2016 in Books

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I love seeing people’s yearly reading lists. And, as a co-worker and I agreed on, time is really best measured by the books you’ve read. There are not nearly as many as I would have like to have read. However, at the beginning of the year, I felt like I’d never have me-time again, so the fact that I read recreationally at all makes me okay with this amount. And then there’s the fact that I started this blog and a small business and have yet to really figure out how to divvy up my time between all these things.

This list doesn’t count roadtrip audiobooks since I half-listened, half-attempted to appease a crying baby during those. It doesn’t count short stories or poetry or the ten books I started and never finished. (For some reason I feel like I’m trapped in a never-ending cycle of starting The Little Oratory, reading twenty pages, putting it down in favor of something else, and starting the process over again a month or two later. Haalp!)

Anyway, here we go. 2016 in books:

Fiction:

Kristin Lavransdatter: a friend put out a facebook status asking if anyone wanted to form a bookclub to read this with some class notes on the book from one of our college professors. Naturally, lots of us jumped on board. It was such a good read during the winter. Such a good read for having a newborn and having just become a mother for first time and thinking about changing roles and vocations and whatnot.

Till We Have Faces: I can’t believe this was the first time I’d read this, but I really loved it. I loved how Lewis married the archetypal style of a myth with the very personal nature of a novel. It was so rich symbolically, psychologically, spiritually–I’ve already marked it down to reread in the future.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: technically a novella but damn it, if a read a Tolstoy cover to cover, it’s going on the list. And it really is worth it to give your time over to these sixty pages. I’m always in favor of writing that makes me contemplate my own mortality.

All the Light We Cannot See: for the most unpopular vote in the room…I was pretty meh about this one. It was just a stylistic thing, not a plot thing. I kind of felt like I was reading a film script instead of great prose.

The Remains of the Day: Ishiguro writes so finely, so subtly, and reveals so much more than he outright says.

Village Diary: sweet and sassy and British to the bone. You can never go wrong with Miss Read.

The Thin Man: a fun, quick romp with these baes.

Trains and Lovers: I really liked this one or at least the parts that I did like, I really liked. It was thoughtful and understated and kept me interested from start to finish.

Non-fiction:

Simple Matters: I wrote a review here but basically I went in thinking it was going to promote unaffordable and unrealistic minimalism but it actually gave me a whole lot to think about.

The Temperament God Gave You: ugh yes. I needed to read this. Lots of slapping-hand-to-head moments where I realized this is why I react certain ways to things (for good or for worse) and how best to motivate myself to do things. This should be required reading for marriage prep.

What Mothers Do Especially When it Looks Like Nothing: Katherine, who is a book fairy godmother and whose blog is my best internet find of 2016, sent me this after I expressed interest in it, and now I want to send it to all my friends who are new mothers. At our last bookclub meeting, a friend mentioned a quote (I don’t remember who from) that most of salvation history was brought about by ordinary people living their ordinary lives. And that immediately brought me back to this book all about the ordinary but complex, intimate but exhausting, repetitive but ever-new and important work of raising babies.

The Catholic Catalogue: my review here. I’ve read most of this but not cover-to-cover. It’s not that kind of book though, but it is the kind of book that will make your home happier and your faith richer.

A happy New Year’s Eve to you all! May 2017 be filled with good cheer and good books!

2016 in Books

Reading, eating, etc.

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Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent! I’m lighting all the candles and linking up!

Reading

1. Books

The Thin Man: If you haven’t seen the William Powell and Myrna Loy film (and the subsequent sequels), you’re truly missing out. It’s the perfect thing to watch during the holidays with cookies and cocktails. The book was a little racier and a little more hardboiled than the film but still a hoot!

Whose Body: I’ve barely started this one but it’s proving as delightful as I imagined.

I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux: I’m about to start this for our next book club and it’s a good thing, because I don’t think I’m going to get to any of my suggested Advent spiritual reading. St. Therese is my confirmation saint and I read Story of a Soul back in junior high but I haven’t touched her writing since. I need to though because she a doctor of the Church and her writing is so accessible and enriching. Also, I keep saying I need to go on a retreat so I’m excited about getting to go on one in book form.

2. Links

-I really enjoy Maria Popova’s labor of love, Brain Pickings, though I frequently save the articles for later and then never get around to them–they demand one’s full attention and I have a mind trained to skim distractedly. But when I do put the mental effort in (and it really doesn’t require thaaat much effort), I’m always glad that I did. The books on her 16 Overall Favorite Books of 2016 all look very good and I’m marking some of them down for my 2017 reads. Also an oldie, but one of my favorite posts she did: 10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings.

Sorting Jane Austen into Hogwarts Houses: The Definitive Guide. This was such a fun post. Now I want to reread all Harry Potter and all Jane Austen. Also, just yes to Mr. Collins being a squib.

Favorite Quotes and Prayers: Christmas. I love quotes. I’ve got notebooks and word docs full of them. So Christina’s beautiful list made my heart sing.

“When we give each other our Christmas presents in his name, let us remember that he has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans and all that lives and moves upon them…And to save us from our own foolishness and from all our sins, he came down to earth and gave himself.” -Sigrid Undset

Eating

3. Feast Day Food:

Honey Cake with Fleur de Sel: made for the St. Ambrose’s feast day (patron of beekeepers) to share with a friend and it was ambrosial on more than one level. Joe ate some for breakfast the next day, left for work, came back up a few minutes later, cut himself a second slice, and declared, “This is my favorite cake.”

Cuccia: For St. Lucy’s Day, I had big plans to wake up early and make cinnamon buns and string up lights around the apartment in honor this saint of light, but that did not happen. It was all good though because this Sicilian wheatberry porridge was splendid. According to the tradition, during a famine in Syracuse in 1646, a ship arrived on St. Lucy’s Day bearing wheat. People were so eager to eat, they didn’t wait to ground the grains, but simply boiled them and dressed them with olive oil–the first cuccia. We ate ours hot with ricotta, chocolate, candied orange slices, and honey. Yum!

4. Advent eating:

Garlic and vinegar fried rice: when you need something easy and meatless (though I threw in some stir fried meat this time), this is one of my favorite go tos.

-Minestrone: I used this as loose guide. Simple and warm and wintry.

Olive oil braised chickpeas: making this tonight with soft-boiled eggs and crusty bread.

5. Christmas baking/cooking plan:

-What are your favorite cookies to make? My signature cookie over the past couple years has been a shortbread cookie sandwich with speculoos filling and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s the tops. I also like to make gingersnaps from this recipe my sister shared with me. And they really do go deliciously with an Old Fashioned (perfect for your Thin Man movie watching). Other than that, I tend to change it up. Do you have favorite Christmas cookie recipes you return to year after year?

-I have a crazy dream this year to do a seven course Christmas Eve dinner after the Provencal and Italian traditions. I’m planning to keep the courses mostly simple: a make ahead chestnut soup, a cheese and fruit course. I just don’t know though. I’m a dreamer and not a very practical planner so we’ll see if it comes off without a hitch…or happens at all.

Et cetera

6. I’m shutting down my etsy shop till sometime in early January as I figure out a new printing situation, work on new products, and make a plan to really get this business going. I’m one to get immobilized over small difficulties, so things have been going slow lately.

7. We’re having a cozy Sunday watching Harry Potter (as a result of reading the Carrots for Michaelmas article) and making paper snowflakes. But the unfairness of our coziness and safety while others are living in the most desperate, war torn circumstances is heartbreaking. We can all donate and we can all pray. When I feel like despairing I think of these words from Tennyson: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Also, this site helps specify where donations go.

Drop down ye heavens from above

Reading, eating, etc.

Advent Booklist

journey-to-bethlehem

I think this has been our best Advent so far. We may have fallen off the St. Andrew Christmas Prayer train last week and never got back on but for the first time we have an Advent wreath (sans greenery) and we’ve been reading a little bit of Scripture every evening around the candlelight. I’ve finally come to a place where I don’t feel like I need to start all the traditions immediately. Learning to be at peace with this small act which we can build on next year with another small act has been a good thing for me.

However, I did want to devote more time this Advent to extra spiritual reading. So far I’ve devoted my attention to other, less significant literature by the likes of Alexander McCall Smith, Dashiell Hammett, and Dorothy Sayers. All good stuff (there’s something about reading mysteries in the winter!), but not quite as meditative as I probably need right now.

This isn’t so much a list of books that I’ve read and am recommending to you as a list of books that have been recommended to me by blogs and friends which I’m compiling here for future, personal reference. But maybe you’ll find it useful too.

1. On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius. This is the only one on this list I have read. I read it freshman year of college in my honors class and was blown away by its beauty, simplicity, and depth. I think this one will always top the list of Advent/Christmas reading to better enter into the mystery of the Incarnation. Plus, the most popular edition in print has an excellent forward by C.S. Lewis (which you can read here).

2. Cradle of Redeeming Love: the Theology of the Christmas Mystery by John Saward: Auntie Leila has suggested this one on numerous occasions and calls it “a book that bears reading, re-reading, and bringing to prayer (not something that one often says about a theological work.)”

3. Redeemer in the Womb by John Saward. Saward again because when I looking up Cradle of Redeeming Love, I stumbled across this one and my slight obsession with the intersection of pregnancy and spirituality makes me think that it must be really good.

4. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI. I was planning on putting this one on the list and then Kasia posted it on her Advent reading/watching list and affirmed my decision. It’s unfortunate that I haven’t read more of Pope Benedict because everything I have read is enormously moving and intelligent.

5. The Blessing of Christmas by Pope Benedict XVI. Another one! These reflections are taken from his sermons and other writings with beautiful illustrations and artwork. I’d love to incorporate this into our family’s Advent and Christmas reading each day.

6. Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross: The Little Way of the Infant Jesus by Caryll Houselander. This one has been recommended on several blogs and all the things I’ve heard about Houselander’s sacramental, mystical imagination makes me wonder why I haven’t picked it up already.

7. Child in Winter by Caryll Houselander: I didn’t mean to put two books per author up on here but here’s another one I stumbled across when looking up the previous book. This one is more of a devotional book taken from various writings from Houselander so there might be some overlap in the material between the two. That makes me think it’s a good choice when you can only devote fifteen minutes in the morning to spiritual reading rather than tackling a thick theological text for a couple of hours.

Do you have Advent reading recommendations? I’d love to find more homilies or texts by saints and the early Church fathers to add to the list.

Bonus! Here are some Advent articles and snippets from the web that I’ve been reading and loving this season:

The Coming of Christ, the Golden Blossom from A Clerk of Oxford

Dwindled Infinity from Dominicana Journal

Poetry and Prayers for Advent from The Catholic Catalogue

 

 

Advent Booklist

Reading, Eating, Et Cetera


Linking up with Kelly for the first time in forever!

Reading

1. A lot of Britishy things. First, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro which I basically read because I’ve been wanting to watch the Merchant Ivory dramatization with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, but felt like I should read it first. The prose is really lovely and it’s slow moving in the absolute best way.

On our roadtrip to and from Colorado for Thanksgiving, we audiobooked Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, and a dramatized (unfortunately abridged) version of The Lord of the Rings. I really loved that while I was singing to Leo during one of his trapped-in-carseat-induced meltdowns, Joe kept shushing me and rewinding P&P so that he could hear the final proposal. He was bewitched. #bodyandsoul.

And I just finished the Village Diary, the second book in the Fairacre series by Miss Read, which is always the lovely rural village life escape I’m looking for.

2. All the Light We Cannot See for my Well Read Mom book club. I didn’t absolutely love this one. I think I liked the synopsis more than the actual book. I listened to a lot of it on audiobook and it made me highly aware of how much I skim when I read and miss good chunks of detail. But Doerr writes with a stuccato like details one after another and I wasn’t keen on feeling trapped into listening to every one. And also, I haaaated that it was written in present tense. I have a weakness of defaulting to cynicism with a lot of contemporary fiction. However, I’m trying to be better about it, so I picked up Trains and Lovers today in hopes of being pleasantly surprised.

3. How the Urgency of Motherhood Made me a Writer

“Writing isn’t: where I pour most of my time and energy; the first or only way I define myself; an escape plan in case my marriage fails; or the life I would rather be living. Writing is: a means of strengthening my critical thinking while also demanding my emotional authenticity and presence; a practice that can bend and flex around the needs of the care-work I do for my family; an outlet in which to pursue excellence; and a means of connecting with others in conversations that are meaningful to me.”

Eating

4. Leo’s iron test came back and he’s slightly anemic, so I’ve been trying to incorporate more iron into his diet which mainly means I’ve gone crazy town on spinach. We’ve done green smoothies, spinach quiche, falafel (delicious with these marakesh carrots), spinach-feta yogurt dip, and spinach-walnut pesto.

7. A lot of non-penitential things after I announced my intention to eat semi-penitentially during Advent. Specifically, chicken gratin which was one of those meals that’s on a higher plane than most meals and orange French yogurt cake. I just know it would have been grand with cointreau-spiked coffee and whipped cream but I fought that non-penitential craving nobly.

Et cetera

6. I watched all of Gilmore Girls and overall, I was fan! But here are some specific things I loved and hated:

Loved:

  • That Stars Hollow charm: the old things and the new. The picnic basket auction, Petal the pig, the secret bar!
  • Emily Gilmore–utterly magnificent.
  • Lane and Zach and their kids and their band. Still going strong and I loved it.

Hated:

  • Rory. The worst as usual. Bad at relationships. Bad at journalism and professionalism. Bad at humility. I think, as Headmaster Charleston suggested, she should teach at Chilton. She’s the girl who made the Yale prospective student smell books in the library. Clearly, she just wants to share her love for learning with young minds.
  • Logan and his insufferable Life and Death Brigade friends.
  • That weird thirty-somethings gang they kept dragging out as a “funny” bit.
  • Rachael Ray. I have nothing against her. She just can’t act.
  • The Stars Hollow musical. It could have been funny-bad, but it was just bad-bad.

7. I have a date with A Cup of Jo’s beauty uniform series to research new hair products after getting told at my hair appointment yesterday, “You have beautiful hair but you don’t take care of it. Do you buy your products at the grocery store? There’s a lot of build up.” Mmm. Thanks. But yes to all of the above.

….

Happy Feast of St. Francis Xavier!

Reading, Eating, Et Cetera