January was a great month for reading.
One of my goals for this year, is to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I am proud to say that I read four books in January, putting me right on track!
Reading was one of the best parts of January. I have been in a reading slump ever since I graduated college two years ago. In college, I had SO much to read for classes, that I stopped reading for pleasure. When I went home on breaks, I felt like my brain was so fried that I would lean towards easier reading–magazines, blogs, Jan Karon books, Jim Elliot books, Anne of Green Gables series, and the Yada Yada Sisterhood series on repeat. It felt so good to read some of my favorites. But once college ended, I never really got back into my voracious reading habit I had in high school.
Even when I made the goal to read 52 books this year, I thought: how? I spend most of my day bouncing Gideon, and when he is napping or in his Papa’s arms I am hurriedly making meals, doing my virtual assistant work, or cleaning. I really didn’t have much time to fit in sitting down with a good book, or so I thought.
But this is the year Hubs and I decided to chase our goals, so I did something different. Instead of just constantly wishing I could read more books, I thought intelligently about the barriers that were stopping me. I realized that while I don’t have a lot of time where my arms are free, I do have hours a day that my ears are free. While I don’t have a lot of time every day to read, I do have a wealth of time to devote to listening.
I, also, realized that at night-time I tend to lie in bed nursing Gideon, and looking at Instagram.
So I changed these two habits: throughout the month I had one e-book I read through my Overdrive app in lieu of Instagram, and I had one audiobook on standby for when I was bouncing Gideon. So throughout the day I would listen to my audiobook, and at night I would read my e-book. This worked out really well for me, in my current stage of life!
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Book #1: The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Oh, you guys, I cannot tell you how much this book inspired me! I started watching the home renovation reality TV show, Fixer Upper, a few years ago when it was on Netflix. I quickly fell in love, right along with the rest of America, with Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their sweet marriage, and godly family really inspired me. And, to be honest, Chip’s light-hearted banter with Jo reminded me so much of my own Hubby.
This book gave me so much food for thought. It tells the story of the Gaines before the cameras started rolling. It tells of their background, how they met, how they started their business, and how they found themselves on a reality tv show. I only grew in my admiration for this couple. And, throughout the book, I found myself constantly amazed by how similar they are to Saia and myself. Chip is the dreamer, the spender, the risk-taker, the practical joker, the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants guy, as his my husband. Joanna is the perfectionist, the saver, the play-it-safe-gal, the practical person, as am I. Even more than that, I greatly identified with Joanna–she was a Communications major, like me, decided she didn’t want to go make a living in New York city, but rather stick closer to home, like me. She is a middle child, has kept her hair long her whole life, and has taught herself everything she knows about decor.
What did I find inspiring? That this couple worked really, really hard to make a living for themselves, and weren’t afraid to take chances. They started a business when Joanna knew next to nothing about decor. They closed that business, when Joanna felt that God was telling her to stay home with her babies, they loved working together so they created a business where they could do just that. They have never owned a television set, and spend the evenings and mornings working on their projects or spending time together.
I was constantly chatting about this book to Saia, and played sections of it for him in the evenings. We spend a good part of a Saturday talking about everything I was learning, and how we could start our own businesses, like Chip and Joanna.
Rating: I give it five stars, absolutely!
How I Read it: I listened to the audiobook, and I think that was the perfect way to read it! Chip and Joanna read the book themselves, and it was super neat to hear them tell their own story.
Should you read it? Yes! Especially if you have watched Fixer Upper, and are a Christian. But I think anyone could take some inspiration away from this book.
“Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner. And in times of doubt or times of joy, listen for that still, small voice. Know that God has been there from the beginning—and he will be there until . . . The End.”
― Joanna Gaines
“I always thought that the “thriving” would come when everything was perfect, and what I learned is that it’s actually down in the mess that things get good.”
― Joanna Gaines
“I came to think of God as more of a gracious friend who was accompanying me on this journey, a friend who wanted to carry my burdens and speak into my life and shape me into who I really was and who I would become.”
― Chip Gaines
Book #2: In Praise of Stay at Home Moms by Laura Schlessinger
One one of my rather low days in the early days of motherhood, I was feeling pretty grumpy about this whole stay-at-home-mom gig. I loved being home with my little babe all day, but I was lonely, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to keep the house picked up, food on the table, and laundry done consistently (update: since then Gideon has started napping on his own, I’ve been able to get more things done, and I am feeling MUCH better about things). So I started searching Amazon for books about being a stay-at-home mom. I found this one, and all the reviews were really good so I ordered it
I must say, that I really didn’t enjoy this book. The first half of the book was Dr. Laura pontificating about the benefits of being a stay-at-home mom, and why she thinks it is terrible to work outside the home. And the second half of the book is split between reiterating how Dr. Laura was able to have a career, and be at home with her child all day over and over.
If a working mom read this, she couldn’t help but be offended by Dr. Laura’s strong tone, and if a stay-at-home mom like myself read this, it just honestly feels redundant. I didn’t pick it up to be convinced why I should be a stay-at-home mom, I already am one, I picked it up for encouragement, and I really didn’t find that within its pages.
Rating: Half a star
How I Read it: I read the hardback copy.
Should you read it? No, I really can’t see who this would be helpful for, quite honestly.
Oh my. This was one of the most exquisitely written books I have read in a very long time. I kept having to look up word definitions, and re-read sentences just to let the beauty seep into my mind. It was a pleasure to read! It is organized into eight different essays, and tells the story of a woman who spent the first few decades of her life escaping home–traveling to all corners the globe–and about how she eventually began to crave her home, unlike ever before, she returned to her family’s farm when she and her hubby were pregnant with their first, and she writes about the delight and yearning of home.
I loved this book, because Sarah describes pregnancy and new motherhood in terms that I felt, but never could put into words. She writes in a similar fashion to L.M.Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series), and every page is carefully curated, and almost poetic.
Warning: there is a bit of Buddhism towards the end, which didn’t bother me, and a few curse words towards the end as well, but not many.
Rating: 4.5 stars
How I Read It: An ebook, I read on my phone while I nursed Gideon. I finished it, by putting Gideon in his baby carrier, and letting him play with the shower curtain while I swayed, and read the last few poignant pages.
Should you read it? Yes, absolutely, especially if you are pregnant or a mama.
“The preciousness of that time [time to herself to write], the fact that it is so contested and fraught with the weight of what is not being done with it, have forced my hand: I have to admit that I believe in art. Not as a lofty ideal, a form of salvation or elevation or separate, I write because I have to, I read what I want to, and I figure everything else out as best I can (fellowships? ESL? Second photographer to my brilliant husband?), or I give it up. Become a park ranger. Bake pies and move on. Which maybe, someday, I’ll do. But for now I take my coffee and my computer to the barn, and I go until my brain hurts, until my body feels wrung out and I keep going until up at the screen door pops Jorge’s brown, bearded face: “Te toca.” Toothy grin. In his arms is the wriggly baby, hungry for Mom, hungry for milk, and her eager pawing at my chest reminds me once again why this matters so much and not at all.”
“I find literature in the silence after the baby stops crying, which is unlike any other silence. It is as if the world returns after annihilation and astounds anew with its robins and spaghetti and cut grass. In that moment of abrupt calm there is no good or bad or should or shouldn’t just gratefulness to recognize once again the distant drone of a lawn mower, the tittering gossip of the chickens as they take a wide berth around the dog.”
Book #4: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
by Natalie Goldberg
Since this post is already nearing 2,000 words (oy), I won’t dissect this book, other than to say that I loved the writing advice, and didn’t so much love all the Buddhism. Ha ha! My review in a nutshell.
Books I started, but gave up on:
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (I gleaned a lot of good things from the first few chapters of this book, but gave up when the author spent too much time on her theory that ideas are living creatures just like humans or animals, and are attracted to the most open hosts).