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Weekend clickbait + a few good books (and seeking reading recommendations)

Working on some far more interesting stuff to regale you with next week, but for now the combination of nap-boycotting babies and a few extra nephews running around has my writing brain turned into mush for the day. Plus, did I mention I went off coffee to experiment with getting a better handle on energy levels/insomnia? Color me sheepish. As one intrepid reader pointed out on Facebook, #mamaneedsdecaf. Which is accurate. (and which is also gross. High hopes for some of the recommendations you guys left me this morning.)

Anyway, I’ve read a couple great pieces this week that I wanted to pass along, and one interview that YOU ALL MUST WATCH – play it in another browser if it doesn’t open in Safari for you. Thanks to Hallie (who was also kind enough to invite me onto her Sirius XM show yesterday – link coming soon) for bringing it to my faltering attention.

And this one. Okay, yeah, I know it’s an ad campaign (and those granola bars, from what I recall from my swim team days, are terrible. Not a hint of chocolate) but it is a poignant truth they hit upon. I am always wracking my brain for ways to get my kids to do stuff outside, even when the weather isn’t great, and I realize that a lot of what keeps me turning to PBS Kids is that I don’t want them to mess up the house or get dirty. Which is sick. I’m really trying to be more intentional about giving them direction to play messily, independently, and boisterously outside, and not clenching my cheeks in terror when they scramble up a tree or jump a fence to grab a ball. Or jump into the wading pool filled with melting ice and mud. With shoes on. I will say that as I detach more and more from my phone and from the endless consumption of entertainment (even if, as is often the case for us grown ups, we cleverly disguise it from ourselves as “news” or “research”) I have more authority to refer them back outside, or down to the basement. Or … you get the picture. Because I also am reading something or mopping something or prepping dinner or helping another kid, so I don’t lack all credibility in their eyes, waving them off with my eyes glued to my phone, telling them and myself that mommy needs a break.

I’ve been reading more these past 3 weeks because, sorry dead horse, gonna hit you one more time, I HAVE TIME. It just still feels kind of miraculous. I have time to read, to write for pleasure, to write for deadlines, and to make dinner. Okay the last one is a lie, but that’s just because cooking is not my favorite. Give me all the laundry and vacuuming and take all my meal prep and dishes.

A few good titles:

The Year of Living Danishly. I’m a huuuuuge sucker for cultural immersion memoirs. Heck, I might write one myself one day. And this one did not disappoint. There are some nasty details about the sexual habits of the author’s new countrymen, but if you can skim past the grosser parts (mostly in one chapter, you’ll know it when you get there) this book was a fascinating look at a part of the world I know very little about. It was also a sobering glimpse into a completely secularized state, and the ensuing effects on the family, mental health, and child development. Without meaning to, the author painted a fairly grim picture of Scandinavia in those regards. But a really enjoyable book overall. Made me want to go to IKEA and start fresh with white walls and bleached pine floors and so many candles.

Waking the Dead. This is one of John Eldridge’s lesser known titles (at least I’d never heard of it) but it is spectacular. I would put it on a must read list of modern Christian writing, along with Unbound and Be Healed.

The Benedict Option. You know the one – that book that everyone is talking about without having read it first? Yeah, you’re gonna want to read this one for yourself, and then form your own opinions. I found Dreher to be surgically precise in his assessment of the cultural climate, and it was not at all what I was expecting from him. Plus, he interviews one of my all time favorite bloggers in it, and spends a good deal of time talking about Italy and Italians. What’s not to like?

The Magnolia Story. Hi, I’m a sucker for the Gainses. Can’t stop, won’t stop. It’s a sweet book, and Jojo was, at one time, more neurotic than I’d ever imagined. Which gives me hope. 4 stars.

Okay, so apparently I don’t read fiction. Haha. I just have the hardest time finding something that doesn’t blow up in my face with a gruesome murder plot or lascivious sex scene a quarter of the way into the book. I’ve learned that there’s actually a thing for what I am, I’m an HSP, and therefore, I can’t handle violence (especially sexual violence) or intense sex scenes or anything – definitely anything – involving a child’s death/kidnapping/torture.

So, at least I know I’m not alone in my crazy. But I am rather alone in my pickings from modern fiction. I’ve read pretty much everything on the best seller’s lists that fits into my scrawny little acceptable category, at least I think, but if you’d got something besides the past two year’s glut of WWII bestsellers or Miss Prim, I’m all ears.

Have a great weekend!

And hey, we’re still within the Octave, so Happy Easter!


  • Kaitlin

    I read very little new fiction because there are just too many good old ones that I have yet to read! But the Louis Penny mystery series is pretty good. They are murder mysteries, but in the 2 I’ve read the murder happens “off screen.” (only 2 in so far) And while the writing is phenomenal or anything, I don’t feel like I’m losing brain cells and can just enjoy the book. Morals aren’t perfect but I haven’t come across anything too bad yet.

    I’m probably HSP when it comes to books/movies too. That scene in House of Brede with the little boy…..I won’t ever get over that. These don’t come anywhere close to that. Christy has read much farther in the series, so ask her for any warnings!

  • Katie

    I, too, am an HSP, which I only discovered recently when trying to figure out how to more effectively parent my HSCs! It is strangely comforting to know there is a “thing” that describes me and that I’m not alone!

  • Cristina Drego

    I too am an HSP, so i tend toward the classics; however, I recently (last year) found out everyone was reading Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry and have been reading all his fiction since. Beautiful prose, somewhat slow, includes both the sadness and the comic of living in community. Also, the late Stuart McLean, of CBC radio, has a series of short story books called the Vinyl Cafe, about a family growing up. I can’t read it at night merely because I wake up my family while trying to contain my snorts of laugher. Canadian author and might be difficult to find in your area, but you can always try the interlibrary loan at your library. Totally worth the effort.

  • Arenda

    I’d recommend “This House of Brede” by Rumer Godden (a novel about nuns, totally fascinating!), “Catherine of Siena” by Sigrid Undset and “Kristin Lavransdatter” also by Sigrid Undset (novel about a Catholic woman in Norway in the 1300s – I guess it could be the “where Scandinavia used to be” counterpart to the Denmark book).

  • Jenna

    P.G. Wodehouse! Laugh out loud funny stuff.
    There is such a HUGE world of fiction out there and it does not have to include gory violence and sex. I can’t tolerate that either! I read to be entertained and edified. And ghastly stuff doesn’t do that for me.

  • Kelli

    Peace Like a River is so good and finally an enduring comimg of age tale similar to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Also, I picked up Persuasion for the 2nd time in my life and had no idea how witty Austen was. It’s been fun to revisit some of my favorites from my 20s now that I’m ten and thirty. Brideshead Revisited is next on my list, although this is a new to me read. Let us know what end up reading…. I need a HSP-friendly reading list.

  • Diana

    I liked “The Year of Living Danishly” for the same “so interesting to read about another culture” way! I would read a similar book for about any country! (Open to recs if anyone has them!)

    I recently read “Sugar” by Kimberly Stuart and it was a nice, pretty clean, foodie novel. I liked it.

  • Angela

    I’m like you as well & can’t handle reading fiction with horror scenes/sex. It really deterred me from reading fiction for a long time. How about some Catholic fiction though? Just discovered Marcus Grodi’s books: How Firm a Foundation & Pillar and Bulwark. Still in the middle of the first book, but I am very impressed. The writing is actually quite good as is the storyline. Throw in some Catholic apologetics & it’s a pretty great book. I plan on reading his second book when I’m done with the first, it has high reviews on amazon.

  • Laura

    If you liked the Danish book, and enjoy laughing out loud at living in other Countries, try A Year In Provence, by Peter Mayle. I read it years ago, but it ranks right up there as a great read! Very fun! I will order the Danish one and see how it compares.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I adore those books – I be that’s what got me into the genre. Also love “Four Seasons in Rome” by Anthony Doerr and “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes (which was butchered into a movie, but the book is quite on par with Mayle, if not as strongly written.)

  • KD

    Here’s a couple of fiction book rec’s that might fit what you’re looking for:
    – Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
    – The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Clayton
    – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    – Mr Penumbras 24 Hour Bookstore
    – What Alice Forgot
    – The Other Typist

  • Ava

    What she said : )
    Here’s some recommended short story reading for now:

    A Retrieved Reformation – O. Henry https://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/a-retrieved-reformation.pdf
    (Gift of the Magi, Springtime a la Carte, The Skylight Room & The Trimmed Lamp are also favorite stories of mine written by him)

    Revelation – Flannery O’Connor http://producer.csi.edu/cdraney/archive-courses/summer06/engl278/e-texts/oconner_revelation.pdf (Not to be read aloud – I guess the language was okay when it was penned but still not one you’d want to set to vox. Think about the character names, and every Gospel parable after you read it and you’ll appreciate it more.)

    The Three Hermits by Leo Tolstoy https://www.scribd.com/document/15776319/Three-Hermits-by-Leo-Tolstoy (Think of the Tri-Partate Soul after you read this and apply it to the hermits)

    The Pearl Necklace – Guy de Maupsassant http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Neck.shtml (This one’s somber, but it’s a short story classic.)

    And, if you can find a copy, First Blood by Jack Schaefer. It’s a great western coming to maturity story : )

  • Hannah

    Not fiction, but if you like cultural difference books, Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman is really really good about French motherhood, and Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin about, well, moms in Park Avenue. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande was amazing too (another nonfiction, my English degree is killing me!) and a super important topic for people to think about (imo). And if you haven’t, any Cather book is great, especially Shadows on the Rock (about French Quebec in the early 1800s I think). 🙂

  • Deb

    If you read Kristin Lavransdatter as others have recommended, please, please, please give us your review! I find myself in a terribly small minority of not fawning over Undset’s master work and I value your opinion 🙂

  • Bley

    My go-to fiction writers are British women from the early 20th century: Angela Thirkell, D.E. Stevenson, Agatha Christie, Frances Hodgson Burnett (she wrote more than just children’s books), Miss Read. They are like reading Masterpiece Theatre, minus anything disturbing or disgusting. Just utterly charming and atmospheric. So relaxing.

  • The English Major

    Read Elizabeth Goudge, especially Green Dolphin Street. Marilynne Robinson, especially Housekeeping. Some Alice Thomas Ellis: The Inn at the Edge of the World, The 27th Kingdom, Fish, Flesh, and Good Red Herring (if you’re interested in food and food history). She’s actually my current favorite–brilliant, witty, incisive, profound. Just don’t don’t read The Summer House trilogy–it’s brilliant but not for the sensitive. I second Wendell Berry. Also Janet Holt Giles, especially Hannah Fowler. And Neville Shute. I’ve only read The Pied Piper, and it is set during WWII, but it’s a lovely book, and I’ve heard his other books are also excellent. Can you tell I read a lot of novels? Thank goodness for having a book club, which provides concrete justification for my reading habits. 😉

  • Anamaria

    Ditto Wendell Berry, I love Jayber Crow and the short story collection Fidelity. I don’t completely love Kristin Lavransdatter but it is worth reading- I think of it often months after having finished- and for a 1,000 page book is not boring at all, ever. Marilynne Robinson’s fiction is great, too, as is re-reading Jane Austen! Bringing Up Bebe is good for a light, entertaining read.

    I’d also add the novel Quo Vadis (published in English in 1898, anything unseemly is off-screen), any Josef Pieper (Only the Lover Sings is short little pieces that you can easily read with ten minutes here and there but has real depth), John Senior and the Restoration of Realism, both The World Beyond Your Head: Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction and Shopclass as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford, Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion, Dorothy Sayers’ mystery novels if you like mysteries.

  • Julie

    Three Religious Rebels, The Family that Overtook Christ, and Burnt Out Incense all by Father M. Raymond–it is a three-book Saga of Citeaux about the Cistercians. Sounds dry, I know, but oh my goodness! Talk about motivating, fascinating and just a spiritually uplifting reading! It is in novel format, but based on many, many facts about the saints involved (the second book is St. Bernard of Clairvoux and his family). Though I haven’t read the Benedict Option, these books make you want to turn your home into a monastery!

  • Barbara Oliverio

    I realize that this comment is a) late to the party and b) a little self-serving. I’m an author who writes books featuring young witty Catholic women who sort out their careers and love lives while staying true to Faith and family. Of course, I’d love you to check out my work, but I also recommend books by authors featured on http://cleanindiereads.com — the home of flinch-free fiction. You can find me and my sassy heroines at http://www.barbaraoliverio.com

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