reading

Social Saturday | January 27

a stack of books to read sitting in front of a wall with a floral picture hanging on it

Hello and happy Saturday Dear Reader! What are your plans for this weekend? Mine are to write this post, do some crafting, tidying and reading and I’m not sure what else.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately…

Reading: All of the books in the stack above. Well, not all at the same time. I’ve finished The Life Giving Home, A Proper Pursuit, and Digital Madness and am now halfway through The Pastor’s Wife. After I finished The Lifegiving Home I was inspired to pull out one of my favourite books, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions again. So many good books, so little time…

cornflower botanical painting by Jenni Haikonen

Loving: This beautiful cornflower botanical watercolour by one of my favourite artists, Jenni Haikonen. I received it for Christmas from my parents.

Making: So many projects on the go, all the time, but my current sewing project is a wool skirt out of piece of wool that was originally a pleated skirt. I liked the colourway of the plaid so decided to pick it out and make a new skirt that was more my style. I got the idea of unpicking wool skirts from American Duchess years ago. There was just enough fabric I could squeeze a 4 panel 1/2 circle skirt, while still managing to avoid a few stains as well as match the plaid across the seams!

embroidery and crochet crafts and a length of plaid with a skirt pattern on it

Thankful For: Art and Craft night with friends. Yesterday I hosted a creative get together with 9 other ladies. We each brought our current craft project, like a guild or sewing circle, and worked on it in the company of others. We had a wide variety of talent including crochet animals and dishcloths, a knitted doll, sketching, acrylic painting, embroidery, scrapbooking and fabric and bead ornaments. It was fun seeing what everyone was working on, but most of all we enjoyed the company and conversation.

Listening To: Anúna. I don’t know why I didn’t know about this group until now, because I love Riverdance, Celtic Woman and other choral music. I discovered them in December while listening to Christmas music on Youtube (their Christmas playlist is gorgeous) and now I am hooked. I particularly love this one, “Sleepsong“.

Vintage Vogue magazine from 1892 framed in a black and brass frame

In other news, I framed this Vogue cover from 1892 (no, it’s not original! It’s just a copy I cut off of a dust jacket) to add to my gallery wall.

And some of the other crafts I’ve been making are more of these photo cards. I’ve been using photos I had printed and then stamp them and glue them to a card. I made some kraft envelopes for them too, and decided to list them in my shop. I’ve also listed some more baby/girl’s headbands as well.

cards and headbands for sale in my shop

Well, that’s all for now. I’d better finish this post up and get busy with my other projects before the day runs away from me! I hope you have a lovely Saturday, whatever you are up to.

❤︎ Nicole

A Year of Reading | My Favourite Books of 2023

a cup of tea in a blue floral patterned teacup sits on a wooden background and a vintage book is open beside it

Happy New Year, Dear Reader! Can you believe we are already in 2024? For this first post of the new year I thought I would share my favourite books I read in 2023. Last December, I decided that I wanted to finally read some of the books on my To Be Read list that had been there for a while, as well get through all of the unread books on my bookshelf. (I think that’s my goal every year, and I always fail, but I still keep trying…) I compiled a shortlist of 14 books, some of which were available in the library and some I needed to buy or borrow from others. Then, to accomplish the other goal, I pulled all of the unread books off of my bookshelf (they get lost amongst the other books) and dedicated a shelf specifically for them. As I purchased and borrowed new books throughout the year, they joined the others on that shelf and then as I read them, they went back onto my main bookshelf. (Or into the donation bin for a few I didn’t enjoy!)

This method helped keep me focused and I was able to get through quite a lot of them, while still giving me the freedom to read what I was in the mood for. I know some people like to schedule books to read each week/month, but I would rather have an array of choices and pick what appeals to me the most in the moment. I like to read a variety of genres, but I’m not necessarily always in the mood for all of them.

While I did read almost all 14 of the books I had planned on, I didn’t make it through The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas. It was a lot thicker of a book than I anticipated, so if I finish it in 2024, then I will consider than an accomplishment! I did read more than those 14 books this year, but this list is a bit on the smaller side, since not very many ended up being ones I “loved” and wanted to share. But now, onto the books that I did like in 2023, in no particular order…

The book Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxes sitting on a wooden background

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas

I said they weren’t in particular order, but we’re starting off with what was, by far, my favourite book of the year. Last year I read Hitler’s Cross by Erwin Lutzer… which then led me to read Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas… which then piqued my interest in more of Metaxas’ books… which then led me to this volume about William Wilberforce. This book was published in conjunction with the 2006 film of the same name. While I am familiar with Wilberforce, I loved learning more about him as well as the other Reformers and Abolitionists. This is one of those books where a good subject is made even better by a great author. Here is a small example of Metaxas’ writing style, in his “Acknowledgements”, so you can get a feel for what I mean.

“Life is a collaborative effort. That books are is a cliche, but not a fiction. I wish first and foremost to thank my typist, yours truly, for quite literally transcribing my thoughts as I thought them, a feat hardly to be explained, and yet quite literally true.”

While the book chronicles a serious topic, it is not depressing. Metaxas explores both Wilberforce’s personal and political life, his Christian faith and how that propelled him in his work, and the ups and downs of the Abolitionist movement. I found this to be an extremely encouraging and uplifting book, akin to the the way I feel about The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom; it is definitely one I will pull out and read again. If you have never watched the accompanying film Amazing Grace, then I also recommend it!

Little House on the Prairie and Laura Ingalls Wilder biography book sitting on a wooden background

Laura by Donald Zochert and the Little House Series

Alright, so this wasn’t one book but 10, but I’m including them all in one review. I hadn’t read the Little House series for probably 15 or more years, so when I picked up this biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, I was inspired to read them again. I liked the biography because it filled in some of the areas of her life, clarifying details (such as which States “the West” were, or specific years events happened) and shared Laura’s story from an adult perspective. Then, after I finished the biography, I read the Little House books, spacing them out throughout the year, with other books in between, so I wouldn’t get tired of them as sometimes happens when you read a series too fast. Because they are children’s books, they are quick to read, but they are so enjoyable. As I read them, I just keep thinking about how glad I am that I am not a homesteader, because I would definitely be dead before the first snow came!

paperback version of Les Miserables book sitting on a wooden background

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I’ve had this book on my list for years, but was always intimidated to start it because I thought it was probably a difficult read which would take me too long to get through in time, if I got it from the library. I found a copy at a second hand book store last year and discovered that I could have borrowed it from the library years ago because I read the story in under a week! However, I am glad to have my own copy now, because I love the story so much I will definitely re-read it in the future.

I was familiar with the general storyline since I have seen the musical both performed live and as a movie, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much more I liked the book. Hugo has an excellent writing style and, obviously, delves deeper into the characters and events than a musical could ever sum up. I thoroughly enjoyed this one: if you liked the musical, then you will love the book too.

adorned book sitting on a wooden background

Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

I was simultaneously encouraged and convicted when I read this book, which is a study on Titus 2 about Biblical womanhood and the importance of “older” and “younger” women learning from and teaching one another. She talks about how that learning and mentoring can only happen when we are involved in each others lives, and dives deep into this passage of Scripture (it’s a 14 week study). I liked the book so much that I am actually now reading it for a Bible study with several women from my church. However, even if you don’t have a group to go through it with, I still recommend it to read by yourself as there is plenty of food for thought and opportunity for personal reflection. (I also love the cover design of this book!)

artwork of david copperfield

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

This is the only audio book I listened to this year. I really meant to listen to some more, but just got busy listening to other things, like podcasts, in the evenings and forgot all about audio books (even when it would have been nice to listen to while I was sewing and crafting). This was Dickens’ personal favourite of the books he wrote and while I wouldn’t say it is my favourite, I do love to read his stories- or rather listen to them because I love his style of writing and storytelling, and the characters are always so loveable. I listened to this version. I already briefly mentioned this in a post earlier this year, but it is worth repeating again this wonderful quote, which is so typical of Dickens’ wordy descriptions,

The pigeon-pie was not bad, but it was a delusive pie: the crust being like a disappointing head, phrenologically speaking: full of lumps and bumps, with nothing particular underneath.”

I got very frustrated with this story about halfway through, because I didn’t like where he was taking the story, but then he brought it around and resolved it with a strong and satisfying conclusion.

what kitty did next book sitting on a wooden background

What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

This was another book that had been on my “To Read” list for a few years, recommended to me by my book and Jane Austen loving friend, but it wasn’t available at the library, so I had to get it secondhand. It was on my Thrift Books wish list, but was always out of stock, until one day in October when I checked and it was in, so I quickly grabbed it! This story follows the Pride and Prejudice character Kitty Bennet after Elizabeth and Jane’s marriages. It was written in the style of Jane Austen’s writing and I enjoyed the characterization of Kitty; I thought she was quite believable when compared to the original work. It was a meandering story, which I liked, however, I thought that Kablean’s climax/crisis was a bit weak and could have been resolved a bit more believably. Despite that flaw, I am sharing this one in my list because I like reading about the Bennet family from different perspectives (I’m not sure there is a more famous historical, fictional family than the Bennets) and if you like Jane Austen fan fiction, then I think you will too. I also really liked the cover design of this one! (Ps- if you like reading about the Bennet sisters, then you will probably also like The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow, which has a completely different storyline to this one!)

Well, there are my favourite books of 2023. As for this year, I don’t have any particular reading goals other than to finish the few that I didn’t get to this year. I’ve also got quite a few Classics on my list, so maybe I will listen to more audio books of those. I’ve started listening to Wuthering Heights (it’s been so long since I last read it that I can’t remember any of the story) so I’m already off to a good start on that.

What books are on your list for this year? What were your favourite books of last year? Have you read any of these and if so, what did you think of them?

A Year of Reading | My Favourite Books of 2022

stack of books that I read in 2022 sitting on top of a wooden table

Here we are already in 2023, which means it’s time for round up of my favourite reads of 2022! I read 46 books this year, and while I did enjoy many of them, there were only a few that I felt excited enough about to share in this list. In no particular order, here are the books I loved this past year.

daughters of fortune book series by judith pella book covers

Daughters of Fortune by Judith Pella

This series is a re-read, (I first read this series when I was 17 or so). I’ve always had an interest in WWII for some reason, so a fictional story that spans the three areas affected by the war: Europe, the Pacific and the American home-front was right up my alley. The story follows three sisters, Cameron, Blaire and Jaqueline as they navigate the war years. I love the storylines of each sister. It’s one of those books that you get immersed in one storyline and then it switches to the next character and you get mad, but then get immersed in their storyline, only to have it switch on you again! The only criticism I have of the series is that by book Four I honestly think she was getting tired of writing, because there is a huge rush at the end, and then a jump to the epilogue and then the story is over. I felt like we needed a few more chapters to wrap things up, but it’s still a good story despite that. My local library doesn’t have this series, so I was happy when I got my own copies last year as a Christmas gift! I bought them from Thrift Books which is always a bit of a gamble as to the quality, (and then the first book got lost in the mail and I had to wait several months for a replacement copy!) but I like having them on my shelf now, so I can read them again in the future.

hitler's cross book cover

Hitler’s Cross by Erwin W. Lutzer

This book has been on my TBR (to be read) list for a year, and it wasn’t one that my library system had. I got this one from Better World Books and I am so happy I did, because this was probably my favourite book of the year. It wasn’t a happy read for sure, talking about how the church in Germany was so weak and became fooled by Hitler, but it was a very prescient book. I see so many similarities between the culture of the German church in the 1930’s and the church in the West today. Which is, of course, why Lutzer wrote it 10 years ago. It is just as relevant today as ever before. It’s one of those books that you are reading along and wanting to underline so many sections (which I never do, but should!) that pretty soon the whole book is underlined. If you’re curious about the culture of the church during WWII this is a great book, and if you’re interested in the culture of the church today, then this is also great book.

ps. I also want to clarify that the anniversary copy I got has a forward by Ravi Zacharias, but the original book does not to my knowledge. That forward, sadly written by a man with a double life, does not change the meat and message of the book. 

bonheoffer book cover

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

After I finished Hitler’s Cross, I was intrigued to read more about Deitrich Bonhoeffer, since he was a key figure during WWII and I wasn’t super familiar with him. I then came across this book at a second hand book shop, which was perfect. It was a slow read and it took me several months to work through. (Although some of that time I was sick and wasn’t reading anything.) It’s a slow read, but that’s because it’s so good. This is also one of those books that would be very underlined with hardly any sections unmarked. I learned so much about the Germany, the War and the Church in this book. It also raised so many good questions about what our response should be when faced with those seemingly “grey areas”, as well as the importance of being faithful to God in the small things, so that we are ready when the big things come. This was my other favourite book of the year. I would also like to get Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, for further reading.

Feels like Home book cover

Feels Like Home by Marion Parsons

Because this list is starting to be all WWII content (Again! Last year was too!), here’s a change of scene (yes pun intended, of course). I read so many decorating books this year, but my favourite was this one by the blogger Miss Mustard Seed. I loved it so much I got it for my birthday! I had actually never read her blog before, but came across the book first and after reading it, I now love to follow her blog. This is one of my favourite decorating books of the year, though, because it’s not just pictures, but also has so many tips and how-to’s included, as well as the story behind her decorating. Many bloggers (myself included I’m sure) tend to ramble, which comes across OK in a blog post, but can get repetitious in a book. I was very happy that her writing in this book is not repetitious or tedious in any way! If you are stuck in any way with decorating, I’m sure that this book will be helpful. She has it broken into chapters featuring each section or room in the house, “living spaces”, “kitchens” etc and goes through so much information about how to curate your own style. I loved this book so much I also gave a copy to a friend.

the tale of beatrix potter vintage book cover

The Tale of Beatrix Potter by Margaret Lane

I wrote a post last summer, about the movie Miss Potter, which is one of my favourites, so when I saw this book at our local library I checked it out immediately. Not only is it a beautiful vintage edition, but it’s a lovely read as well! Written fairly soon after Beatrix Potter’s death, and with the help of her surviving husband William Heelis, this book tells the story of Beatrix’s life and art. It’s a beautiful book, with colour illustrations, photographs of her life and even an insert of the Tale of Peter Rabbit story, which was originally written as a letter. I didn’t take a photo of it for some reason, but the reproduction letter was photocopied onto small pages so you could flip through it like it would have been originally when she sent it to her young nephew (who was ill at the time). I really enjoyed this book, and was debating whether to add it to my bookshelf..there are a few vintage editions for sale online, but I haven’t bought one yet.

facepaint book cover

Facepaint by Lisa Eldridge

My sister was the one who introduced me to Lisa Eldridge’s videos and this book. I’m not a huge makeup devotee, but I do enjoy wearing it and especially learning about the history of it! In the first part of the book, she covers the three main colours of makeup: Red, White and Black. I had never thought of that before; even though we have a rainbow of colours in makeup now, for most of history all makeup pretty much narrowed down to these three colours. She covers the history of makeup from the ancient Egyptians (some of the most famous historical makeup!) up to the modern era. In the second part of the book, she covers the trends and styles of each decade of the past century, featuring celebrity makeup icons of each. I learned a lot about makeup, especially how it transitioned from taboo to respectable. I also had no idea that some brands such as Rimmel and Maybelline were so old! The other nice thing about this book was it’s size and glossy pages which made all the images pop. If you like makeup or history or both, then you will definitely enjoy this book. (Also, the makeup featured on the back cover is from her personal vintage make-up collection; so many beautiful and interesting makeup packages!)

welcome home book cover

Welcome Home by Myquillyn Smith

This was the other good decorating book I read this year. It was one of those ones that really feels like a breath of fresh air as you’re reading it. I read it, and then I read a whole bunch of sections to my mom and sister because I liked it so much. Written by another blogger, whose blog I also didn’t know about, the focus of this book is on hospitality and celebrations. She talks about how we can often get so caught up in wanting our homes to be perfect, and our holiday decorations to be festive, that we can unwittingly put so much pressure on ourselves and our imperfect homes that we never even end up celebrating and hosting because things aren’t quite as good as we think they should be. It was a gentle reminder to me of the importance of hospitality, which from a Biblical perspective is nothing like “entertaining”, but is rather focused on serving others and sharing our homes with one another in a spirit of love. The book is divided into four seasons, and each chapter is named after a different hymn that corresponds to the topic of that season- I loved that! She had a lot of great ideas for how to simplify each season to really enjoy each holiday, and ways to share these holidays with others.

in the midst of life book cover

In the Midst of Life by Jennifer Worth

This was one of the first books I read this year, and it got the year off to a good start, even though that seems odd considering that it’s a book about hospice and palliative care. After she was a midwife, Jennifer Worth, the author of the “Call the Midwife” books, left midwifery and went into end-of-life nursing. This is her book about that field of nursing. It was a very thoughtful and thought-provoking examination into how we treat death and dying. She talks about how in times past, people died of “old age” and were left in relative peace to do so, but how in the modern era, everything is treated as an illness that must be cured, despite the fact that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. She shares stories of some of her patients and their experiences in hospice as the end drew near, and does so with compassion. I also thought her section on assisted death was rather prescient considering the epidemic of medically assisted suicide here in Canada, and the wake of grief many loved ones face when people opt for assisted death. I really wish that I had recorded some of her quotes, because she has a good way of putting things. I might need to get this one out of the library again.

the blue castle book cover

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The final one on this list, is my favourite book by L.M. Montgomery. And that is saying a lot because I love so many of her stories! However, this one featuring a “spinster” heroine is not just my favourite of hers, but also one of my favourite books of all time. I read it first about four years ago, and have re-read it a couple of times since then. I did this year because I told my mom to read it, and then after she was done I had to refresh my memory so we could talk about it together (and laugh at the funny characters and situations). I read a biography of Montgomery a few years ago and discovered that most of her books were written about real places and based on her own experiences. While the story is not based on her life, the setting of the story, the Muskoka region of Ontario, is based on a trip she took to Bala, Ontario in the summer of 1922. I love this story; it’s one of those that you simultaneously don’t want to end, but also want to find out the ending! I rate it 6 out of 5 stars.

Well, there is my list for this year! I’m already looking forward to next year’s list of books, and planning which ones to order from the library or pull from my shelf. And I’d like to branch out into some other topics, as I seem to have gotten into a rut with WWII! Some that I’ve got on my list for 2023 are David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, (that will be an audiobook), The Seamstress by Allison Pittman, a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas and, as always, a few Agatha Christie murders thrown in for good measure! I really enjoyed this post, about reading a book a week. While I can’t quite do that, since I get a lot of my books from the library and have to wait for them to come in via inter-library-loan, I am still planning a list of books to request, and then will fill in the gaps with ones I already own. While I still did read a lot this year, I also opted to read on the internet a lot more than I read physical books, which is something I’d like to change for the next year.

What books did you enjoy reading this year? Do you have a list of to-be-read books for 2023, or do you just plan to read as you come across something that interests you?

 

 

 

A Year of Reading | My Favourite Books of 2021

a plate of tarts and a teacup in front of an open book

Here we are at the end of 2021… already? It seemed like a busy year for me with so many projects going on, but I still managed to get in a fair amount of reading too. How about you? Since I started this blog series, last year, I thought I would carry it on by sharing my favourite books I read this year. In no particular order, here they are!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This was maybe my favourite book of this year, recommended to me by my friend Meghan, who also has a YouTube “booktube” channel, in case you are interested. (I get so many great book recommendations from her!)

This is the biography of Louis Zamperini, which follows his life from his beginnings as an Olympic runner in the 1936 Berlin games, then to his time during WWII as a fighter pilot and after that as a POW in a Japanese camp. I wouldn’t recommend this one if you don’t like reading about war, especially the Pacific theatre, as it is quite brutal at times. He went through, and suffered, a lot during the war, but thankfully the book doesn’t end there. It chronicles his path afterwards, finally ending in a very powerful and beautiful redemption.

Miss Fortune by Sara Mills

This is a fun spy/espionage novel set in the 1940’s just after WWII. It is written in the style of film noir, about New York’s only female private eye, the “P.I. Princess” Allie Fortune. Unfortunately the author intended to write three books, but was only able to finish two of them. This is the first one, which does set up the beginnings of a secondary storyline which isn’t completed, but the main storyline is good and is resolved by the end. (I wouldn’t recommend the second book in the series, though, because she never wrote the third one, and there was too much of a cliffhanger at the end.)

Target Africa by Obianuju Ekeocha

Africa has a long history of colonial influence from the West. In this book, Obianuju Ekeocha, who is a biomedical scientist and founder of Culture of Life Africa, talks about how the West is still trying to influence African countries with what she calls “Ideological Neocolonialism”. She talks about how much of the “foreign aid” from wealthy donor nations comes with strings attached; including the population control abortion agenda, sexualization of children and radical feminism, which many African nations, including her own country of Nigeria, are not interested in. It was an eye opening look into how much of the foreign aid money sent from Western nations, including my own country of Canada, is being used ineffectually and is siphoned off into corrupt organizations, instead of being used to help poor third world nations with their immediate needs, and to actually help them flourish.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

This is another quick and enjoyable novel, this time set during WWII about a young woman who moves to London in hopes of becoming a war correspondent. Instead, she accidentally ends up getting hired as an assistant to a women’s magazine advice columnist! I read this one in a couple of days, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a couple of more intense scenes, because it is set during the London Blitz, but it’s overall an entertaining, heartwarming and funny story.

the covers of the three Madame Chic books

Lessons from Madame Chic, At Home with Madame Chic and Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

This is a three-for-one, because this is actually a series of books that I read this summer. Jennifer is the blogger and YouTuber of “The Daily Connoisseur”, and in these books, like her blog, she speaks about how to add elegance and “chic” to your everyday life. When she moved to Paris as an exchange student, she was so inspired by how the French live, that she adopted many of their habits. She shares these stories and lessons that she learned from her host family about how to add elegance and poise to your own everyday.

My favourite one was definitely the first in the series, Lessons from Madame Chic, since I found there was a bit too much overlap with the other two books. It felt a bit like I was re-reading the same advice for several chapters- perhaps if I had read them farther apart I wouldn’t have noticed it so much.

The Shallows by Nicolas Carr

This is the other book that ties for #1 with Unbroken in my list. (Though they are totally different subjects, so maybe they can both place #1 in their respective categories!)

The most striking thing about this book is that it was written in 2010- more than ten years ago now- and it so accurately predicted the trajectory of internet; our usage and habits, and how it has continued to affect us as a society. He talks about how the internet is quite literally changing our brains, which is in turn making us more distracted and less capable of critical thinking. Interestingly, social media was in it’s infancy in 2010, (Instagram wasn’t even around at the time of writing) but already he saw the negative impact it was having on people. Reading this book and then taking a look around at the culture in which we are living in now was more than a little eery. Of course, here I am writing about the evils of the internet…on the internet! He doesn’t condemn it entirely, but instead demonstrates how we should be aware that the internet is making us “shallow”, and how we should take the time to put limits on it; relegating it once again to just a tool.

My favourite quote which I didn’t copy down, but recall from memory, goes something like “the internet is so helpful and good a servant, that it would be a little churlish to note that it also seems to be our master.” I definitely recommend checking this book out, if you’ve ever thought about your internet habits and wondered whether they are entirely all that healthy.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

This is one of my favourite books of all time and I like to re-read it every few years when I need some encouragement.

The Ten Boom family was a Dutch Christian family who hid Jews in a secret room in their house in defiance to the Nazi’s during WWII. The story follows the family pre-war, how they got involved in the Dutch Resistance and then how Corrie and her sister were eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. The book doesn’t end with the war; she focuses the final section, most importantly, on forgiveness, her faith in God and how there is “no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still”.

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

In a similar vein, here is another book about WWII (I sure read a lot from that era this year) and this time from a Canadian perspective. The author shares about his grandparents’ experiences during WWII, and how their stories weave into each others lives and into his life. His maternal grandfather fought for the Canadian army in the Pacific theatre against the Japanese army, and his paternal grandparents were Japanese immigrants to Canada who lost everything they owned in BC and were sent to forced labour in Alberta.

He writes poignantly about his own struggles towards key figures and events in his life and how he was able to learn forgiveness from his grandparents and how they were able to forgive the “other side” and build a new life together after the war- one that wouldn’t even have been possible without that forgiveness.

If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley is a British historian and curator at Historic Royal Palaces, so she is definitely qualified to write a book about the history of the home. However, maybe even more importantly, she is also a great presenter who is quite funny, in a cheeky way, and so her books (and TV programs) are engaging as well as informative.

I had already watched the BBC program that this book is based on, but I still enjoyed reading about the evolution of the way we live in our homes. She talks about the practical and social reasons changes occurred, from the medieval times of the Great Hall, to the more intimate and private Victorian Parlour, all the way to the current Living Room (which is remarkably similar to that medieval model). If you don’t feel like reading it, I would recommend watching the four part BBC program!

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

I had listened to Abby Johnson’s testimony before, but I still wanted to read her book: and then I received it for Christmas and was able to read it just in time to add to this list! In this book, Abby shares her story of how she started volunteering at Planned Parenthood in her college days, which eventually led to her working full time as a clinic director. She wanted to be able to help and counsel women in crisis, but God used a series of events to lead her to leave the clinic and, to her surprise, join the pro-life movement instead.

Educated by Tara Westover

The last book in my list is another excellent one. I had heard about this memoir last year and then when one of my favourite bloggers listed it among their favourite books, I knew that I had to pick it up the next time I was at the library.

The author chronicles her life growing up in a dysfunctional family in a rural area. Although it wasn’t that remote of an area, they didn’t mix with other people, and she only attended school sporadically. The story is quite intense and frightening at times as it follows the author’s life as she grows up and decides to eventually leave her family’s home and go to university. This book is a rare glimpse into what life in an isolating and abusive environment can be like, and how it can affect even the strongest person.

Tara Westover truly has a gift for words and engaging storytelling; I was hooked from the moment I read the introduction.

Well, that’s my list of favourite books from this year. I read 50 books in total this year, so these are just the highlights. I’ve already got a stack on my nightstand…so here’s to reading more good books in 2022!

What was your favourite book you read this year? Do you have any recommendations? 

A Year of Reading, In Review

stack of books with a teacup on top

I love reading. For education, for entertainment, lighthearted books for passing the time, heavy books to challenge my reading skills…

2020 was going to be my year of finally getting through my massive “To Be Read” book list but, alas, the library closed for quite a few months and derailed that plan. However, I was still able to read through a variety of books, and took the library closure as an opportunity to read through some of the unread books on my own shelves too. I didn’t quite succeed in finishing off my personal collection, but still managed to read 40 books this year, so it was a good year for reading! Thankfully the library opened again in the fall, so I was able to get a few more to last me for the next while. When you’re stuck at home on a bleak winter day, there’s nothing better than curling up in a blanket with a book and a cup of tea, right?

I thought I would share a few of my favourites today, so if you are looking for some books to add to your list, here are my 2020 reading highlights (in order of when I read them).

Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

wives and daughters book cover

I’ve watched the BBC version of Wives and Daughters and it is excellent. It stars Francesca Annis as one of the main characters, and she is really good in that role. I read North & South last year, (I asked for books for my birthday and Christmas gifts, and was happy to get copies of both North & South and Wives & Daughters.) and was able to get through Wives & Daughters early on in the year. I quite like Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing. There weren’t any surprises, since I have watched the film, but it was still an enjoyable way to spend a few days. I would like to read some of her other works- I’ve added Mary Barton to my list.

The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin

The Panic Virus book coverI heard about this book a couple of years ago, and had it on my library list for quite a while. It delves into the history of vaccinations and all of the scandals and cover ups that have come along with them (and that still plague us today). It kind of sounds like a boring topic, but it is actually a really good book. It is quite well written and surprisingly engaging. 10/10 would recommend this one if you like medical history and science!

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet book cover

I had also heard of this one a couple of years ago, from Susan Cain’s TED talk, so I added it to my library list. It wasn’t mind blowing, but it was a helpful book for me to read, to learn about some of the differences between introverts and extroverts, and how to use my introvert tendencies as a strength instead of a limitation. It’s a slower paced book, but was well researched and informative.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

The Body book cover

Hands down, this was one of the most enjoyable reads of my year. This is an interesting overview of the human body, but it was funny and witty as well. It is a thick book, but is broken up into small, manageable sections, so you can pick it up and read a little bit without losing your place and having to start over.  I never understand why textbooks can take an interesting topic and distill it down into the most boring format possible- this book is really the furthest thing from being a textbook (it’s actually fun to read) and I learned so much. I also thought that the index was good, so you can find sections easily if you want to read about a certain topic again.

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth by Thomas Morris

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth book cover

Another medical book (What can I say? I love reading about science and medicine!) This book recounts some of the hilarious, horrifying and miraculous medical cases from historical medical journals. The book is compiled of excerpts from journals (all written in proper Old English, which makes it even better) but the best part of the book is the commentary that Thomas Morris offers alongside. He has the perfect dry/dark sense of humour that lands just right. I read this one, and then I made my sister and mom read it too!

King Raven Series (Hood, Scarlet & Tuck) by Stephen R. Lawhead

King Raven trilogy book covers

This series is a reimagined version of the tales of Robin Hood, set in Wales during the 11th century. It’s the perfect blend of history, action and adventure. Each book is told from the perspective of a different character (Robin Hood, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck) and I really enjoyed the story. The author did so much research into this time period and his world building was very believable and realistic. Even though Robin Hood is likely a legend, after reading this series he definitely seems real! I do love a good historical fiction series to escape into and I can see myself re-reading this series again in a few years.

How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman

How to be a Victorian book cover

I had heard good reviews of this book, but after reading the back cover, I was kind of wondering whether it would be one of those “corsets are oppressive” sorts of history books. However, I was pleasantly surprised as it was nothing like that! I learned quite a bit about daily life in the Victorian era- the author is a British historian and was actually part of BBC’s historic farm television series. She had a lot of insight about what life could have been like (of course, she points out, we’ll never know completely) during the era. This book was also broken up into manageable sections, so you can pick it up and put it down as you have time. As a lover of vintage and history, this was a great one to read!

You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay) by Allie Beth Stuckey

You're Not Enough book cover

I listen to Allie Beth Stuckey’s podcast occasionally, so was interested to read her first book. She tackles the self help and self love culture that is so prevalent today, and how it is ultimately unfulfilling and empty. There was lots to ponder in this book, and I am debating adding this one to my library so I can re-read and refer back to it in the future.

Death in the Clouds and The Hollow by Agatha Christie

Death in the Clouds and The Hollow book covers

I do love a good murder mystery, and if you haven’t read any of Agatha Christie’s, you are missing out: there is a reason why she is the most popular writer of the 20th century! I received a whole stack of her books for my birthday in October and, while I haven’t gotten through all of them yet, these are my two favourites so far. Both of them are Poirot mysteries, and very quick enjoyable stories. I can never guess who the murderer is!

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsely

Jane Austen at Home book cover

My last read for this year was this biography of Jane Austen (who is also one of my favourite authors!) I have watched some of Lucy Worsely’s BBC histories, and have found them engaging and entertaining; her ‘If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home” series is a really good one. I’ve read a couple of other biographies of Jane Austen, but I quite liked this one. Of course so much has been lost to history, and we’ll never truly know Jane, but I feel like I got a glimpse of her in this book, and she really does feel like a kindred spirit. I am also debating adding this one to my personal library too!

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Fields of Joy by Ruth Chou Simons

fields of joy book cover and pages

Ok, actually my last book of the year, which I haven’t completely read, is this one, Fields of Joy. My friend gave it to me for Christmas, and it was the most unexpected, yet lovely, gift! It’s not a book designed to be read cover to cover, but is filled with pages of verses and watercolour artwork, so you can read a page each day. This is going to be a good one to keep on my bedside table to refer back to often.

So, those are my favourite reads from this year! Have you read any of these titles? What were your favourite books from this year? Do you keep track of how many books you read each year?

(Also, on a side note, I noticed that my library prints on their receipts how much money you’ve saved by using the library, instead of buying books, and I saved $363.43 this year!)