1 b : to learn from what one has seen or found in writing or printing
There are lots of things I'd like to write about tonight. Each year, the last Christmas gift I give my daughters is a gift of words: words that describe who they have been over the last year. I'm pondering the right 7 words for K, the perfect 10 for B and 11 fitting ones for A. But my brain has not been firing on all cylinders over the last 14 days, so that last Christmas gift - and blog post - will be delivered a bit late.
Instead, what I've managed to do over the last hour or so of calm and quiet is look back on what I've read over the last year. For Christmas, my family gave my mother two books - one nonfiction, one fiction. The fiction one is People of the Book, a book I chose both because it's well-written and interesting and because I thought it was appropriate that our family give it, since we are people of books.
I have been so pleased in the last few months to see my extroverted K become not just a capable reader, but a voracious one. I had wondered whether this little bundle of energy would ever find solace, entertainment and adventure between the pages of a book. It seems like nothing less than a gift from my Creator to have three daughters who love to read. So if you don't read much, here are my 2011 suggestions for places to start.
I don't read a lot of nonfiction (just six books this year, with a seventh in process), but there's a clear trend in the nonfiction books I do read. I only read them if I think they're excellent. And I don't just mean they have excellent ideas and content. They must be well-written. Both I Thought it Was Just Me by Brene Brown and The Art of Family by Gina Bria fit this bill. I would recommend the former to any woman, so strong is the culture of shame in our world. The latter is an inspiring, rather than instructional, take on parenting.
One of the best, if not the very best, books I read this year is a small, quiet book called Between Shades of Grey. I love historical fiction for what it teaches me about our world and this book was an eye-opening and sometimes heartbreaking look at what it was like to be Lithuanian seventy years ago.
I think everyone in my family likes to find a good series of books. For K, this was what ultimately got her hooked on reading. A friend talked up the Magic Tree House books to her, she read a few and she's been sold ever since. For me, a series is easy entertainment. I've done the work of getting to know the characters through the first book or two, so if the author can keep surprising me, I'm happy to go along for the ride. Two series have done this for me recently: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I enjoy the Scott series in part because of its use of historical characters inserted into fictional plots. The Leviathan trilogy has been my introduction to steampunk as a genre and they are fascinating alternate reality books.
Looking back at my reading trends over the last year, it's clear I like books that are otherworldly. Sometimes the books that help you see our world best are the ones that aren't quite set in this world. A Discovery of Witches is a great book about accepting who you are and loving someone different than you. Also worth a read was the lighter fare of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
Just for Fun
A book that doesn't fit into my normal reading pattern is Ready Player One. This is a book about gamers competing in a virtual reality game - not standard fare for this girl who majored in art history and has never played games beyond casual Wii with the family. But if you grew up in the 80s, this book has something to offer you. It's entertainment, but well-written enough to not leave you feeling like you've just dined on cotton candy.
There you go. A mere 8 books - not even 10% of what I read this year, but books I think will appeal to a wide range of people. What have you read recently? What do you want to read? I'm always willing to add to my to-read list.