the community faces the future. I was not a huge fan of this book; the only character I admired, it turned out, wasn't that great of a person after all. I get that war makes moral choices seem more complicated, but it was really sad to me that so many characters chose the path of lying, betrayal, etc. That being said, there was an element to this book which I loved: Mr. Watts, as the teacher, only has one book on hand to teach the children from--Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. With this one book, he teaches the students to fall in love with Dickens, and to use their imaginations to see Dickens' novel in all aspects of their daily lives. It made me want to stop thinking about the quantity of books I read, but to instead focus on a few good books, and really committing the words and phrases to my mind and heart.

The American Plate, by Libby O'Connell. This book is comprised of several "bites" of information that delve into the history of different foods in America. I liked that each of these "bites" was written as its own short, independent chapter, so you could bounce around. In full disclosure, this book was large and due at the library, so I didn't finish reading it, but what I did read was very interesting! Sprinkled throughout are some recipes to accompany the different periods in American history, like a recipe for beaver tail. The one element that confused me and felt slightly weird was that, while the book read like a scholarly historical book, there were times when the author would start jumping into first person-but the  book wasn't set up like a memoir, so this just felt strange. Otherwise, I liked this book. 

The Bag Lady Papers, by Alexandra Penney. Alexandra Penney was preparing her fancy tableware and appetizers for an evening of entertaining her friends when she heard the news: Bernard Madoff was arrested. Since all of her money was invested with him, Penney experienced losing everything. For much of her life, Penney's great fear was that she'd become a homeless bag lady. Thanks to her friends and some hard work, she didn't become homeless, but she did experience a huge amount of change and hardship as she struggled to put her life together. I enjoyed parts of this book (seeing how her life was impacted, how Penney learned to enjoy simple pleasures when her money was gone), but there were some sexual references of which I was not a fan (I skipped paragraphs here and there, even a whole chapter once), and I probably wouldn't re-read this book.  But, it was still interesting! 

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind, by Dana White. It is no exaggeration to say that this book has changed my life. I picked it up from the library because it had a fun cover, great title, and I've never read a book on housekeeping-so why not? I've always thought of myself as a rather organized, tidy person, but as I read this book and glanced over at my overflowing sink, huge pile of recycling, and very scary closet, I realized that there are plenty of ways in which I can change for the better. What I love about this book is that Dana White (a self-proclaimed "slob") focuses on building good habits. I don't know about you, but when I think of managing a home or cleaning house, I automatically think of decluttering. Incidentally, White doesn't even discuss decluttering until the end of the book. Instead, she talks about ways that we can all form important housekeeping habits, like washing the dishes and sweeping the floors every day. I have been implementing a lot of White's ideas for one full week now, and you know what? My kitchen is consistently cleaner than ever before (yet I've spent barely any time cleaning in it) and the whole environment around my home is so much more peaceful. This book has transformed my entire perspective on housekeeping, and I cannot recommend it enough. She mentions that this book isn't for everyone (because some people aren't slobs and totally have nailed the housekeeping thing), but I would actually recommend reading this book even if you don't need it, because it can help you understand how the Slob Mindset works, so that you can better understand other people. If you prefer looking up information on the internet, you could check out the author's website (which has podcasts and quite a few articles on topics that she discusses in her book): A Slob Comes Clean.

All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot. How have I never read this book? James Herriot is so famous, and it wasn't until one of my dearest friends told me about this book that I picked it up. I loved this memoir of Herriot's adventures as a vet, and I really enjoyed reading about all of the colorful people he met along the way. The life of a vet is never dull, and this book really helped me appreciate the noble job that people undertake when they care for animals! I highly recommend this book.

The Religious Potential of the Child, by Sofia Cavalletti. I read this book at the recommendation of some friends who are very involved in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. Since I love that program (I hope to send our child to it some day, and I have a brother who did it when he was young), I was really excited for this book. It was so interesting, and I really enjoyed how Cavalletti discussed-using research and anecdotes-the natural desire for God that young children have. She goes through the ways in which Catechesis of the Good Shepherd helps children experience God in the Scripture and liturgy.  This book is a bit heavy with some of the research and psychology, so it's not very approachable for some people, but I still really loved it. In fact, as I read it, I desperately wanted to go back in time and re-teach every religious education class I've ever taught! 

The Sinner's Guide to NFP, by Simcha Fisher. This is a delightful little book of essays that Simcha Fisher wrote pertaining to NFP, and specifically about couples using NFP to space or achieve pregnancies. Parts were funny, many parts were insightful, and I really loved how she discussed the ways in which NFP forces us to see how selfish we can be, and how it calls us to greater sacrifice. I definitely recommend this book to married couples! 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about these books! If you have any recommendations for me, please let me know-as you can see, I love literature a lot :) I hope that you all have a wonderful day! 


  1. Those first two books sound right up my alley! Thank you for blogging this. I love book reviews! Also don't judge me but I've never read the whole Anne of Green Gables series, but that was my plan this winter. ANNE AND GIL DONT MAKE IT?! WHAT?!?!

  2. I have a boxed set of James Herriot books and I have to re-read them at various times. Considering that I don't like animals as a general rule and I don't like anything medical, either, that says a lot about his charm and skill as a writer! :)

  3. I loved the Blue Castle! But what do you mean disappointed in Anne and Gilbert's relationship falling flat in the later books? I always loved the two of them!

  4. I always read the most when I have a nursing baby for the same reason. Until this time when I had a smartphone. Technology really does make you dumber.