When I was in second grade, my teacher told my mother that I had a passion for reading unlike that of any other student she’d ever had – to the point where I was often caught reading instead of doing my work, and I sometimes borrowed so many books from the school library that I couldn’t close the lid on my school desk.
In high school, my best friend referred to me as her “walking dictionary” because I’d read so many books that I had an enormous vocabulary. When we went out to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary last fall, I used the word “accoutrements” in casual conversation, and she turned to her significant other and said, “Only Heather would use that word.”
I continued my voracious reading into adulthood, sometimes reading upwards of 100 books a year. If I had nothing new to read I would get twitchy and restless until I acquired a new stack of library books to soothe my reader’s angst. Sadly, in the last couple of years something happened. I can’t put my finger on exactly when, or why, but for some reason I stopped reading. This was not by conscious choice, but bedtime is my only real reading time, and most nights I was too exhausted or preoccupied to read. I tried but I couldn’t concentrate, and I found myself reading and rereading the same sentences, over and over, until I finally gave up. I was also very aware of an underlying fear that I might accidentally pick up a book that would force me to confront painful emotions that I was trying to ignore…because that’s what good books do. They make you feel things. I guess I didn’t want to feel things anymore.
I hated that this was happening to me, and I mourned the loss of reading. For all of my life, books had been my friends. I have always loved them, though it may surprise you to know that I own very few. Even including my Bible, cookbooks, and the antique books I use in decorating, I still own less than 60 volumes. This is because I’m quite selective about my books in the same way that I’m selective about my friends. I only keep the ones that I want to spend time with over and over again, because they always make me feel good.
My children own very few books for this same reason. I encourage them to be deliberate and thoughtful in choosing their personal libraries. We are heavy library users with an arsenal of library cards – 9 at last count – and they’re encouraged to explore their interests and borrow freely, but because we’re a family who strives for simplicity in all things, we purchase very few books. I think it’s because we’ve seen too many people desperately trying to unload truckloads of heavy, musty, forgotten volumes for pennies on the dollar at garage sales.
Though I don’t wish to own many books, I still want to read good books…lots and lots of books. This year, I’m determined to reclaim that part of myself. I am a reader. It’s been my identity for all of my life, and without reading I’m admittedly frustrated and bored. However, with 3 kids and more responsibilities than ever, I realize that reading 100 books is probably not a practical or even possible goal for me this year. So, instead of reading 2 books a week, I’m going to strive for 2 a month.
This is my reading list for 2015. It’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and the order in which I read these books will depend greatly on how easily I’m able to procure them from one of my many area libraries. I tend to plow through non-fiction and reference books really quickly, whereas fiction takes longer because I sometimes have to stop and process, particularly if a book is especially gripping or emotional for me. I’ll add this post to the “LIFE” tab in the navigation menu, if you’d like to follow my progress, and I’ll post what I’m currently reading in the sidebar. I may try to add a brief review for each book I finish, and if I read more than what is currently listed, I’ll add those titles here. If you have recommendations for other books you think I might like, based on this list, please let me know in the comments!
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – Barbara Robinson
How is it that I never read this book before? It’s a quick read, marketed to kids, but it’s really a book for all. It’s about the Herdmans, a rough and tumble bunch of kids with no dad at home, and a mother working two jobs. They’re loud and undisciplined, left to their own devices most of the time. Most kids are scared of them, until the narrator’s brother sparks their interest in church – a place they’ve never been – with the promise of “refreshments.” They end up taking over the church Christmas pageant, with an outcome that no one expected. This book made me laugh, but it also inspired me to really think about the meaning of Christmas!
2. The Woman Upstairs – Claire Messud
Meh…this book was boring. I actually only read the first half, then skimmed the rest and read the ending, which was troubling and weird, to say the least. I never grew to really care about any of the characters, and I actually didn’t even like Nora, the protagonist, so it was difficult for me to summon much interest in what happened to her. The story was tedious and not engaging. Skip this one.
3. The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey
The Zero-Waste Lifestyle – Amy Korst
I enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in environmental preservation (with the added benefit of saving money!) We actually do most of the things suggested, such as recycling everything possible, composting, buying in bulk, buying used, upcycling, using non-disposable personal care products (Diva cup, safety razors with recyclable blades, cloth diapers), cooking from scratch to reduce packaging, and making our own cleaning products. I’m excited about trying some of the other suggestions, such as making shampoo, lotion, and toothpaste, using reusable mesh bags for produce, and reducing or eliminating our paper towel and napkin use. I like that each chapter has steps for beginner, moderate, and advanced “greenies.” The facts about U.S. trash production and its impact on the environment are sad and sobering. I’m especially disturbed by the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” of floating plastic, and I’m inspired to do everything I can to reduce our carbon footprint even more.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – Marie Kondo
This book does make you think differently about your relationship with material goods, and I was inspired to make very deliberate choices, and to keep only items that “spark joy.” Unfortunately, much of the advice seems to be directed to single, childless women (which Kondo herself is) living in small Japanese apartments, and it doesn’t address all the crap that doesn’t inspire joy, but that we must keep because it’s necessary to raise a family. Her advice to put all like items (from every room in the house!) together before decluttering – one of the basic tenets of organization – will not be practical for people with houses, kids, pets and all the associated paraphernalia. Also, be advised that this book was originally written for a Japanese audience, and has been translated into English. Some of it will not resonate with Americans (shinto shrines?), and some will strike you as just plain weird (sorry, but I’m not going to thank my handbag for its hard work at the end of the day, and I don’t think I need to leave my socks unballed in the drawer so they won’t feel tense). Even so, a worthwhile read.
6. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder 7. Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify – Francine Jay
Be Thrifty: How to Live Better for Less – Pia CattonThere is a wealth of great tips and information in this book, from gardening to home repairs, personal care to cooking. I enjoyed all the ideas for repurposing household objects, and I really loved all the quotes and success stories from frugal experts. My favorite was this one, “I was maybe six years old when my parents lost their house….Losing that house taught me the importance of buying only what you can afford. Today people are losing their homes, but it’s different: They’re living in houses they never could afford in the first place. We went from a society of “what you need is what you have,” to a society of ‘what I want is what I’ll get.'” `Mary West, 82
Truer words were never spoken. There wasn’t a great deal of new information in this book, for me, but I’m a lifelong thrifter. For anyone new to the frugal lifestyle this book is definitely a worthwhile read, but in my opinion The Complete Tightwad Gazette will always be the bible of frugality.
9. Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving –
10. The Absence of Nectar – Kathy Hepinstall
11. Messy Spirituality: Christianity for the Rest of Us – Mike Yaconelli
12. The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd
13. Jigs and Reels: Stories – Joanne Harris
14. Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life – Pamela Smith Hill 15. Yes Please – Amy Poehler
16. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
17. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
18. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
19. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century – Steven Pinker
20. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
21. Homemade: A Surprisingly Easy Guide to Making Hundreds of Everyday Products You Would Otherwise Buy – Reader’s Digest
I liked this book well enough to buy it (used, for $4 including shipping. Of course)! Lots of great information and recipes for everything; pantry staples, health and beauty products, cleaning products, even insect repellent. My only beef is that every non-food recipe seems to call for essential oils, which are pricey. Even so, this book is a worthwhile investment. LOVE the homemade crescent roll recipe.
The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making – Alana ChernilaI cannot recommend this book. I like the idea of it, and because I enjoy cooking from scratch, I was hoping that it would inspire me to try making even more foods at home. However, more than half of the recipes are for things I already make. For me, there was little new information, though for a beginner it might be useful. However, be warned; as an experienced cook, I can tell you that some of these recipes simply will not work. 2 1/2 tablespoons of salt for two loaves of bread? 2 cups of bread crumbs on top of mac and cheese? Were these recipes even tested? It’s my opinion that you’re better off turning to a trusted, time-honored resource, such as Joy of Cooking, if you’re interested in learning how to be a terrific home cook. Also, I was immediately turned off by profanity in the introduction, and as I continued reading, I found myself wishing for less anecdotes and more recipes. Then, I got to the hamburger bun recipe and quit reading altogether, because there is no reason to take the Lord’s name in vain when writing a recipe. There is no justifiable reason for profanity in a cookbook at all.
23. Organizing Plain and Simple: A Ready Reference Guide With Hundreds Of Solutions to Your Everyday Clutter Challenges – Donna Smallin
Like most organizing books, there wasn’t a lot of new information in this book for me, but I still liked it. It’s well-organized and chock full of tips.
A Week in Winter – Maeve Binchy
I liked this book, but Maeve Binchy is just very predictable. I think that if you’ve read one of her books you’ve read them all. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking, haven’t I read this one already?
25. Co-Dependence: Healing the Human Condition – Charles Whitfield
26. The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life – Francine Jay 27. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence – Sarah Young 28. Dad is Fat – Jim Gaffigan
29. Home Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living – Cook it, Clean it, Fix it, Wash it – Heather Solos
30. Bossypants – Tina Fey