Thursday, March 9, 2017

On the Bookshelf: Books, books, and more books

Friends! Hello! So, it's time for some discussion of literature. I've been meaning to update y'all about what I've been reading for days, but life has been full, blogging time has not come around that often, and our internet is lousy. Oh, and I keep reading books that I then decide I need to include in this post. SO, there's lots of books mentioned on this post. Some tear-jerking nonfiction, some unemotional nonfiction (unless you get emotional about rock gardening? I won't judge if you do!), and some fiction to round things out. Because there are just so many books here, and it would take me a long time to ramble about each one, I'm gonna keep my thoughts about them short and sweet. Anyways, let's talk literature! 

Beautiful Eyes: A Father Transformed, by Paul Austin. When Paul's wife gave birth to their beautiful daughter,they discovered that she had Down Syndrome. He honestly discusses the shock he experienced and the disillusionment he felt when they had this revelation, and his journey of fatherhood and learning to love his daughter deeply. I loved how honest and raw this story was. It was uncomfortable to read about abortion in a manner which makes it seem "normal," and it was so sad to read the facts the author included about the large percentage of kids with Down Syndrome who are aborted. Overall, this was a beautiful, thought-provoking read, and I liked all the historical tidbits that the author included as well! 

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. This book is massive, and such a great resource on infant/child sleep. I only read a few relevant sections, but I appreciated how in those sections, different techniques and perspectives were given, so that parents could adapt the ideas to their situation. I recommend it! (and since reading it, our son has started sleeping way better-aside from a little regression last week-and has a much earlier "normal" bedtime now. So good!)

The rhino with glue-on shoes, edited by Lucy H. Spelman and Ted Y. Mashima. This is an awesome anthology of stories about zoo veterinarians and their diverse work. Have you ever thought much about zoo vets and the intense work that they do? I hadn't really thought too much about it, so I found this book absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend it! 

Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia. This is a cookbook, and what I love about it is that it is tailored to (you guessed it) freezer cooking! There are sections in the front of the book to describe different methods of freezing food, buying food in bulk, and freezer-cooking with friends. There's a large assortment of recipes and the ingredient measurements are given for 1x, 3x, and 9x batches on most recipes, which is super helpful, since it means I don't have to do the math to multiply a recipe. We pulled the honey pork chops out of our freezer the other day, and they were delicious! 

Rock Gardening, by Joseph Tychonievich. I have a special talent with killing plants, so when I saw the word "rock," my first thought was "I can't kill rocks, can I?" I learned, upon reading this book, that yes, rock gardening involves rocks, but it also involves plants. BUT some of these plants are apparently hard to kill. And after looking at the gorgeous pictures in this book, I determined that someday, I'd love to try growing some polygala calcarea or sempervivums.

Skillet Meals, Better Homes and Gardens. I got my first-ever cast iron skillet for my birthday, so I was so excited to read through this cookbook! It had a nice assortment of different recipes for the cast iron skillet, and we ate the lentil burgers on Ash Wednesday and they were so good. I really want an excuse to make the skillet cookie now. 

Under Our Skin, by Benjamin Watson. WOW, this book was so amazing!!! I loved how honest, open, and understanding Benjamin Watson's discussion of racism was in this book. I loved how he didn't just blame white people for all the problems that exist (when people do that, I think it just adds to divisive attitudes), but instead called out all people, white and colored, to work together for greater unity, respect, and understanding. I highly, highly recommend this book. 

The Grantchester Mysteries, Volumes 1-4, by James Runcie. These books follow the adventures and misadventures of Anglican clergyman (and part-time detective) Sidney Chambers in post-WWII England (so they call to mind Chesterton's Father Brown stories). I loved the writing style and all of the delightful characters, I loved reading about Sidney's romance, and I enjoyed seeing him continually grapple with the issue of "how so I live out my vocation as a priest and a husband/father and a detective?" (it's a really interesting ongoing conversation he has with himself in the books) Each volume is 6 interconnected-ish mysteries, and some of the mysteries were great, while others were skippable (in my opinion) because of some sexual content that I wasn't a fan of. These were pretty fun light reading, and I recommend them!

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck, PhD. This book has changed my life and perspective so profoundly, and I wish I would have read it years ago (especially during high school/before college), but I'm glad that I read it now at least! The whole book is a discussion of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset, and how the mindsets impact people in the business world, teachers, students, parents, relationships, etc. When I picked up this book, I had thoughts of "Well, I think I'm really good at keeping an open mind and growth mindset, but hopefully this book will help me understand those Poor Fixed Mindset People I encounter." (I know, it's horrible, but I just have to be honest here) WELL, the more I read this book, the more I realized that when the fixed mindset was discussed, it was describing ME so well, and it was kind of terrifying and extremely illuminating. I cannot recommend this book enough. Everyone needs to either read it or get a good education in the mindsets and start cultivating a culture and language of "growth mindset" instead of all the "fixed mindset."

Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays. This is a little witty book all about funeral advice and recipes from some Southern ladies. It's part (somewhat) irreverent commentary on death/dying/funerals, part delicious food, and part Southern charm. I wouldn't recommend it if you actually are planning a funeral for a family, but if you want a lighthearted read that's in the vein of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One, then pick this book up. 

I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai. I've been meaning to read this book for the longest time, and I'm so glad that I finally did! Reading Malala's story about her life in the Middle East was so eye-opening. It showed me that the fight for education (especially females' education) is ongoing and vastly important, and it really showed me that the political situation in the Middle East is way more complicated and tricky to navigate than I thought. I highly, highly recommend this book! 

Arsenic with Austen, by Katherine Bolger Hyde.
 This is a cute murder-mystery story which features a widowed English professor as the protagonist. I loved that the female lead was on the older side of middle age, because that perspective doesn't seem to be given as often in romance stories. Anyways, this was a charming, sort of Hallmarkyish story about a small town fighting those who want Big Bad Development, a cute romance, and literature. It was a fun read that I recommend!

Paris is Always a Good Idea, by Nocolas Barreau. I picked up this book because of the title-when is Paris not a good idea? (granted, there was that one time I was in Paris and was being a complete drama queen about something and was having a tough day, but it was still good to be in Paris) A young illustrator who owns a postcard shop, an old man who writes children's books, and a young man from America all become intertwined in a sweet (though somewhat predictable because it is a little Hallmarkish) story about life, love, secrets, and children's stories. I'm usually a little cautious when picking up fiction that has a romance story because I don't want to be hit with tons of sex content, but aside from 2 or 3 easily skippable sex scenes, there wasn't that much content-wise to worry about. It was another fun light read! 

Sewing Hope, by Reggie Whitten and Nancy Henderson. This is the story of Sister Rosemary, a religious sister who ministers to women in Uganda, many of them victims of Joseph Kony. The story of Sister Rosemary's life, and how she came to serve and help these women, is incredible and so moving. I highly recommend this book!!!! You can also find out more at Sewing Hope, where you can also buy some of the handbags that the women in Uganda make! 

Amy's Bread, by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree. This is a really interesting cookbook all about bread, featuring a bakery in New York City. It is very thorough with diagrams and pictures to show different ways to knead and shape bread, and tons of recipes for different varieties of bread are included in this. I'm going to make one of the breads (a white pan loaf) sometime this Lent, and I'm pretty excited! Though, since this cookbook focuses on the breads made at the bakery, some of the supplies and ingredients are things which I, being a very amateur baker, don't have on hand regularly, so most of the recipes aren't very practical for me to try. But it was still fun to look through the book! 

The Children of Hurin, by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien. If I'm understanding the family tree correctly, Turin, the son of Hurin, is a distant relative of Elrond. And this story is about Turin and his life and the various adventures and tragedies that befall him. Parts of this story felt very Greek Tragedy-ish, and it was very well-written, beautiful, and sad. And it's Tolkien, so what's not to love? I highly recommend it! 

As you can see, I've been reading lots (I actually am starting my next list of books for a future On the Bookshelf post) and I love a variety of books! If any of you have recommendations, please send them my way :) 


  1. Okay, I am very intrigued by the funeral 'advice' book...although my knowledge of Southern culture may be slightly lacking...

  2. Great suggestions! We just got a cast iron skillet last weekend so I will definitely be checking out that book! And the one about zoo vets sounds fascinating!