I always enjoy looking back over the past year’s books to remind myself of what I learned and how I grew. This year I read less non-fiction than the year before. However, in last year’s post I mentioned that I was missing biographies and narrative history in my non-fiction line up. I corrected that by reading two fabulous biographies of women who are not common household names, but should be! And one was a Marylander who grew up about thirty minutes from where I live.
But let’s not get ahead of things. First, I give my books a points where books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system—five being excellent! Here’s what I read in 2019:
This was my third read-through of this book. It actually was the very first mothering book I read when my twins were infants. It’s one of my favorites. Fleming writes in such a refreshing and inspiring way about motherhood. It encouraged me to do really think of my kids as individuals and write them each personal letters about 10 things I love about them. This was one of the best things I’ve done. My kids cherished those letters and some even have them pinned to their bulletin boards of their room. If nothing else, it was worth it for that alone. I like rereading this book when my kids are in different stages because it impacts me differently each time.
This is a treasure of a book. Unique and hard to pin down, it’s a beautiful mix of memoir, spiritual musings, gardening journal, and thoughts on what it means to make a home and invite community. I loved it even more than her first book, Roots and Sky, which I also reviewed a few years ago.
A long-time fan of the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast it was a given I’d read this book. It was a great reminder about why reading aloud is so important and has some great booklists.
This book was a great companion to Lent, if your looking for a day-by-day book for that season.
Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior****
Prior writes that Hannah More “was a woman with virtues and flaws, faith and fears, vision and blind spots. But she was also one whose unique gifts and fierce convictions transformed first her life and subsequently her world and ours.” More was someone I’d never heard of, however, she was a prolific and successful author with a novel that was one of England’s earliest bestsellers when novels were just being developed as a genre. She was involved in many reforms of her time period: abolition of the slave trade, education for women and the poor, and the humane treatment of animals. I was very happy to be introduced to this amazing woman whose story has been lost to history in many ways.
This book has some great out-of-the-box ways of thinking about “school” and how to connect your kids to learning that engages them. A worthy read that pushed me a bit out of my comfort zone.
Filled with Simons’ trademark art this book is a feast for the eyes. But it is more than pretty, it could really be used as a devotional. I loved the way each chapter had a “Beholding” and “Becoming” section. I also appreciated the emphasis on the mundane aspects of life. With social media today I am sometimes tempted to feel like I’m not a success until I have several thousand followers or am making money as “influencer” online. We’re all told we can do it all, which really isn’t true and is exhausting. This book helps us take a step back and see why the little things matter—and that it’s not just what we do that matters, but who we are.
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell*****
I must confess I got a bit obsessed with Virginia Hall. She was born right here in Baltimore and went to Rolland Park Country School. But she was a spy for first the British and then the Americans in W. W. II and eluded the Gestapo while they searched for her, calling her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” She organized and planned Allied communications, escape routes, and sabotage. She was a radio transmitter and weapons distributor. She eventually escaped France to Spain via the Pyrenees mountains, not even letting her guides know she had a prosthetic leg she called “Cuthbert.” As the only civilian woman of the war to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, it’s high time the world learns about this fantastically brave woman. See? Just a little obsessed.