Nonfiction, Reading, Reviews

What I Read This Fall

There are four more days left in this Autumn season, and I can guarantee you my Fall Reading List will not be completed in those five days. But that’s okay! A reading list is a starting point that morphs as time goes along. As Juliet says in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive–all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

Well, maybe there are other reasons to read. But I find the first part to be true when it comes to reading lists. I start at the top, but get totally sidetracked when I find a new favorite author or read a book that refers to another book. That being said, here is what I did manage to read this Fall:

~Fiction~

Gilead – You must read it. Best book I’ve read in a long time!

Rosie – Not a fan of this one, but I plan to try some more recent work of Lamott’s.

The Grapes of Wrath – Very raw and uncouth, and also deep and masterful. Just not my cup of tea.

The Signature of All Things – Abandoned halfway through. Eesh. If you liked it, I think we can still be friends, but let’s not talk about this book.

Listening ValleyListening Valley – This wasn’t on my list, but I needed a comfortable, reassuring read after three book busts, so I turned to my beloved D.E. Stevenson. This is a cozy sort of book to curl up with on a foul weather day. Fans of L.M. Montgomery or Jan Karon will love it.

Lila – I read this book on the heels of Gilead, and it was so totally different from what I expected! It was awesome, though. It will have its own review soon.

~Nonfiction~

Shepherding a Child’s Heart – I really enjoyed the perspective of the first half of the book, but didn’t get much out of the second half that dealt with the method this particular author employs in child rearing.

For The Children’s Sake – I loved this book. It will receive its own review soon.

The Fitting Room – This was a much lighter read than I expected, but still pretty good.  Women of all ages can glean great wisdom from it, but it would be especially perfect to study with a group of teenage girls.

Yes PleaseOrganized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional LivingI am not funny enough to appreciate this book. If you like SNL or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, you might like this one. However, I would venture to say that Poehler just isn’t a writer. She even admits in the book that she is “better in the room.” I concur.

Bread and WineA stunning book. It’s changing my entire view of hospitality. I say “changing” because I read it through and reviewed it, but I keep going back to read parts and review the recipes. I’ve made two and they were both delightful.

Organized Simplicity – I think I’ll need to come back to this book in the future, when I can handle all the very useful checklists and strategies. Right now, I just need to get through the mess that is the Holidays. It’s the best possible kind of mess! But a mess still.

Wow. I read more nonfiction than fiction in the last few months. Ladies and gentlemen, that is a first! I feel so smart and boring. Maybe I can remedy that in my Winter Reading List.

Speaking of, The Winter Reading List is shaping up and will be posted soon! What’s on your list?

Reading, Reviews

Gilead

When friends ask me if I have read any good books lately, I drop everything, look them straight in the eye, and fervently say one word: “Gilead.”

Seriously. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is my new favorite book. It’s taken me forever to discover it, I think because when it first came to my attention the year it was published (2006), I read the plot synopsis and wasn’t immediately drawn to it. Add the quiet plot to the fact that Housekeeping by Robinson had left me feeling blue, even if it was insightful and poignant, and you have a moment when I put Gilead back on the shelf and though, “Maybe another day.”

GileadI could call that moment a mistake, but I think it probably wasn’t. I probably wasn’t ready for this book at age twenty. While I’m still not much older than I was and certainly not much wiser, I adore this book now in a way I don’t think I could have then. It’s written as a letter to the son of the narrator. The narrator is an elderly pastor in the small town of Gilead who has married late in life and has a little boy. The pastor’s health is not good, and he knows he won’t be there when his boy reaches adulthood, so he writes him a letter that contains some background of his family history (fascinating), and some lessons learned (deeply insightful), and even the unraveling of a scandal that happens during the writing of the letter. This plot may not draw you, but I’m begging you, read it anyway. It is masterful.

Here’s one of my favorite paragraphs, when the narrator speaks of a hardship in his life and concludes:

” I don’t know what to say except that the worst misfortune isn’t only misfortune–and even as I write these words, I have that infant Rebecca [his daughter who died in infancy] in my mind, the way she looked while I held her, which I seem to remember, because every single time I have christened a baby I have thought of her again. That feeling of a baby brow against the palm of your hand — how I have loved this life. Boughton had christened her, as I said, but I laid my hand on her just to bless her, and I could feel her pulse, her warmth, the damp of her hair.”

I choke up even now when I think of how exactly true these words are, how that is just what the forehead of a baby feels like against my hand. The whole book is a tribute to how achingly beautiful this earthly life is, and how pain can be redeemed. It is written from the firm viewpoint that Heaven and eternity are absolute and God is good and His goodness is here even on this broken earth. Even so, it is not preachy. (It won a Pulitzer, so you know it’s not preachy!) But it is wonderful, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m so thankful that Edie at Life in Grace put it on her reading list for the year, which reminded me that I had always meant to read it. It’s definitely the best book on My Fall Reading List so far.

See other favorite books here!

Nonfiction, Reading

Fall 2014 Reading List

My Fall Reading List is formed! I’ve tried to supplement my summer reading with some weightier books. Chances are good I will add to this list as the weeks go by, but these are the books I would really like to read.

Fiction

Gilead, Marilyn Robinson

Lilith, George MacDonald

Long Man, Amy Greene

Rosie, Ann Lamott

Peace Like A River, Lief Enger

The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

No Name, Wilkie Collins

Nonfiction

For The Sake of The Children, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Bringing Up Boys, Dobson

Shepherding A Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp

The Fitting Room, Kelly Minter

To Persia, With Love, Doreen Corley

Beyond Ourselves, Catherine Marshall

Educating the Wholehearted Child, Clay Clarkson

As always, this list is subject to change. In fact, I guarantee it will change.  Unless I know it’s important that I read a certain book, I am not afraid to call a book not worth the time and quit in the middle. I realize some folks can’t handle abandoning a book, but I need that freedom or else I wouldn’t even try half the books I actually come to like.

So what’s on your list this Fall?

Grammar note: I realize you’re not technically supposed to capitalize the names of seasons. I just can’t help it. 

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