The book pile: Spring break edition

Having a week off of school is awfully nice.  I get to sleep in (well, as much as one can with kids in the house), hang out with visiting family (the boys are over the moon with joy to have their cousins in town), and dive blissfully into my reading pile.   Just yesterday afternoon, as the boys “rested” in their rooms,  I stretched out on the sofa with a novel, for once unencumbered by stacks of essays to grade.  It was heaven.

And what have I been reading?

Somehow or other, I discovered the forgotten classic Miss Buncle’s Book, by D. E. Stevenson.  (I actually think I was led to it by Amazon’s “Customers who bought this book also viewed …” linkapalooza, which will be the ruin of my wallet one of these days.)  First published in 1934, it’s the perfect read for anyone who likes gently satirical stories of life in quaint English towns.   Miss Buncle, a spinster in the town of Silverstream,  writes a novel about the people in her village, which she renames Copperfield.  (Silverstream/Copperfield; get it?).  Though she also changes the names of her neighbors, she is less circumspect about disguising their quirks and habits and flaws, with the result that her book — published under the name John Smith — causes an uproar in town.  Neighbors who recognize themselves in the story are crying for retribution, though no one knows who John Smith really is.  It’s totally delightful, in a wry understated British way.  (It’s also one of those lovely Persephone editions, with the plain gray cover and the gorgeous endpapers … a little spring break splurge.  We moms need to treat ourselves every now and then.)

Small Mercies: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life by Nancy Jo Sullivan touched me very much.  It’s a book of twenty short reflections, about finding God in the ordinary details of life.  Sullivan shares stories of her life and family — her young adult daughters, the end of her marriage, the death of her daughter Sarah, who had Down’s syndrome — and shows how little moments of grace, the kinds of thing you can easily miss, have helped her weather these storms with hope.   Though she deals with some painful subjects (her stories about her daughter moved me to tears), the overall effect of the book was encouraging and uplifting.   It invites the reader to recognize the small mercies in our own lives.  I read the book quickly, but you could easily read a chapter each morning over coffee — it would be a lovely way to start the day with your own antennae tuned to grace.

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney is one that I’ve been reading with Luke lately.  (Correction: he’s been “reading” it to me.)  If you have young kids, and you haven’t yet seen this book, you’re missing out.  The rhymes are delightful, and the pictures are expressive and colorful.  (And few things these days bring me more joy than my little brown-haired boy, clad in his footed sleeper, turning the pages and saying, “Wama, wama, red pajama …”).


7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness: Enriching  Your Faith by Strengthening the Health of Your Soul  by Joe Paprocki is a surprisingly engaging read.  I say “surprisingly” because most books about wellness make my eyes glaze over; I find them far to be too vague to be helpful.   This book, though, is wonderfuly specific.  It’s built around seven key questions (everything from “What do you have that can’t  be taken away?” to “What’s your security blanket?”) and unpacks the meaning behind each one, inviting the reader to look more closely at his/her values and habits.  It’s written from a Catholic perspective, so Paprocki weaves in all kinds of insights from everyone from Mother Teresa to Ronald Rolheiser.  Great food for thought.


I am finding tons of helpful tips in Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms.  Tami Kiser, a mother of nine, knows a thing or two about organization, and her book is a tremendously  helpful guide on how to keep your life/home running smoothly.  I loved her chapter on how to keep toys from taking over your home, and she has a chapter on organizing and saving your children’s memorabilia (I haven’t read it yet ,but believe me, I need some help in this area!).  She also addresses the spirituality of housework and juggling multiple tasks while keeping yourself open to encountering God.  It’s a very practical, positive, encouraging book.

Happy reading!

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