October Reading List (in November)

Even though November is well underway, I wanted to share with you a few of the books I have been reading lately.  I’ve noticed a trend in my reading toward “lighter” reading right now — both fluff fiction and fluff non-fiction.  Do you agree with me that much of the non-fiction published right now is fluff?  These journalistic books could be published in installments in a current women’s magazine and feel right at home.  I am going to try to stop checking these books out of the library:  books on “clean” eating, how exercise helps depression, and books examining the way teenagers are turning into adults:  mostly just a waste of time.  I end up skimming, reading portions and returning these books without gaining anything of benefit, but having wasted my hard-won reading time.

These three books, while on the lighter side, were worth a review.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  Alice wakes up on the floor of the gym, having forgotten the last 10 years of her life including her three children, her best friend, and her divorce.  This book was a very quick read for me.  I actually couldn’t put it down, and stayed up late two nights in a row just to finish it and get on with work that should have been done.  While Alice was discovering that in many ways she had made a mess of her life, I was rejoicing that I do not feel regrets over the past 10 years of my life.  So many things we have begun in the last 10 years–homeschool, hiking, running — have brought me such joy and happiness.  Thank goodness I don’t need to re-live those years in a “do-over.”

The Year of Learning Dangerously — Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings is one of my fluff non-fiction books.  This is not a book of homeschooling how to, neither is it a book of one family’s journey in homeschooling.  Instead it is a book of a journalist’s experiences traveling and observing different homeschooling occasions and events, mainly while leaving her daughter (in her first year of homeschooling) at home.  I guess from the tone of the previous sentence, you realize I did not approve of this mother’s attempt at commercializing her homeschooling attempt.  While many may have some sort of prurient interest in a fundamentalist Christian homeschooling convention, or a home school prom, of what benefit is it to disguise oneself, attend the event, and then write about it?  I hardly believe it was for her daughter’s benefit that she did this, especially since this family is professed atheist and the daughter is in fourth grade.  (I’m wrong.  It’s probably for her daughter’s financial benefit.)  So, this is one book I am glad I found at the library (rather than buying!)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green feeds my young adult fiction addiction.  Not your standard hope-despite-cancer story, this novel follows Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters from their meeting at a cancer victim therapy session to the end of their story together.  Funny and sad, its themes of quiet heroism — the kind that affects one life, not millions– and endurance were presented in an easy to read story.  Eden read and enjoyed this as well.

My November reading list includes more classics, as I try to wean myself from fluff.  Although I read for relaxation and enjoyment, I want to read for education as well.  Even now, I am halfway through Henry James’ first novel, Ward and Watch.  I’ll let you know how it goes soon.

Do you read whatever catches your eye, or do you try for book “assignments?”  Please leave me a comment below.

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September Reading List

I want to share and recommend to you a few of the books I have read in the past few weeks.  Two of these books have been on several high school reading lists that I have researched before, but I have never put them on my own reading list.  One is definitely required reading for homeschooling parents, and one is a cookbook I highly recommend.  Let’s get started.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.  Written from the viewpoint of a Native American whose shattered life lead him to pretending to be a deaf mute in an insane asylum, this vivid potrayal of life in an asylum around the 1960s is a definitely a must read tragedy.  A man who had been in the workhouse, but painted himself as insane in order to leave the workhouse and enjoy the (to his mind) easier conditions of life in the asylum, fights against the “Combine” — especially the Nurse Ratched who controls the asylum.  Along the way, he liberates the other inmates from their inward turmoil.  From the beginning of his struggle, as soon as you realize that he does not understand the meaning of the word committed, you realize that this book will be a tragedy, and I read every page in dread.  However, the story is wonderful in the way it discusses the empathy that even people who would normally be judged harshly as selfish and cruel can feel for another person in a difficult situation.  Strangely enough, this novel of an insane asylum is a story of Christlike sacrifice.  It belongs on the any reading list.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.  Another crazy person story from the high school reading list, this story is written from the viewpoint of a teenager, Holden Caulfield, who has just been expelled from another private school.  Covering only a few days in his life, Holden reveals his true self in his care for his siblings.  He tells his sister that he would like to be “the catcher in the rye,” saving little children from going over the edge of a cliff in an imaginary game.  An easier read that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and less tragic, it was another good investment of time.

The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner by Liz Edmunds.  As I told you a few days ago, I listened to the Food Nanny at a conference a couple of weeks ago, and immediately put her book on hold at the local library.  Divided into “theme nights,” with many recipes for each theme and conversation starters throughout the book, Mrs. Edmunds encourages families to make dinner a priority.  Although I found that many of her recipes are ones I already make under a different name (chicken enchiladas, chili relleno casserole, Hoot’n annie pancake,) I really enjoyed looking through her book and getting different serving ideas.  I would really love to give this book as a gift to a young (or older) mom struggling to put dinner on the table every night, or even as a bridal or baby shower gift.

Unschooling Rules by Craig Aldrich.  This is the only book on my September reading list that is now on my Must Own list.  Although I hesitate to call any secular book inspiring, this book was that for me.  In our quest to have the very best for our children, it is difficult not to fall back on the pattern of schooling with which we were raised.  This book, in very succinct rules, defines and confirms why interest led learning, or unschooling, is the pattern of a life long learner.  I ordered this book through interlibrary loan because I read reviews on Amazon that said it was worth reading, but took only about an hour.  I don’t like to spend $10 an hour on my reading habit!  But this book deserves hours of rereading and reflection.  I am now ordering it.  I will be sharing some of my favorite quotes in the upcoming weeks, but in the meantime, go check out this post from Craig Aldrich, and celebrate the fact that you have taken a different route.

Since I have already bored you with reviews of my books, I won’t tell you all about the kids books in the picture more than to say that if you haven’t read them, check them out.  E. Nesbit is one of our favorite children’s authors, and this is my favorite of her books, and How Do You Spank a Porcupine? is another great read in the style of Owls in the Family and Birds, Beasts and Other Relatives.

What are your great recommends for reading right now?  Please leave me a comment below.