At Home in the World (& other travel books)

Hi Reading friends– Just finished At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider.  And I could happily pick it up and read it through all over again right now!  It made me think of other travel books I’ve loved.  If you’ve got the travel bug– maybe you’d love them too.

But be careful.  Now I’m itching to plan up a big trip.  (I did google “cheap flights to London!!”–$340 round trip from L.A. Air Canada!!)   Do you have summer travel plans??  Suggestions??!

Tsh and Kyle Oxenreider did something I secretly (or maybe not so secretly since I’m writing it here!), wish we could do.  They sold their house packed 5 backpacks for themselves and their three smallish kids and began a trek around the world that took 9 months.  Starting in China with jet lag and a language barrier, settling 6 weeks in Thailand, and moving on to sojourns in Australia, Kenya, Ethiopia, France, Kosovo, England and points in between.   They stayed with friends along the way and met a colorful new band of people as they traveled. Tsh is contemplative and practical.  She muses about the place called home and their place in the world.  Loved it!

In A Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell and her husband find themselves transported from the bustle to London to small town Billund, Denmark when he takes a job working for Lego.  Having heard repeated statistics touting Denmark as the happiest country on earth, Helen spends 12 months uncovering the habits and preferences of Danish people with style and humor.  She interviews Danes around the country on the topics of education, work culture, taxes, health care, food, interior design in her attempt to find out why they could be so happy.  She immediately is taken with their pastries and slowly comes to understand the quirks of their culture.  Just a fun book, and a real look at fascinating country.

It’s been a while since I read The Geography of Bliss.  But it left an impression.  Eric Weiner wanted to find where the happiest people on earth were found– So he set out to The Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and finally back to the U.S.A. , interviewing people from all walks of life and positions in the country to determine how much happiness could be found in these places.  He depended on psychology, science, history and humor in his search and the result is vastly entertaining and an enlightening look into the lives of people around the world.

A friend sent us a copy of Heidi’s Alp the years we lived in Spain, and would travel in our tired old van around the continent with 4 kids in tow.  This is the story of a family from Oxford who loaded their 4 daughters in a camper van and traveled through Europe tracking down the origins of well known fairy tales, from Cinderella in France and Pinocchio in Italy, to The Little Mermaid in Denmark and the tales of the Brothers Grimm in Germany.  Along the way they also were acquainted with new foods, cultural sights and curious customs.  She also includes a lot of just rollicking fun with the girls as they go– and subscribes to Hans Christian Andersen’s thought, “To travel is to live.”  (Used copies still available on Amazon)

This is another family off to see the world!  Author David Cohen, wife and three kids (2, 5 & 7) sell their house and set off.  They hike up a Costa Rican volcano, view Burgundy from a canal boat, meet lions on an African safari and trek across the desert lands of Australia.  The style is less reflective and more just an amazing travelogue of the high highs and low lows of traveling around the world as a family.  I especially liked his final chapter on what he would do differently, were he to start over again.  A satisfying armchair travel book!

Widely Read

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“Read and listen to one thinker and you become a clone; Read two and you become confused; Read ten and you get your own voice; Read a hundred and you start to become wise.”

― Timothy Keller

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Been reading lately– and taking to heart the call to read more widely.  Here’s a couple books that were so worthwhile…

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles rells the story of a Count Rostov who in 1922 is confined to the attic rooms of a  luxury Moscow hotel for house arrest.  He spends the next decades there, passing days with a fascinating cast of characters that pass through the doors.  There are gold coins, a pass key, a hidden room and a long term secret romance. But the star of the story is definitely the count himself, wry, witty and cultured to a T. The story concludes with riotous twists and turns and leads to a truly satisfying ending.  Loved this book– favorite this year…

Just finished Hillbilly elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.  The author grew up in the Rust Belt of Ohio, into a tumultuous troubled family and made his way to graduate from Yale Law School.  Vance’s grandparents moved up to Ohio from the Appalachians of Kentucky in pursuit of a middle class life.  But the legacy of abuse, addiction and poverty followed them.  Vance tells his own personal story of a chaotic childhood and the support he received along the way that made him able to move up in the world.  At the same time he is candid about the effects of his family that followed him into adulthood.  As well as a personal story, the book is a worthwhile analysis of class and and the struggle to break out of the bounds of poverty and addiction.  Loved the author’s openness and very real view into a segment of America not well known to me.

P.S. The photo above is from the movie The Painted Veil– which is one of my favorites, along with the original excellent book The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham.

 

Reading on the Couch

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Hi Reading Friends– I don’t know about you, but all this winter weather (that means finally lots of lovely rain here!) — makes me want to curl up on the couch with the fuzziest blanket and read away an afternoon, hot mug of tea in hand.

Here’s what I’ve been reading– not earth shattering books, but good company on a rainy afternoon.

unknownA chance meeting at a christening party, results in the break up of two marriages and a new marriage, pulling together a complicated web of 4 adults and 6 kids.  When Franny, a daughter grows and dates a famous author, he writes their involved story and the families revisit their intertwined pasts together.
Love Ann Patchett’s books (especially Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty, a memoir).  And this one follows suit, with characters you may not admire, but are so understandable and a story line that weaves lives together in an intriguing way.

 

unknown-1Does it seem like there is a spate of best selling WWII books?  Here’s another.  Lilac Girls tells the stories of 3 women– Caroline, a NY socialite championing causes for war victims, Kasia a Polish teenager, working with the resistance who finds herself detained at Ravensbruck and Herta, a young German doctor, called to work for the Nazis.  It’s not gorgeous prose, but the story pulls you along right up to the end– and is based on actual people whose lives played these parts in the war.

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unknown-2The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is an immigrant tale–one of my favorite themes since we were immigrants in Spain for those years.  Childhood friends, Anil and Leena take different paths. He leaves behind the rural farming community in India for medical school and residency in Dallas, while Leena stays behind and is trapped into a desperate marriage.  It is a story of love, honor, responsibility and tradition–and a look at two fascinating lives.

painting: Girl Reading on Sofa (1920) Isaac Israel

Christmas Books for Little Readers

 

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Hi there– Do you have favorite Christmas books that you go back to every year?  I have a stack right here on the coffee table, just waiting for the grand-girls to come through the door.  We like sweet. We like funny. We like endearing Christmas books.  Here’s a few if you happen to have little readers on hand at Christmas:

513uldt0lkl-_sy337_bo1204203200_The Christmas Pageant by Tomie DePaola makes use of the text from the gospels of Matthew & Luke, along with the simple, charming illustrations that are instantly recognizable as DePaola’s work.  The story takes us through the Christmas story as presented by a group of children in their Christmas program celebrating Jesus birth.


unknownFather Christmas
by Raymond Briggs is almost wordless, but chronicles Christmas Day for a rather grumpy Santa through a series of detailed illustrations.  This British Santa packs his thermos of tea, flies over Buckingham Palace and makes a Christmas pudding.  You have to admire this intrepid Santa and enjoy his little celebration when he finally arrives home.

61twq0ouzvl-_sx399_bo1204203200_Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant is the sweet story of a small girl who describes her Christmas in the country home of her grandparents.  There’s the awkward Christmas tree that “seemed sometimes like an embarrassed guest” and Christmas dolls and aunts & uncles & cousins bringing pies– a gentle story made even better by DianeGoode’s tender illustrations

51jka-7wl-_sx398_bo1204203200_Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera is a rollicking adventure of Sophie and her mysterious Auntie.  When she stows away in her Aunt’s luggage, she finds herself on a revealing trip to the North Pole and learns a lot about herself and Christmas.  Vivid illustrations and a satisfying ending made this a fun book to read together.

From my Booklist

bb20b0143b4a314e235a4f05f8199af5Hi Reading Friends– First can I let you know I’ve added a new page here.  It’s the tab below The Thankful Heart title– and it’s called Booklist.  For a long while I’ve kept a list of books-read in a little binder–just to remember good authors, titles I’d recommend. But I’ve moved them on to my blog–mostly because I love seeing other people’s books lists!  As when you visit someone new and have the urge to saunter over and browse through the books on their shelves…  So take a look of you’re equally nosey about what other people are reading!

And here’s a few recent books read, that I would say are worth your while…

5175kwhmhl-_sy346_Written by one of my favorite favorite bloggers, Shannan Martin– This books tells the her story. She and her husband Cory had prestigious jobs, their dream farmhouse on acreage and 3 beautiful kids adopted from around the world, when they felt God’s call on their lives to a new way of living.  She’s funny and frank and feels like your best friend by the end of the book.

51w6qupzcll-_sx319_bo1204203200_A Man called One by Fredrick Backman is the story of a Swedish curmudgeon who despairs of life after losing his beloved wife.  When new neighbors moving in next door knock down his mailbox, it sets off a series of events that rattle Ove’s world. A tender book about an odd, but lovable man.  (now a movie)

unknown-6I ran out to find another Fredrick Backman book, soon as I had finished reading Ove!  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is the lively story of a young girl who delivers a series of apology notes from her crotchety grandmother after the old woman passes away and in the process our little heroine learns a lot about her family.

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One of the most gripping books I’ve read, When Breath Becomes Air, was written by Paul Kalanithi in the last year of his life. Kalanithi was a 36 year old neurosurgeon, graduate of Stanford, Cambridge and Yale who talks about his life as a surgeon, a husband, a eventually a new father while he faces his last months fighting lung cancer.  A brilliant man who continues to give through his writing.  Epilogue by his wife, also a doctor.

unknown-2When I read this story of one family’s amazing struggles living in the slums of India, I thought it was heart rending fiction.  Only afterward did I find it was a story told from years of research in that actual place in Mumbai based on scores of interviews.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers will change your heart toward India and it’s beautiful people.  (Author Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer Prize winner)

unknown-4In Pursue the Intentional Life, Jeanne Flemming wrote out of her collected quotes and writings and conversations she’d collected in her “old lady file”– things she wanted to remember when she came to this stage of life.  It’s an insightful look at what is true and real and eternal.  I loved her book A Mother’s Heart when I had small children, and now this new book is just what I need as I step into retirement!

512JUvlc8bL._AC_US320_QL65_Well, if you’re a fan of Downton Abbey (and I am!) you’ll love this book by Downtown’s script writer Julian Fellowes.  Belgravia is the story of two families whose fortunes and family members intertwine and secrets are revealed as the book progresses.  Set in the 1800’s after Waterloo in London’s fashionable Belgravia neighborhood.  Great fun!

 

Thank you verdes-canas.blogspot.com for the book in a pocket pic.

Ten Tips for Reading with Kids!

 

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Hey friends who know kids (that should be about everyone)–  Saturday we had a baby shower here for smart, articulate, beautiful Emily.  For part of the morning, the 5 hostesses (all her mom’s age) decided to give a little “Mom Advice” to Emily, just starting out on this mothering thing.  It felt a little bit like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty hovering around to bestow blessings on the new baby!!  It really was a sweet time together– and here’s my advice on reading:

TEN TIPS FOR READING WITH KIDS

#1. Start early.  One friend told me her mom read to her as an infant and since the baby wasn’t tracking stories quite yet, the mother read what she enjoyed– Shakespeare!  Awesome.  It’s never to soon to ladle all those sweet words and sounds into your baby’s head…

#2. For tiny readers, it’s all about rhythm, rhyme and repetition.  That’s why most every 3 year old is content to to read Brown Bear Brown Bear or Hop On Pop over and over.

#3.  Sing along books are great!  Even my 3rd graders loved to chime in on The Lady with the Alligator Purse!
Nadine Wescott has a whole series of sing-along books that are whimsical fun.

#4. Work reading into your schedule– the obvious before bed slot or during lunch or a wake up story…  The year Aaron was in kindergarten, we read every day while his sisters napped after lunch.  A sweet memorable time together.

#5.  Never be bookless!  Always have a stash in your diaper bag or in the car or tucked in a backpack–so waiting for appointments or in line or in traffic, you can pull out a story!

#6.  Some books are boring– Skip those!!  Look for books with color and lively language and humor, lots of humor–  Our favorite funny books include– I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (naughty baby with a paintbrush) and Never Mail an Elephant (obvious foibles) and the Monster at the end of the Book (better read with the Grover voice!).

#7.  Wear out your Library Card!  Keep a fresh stack of books rotating through your house.  Last summer for Grammy Camp, we had a Library Scavenger Hunt.  We made an illustrated  list — a book about a cat, a Dr. Seuss book, an ABC book…   and rounded them up for a bagful of books to tote home.

#8.  Talk about the books you read together–  anticipate what will happen next.  Ask which character is the most interesting, why?  Imagine a different ending to the story.

#9.  Bribing children to read is totally acceptable!  We had summer reading charts that looked like large Candyland games with a family outing at the end for all who finished.  And when we lived in Spain, someone mailed us a set of World Book Encyclopedias. I paid my boys 25 cents a page to read entries.  When the kids were older, I would check out colorful library books on topics they enjoyed and leave them on the coffee table, pretty sure they would pick them up.

#10.  Just keep on reading!  As they get older and schedules get full, you have to be creative.  On vacations, pick up a book that relates to your trip and read together.  Jim Trelease (author of the amazing Read Aloud Handbook) would make his high school kids wash the dishes for their chores and then sit at the kitchen table and read to them!  One year we had a 30 minute ride to school and read through The Hiding Place, Brother Andrew, Tom Sawyer…  to pass the commute.

So much joy in reading with kids– Hope your lap is fun of books and little “readers!”  And one last picture– our little grand-girl Mae, a book lover.
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Thank you to albinfo.ch for the illustration.

 

 

Rosamund Pilcher–an old favorite

Hi reading friends–  Don’t you think some books are rather like comfort food– that’s how I feel about Rosamunde Pilcher’s series of books. I’ve read them all, but now and then I just need cozy undemanding book and I pull one of her’s off the shelf.  They’re set in Cornwall or Scotland or London– and usually center on a family, including a beloved older grandma type.  I’ve always loved her characters.  They just feel like old friends.  So for some light summer reading here’s my favorites:

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The She Seekers is Pilcher’s most well known book– Penelope Keeling, in her later years, is remembering her bohemian childhood with her artist father near the Cornish coast, her service in WWII in the British military,  her love of a lifetime during those war years.  And in the present there are her three children, grasping Nancy, sophisticated Olivia and devious Noel all with their own ideas about the disposition of Penelope’s dearest treasure — the valuable painting “The Shell Seekers,” given to her by her father years ago.  There are so many likable characters, tender moments and a few surprises along the way.  It really is one of the few books I would read and reread.

 

51PMsim95DL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_Love this story of good intentions gone awry. It reads like one of those tender hearted 1940’s movies.  After Flora Waring unexpectedly discovers she has a long lost twin sister Rose, she agrees to take Roses place just for a weekend with her finance’s family in Scotland.  But she falls into a fondness for the Armstrong family she is deceiving and finds some unexpected attachments.  It involves loch side walks, colorful characters and highland dancing. Flora and the family will stir your heart…

41R0x07Px5L._AC_US320_QL65_Flower in the Rain is a collection of short stories Pilcher wrote for magazines over the years.  It’s a good one to tuck in a suitcase for reading on a trip– there’s a couple who reconnect after years apart, a boy who builds a doll house for his sister when their father cannot, Cousin Dorothy-who learns to love a difficult person… People you’d like to know and places you’d enjoy spending time.  Just a gentle companionable, satisfying  summer book.  I think you might like it too.