At this point, after a week of everyone suffering a most violent flu and faced with the prospect of cleaning and disinfecting this house, I am tempted to take the easy route and just burn it down. So instead I’ll blog. Yay for productivity!
These are the books I loved or learned the most from this past year. They weren’t necessarily published in 2010 but they found their way to me then. (I didn’t bother including all of the books that I’ve re-read this year because I am one of those people that reads and rereads their books over and over again until they are dog-eared. I’m looking at you, Jane Eyre.) Also, this year, I took a two week break from any type of reading that wasn’t Harry Potter. And it was very satisfying.
My Favourite Book of 2010
I mean that in the You-Must-Get-Yourself-To-A-Library-Or-Bookstore-And-Read-This-Because-It-Will-Change-Your-Life-Profoundly way.
The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work”
by Kathleen Norris
Originally a lecture series by one of my favourite authors (seriously, anyone who writes a book of poetry entitled “Little Girls in Church” AND writes about faith and spirituality on the prairies is clearly a kindred spirit in some measure), this is a deceptively tiny book. And really, it came pat to the psychological moment (or it was Holy Spirit lead – you can guess which one I lean towards believing) for my own life as I try to balance the daily work of living with a rich life of the mind and spirit.
This wise little book reached down into my heart to help me reconcile many of my deeper questions about work and finding God in mundane, daily details, in giving him glory when there isn’t much about my life that looks “glorious” to others. I’m not one that adheres to the notion of “biblical womanhood” and sometimes, in Christian circles, this can leave me feeling a bit like “The Other.” The subtitle is a bit misleading – it’s not really about “homemaking” or “women’s work” (both phrases can make me a bit nervous) – it’s really for men and women and it’s about knowing the role – and the holiness – of the daily work in our lives.
“I have come to believe that the true mystics of the quotidian are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self.”
Amen, said this tired, overworked mystical mother of two-nearly-three tinies. I may have underlined the entire book. (You think I’m kidding…) And I feel like I could write for about two weeks on all of the wisdom and kisses-from-heaven I received while reading it.
And here are a few others worth your time, in my (never very) humble opinion:
Faith and Spirituality
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
by Donald Miller
I don’t really want my life storyto be about howI paid off my mortgageor got another nice car.I don’t really want my kids to saythey could eat off my floor.That doesn’t reallyinspire anyone.
I have deep respect for Andrew Marin and his lovely, thoughtful wife, Brenda. They are the real deal. Their work as bridge builders between the LGBTQ community and the Church is sorely needed – on both sides. This book is practical but it’s also compassionate and Gospel-centric without being narrow-minded.
Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks and a Writer’s Life
by Kathleen Norris
This New York Times bestseller arose out of The Quotidian Mysteries (that one I loved so much above). It’s an expansion on several ideas within it – namely about acedia (the spiritual cousin of depression). I resonated with much of the book because I have often walked through seasons of my life that I have called “depression” because I didn’t know what else to call it even though I knew it wasn’t the clinical version of this very real disease. I feel now that I have named it in acedia as well as how to grapple with my tendencies. It also gave me a very real kick in the pants about the role of daily work in my life even around spiritual disciplines.
Fiction and Literature
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte
by Syrie James
My copy of Jane Eyre is so incredibly dog-eared, the spine so battered, that I couldn’t help but love this book. I read her previous book about Jane Austen but this one was just a good, interesting story especially since it’s about a book that I know and love so well. And the insights to a family of incredible women writers was just icing.
The Glass Castle
by Jeanette Walls
I struggle with calling this a favourite but it was definitely one of the best I read this year. It was gritty, raw and heartbreaking.
Resurrection in May
by Lisa Samson
Lisa Samson is my absolute favourite writer in the Christian market. I know she’s not everyone’s cup of tea but the woman tells good, compelling stories with quirky characters. Her last few books have been incredible (The Passion of Mary Margaret was absolutely gorgeous) and this one was no exception.
by Lawrence J. Cohen
This book could have been written by my parents. For those of us that choose not to spank and try to keep the yelling and barking of orders to a minimum, this gives a lot of material for alternative means of discipline. I have used so many of these ideas – many of which I recognised from my own childhood! – with the tinies and, I have to admit that “shaking the grouchies out” has proven much more effective at breaking a serious session of whining and complaining than any time I’ve hollered “Stop being so whiny!” The funny thing about this book is that it gave me all the “reasons” and “psychology” for choosing playful parenting but the truth is, my parents had already been practicing it, by instinct, and I learned much of it from them.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
by Ina May Gaskin
Giving birth has been one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I almost can’t express how beautiful and powerful it has been. After birthing two babies and preparing for our third, I have revisited many of my old favourite books about natural childbirth but I was shocked to realise I hadn’t actually read Ina May’s landmark “Guide to Childbirth” yet. And wow! What a great book! The first half is filled with good, normal stories of birth and the last half is about the the actual process and ideas, techniques and wisdom from those stories. Since we’re planning a homebirth for this baby (with a midwife) this has been very reassuring and informative.
For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School
by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
I blame my friend, Gina, entirely for this book. She left it for me (likely as revenge since I gave her children the Cat Piano) before she went back to Texas and I let it sit on the table, glaring malevolently at it occasionally. She is a Charlotte Mason homeschooler and I wanted no part of it. (The cover was off-putting – I admit I’m that shallow.) Then I finally read it because I’ve been so torn about schooling and education and what the best path will be for our family in the fall. And of course, it rocked my world. I still don’t know about homeschooling but the book itself isn’t necessarily about homeschooling as much as it is about education. And seeing education in a whole new light, particularly from a Christian worldview, as a discipline, a way of life and an atmosphere. It challenged many of my ideas about our home and how we educate and raise children in our society.
Food and Simple Living
Jamie’s Food Revolution : Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals
by Jamie Oliver
After emerging from the Whole Food Challenge changed for life, I have found that it’s Jamie Oliver I return to most often for recipes and general guidance about keeping it simple and keeping it good.
Now here’s the big question: What would you recommend?
What was your favourite, please-go-read-this-right-now book of 2010? I’m looking for a new book or seven for January….