January is almost always a great reading month for me, and this month has been no exception. It’s as if I heave a great sigh of relief as soon as the Christmas decor is packed away and collapse into a figurative easy chair to read the month away. Of course, this doesn’t really happen, but I manage to fill my nooks and crannies with reading more in January than any other month. So what have those nooks and crannies held for me this month?
What I read by myself, a.k.a. for my own enjoyment and edification:
- The Chemistry of Joy by Henry Emmons, M.D.– I never reviewed this one, which I started in December but finished early this month, on my blog, but here is what I shared on Goodreads:
Mental health is a topic of great interest to me due to personal experience with mental illness. I read this author’s The Chemistry of Calm (his book about anxiety) last month as it applied more to my own personal experience at the time. I read a review somewhere that cited his The Chemistry of Joy as the better of the two books, and I have to agree with that reviewer. In my understanding and experience, anxiety and depression are bound up together. This book paves a bright and hopeful path using Western knowledge about mental health, Auyervedic understanding, and Buddhist philosophical teachings to offer a three-pronged approach to healing. Some of the suggestions are a bit out of my comfort zone as a thoroughly Western thinker, but it has provided me much food for thought and a great sense of hopefulness, which is invaluable.
- Straw into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt–loved this one enough to choose it as a bookclub read for my class at co-op –reviewed on my blog here
- The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford–I started this audiobook after seeing the movie by the same title (twice!–I LOVED it that much). I’m a distracted audiobook listener so I know I missed some details and quite possibly great swaths of this engaging piece of nonfiction. Still, enough of it sticks with me–particularly how our modern iteration of Christmas is indeed modern–the Puritans didn’t celebrate it at all, thus England didn’t celebrate it at all until the Victorian era. It also made me want to read more Dickens.
- A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park–a re-read of this short but affecting story; my original review is here
- Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley–it’s hard to pick a favorite, but this one might be it for the month. My review here.
- The Hate U Give by Angela Thomas–I didn’t review this one because I couldn’t. All I can really say about it is that it gave me the feeling that I presume people might’ve felt after viewing Joseph Riis’s How the Other Half Lives. I really had no idea what life is like for some Black Americans, but this book is an inside look. A language and content warning belong on this book of young adult fiction, but I ultimately found it worth it. Check out this review at Breakpoint for more insight (HT Sherry)
- Wishtree by Katherine Applegate–It’s the time of year that I frantically try to catch up on the purported best in juvenile fiction so as to be able to anticipate the ALA awards in February. This one is on a lot of lists, and I enjoyed it. My review here.
- I also managed to keep up with my Daily Audio Bible listening, which means I listened to Genesis and Job. (I’m listening to the chronological Bible.)
- What I read aloud to/with my children (chapter books only)
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai–My girls and I enjoyed this audiobook together, read expertly by Doan Ly. My original review here.
- The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Phillip Stead (illustrated by Erin Stead)– I read this delightful and quixotic tale to all four of my children, an unheard-of feat! My review here.
- Squanto by Clyde Robert Bulla–I partner-read this one with the DLM. Here are my thoughts from Goodreads:
I read this one aloud, partnering with my 7 year old son. Clyde Robert Bulla’s books are good ones for this age, but I found myself editing this one a lot as I read, giving Squanto’s sentences all the necessary parts to make him sound like an intelligent human being. In other words, it stereotypes the Native Americans’ speech, which is something that is at best highly annoying and at worst something that creates the wrong image of Native Americans in the minds of another generation of youngsters.
- Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz–This a funny, short chapter book for the early elementary and preschool set. My review here.
Eleven books in a month is as many as I’ve read in a long time. I’m pleased with it, and more important, I’m happy with my book choices. It feels like a month well spent.