Thursday, December 31, 2009

My favorite books of 2009

There is a gentle snow again this morning and it is cold in the Midwest and getting colder.  I'm not complaining as I actually love the cold weather months.  I may have been raised by a Southern mother but my inner thermostat is all Northern.

Somewhere in the vicinity of early March I am quite ready for warmth and color to return to my world. Until then, the season for being quiet and making soup and bread and reading is to be embraced.  I'm pretty certain these feelings came about in the near decade we lived in Western Michigan, where one learns to find that which is good about all the cold and snow.  :)

Thus, the stack of books to be read is often much higher than reasonable at this time of year.  Much like my husband's tray at a cafeteria as a young man... our eyes are often bigger than the literary tummy can digest.  We will make every attempt, of course to read them all, even if it involves a little skimming here and there of certain volumes.

This year I didn't write down all the books I read.  It is one of those habits that went by the wayside but I plan to begin all over again tomorrow as I prepare a page in my scrapbook journal.  So, this list of favorites is "off the top of my head" and I may later think of a book I liked just as much.

Most of these books I first borrowed from the library when they were first published or they came to my attention.  A few were later purchased for myself or Stephanie with Amazon credit.  Like rich cream, these rose to the top of all the titles read this past year.

Favorite Novel
If the sign of a great work of fiction is how often we think of the people in the book through the year, then my favorite novel read has to be The Gursney Literary and Potato Peel Society.  I've never seen another title make its' way as quickly through blogland with word of mouth recommendations like this one.

Set in postwar England (WWII), it is charming and funny as well as giving us a little peek into the challenges many had to endure during and after the war.  It is not only my favorite from this past year, it is easily one of my all time favorite novels.

Favorite Nonfiction
I'd heard a lot about Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home.  It is one of those books whose Amazon page shows comments of both absolute love and hate.  I have a feeling what you think of the book has a lot to do with expectations.  If you expect a lot of recipes and "how to" instruction.... this is not the book for you.  If you are not at all domestic, it is definitely not your "cup of tea".  :)

I brought it home from the library one afternoon and snuggled up with it for days, reading off and on as time permitted.  The combination of pictures and prose provided a sense that this woman understands my feelings about the home and family.  That is what makes it a favorite... that sense of chatting with someone over tea while sharing ideas about books and old movies and cooking and decorating and bringing a little magic (Narnia magic) to our lives.

I ended up purchasing this book when I accumulated enough Amazon credit and it sits on the shelf among  favorite books that I take off the shelf and lose myself in when a mental vacation is required.

I love cookbooks, I read them as some people read novels.  Having said that... I gave away scads of them the past few years and they must be fabulous to purchase these days.  There was one I bought with Amazon credit and kept for myself and two I gave to my daughter as I knew Elisabeth would enjoy them, too.

I purchased Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood after bringing it home twice from the library to peruse.  When one now has a limited (considering how many we used to own) amount of cookbooks, it has to be very good to later purchase and have a place of honor in the kitchen.

Trisha's book has great recipes that are mostly very easy (just a few special occasion recipes which take longer to prepare).  Because they are recipes she grew up with as well as a few favorites of her husband, they are tried and true.  Everything I've made from it has turned out well. I love the way her mother and sister are a part of this book, too.

Two books I purchased as gifts for "my girls" are The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen: Live Well, Laugh Often, Cook Much and The River Cottage Family Cookbook.  The former being a delight to the eyes as well as providing great recipes and craft ideas and the latter one of the best cookbooks I've ever read for families who enjoy cooking together (with farm fresh and healthy foods).  At the time I ordered the River Cottage book, there were plenty of inexpensive copies available!  It is also available now in paperback.

Kid's Books
I had the serendipitous timing of receiving Jack Hannah's book Jungle Jack's Wackiest, Wildest, and Weirdest Animals in the World to review when the family was visiting from New England.  Sometimes an adult can love a book but kids... not so much.  I knew this one was a winner when we all liked it, the little guy even enjoyed the pictures.  It also contains a DVD with bloopers from both his recent shows and his earliest days on TV.  It is a sturdy picture book but has plenty of information about each animal for older kids and adults.

Homeschooling Mom Books
Karen Andreola's books are all among my favorites and highly recommended for families using the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling.  So, I was quite happy to find she had written a sequel to her first novel.  Titled Lessons at Blackberry Inn: Adventures with the Gentle Art of Learning, it continues the fictional account of a family (I believe set in the 1940s or thereabout) homeschooling their children using the CM style of education. Both of her novels are enjoyable for ladies of all ages.  They remind me a lot of a Grace Livingston Hill book.

As I said, I know I'll think of more favorites as time progresses but these are what I thought of first.  I know there had to have been a brand new "Christian" book among them but nothing came to my mind immediately.  I have tended to reread my favorite authors a lot this past year.

This is the first book post I have written since adding the Blogger-Amazon link option.  So far it seems to have worked fairly well. The Recommendations list will be available next week... God willing and the creek don't rise... and the desktop computer stay out of the shop.  Which is where it ended up the same time I had planned to type out the Recommendations list a few weeks ago.


Anonymous said...

I have lurked at your blog all year. I used to blog and am starting again. I thought I should introduce myself!! I know how comments really encourage. I totally love your blog!! You are so inspiring!! I love the pantry post most of all but I really like hearing about your reading. I have added you on my blog!! Happy and Blessed New Year!!!

Ashley said...

I haven't read some of these... I've been dying for some new book suggestions :D Thanks!! Happy New Year :)

Vee said...

One of your posts on your favorite books is probably almost as delicious as reading the book for myself. Honestly, Brenda, I could sit down here for an hour or more with my cup of tea and just read and read. Okay, now I have some good titles to head to the library with come Monday morning...I have yet to be disappointed by one of your recommendations.

Have a delightfully cozy's snowing here as well and I am all about making it cozy.

Elizabeth said...

First of all - Happy New Year to you and your family!

I also bought the Jungle Jack book and it was a real hit with the grandkids. I read Blackberry Inn and the companion to it and enjoyed them both.

My fiction preferences tend to lean towards mysteries. They hold my attention because I rarely can figure out ahead of time "who done it."

My best recommendation (I know you weren't really asking but this is too good not to mention) for nonfiction would be The Sacred Echo:Hearing God's Voice in Every Area of Your Life. I have referred to it time and again over the past year.

Mrs.Rabe said...

I will have to check out your recommendations! The only one I have read as well, is Karen Andreola's book. Karen and her family are friends of ours from church and she is as delightful as her books. When ever I read her books I can hear her 'voice'.

Happy New Year Brenda!

Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". I would like to recommend "Sarah's Key" for those who like history of the WWII era.

I recently read "Mrs. Minniver" after seeing it on the last reading list and then watched the movie again.

I am enjoying Jane Brocket's book but one of her recommendations I did not care for and that was an author named Elizabeth Taylor. It was a homey book but a little too un-Christian for me.

I am looking forward to the next list!

Friend Debra

Brenda Leyland said...

Thanks so much for sharing your favorite books in 2009. A lovely idea to sum up your reading year.

I'll have to think about which were my favourites, but you mentioned the potato society, that would have to be up there for sure, as well as the Essential School of Cooking, by Erica Bauermeister.

Here's wishing you a wonderful 2010! May blessings spill over you from every corner!

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

Happy New Year friend. My laptop has been acting up the last few days so now that I'm back in SC I can get back into blogworld. I love your book reviews. I have the Potato book, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I barely started then went onto others. I will go back now and read it. I'm so glad my Avery is reading lots lately and we are always on the lookout for series, as she devours them. later, T

Storybook Woods said...

Happy new year wishes, some of a favoite books and few I have not heard of. I will add these to my list to checdk out. Clarice

Beth said...

Happy New Year Brenda. Like Julie, I too have been lurking on your blog for the past year. Your sweet and gentle spirit just permeates all you write. It is so refreshing and delightful. Again, like Julie, I am restarting my own blog. In fact, I totally scrapped my old blog and started anew. I hope you'll visit. And I'll visit Julie's blog too! May you have a blessed 2010!

Debbie in CA : ) said...

Books! Books! How I love books! Thank you for this meaty, wonder-filled ramble through your reading basket. What a fine New Year's Gift! I share your love of some and can't wait to introduce myself to the rest!

Last night as we rung in the new year with a puzzle and a recording of Handel's Messiah gloriously playing in the background I thought of you. I just knew you would have been right at home with us here.

I wish you blessings abundant, with sweet hope and joy as companions in the new year, my dear friend.

Thank you for always being "in" when I come to call for a visit. I am always blessed with coffe, tea books, and thee. XO!

Emily said...

Love your posts on books, Brenda. You have a flair for description that makes me want to run out to the library right now....too bad it's closed today. :) I've been meaning to read the first book you mentioned but there was a long waiting list for it. Perhaps I can request it now that it's not quite so new. All of Karen Andreola's books are charming, cozy, and ever so helpful on our homeschooling journey. I've never heard of the homemaking book but it sounds like a perfect one to curl up with over and over especially during these cold, dark days of winter. Have a blessed and happy new year! Today I'm working on our schedules for the new school!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your siteI love everything about it.

Sue said...

Thank you for your post on favorite books. I am always on the lookout for some new ones to add to the "stack." I have the "Potato Peel" book in my stack - it is our book club book for February. I wanted to add a new book I just completed - The Help. Really great book, the kind you wish could just go on and on.

Blessings to you and your family for a wonderful 2010.

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries™ said...

Wonderful post after my own heart. Thank you for taking the time to review these books for us. I will be putting "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" on the top of my reading list. Lately, I have been re~reading Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" chapter per morning or evening. It's been about eight years since I first read this amazing epic. As well, every morning I try to fit in an inch or two of C.S.Lewis's "Mere Christianity". I say an inch at a time because I read and re read each line in order to truly absorb and then weigh and consider his observations and wisdoms. It always leaves me with so much to chew on, mentally, during the day. I have also just found my original, unabridged copy of "Little Women" which is now in my own over~grown stack of books in my reading nook. It's dilapidated, but beloved, cover was discovered tucked behind a stack of other books in the girls' bookcase. Needless to say I was very happy as it is the very book that kept me such company during my childhood and beyond.
I suppose you could call this my year of re Reading!!
Bless you my kind friend. Thank you for all you do in bringing your many thought provoking and charming posts. I know I can always find a good and kind word when visiting here. God bless you and your lovely family in this new year and beyond.
Love and good thoughts.

Heather L. said...

I've enjoyed so many of these very same books this year too!! One or two thanks to your recommendations!!! Keep them coming! I'm working on preparing my book list post too.