Please note: I have intentionally decided not to include Amazon links (unless something is available exclusively on Amazon). Instead, if you are interested in reading any of the books I mention, I encourage you to check out your local library or independent bookstore. These places (and the communities around them) need your support, and they are generally quite willing to order any book if they don’t currently have it in stock. However, if Amazon is still the more practical choice for you, it is easy enough to search and find any of the titles that I mention.
Storm in a Teacup, by Helen Czerski
This book was an absolutely beautiful look at the complexity of how our world works. For someone like me who has pretty limited grasp of science, this book was wonderful because Czerski explains so many different processes of the natural world but uses very practical, everyday occurrences for her examples. She explains how weather works, as well as magnets and electricity, by also explaining atoms and the principles behind energy transference. It’s a delightful read and makes one view the world much differently. Czerski makes no reference to God or anything religious or theological, but for me the book was very awe-inspiring at how God has ordered the universe. Everything is so incredibly complex and yet there is nothing chaotic about any of it once you learn the principles that govern it all. And there is still so much out there that science still can’t tell us.
Redwall, by Brian Jacques
I’m rather disappointed that I never read this book as a child. It’s a sweet, fun read, with talking animals and heroic deeds. I was especially impressed by the diversity of the characters. Yes, they are all animals like mice and rats, badgers and foxes, sparrows, owls, etc. But there is a good variety of personality types and an equality of gender that you never find even in modern writing, when “equality” always seems to be the name of the game. But Jacques wrote both males and females who are caretakers, nurturers, villains, fighters, strategizers, leaders, and followers. It was all very well-rounded and natural-feeling. The concept of talking animals felt a bit confusing at first, but it really did allow for the diversity of personalities in a medieval setting and opened up some very interesting plot points. Highly recommend, especially if you (or your kids) like animals and fun, medieval heroics.
Loving My Actual Life, by Alexandra Kuykendall
This book reminded me a great deal of Gretchen Rubins’ The Happiness Project, as both women had almost an identical concept of improving their own lives. Kuykendall dedicated nine months (Rubin did a full year) to learning to enjoy and appreciate her everyday life, with a different focus each month. Kuykendall is a mother and wife and so obviously her day-to-day life is very different than my own and not all of her areas of focus were relevant to me. However, there was definitely still some very helpful tips and observations. I especially enjoyed the first month’s focus, which was about finding inner quiet, especially though limiting social media. I also appreciated how she talks about taking back Sundays as a day of rest and the importance of that. She also shows a good example of a loving and supportive marriage that is flexible, compassionate, and where both spouses work as a team.
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers
I was actually quite surprised at how much I DID NOT like this book. I haven’t seen the movie Saving Mr. Banks yet, but I’d heard about how Walt Disney had changed a great deal of the Mary Poppins character and story when adapting it for the screen, and I have to say that this is one instance when I strongly prefer the movie over the book. The Mary Poppins of the book is extremely vain, cold towards the children, and just not very likeable. In one of the last chapters, the children go the London Zoo at night, and it’s a special night when all of the animals have left their cages and can talk. Travers depicts a huge snake as being the supreme ruler over all other animals, pointedly even over the lion. Being steeped in the stories of Narnia and the Bible as I am, it was very unsettling to read about a serpent being elevated over animals that are generally considered to be more noble and respected. I managed to finish the book, but it was a struggle and it is not one that I would recommend to anyone.
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