Archive for the ‘What’s on Your Nightstand?’ Category

Nightstand (January 2018)

January 31st, 2018

I’m late to the party for this month’s nightstand – and nearly all my books were actual read LAST MONTH. I’d checked them out of the library thinking I might have time to read while breastfeeding, but then I ended up reading them during that interminably long 2 week period between Beth-Ellen’s due date and when she actually showed up. Breastfeeding time has indeed ended up being quite fruitful on the reading front, but the reading has been almost entirely picture books. Tirzah Mae and Louis and I snuggle up and read five or ten or twenty picture books each day while I breastfeed Beth-Ellen (which is wonderful, but not so impressive for my nightstands :-P)

Books for Growing

  • Honey for a Woman’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
    It’s hard to categorize a book on books, but I’m going to call this one a book for growing. Hunt gives an apologetic for reading (and reading a variety of genres), but the real strength of this book is the mini-reviews on every page. I added quite a few books to my TBR list, particularly in the “Books for Seeing” (the world clearly) and “Books for Enjoying” categories – two categories that I often find myself struggling in (because I either get lost in fiction and feel it not particularly worth the time once I’m done or I get slogged down in “literary” reading that doesn’t fit well with my stage of life as a mother of very young children.)

Books for Knowing

  • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
    A fascinating look at the massive secret city built practically from scratch to enrich uranium for the original atomic bomb. As the title suggests, this is primarily a look at the women who traveled from near and far to live in and staff this giant government undertaking. I put this on my “To Be Read” list way back in 2015 after reading Susan’s review – but once I started it, I just devoured it. It’s an excellent story, well-told. Take a look at Barbara H’s review for a more fleshed-out description of the story.

Books for Enjoying

  • Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway
    I read this based on Barbara H’s review and was so glad I did. Ms. Hathaway manages to avoid the twin pitfalls adaptations of great literature often fall into: either slavishly following the original story such that the adaptation adds nothing or taking such liberties with the storyline and characters that one can only wonder whether the author of the adaptation cares anything for the original work. Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits pays clear homage to Jane Austen’s work while managing to be unique. I also appreciated how the author has the main character, Shelby, (who is a Christian) act Christianly. Shelby prays for wisdom (or, just as often, for forgiveness when she acts unwisely), relates her life circumstances to things she’s reading in the Bible, and wonders about God’s purpose in things. The characterization was authentic without being preachy, something I don’t often see. I am greatly looking forward to reading more of Ms. Hathaway’s Austen adaptations.


  • All Natural by Nathanael Johnson
    I couldn’t figure out how to categorize this book. The subtitle “A skeptic’s quest to discover if the natural approach to diet, childbirth, healing, and the environment really keeps us healthier and happier” made me think this would fit my “books for knowing” category. But, given that this was published by Rodale, I should perhaps have had a clue that the author is less skeptical than the cover would suggest – and that the content would be less science-based than I’d have liked. It was enjoyable to read about Johnson’s exploration of the “natural” arguments and the “technological” arguments on a variety of issues, but the book was long on feelings and short on evidence.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Nightstand (October 2017)

October 31st, 2017

3 years (and 3 days) ago, I wrote my Nightstand post from a hospital bed while trying to stay pregnant as long as possible.

Today, I write celebrating Tirzah Mae’s third birthday – and our longest healthy pregnancy yet.

My reading life has undergone some pretty significant changes in the past three years – but I’m still reading (even if it’s mostly picture books that aren’t listed here!)

Books for Growing:

  • Learning to Talk by James Christopher Law
    Part of the “Johnson’s Everyday Babycare” series by Dorling Kindersley, this short glossy book describes normal speech development in infants and children and how parents can facilitate healthy language development. Nothing groundbreaking, but I think it’s still a helpful resource for parents who are wondering “is my child normal?” and “am I doing what I should do?”
  • Free to Learn by Lynne Oldfield
    An introduction to the Steiner Waldorf model of early childhood education – a model that focuses on free play (without trying to force “education”), encounters with nature,
    and regular rhythms of life. I found Steiner’s discussion of rhythms to be particularly helpful in organizing my family’s daily routines. This book by Oldfield is a nice introduction to the method.

Books for Knowing:

  • North America’s Favorite Butterflies: A Pictorial Guide by Patti and Milt Putnam
    We picked this up while I was browsing the adult nonfiction stacks because it fits Tirzah Mae’s exacting criterion for titles meant for grown-ups: it is small and it has an orange cover. But unlike the many such books we have brought home from the library, this one managed to sustain both Tirzah Mae AND her mother’s attention throughout the entire 3 month checkout period. We’ve spent many an afternoon poring over the full-color photographs of butterflies and reading the accompanying text describing a bit of the behavior or habitat or habits of that butterfly.

Books for Enjoying:

  • Big Appetites by Christopher Boffoli
    Another book that fit Tirzah Mae’s criteria for checking out, this particular title is a series of photos of tiny toy people set amongst larger-than-life food. Each photo is accompanied by a title and a wry subtitle. So a picture of tiny men pushing around cherries and pitting them is titled “Cherry Pitters”, with the subtitle “The team was driven by their desire to negate years of PR damage from cherry-flavored medicines.” Moderately amusing.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Nightstand (September 2017)

September 25th, 2017

My busy summer is apparently not quite over – at least not as far as reading goes. Between starting “school” with Tirzah Mae (which means LOTS of picture books, but not a whole lot of grown-up reading), trying to put extra meals in the freezer (at least a couple a week), weeding the gravel driveway (possibly a fool’s errand, but we’d rather not spray more than we need to), canning applesauce, and attempting to get that porch railing done before the baby comes… Well, I haven’t finished much reading this month. In fact, I’ve only finished TWO books!

Finished this month:

  • The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
    I checked this memoir out of the library because it was in the pregnancy/birth section and I’ve read all the clinical and “how-to” stuff in that section. I figured since I haven’t done any pregnancy reading this pregnancy, maybe I’d glean something from the birth stories within. Turns out that wasn’t to be – there’s not near as much about pregnancy and birth as you’d expect from a book called The Midwife. But, this was a fascinating story nonetheless – a coming-of-age and coming-to-faith story of sorts. I enjoyed it greatly.
  • Keys to Toilet Training by Meg Zweiback
    At the point I checked this out of the library, I was starting to wonder if my “wait until she’s obviously ready” strategy for toilet training Tirzah Mae was going to backfire. Maybe I needed to step things up and get her trained before the baby comes. Turns out, the author of the “keys” is pretty into relaxed potty training herself – and I was about two chapters in when Tirzah Mae up and trained herself, with only minimal input from me. I finished the book, which I thought gave generally good advice (mostly consisting of “relax, give it time, keep at the gentle process”). Tirzah Mae asked me once what the book was about and I told her – and periodically since, she’s been asking if she could read “Keys to Potty Training” (of course, I let her!)

Tirzah Mae reading "Keys to Toilet Training"

Actively in Progress:

  • Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley
  • For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope
  • The Weekend Homesteader by Anna Hess

Passively in Progress:

  • Free to Learn by Lynne Oldfield
  • HypnoBirthing by Marie F. Mongan
  • Learning to Talk by James Christopher Law

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Postscript: For those wondering about my pregnancy – thank you so much for praying! We had a doctor’s appointment today and all is well so far. My blood pressure remains low, my weight gain is appropriate, and there’s no protein in my urine. Baby is quite active, with a good heartbeat and good uterine growth. Praise God! Please continue praying for health, yes, but also that we would have grace to trust God with the uncertainty that comes along with the last trimester for us.

Nightstand (June 2017)

June 27th, 2017

This month turned out to be a good month for reading, probably because I was exhausted enough that I let everything go to seed while I read (I did stop to change diapers and to heat up leftovers for the kids for lunch). I’m expecting that, as my energy returns (we’re definitely in the second trimester now, so any day now?), my reading will decrease but maybe my house will get a bit cleaner and my husband will be able to relax when he comes home from work instead of having to pitch in to clean the house, make dinner, etc. etc. Fingers crossed.

Fiction Read:

  • The Secret Warning by Franklin W. Dixon
    I picked up the 17th volume of the “Hardy Boys” series after a long break from the series (I read #11 in 2013). Fast-paced, formulaic, and a blast straight from my childhood :-)
  • The Tournament at Gorlan and
    The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan

    I thought about resisting the siren call of Flanagan’s prequel series to “The Ranger’s Apprentice” – and then succumbed. I was not disappointed with the first two books of this series.
  • The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
    Unlike many of Heyer’s novels, this book is not set in the Regency period. Rather, it is set around the time of the Jacobite rebellions in the 18th century. A brother and sister pair travel to London, intending to lie low as they await their father’s arrival. All three had participated in one of the recent rebellions (at the behest of the rather flamboyant father), and the young people are eager for respectability and to escape notice. To this end, they each masquerade as the opposite sex, the son being rather excepionally short and the daughter rather exceptionally tall. But their goal of respectability and escaping notice is rather quickly thrown to the side as they get embroiled in London society and each their own little love affair. An enjoyable read, although not my favorite Heyer title.
  • Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
    Orphaned young people head off to London to live, intending to set up a place for themselves despite their elderly guardian’s apparent distaste for the scheme (he’d told them by letter to stay put in the country.) But they’re in for a shock when they discover that their guardian is actually quite a bit younger than expected. As is often the case with Georgette Heyer’s novels, I enjoyed this romp through Regency high society.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
    Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

    I came down with a case of what I’m guessing was food poisoning that left me horizontal for several days, long enough to run out of library novels to read – so I started reading from my own collection. And, just like when I first read these books, I could barely put them down. This time, reading as a mother, I am absolutely baffled as to when I will think it’s appropriate to let my children read these (mostly given the moral ambiguity throughout – I may change my mind later but I’m less worried about the “tense scenes”.) I’d love to hear thoughts from moms who are ahead of me in the process :-)

Nonfiction Read:

  • Prenatal Tests: The Facts by Lachlan De Crespigny and Frank A. Chervenak
    This was the most difficult book I’ve read in a long time. de Crespigny and Chervenak take a highly clinical tone as they describe the various prenatal tests offered women. They discuss what each procedure is like, what the procedure tests for, risks and benefits of one test over another, and who is generally offered each test. That’s tough reading because of the tone, but what really makes this book difficult is the basic assumption behind the whole thing. The same calculus is offered on every page, for every test: what test should be done and when in order to ensure that you can kill the baby you don’t want without harming the baby should you decide you do want him. It’s tragic. I cried. A lot. I cry just thinking about it now.
  • The Complete Organic Pregnancy by Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu
    Are you terrified by potential toxins lurking everywhere? Are you convinced that pregnancy means you should quit absolutely everything and move to an organic cotton yurt in the middle of an organic pasture where you spend your day drinking filtered water and doing yoga (but not on one of those yucky plastic yoga mats)? Then this is the book for you. It’s a primer in just how dangerous absolutely everything on the face of the earth is. Really, it’s safer to just not get pregnant than to try to deal with all the potential dangers lurking in your office chair, your water bottle, your cosmetics, your local park, everywhere, really. (In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I think this particular book is worthless. Also, while I don’t necessarily think “natural” birth is for everyone – I’ve ended up with two c-sections with spinals despite hoping for a natural birth – I do find it interesting that a book that tells women to avoid absolutely everything during pregnancy due to the potential for minute amounts of chemicals to leach into the mother’s body and then make it to the baby suddenly switches gears when asked about, say, narcotic painkillers during delivery – we wouldn’t DREAM of telling you what to do, that’s a personal decision!)
  • The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
    A history of the London cholera outbreak of 1854 – and how a moonlighting epidemiologist and a curious curate tracked down the source of the spread: the Broad Street pump. Daniel and I listened to this in the car and enjoyed the history of the epidemic and of the two main characters. What we didn’t enjoy were the lengthy, repetitive monologues about the wonders of cities and the metropolitan world. We’re guessing that we might not have minded so much if we were reading silently, since we could have skimmed through the monotony of those passages. We also wished that the author could have chosen some word other than “sh*t” to indicate human excrement. Have mercy on us audiobook listeners who happen to listen with our children in tow! Thankfully, while the word appears several dozen times, it’s pretty much confined to the first chapter – so, if you plan on listening to this one, listen alone for that section!
  • Parkinson’s Disease and the Family by Nutan Sharma and Elaine Richman
    This “Harvard University Press Family Health Guide” is a general introduction to the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease, how disease progression is assessed, various treatments for Parkinson’s and issues affected individuals and their families experience. At just over 200 pages, this is not too long for the less-avid reader. As a health professional, I am ill-equipped to evaluate the readability of this book for a general audience; but I found it to be understandable and informative (as well as generally free of the “woo” that way too many “health” books for a general audience are prone to.) Recommended.
  • Stokes Bird Gardening Book: The Complete Guide to Creating a Bird-Friendly Habitat in Your Backyard by Donald and Lillian Stokes
    Helpful ideas for creating a bird garden. Based on the information from this book, I feel that I have a good idea of how to move forward in creating a bird-friendly habitat in our yard. My one complaint was that little information was given about areas of the country, growing zones, etc.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Reading Report (April and May)

June 1st, 2017

I haven’t been keeping my Nightstand posts up-to-date (or more, haven’t been posting them when it’s time), but I want to end April and May on a clean slate so that maybe I can pick things up again for June (hope springs eternal!)

So here’s [a little of] what I’ve read in April and May:

Gardening Books:

  • Starting from Seed by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
    This book focuses on the environmental impact of monocultures and sees starting from seed as a way of maintaining genetic diversity in the garden (and in our world.) As such, it spends a lot of time talking about how to obtain heirloom seeds, how to protect against unwanted hybridization, and how to collect your own seeds.
  • Seeds: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Successfully From Seed by Jekka McVicar
    The subtitle should be “the ultimate guide to successfully starting seeds”. This book has instructions for starting virtually any seed you can imagine for your garden or yard – but it doesn’t have much information on how to go about transplanting those seeds into their final locations, which I think is kinda important.
  • The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto
    A readable, if somewhat dated (published in 1993), introduction to growing fruit trees. The general growing and pruning instructions are applicable, but there are TONS more varieties and rootstocks available now than there were then.
  • The Gardener’s Peony by Martin Page
    Until I read this book, I had no idea that peonies were a collector’s item, something people get excited about like they do about roses or orchids. But there are hundreds of different cultivars of peonies and people do indeed go crazy over them. This book gives something of the history of peonies and has what seems like endless pages describing the history of various cultivars and their characteristics. In the last chapters, Page gives some advice on raising peonies and on selecting cultivars (which was really what I was looking for.) I think this is probably more a reference work for the serious gardener and enthusiast, not necessarily for a dabbler like me – but it was fun to go down the rabbit hole for a little while :-)

Relationship Books (Marriage, Parenting, etc):

  • Everyday Creative Play by Lisa R. Church
    Lots of the activities seem either seem “duh” obvious or overly didactic. But sometimes a reminder of those “duh” activities is worthwhile, so it wasn’t time completely wasted.
  • 150+ Screen-Free Activities For Kids by Asia Citro
    Lots of sensory activities – doughs and clays and oobleks and the like. Tirzah Mae had fun with whipped shampoo (colored baby shampoo whipped just like whipped cream or egg whites.) I’ll be checking this book out again sometime when I’m not in my first trimester of pregnancy and therefore have a little more energy for making sensory activities (for now, the kids are making do with playdough, baths, the sandbox, and the garden :-P)
  • Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower
    A fantastic book about sharing the gospel with children. Klumpenhower writes as a Bible teacher, but gives plenty of suggestions for parents and others who work with children. I reviewed this book here.
  • Success as a Foster Parent by the National Foster Parent Association with Rachel Greene Baldino
    I’ve finished this at last and consider it to be a great introduction to the process for someone who’s interested in fostering but who wants to learn a little about it before they start juggling schedules to actually get certified.
  • Your Time-Starved Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott
    A short, quick read about making time to invest in your marriage. I think if I’d read this six months ago, it would have been helpful; but we’d already started implementing many of the suggestions they made by the time I got around to reading this. I would recommend this, though, for couples who are feeling the crunch of busyness and who don’t really know what to do about it. Like I said, it’s a quick read and has some helpful suggestions.
  • The RoMANtic’s Guide by Michael Webb
    The “World’s Most Romantic Man” gives lots of romantic ideas. I thought it would be fun to get some ideas for how I can show Daniel love. Unfortunately, pretty much all the ideas involve ridiculous public displays of affection or spending money on trinkets and food. We are NOT trinket people. And heaven knows we don’t need more food. Basically, we’re just not the romantic types.

Miscellaneous Nonfiction:

  • The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth
    Part-journalism, part-memoir, this book tells the story of the Nordic (or Scandinavian, depending on how you decide to tell it) countries that so often lead those “quality of life” measures. Booth travels through each country one by one, telling personal stories, bits of history, and describing interviews with economists and politicians and the like. I found this an interesting read and fairly informative (according to Booth, the hygge everyone is talking about this year? it’s actually a stifling set of social conventions that forces one to avoid talking about anything controversial or unpleasant.) For the most part, I found each nation intriguing and different – until I got to Sweden, the most perfect of all the places. There the house of cards crashed. Booth describes a society where all one needs is to declare something modern for it to be accepted, a nation where government care frees one from dependence on anyone else (dependence upon a spouse, a parent, a child). He acts as though this is a utopia,
    but it sounds to me like the worst dystopia I can dream of. Some of the highest divorce rates in the world. The most senior adults (actually, most people altogether) living alone in the world. Eighty-two percent of children in full-time daycare by 6 months of age. Eugenics practiced unquestioningly until the 1970s. If this is happiness,
    I’ll opt for the less-happy (by whoever determines that) but more relational world I inhabit.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are Black by Tanner Colby
    The story of the origins and continued existence of segregation in four spheres of American life: schools, neighborhoods, the advertising/marketing industry, and churches.
    This has been on my TBR list forever based on Lisa’s recommendation and I’m SO glad I read it.
  • The Gluten Lie by Alan Levinovitz
    A look at the sociology of how diet fads, following a variety of fads through time. This was enlightening, interesting, and so good.
  • The Prairie Girl’s Guide to Life by Jennifer Worick
    Instructions for fifty “Little House”-inspired activities, most of which turned out to be… beauty potions (okay, lavender spritzer for your ironing, soap, face cream,
    etc) or terribly ordinary recipes (cherries canned in syrup, rhubarb pie, dandelion greens.) I would have rather learned to make my own sausage and cheese like ma did,
    or to braid a hat out of straw, or… well, any of those things Ma and Pa (or Mother and Father or Laura herself) did in the books. So I was a bit disappointed with this.
    Of the projects listed, I’d either already done them (pretty much all the cooking stuff, embroidery, crochet, quilting, etc.) or have little desire to do them since they aren’t really prairie skills anyway.

Miscellaneous Fiction:

  • The Lost Stories by John Flanagan
    A series of short stories (3-5 short chapters each) detailing some of the things that happened concurrent to or in between the previous books in the “Rangers Apprentice”
    series. I wish there were more of these because I found the short story aspect helpful in allowing me to enjoy fiction without neglecting my home and family.
  • The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
    I truly thought I was done with this series – but then the girls who babysat our kids during our foster care class told me that no, there really was a twelfth book. And,
    yes, there is indeed. This was a nice cap to the series, taking place a good fifteen or so years after the books before. I’m debating whether I want to read some of the related series’ (in order to close out this author before he writes too much more!) or if I want to take a break and focus on something else fiction-wise (it’s been a long time since I read any elementary or middle-grade fiction…)
  • Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer
    I always enjoy Heyer’s lighthearted Regency romances. And the “spinster takes on a runaway” plotline is rather a favorite of mine, so this was perfect for an escape when things got overwhelming (right after I wrote about how I’d found my rhythm – hah!)
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
    I read this 6-chapter-long novella after Amy wrote about it at Hope is the Word. She wrote that “it deals with the big questions of life in a way that is thought-provoking and sophisticated.” And, boy, does it ever. She forgot to mention that it’s also gut-wrenching. I should NOT have read the last chapter right before bed :-)

Nightstand (March 2017)

March 28th, 2017

This March has felt like what Almanzo describes springtime to be like in Farmer Boy: busy from dawn until dusk with no time to sit except to race down some food. I had 10 cubic yards of compost delivered earlier this month and it’s been busy shoveling and building and planting. An herb bed built and filled with compost (thanks to my mother-in-law for the help!), extra compost added to one of my raised beds, eleven trees planted. Raking the old dead grass off the “pasture” (actually the septic field).

When I have had opportunity to sit down, I have done some reading – but it’s almost entirely been children’s picture books read to Tirzah Mae and Louis. So I’ve got another spare list this month (lots of in-progress books, only two finished).

Books for Loving:

  • Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley (In Progress)
    I’ve gotten a few more chapters read in my church history studies – and am SO thankful that I scheduled myself a “catch up” month every fourth month. I’m going to need it (especially since every section gets longer!) I’m currently looking at the period between Constantine and the Middle Ages, a time ripe with creeds and controversies.
  • Getting to Know the Church Fathers by Bryan Litfin (In Progress)
    I’m clearly abusing my church library’s lack of fines for not returning books on time – I’ve checked this one out several times, and currently have it out over a month longer than the three week lending period. But as far as readable mini-biographies of the church fathers go, this is excellent. I’ve resolved to read the last three chapters this week so I can return it next Sunday. (End the abuse!)

Books for Growing:

  • Your Time-Starved Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott (In Progress)
    The Doctors Parrott make good on their promise of short, readable chapters. I can read a chapter in just 7 minutes (while doing something else, because I rarely simply read these days.) In some ways I think I started reading this just a moment too late, since Daniel and I had already come up with some action steps to deal with the “now that we have two kids, neither of whom sleep predictably, it feels like we never spend any time together-together” problem. But what they’ve said already has resonated with me – and I’m about to get into the nitty-gritty part, so I’m hopeful they’ll have some useful tips for making intentional time together.
  • Success as a Foster Parent by the National Foster Parent Association with Rachel Greene Baldino (In Progress)
    Reading this has slowed to a crawl thanks to all the reading and homework we have for our foster care class – but I’m glad for the start I had on this before our class, which has meant that our classwork is more familiar. This is a great introduction to the process for someone who’s interested in fostering but who wants to learn a little about it before they start juggling schedules to actually get certified.
  • Growing Family Fruit and Nut Trees by Marian Van Atta with Shirley Wagner (In Progress)
    We planted five apple trees this month and are hoping to have a plan for the rest of the orchard by fall so we can put everything else in first thing next spring. So I’m reading up on fruit trees. This particular book is somewhat dated but ended up being my first pick to read right through because it doesn’t attempt to be comprehensive, which means that it’s quite easy to read. I read the first hundred pages in moments snatched here and there the day we planted our apple trees (read: when going to the bathroom or taking a break to breastfeed Louis). The remaining 20 pages are waiting for…someday soon, probably. One of the most interesting features of this book is that the author writes from Florida, so she discusses plenty of trees I’d never thought of planting. I spent my early teen years reading homestead memoirs from back-to-the-land folks in Maine and envied their ability to grow their own maple syrup. Now I’ve had a chance to envy Ms. Van Atta’s ability to grown her own oranges and grapefruits!

Books for Knowing:

  • The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth (In Progress)
    You’ve heard of how the Scandinavian countries are some sort of utopia, right? (Unless you read conservatives, then you might be pretty skeptical of that claim.) Anyhow, Booth writes about Scandinavia (where he’s lived for some time, having married a Dane) in this semi-journalistic, semi-memoirish book. In general, I’m enjoying reading this, although Booth jumps here and there and everywhere without any obvious thesis or point even to the individual chapters, much less to the entire book.
  • The Place Where Hell Bubbled Up: A history of the First National Park by David A. Clary
    A short (64 page) little book filled with old-timey black and white photos from the first days of Yellowstone National Park along with the tale of its discovery and early status as a national park (approximately until the introduction of automobiles.) I enjoyed reading this in preparation for our family trip to Yellowstone this summer.

Books for Enjoying:

  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
    Daniel and I have been trying to complete the “Light Reader” level for the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge put out by Tim Challies. One of the book categories is “a book for children or teens” and I’ve been intending to read the Chronicles of Prydain since Amy’s husband Mike recommended it when I asked for advice finding a completed series that would be similar to Brandon Sanderson’s work (Daniel is a fan of Sanderson, but neither Daniel and I are super fond of reading series that haven’t been completed – and Sanderson has LOTS of those.) Anyway, we read this first book in the series and I certainly enjoyed it enough to continue on with the series. It’s a relatively lighthearted children’s fantasy with plenty of adventure and not-too-heavy-handed-learning-opportunities.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Nightstand (February 2017)

February 28th, 2017

Between a quick weekend trip north to pick up some beef (a 513 lb half!), a teething infant, a toddler who is no longer napping, and beginning our foster-care class, I haven’t had a lot of time for reading this month. But I’ve sneaked in a little here and there :-)

Books for Loving:

  • The Epistles of St. Ignatius
    I appreciated reading through these epistles and learning a little more about Ignatius, a second century Christian bishop. While I had some points of disagreement with Ignatius, his arguments against the docetists and for the Incarnation encouraged me to give praise to the Incarnate God. I wrote a little of what I learned about Ignatius in this blog post.

Books for Growing:

  • Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
    What can be better than a book subtitled “why we eat more than we think”? The subtitle is a delicious wordplay. We eat more food than we think we eat. We eat mindlessly and therefore spend more physical time eating than we spend thinking about what (or why or how) we’re eating. Wansink’s book talks about the psychology of eating, about our unconscious behaviors related to eating and how to tweak those behaviors. Highly recommended.

Books for Knowing:

  • Getting to Know the Church Fathers by Brian Litfin
    I’ve actually only read half of this so far – I’ll finish the other half next month while studying the church under Constantine (and thereabouts). So far, though, it’s been an excellent introduction into some of the noteworthy people of the first few centuries of the church. Litfin gives a mini-biography of each father (and one mother), reflects on their life and teaching from an evangelical perspective, and then shares an excerpt from that father’s writings. As someone who has virtually no knowledge of these individuals, I’ve found this to be very helpful in my study of church history.

Books for Seeing:

  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
    It’s only five chapters long (I think), and I’ve only read one of those chapters. Sigh. But I’m looking forward to finishing it up next month.

Books for Enjoying:

  • The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan
    Ever since I finished the ninth book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, I’ve been checking my local library to see if the final book of the series was available. Finally, after months of weekly peeks at the bookshelf, I checked the computer – and discovered that my branch doesn’t own a copy! Silly me. I requested this from another branch and greatly enjoyed it.

While I haven’t read much as far as grown-up reading goes, I’ve been doing lots of reading aloud to the children. And in celebration of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday this month, Tirzah Mae and I read a whole slew of the “My First Little House” picture book adaptations (which I plan to write about Thursday when I wrap up my participation in Barbara’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Nightstand (January 2017)

January 31st, 2017

It’s not every month that 5 Minutes for Books’s “Nightstand” falls on the last day of the month. It’s also not every month where I complete practically every book I’ve been working on by the end of the month, so as to start fresh for the next month. But since I’m trying to be super-disciplined to read at least one book in each of my five categories each month and since I’ve got to keep on top of my church history goal, I have completed everything I planned to read this month.

Louis and True Community

Books for Loving:

  • Paul: In Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright
    A look at some of the themes of Paul’s writings (Creation and Covenant, Messiah and Apocalyptic, Gospel and Empire) and how Paul reworked traditional categories of Jewish thought (God, God’s people, and the future of God and His people.) I wrote a very few comments on this book in my post summarizing my first month studying church history.
  • True Community by Jerry Bridges
    A look at koinonia in Scripture and its implications for the Christian church of today. Highly readable, with excellent content. A lot to think about, a lot to grow into.

Louis and Growing Books

Books for Growing:

  • Spiritually Parenting Your Preschooler by C. Hope Flinchbaugh
    A quite readable and occasionally helpful little volume for Christian parents. I wish I could recommend it because it reads so nicely for a busy mom. Unfortunately, Flinchbaugh’s Word-of-Faith style charismatic-ism infuses so much that it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Full disclosure: I was raised charismatic and am a continuationist; I had experiences with Word-of-Faith type teachings in my early teen years and find several of that movement’s tenets to be unbiblical and unhelpful.)
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
    Just about every guest of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast recommends this book. But since it wasn’t at my branch of the local library and since I assumed that it was just another book-list book (albeit from a Christian perspective), I wasn’t in any hurry to get it. But when I saw it on the shelf at my church’s library, I decided I’d at least figure out what the buzz was. What I found was so much more than a booklist. This is a full-figured book about nurturing children through books and poetry. I haven’t started going through the bibliography yet (so I can’t really comment on Hunt’s booklist!), but the book itself is an excellent encouragement for Christian parents to share beautiful books with their children.
  • As They Grow: Your Two-Year-Old by Diane O’Connell
    I didn’t have particularly high expectations of this book “by the editors of Parents magazine” – but I was in for a wonderful surprise. This book gives a fairly comprehensive look at what a child experiences in his twos, along with how parents can support and train their children through the twos. While I have a few points of difference with the authors (for example, they are anti-spanking and are concerned that children might learn gender roles if their mother does the housework while their father does the car maintenance), I generally found the advice to be common sense and helpful. I’m planning on skimming through this again and taking some notes so I can implement some of the strategies found within.

Louis and church history

Books for Knowing:

  • Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley
    I read the first section (2 chapters long) on the “Age of Jesus and the Apostles” as the spine for my first month’s study of Church History. I’m glad I chose this as a spine. It’s easy to read and has just enough detail to allow me to take tangents for further study, without getting me bogged down as I’m reading.
  • Great People of the Bible and How They Lived by Reader’s Digest
    I read the New Testament section of this volume and found it an excellent resource to understand the stories of the New Testament in their historical context. If you’d like to read more, I wrote some comments on this book and the one above in my post summarizing my first month studying church history.

Louis and my kindle

Books for Seeing:

  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
    A re-read for my book club. I thoroughly enjoyed this the first time through (enough that I recommended it for book club!) and enjoyed it even more the second time. I especially enjoyed how preparing to lead discussion encouraged me to ask questions of myself as I read.
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
    The compelling story of a man who seeks to give his sin nature absolute freedom – and discovers that this is not freedom at all. You can read my full review here.

Louis and Georgette Heyer

Books for Enjoying:

  • Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer
    A bit of an unusual romance (since the main characters get married in the first couple chapters of the book) and a bit predictable from there on out (spoiler alert: they fall in love). But the inevitability of the two characters falling in love didn’t make this story of a completely innocent girl and her frivolous husband any less fun. A good part of the fun is the strong supporting roles the hero’s best friends serve as they attempt to turn his callow bride into a respectable lady.

Tirzah Mae and what

Up Next:

  • Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley
    Section 2: “The Age of Catholic Christianity”
  • Getting to Know the Church Fathers by Brian Litfin
  • The Epistles of St. Ignatius
  • The Early Christians in their own words edited by Eberhard Arnold
  • Early Christian Church by J.G. Davies
  • Against Heretics and Against Marcion by Tertullian
  • The Gospel of Thomas
  • Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
  • Boys in the Boatby Daniel James Brown
  • Success as a Foster Parent by the National Foster Parent Association with Rachel Greene Baldino
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  • The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan

I’m also planning on reading as many “My First Little House” books as I can find at our library to Tirzah Mae in celebration of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday and Barbara H’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Nightstand (August 2016)

August 30th, 2016

This last hospitalization and newest newborn experience hasn’t been as conducive to reading as the prior. Having a toddler in addition to a newborn means “down time” isn’t down time. My “down time” in the hospital was spent coordinating care for Tirzah Mae and updating the many helpers who made some degree of normalcy possible for her. And now that I’m home, I’m still finding it difficult to find time to read. Tirzah Mae splashes in the water from my bath (whether or not she’s in the tub with me), talks to me while I’m going potty, and wants to hold hands with me and “dance” when I’m exercising – all activities I used to take advantage of as reading time. Louis is generally “lower maintenance” than Tirzah Mae was, sleeping contentedly in his bassinet and playing quietly with his hands on a blanket on the floor. But Louis requires two hands for breastfeeding, meaning that if I don’t have a book set up on my lap before we begin breastfeeding it’s hard to get one started.

As a result, my reading has been sporadic and one-sided. You’ll notice almost all the books I’ve finished are “books for growing”. This is because these can generally be read paragraph-by-paragraph, whereas novels or informative (versus instructional) nonfiction need to be consumed in larger chunks.

My current library haul

Books for Growing:

  • Breastfeeding with Confidence by Sue Cox
    A short (128 pages) introduction to breastfeeding. I didn’t learn a whole lot of new information (since supporting breastfeeding was a good portion of my job as a WIC dietitian), but feel this would be excellent reading for a motivated pregnant mom (who doesn’t have time or energy to read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which, though helpful, is entirely too long for many women.)
  • 101 Questions and Answers about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by Steven J. McCabe
    Everything you need to know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, arranged in an easily-readable (and searchable) question and answer format. I developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy and appreciated learning a little more about it. Also, I hope never to get it again!
  • Baby and Toddler Sleep Program by John Pearce with Jane Bidder
    The first book I’ve read that recommends total extinction. While I haven’t the constitution for total extinction, the multitude of other “environmental” tips helped as I worked to wean Tirzah Mae off needing me in bed with her to fall asleep. We’d gotten in the habit of breastfeeding lying down in her bed during the exhausted phase of my pregnancy – but she got too dependent on it, so we had to work towards a more manageable sleep routine. We were still doing a version of graduated extinction when I went into the hospital – but she’s sleeping great now. I hold to my earlier opinion that “sleep programs” are less than helpful “out of the box” – but that the discerning parent can find helpful tips in every “sleep program”.

Books for Knowing:

  • Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline
    An exposé of the “fast fashion” industry, Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed discusses how we went from having two seasons of fashion to having trends changing on a monthly, even weekly, basis. Cline details the damage fast-fashion has done to the American clothing industry, to the quality of clothing, as well as to the style of the average American. Whereas individuals used to buy clothing a couple times a year, buying quality intended to last and mending or altering clothing as needed, now people are in the habit of buying clothing continuously and just as continuously discontinuing use or throwing items out as their cheaply produced and cheaply purchased clothing wears out or falls apart. I have a great deal of sympathy for Cline’s complaints regarding poor quality, disposable clothing and the continuous purchasing of clothing. On the other hand, Cline is decidedly anti-free-market and pro-union, not positions I support. Nevertheless I found this book enjoyable and informative. It has bolstered my resolve to purchase clothes used and/or to make my own whenever possible.

While I mostly just finished “Books for growing” this month, I am hopeful that in the upcoming months I can reestablish more balance in my reading. I’m currently at work on books from each of my five categories, so I’m feeling pretty good about the prospect.

Books that are up next

Here’s what I’ve got going right now:

  • For loving: To Fly Again by Gracia Burnham
  • For growing: Breastfeeding Special Care Babies by Sandra Lang
  • For knowing: Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson
  • For seeing: Selected Poems by Christina Rossetti
  • For enjoying: Listening Valley by D.E. Stevenson

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Nightstand (May 2016)

May 31st, 2016

It’s time for 5 Minutes for Books’s monthly nightstand – and I am GOING to post this on the day, even if it means skipping pictures!

I don’t particularly feel like I’ve been reading less lately, but I’ve certainly completed fewer books this month than many months. And what I have finished has been racing to keep ahead of books that have to be returned to the library (I really should try checking out fewer – I have about 90, including children’s picture books, checked out right now.)

Books for Loving:

  • I’m in the middle of a rather dense defense of divine sovereignty just now – and thus haven’t finished any “books for loving” this month.

Books for Growing:

  • Beyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik
    An introduction to attachment parenting (AP) – a mix of psychology/neurobiology and the practicalities of how Bialik does AP. There are a number of aspects of attachment parenting that I find appealing and practical (exclusive breastfeeding and babywearing especially), but I am ultimately unconvinced that AP has the scientific support proponents think it has. Most of the studies Bialik cites show how detrimental truly awful parenting can be (that is, abusive and neglectful parenting) – but fail to show how AP-style parenting is preferable to more traditionally Western childrearing practices (standard potty training vs. elimination communication, some variation on crying-it-out and separate sleeping vs. bedsharing, authoritative discipline including some spanking vs. no spanking and a less authoritative discipline style, etc.) I found this interesting as a look at AP, but found little that I consider useful to my own parenting practices.
  • Beautiful Babies by Kristen Michaelis
    Another “growing” book that turned out to be entirely unhelpful. This is basically a defense of the Weston A. Price diet for pregnancy and early childhood. The nutrition advice ranges from odd to downright dangerous. The rationale for the advice is nostalgia and cherry-picked scientific studies. And Michaelis (like a lot of self-taught nutritionists) despises me and my ilk (that is, people with actual training in nutrition.) My husband enjoyed(?) many a rant from his wife thanks to this book.

Books for Knowing:

  • Jewish Family Celebrations by Arlene Rossen Cardozo
    A decent introduction to the Sabbath, the festivals of the Jewish year, and the life-cycle rituals of Judaism. This book has scripts, recipes, and traditional (or less traditional) activities associated with each celebration. One oddity is that the author seems to be a practicing but non-religious Jew. That is, she performs the rituals associated with Judaism but gives no evidence that she believes them to be anything other than ancient myth ritualized by a surviving people – thus, the enduring nature of Judaism is what is celebrated rather than the definitive action of God in calling Israel out from among the other nations.

Books for Seeing:

  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
    I’ve only seen “My Fair Lady” a couple dozen times, so it’s only fitting that I finally read the play upon which the musical was based. I found myself surprised at how well the musical follows the script, at least inasmuch as the text is preserved. On further reflection, I realize that the brevity of Shaw’s original work assists greatly in its conversion into a (rather long) musical – as opposed to the many books I’ve seen mangled from trying to reduce 300+ pages of text into 90 minutes. I appreciated Shaw’s decidedly unromantic ending and his reflections on the personalities of his characters. Maybe now I need to read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, from whence Shaw’s title came?

Books for Enjoying:

  • Halt’s Peril by John Flanagan
    The penultimate book of the “Ranger’s Apprentice” series. I continue to enjoy the adventures of Will and his friends. This book was particularly interesting since the main “enemy” was not soldiers arrayed in battle lines but… well… something else. :-)
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
    This was my book club’s MARCH read – and I finally got around to finishing it here in May. But don’t let that give you the wrong impression. This was an engaging look at family and belonging – told through the eyes of a modern-day foster child and a Depression-era orphan train rider. It was fascinating to learn more about the incredibly-long-running orphan train phenomenon – and I look forward to learning more about the orphan trains and their riders (perhaps by visiting Concordia Kansas’s Orphan Train museum.)

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

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