On Becca’s Bookshelf // December Edition

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Well, my Decembers reads were… meh. I made some hasty choices before leaving for vacation AND I read several dry-ish parenting books. But ya win some, ya lose some, right? Here’s the scoop on what to read and what to avoid!

  • That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay. “When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food.” What… that sounds delightful! And the cover has the Eiffel Tower on it! Letters and Paris and books and cookery? As Amy Poehler would say, “Yes, please!” But unfortunately the book touched only lightly on all these themes while focusing much more heavily on the absurdly wealthy characters, predatory divorcée neighbors, stressful family relationships, and — the greatest disappointment of all — emails (not a single letter!). For those who like love and letters, try 84, Charing Cross Rd or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society instead. — 2 stars
  • The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. This book promises “12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive.” Despite such a promise, I didn’t find anything revolutionary about the book; it seemed to mostly be scientific explanations for well-known life issues. Example: you should help your child connect his feelings (right brain) with logic (left brain) to effectively work through frustration. Great info, but not  profound. I would recommend NutureShock or Simplicity Parenting for truly revolutionary parenting research. — 3 stars
  • Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. As you all know by now, I love cross-cultural memoirs, especially when they involve France! The author describes her rather fairytale life — meet a cute French PhD student, move to Paris, get married, visit lovely in-laws on the Brittany coast, puh-lease you’re killing me — and then describes the real life side, too, like buying an apartment in Paris, making real friends with Europeans, and watching her father-in-law being treated for cancer in the French medical system. She is an opinionated woman from a small slice of upper class American politics and privilege, though, and her narrative voice is heavy-handed at times. For all this… — 3 stars
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I loved Bossypants and really enjoyed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, so the natural next step is to read the next comedienne‘s memoir, right? Well, not quite. Turns out it helps if you actually watch her on TV. I’ve seen Baby Mama and a few YouTube videos of her SNL skits, but otherwise I mostly love Amy by osmosis… because everyone else loves Parks & Rec and because of Tina. I felt like I couldn’t appreciate a lot of the humor and anecdotes because of this, and thus I missed the point of the memoir. Also I thought she complained a lot about writing a memoir when… wasn’t it your decision to write it, Amy? — 2 stars
  • I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I grabbed this one at the library quickly before leaving for Christmas, but maybe I should have thought through the premise more. A husband cheats on his wife, his wife finds out, and then he decides to win his wife back again. The book would have been better if it focused less on the former (too much flashback about his affair) and a lot more on the latter (in which he proved himself a very clumsy and selfish husband, and I’m not sure I would take him back either). It earns a half-hearted third star for the final redemption. — 3 stars
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Ahh, at last, something good! Something pure, golden, and enduring! This book (first published in 1969) is a priceless resource for any book lover who wants to pass on the wisdom and delight of a good story to their children. The first 1/3 is an engaging treatise on reading together as a family and building a foundation of good books; the second 2/3 contains lists of wonderful children’s books for age 0 to adult. Highly recommended! 5 stars
  • Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis. Another incredible resource to add to your parenting library. The first half of the book is an apologetic for preschool at home with a Montessori and Christian approach, a combination which is unusual and inspiring. The second half is a manual of practical activities you can do with your child with bowls, buttons, pitchers, marbles, and other everyday objects in your home. — 4 stars


Did you set reading goals for 2015? Here’s an amazing reading goal list from one of my favorite blogs. I read a lot of books in 2014, but I am wondering about slowing down in 2015 in order to write more… hmm…

What did you read in December? Any recommendations for all of us?

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15 Responses to On Becca’s Bookshelf // December Edition

  1. Monica January 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    Haven’t read most of these but was also annoyed by Amy’s whining about writing a book!!

    • Becca January 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Haha, very glad to know I wasn’t the only one!

  2. Karen January 8, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    I look forward to your book reviews! I just read a lovely book called “2am at the Cat’s Pajamas” by Marie-Helene Bertino. It’s a day and night in the life of a young girl who wants to be a jazz singer. I found it through an app on NPR. http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2014/ I’ve found quite a few books that I’m excited to read through the app. You can filter the books by using different tags. I’ve already requested a bunch at my local library.

    I read Big Little Lies last month and loved it! It did make me a little nervous about when my own kids reach elementary school age. Is it really so political? Yikes.

    • Becca January 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      Wow, thanks for this great info, Karen! I just checked out the app and saw so many books that I’d never heard of before and that looked fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

      And I know what you mean about “Big Little Lies.” Terrifying…

  3. Pita January 8, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    If you love letters and Paris (as I do), try Paris Letters by Janice McLeod – delightful! I loved Lunch in Paris and her new book is coming out soon (they live in Provence now). For a great biography, I really enjoyed Rob Lowe’s first memoir. Another favourite is Anh Do’s ‘The happiest refugee’ – it’s about growing up in Australia and might coincide with some of your memories of living there. Happy reading!

    • Becca January 10, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

      Thanks for these wonderful recommendations, Pita! I just put “Paris Letters” on hold at the library, and I’ll keep my eye out for the other two. Sadly the library doesn’t have “The Happiest Refuge” yet; it looks good too!

  4. Carrie January 8, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    I am definitely going to check out the last two you mentioned – those both sound like something I would be interested in learning more about!

    I also loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I did a surprising amount of reading in December. A few of my favorites were “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm” and “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

    • Becca January 10, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

      I’ve heard “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” is so good! I’d love to read that; I just always forget about it. Just added it to my “to read” list on Goodreads. Thank you!

  5. Joy January 9, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    Yay!! I love your book recs! Your recommendation of Simplicity Parenting was great — such an eye-opener! I will have to check out that Barbara Curtis book. I read one of hers maybe seven years ago, before I homeschooled or was headed toward what some call a big family. it would be interesting to read now! (But I can’t remember the title of that one!)

    I didn’t get much reading done in December, aside from reading to the kids. I was doing well to get my teeth brushed every day! ;-). But I did read The Family Under the Bridge to the kids, which is an oldie but we’d never read it before. They all loved it!

    • Becca January 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

      I remember “The Family Under the Bridge” from when I was a kid! I am pretty sure my mom read it aloud to us too. So good! Do you use the Sonlight book lists? They have such, such good recs!

  6. Sarah January 9, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Have you read ‘found’ by micha Boyett yet? Also ‘carry on, warrior’ by Glennon Melton? Moms, monasteries, prayer life, and raw honesty about how hard life can be.

    ‘Not that kind of girl’ by Lena Dunham was a really good read, too. I don’t really care about passing judgment, but am interested in people who are successful early on- and the fact I work w kids with learning needs, so thr bits about ocd were intriguing.

    Read a lot memoirs: surprised by oxford, angry convos with God. Good stuff!

    • Becca January 10, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

      I have read (and loved) “Carry On, Warrior,” but I haven’t heard of “Found.” Sadly our library doesn’t have it, I see, so I’ll keep an eye out elsewhere.

      I read part of Lena Dunham’s memoir in the book store and was so depressed. :( I know so many people love her honesty, though, so maybe I’ll come back to it!

  7. Amy @ Sunlit Pages January 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    I’ve heard so many good things about Honey For a Child’s Heart. I really need to read it because I know I will love it. And speaking of reading aloud, have you listened to the Read-Aloud Revival podcast with Sarah MacKenzie? I am addicted to it. It’s so inspiring!

    • Becca January 23, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

      No, I haven’t, but I’ll have to check it out! Thanks for the head’s up. It sounds like it’s right up my alley! I just started reading aloud “Little House in the Big Woods” to my 3-year-old daughter this week and we are both loving it more than I ever imagined.


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