On Becca’s Bookshelf // February Edition

Recently Updated250 Don’t you love how I stuck those wonderful children’s books in there? ;) I thought that might make some of you smile! And since they took more than 10 minutes to read aloud to my daughter, I decided to count them so that I can remember some of the sweetest things I read in 2015.

Here’s the rundown of what I read in February:

  • Burial Rights by Hannah Kent — My Australian friend Clare wrote to me, wondering if I’d heard of this novel. “It is one the best books I have read in a long time.” With a recommendation like that, I put it on hold at the library right away. And Clare was right! It is based on the true story of a young Icelandic woman who is involved in the murder of three men, and she was the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland in the early 1800s. The author first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir when she was a high school exchange student in Iceland, and — at the age of 28 — she published this fictionalized account. It is a breathtaking debut and has received critical acclaim around the world. I loved this window into a frozen, unknown land through Kent’s beautiful writing. — 4 stars
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White — I think Lena (who will be four next month) was still too young to appreciate the beauty and complexity of this book. However, she still enjoyed the story, and the book dazzled me. I loved the raw honesty about life and death and growing up, and the last lines brought tears to my eyes. If you need a refreshing dip back into the simpler, black-and-white world of childhood, I would highly recommend reading this book again. And if you have a mature four-year-old or older, drop everything and read this aloud with him or her! — 5 stars
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart — I picked up this book and literally couldn’t put it down until I turned the last page at 1am. Gripping and shocking and desperate and sad, but also beautiful and tender. You will enjoy it if you love New England summers, young adult fiction, and reading about the real, raw pain underneath the smooth surface of a person. Gut-wrenching, so be prepared for a hard story and incredible plot twists. — 3 stars
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink Dense and intense! It is the story of one hospital during Hurricane Katrina where one doctor and two nurses (and maybe others) euthanized several very sick patients. The story is, of course, much more convoluted than that, and it is fascinating to see media, morals, and medicine collide in the smarmy wake that Katrina left behind. Make sure you’re up for 450 pages of detailed, vibrant reporting about medical ethics, disaster management, and legal quandaries. 4 stars
  • Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod — I already shared part of this book here and gave away a copy of it with the author, so you know I enjoyed it! Paris Letters isn’t for everyone, though. Janice is telling her own story, and some may find her narrative style heavy-handed and her life choices questionable, much like Lunch in Paris. Still, I was inspired that she made her dreams come true (to quit her job and travel the world) and still dreamier things followed (like her very own wedding in Paris). — 4 stars
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder Better than I ever remembered. What beautiful, simple, soothing writing about a sliver of time in American history. Lena and I snuggled under blankets and traveled back in time into the cold Big Woods, where Ma churned butter and Pa played his fiddle and Laura and Mary learned about sugar snow and hog killing and harvest time.  These books are such a gift to subsequent generations, and I can’t wait to read them aloud for years with my children. — 5 stars

Have you read any of these books? Any other suggestions for this little book-loving community on this blog? You have already suggested some wonderful ones… thank you!

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23 Responses to On Becca’s Bookshelf // February Edition

  1. Karen March 11, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    I also read “We Were Liars” and was drawn into it. It’s one of the books I’ve been recommending to my friends. A few others that I’ve really liked lately and couldn’t put down:
    Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter (part of it is set in Italy)
    The Fever, by Meg Abbot
    The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith
    Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

    I tend to like books that have a bit of suspense in them, even if they aren’t straight up mysteries and all these had me racing toward the end to find out what was going to happen. They were responsible for some very late nights and undone dishes and cleaning! I had to take a few days break in between reading them so I could actually get some work done!

    I just finished (and enjoyed) The Cuckoo’s Calling. Thank you for the recommendation!

    • Becca March 12, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

      Yay, glad to find someone else who loved “We Were Liars”! I too love the suspense. And I enjoyed “Beautiful Ruins” as well, although I felt like the story fell a little flat at the end. I will look into the other ones. Thanks for the recommendations and your faithful comments, Karen!

      • Karen March 18, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

        I really enjoy reading your blog and many of your posts strike a cord with me. :)

  2. Janet March 12, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    I’ve read all the Little House books, Charlotte’s Web–it made me cry as a child and as an adult—and We Were Liars which I loved.

    • Becca March 12, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

      I like you. :)

  3. Crista March 12, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    I’ve been light on the fiction and heavy on the non-fiction lately. I loved “The Happiness Project” and “Happier at Home” by Getchen Rubin, and my very favorite that I’ve read is “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.

    • Carly March 12, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

      Cristo, I just finished The Power of Habit and was totally surprised that I ate it up like a good crime novel. Who knew that a business/psychology book could be so good?! “Happier at Home” is currently on my Amazon Wish List.

      Becca, currently reading Paris Letters per your recommendation. A “heavy-handed” narrative is a good way to describe it. I definitely think it’s not for everyone, but a few of my early retirement blogger friends would absolutely devour it. I’ll be passing it on to them when I’m finished.

      • Becca March 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

        Haha, glad you can relate, Carly. You’re a good friend to pass it along when you’re finished; I need to do that more often! I get almost every book from the library now, though, so I don’t often have physical books to pass along… just reviews and recommendations. ;)

        And so glad that yet another person loved “The Power of Habit”! I want to put his running habit advice into practice but so far the shoes have never made it to sit beside my bed to remind me in the morning…

        • Carly March 12, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

          I know what you mean about the running! I’m still trying to find a reward great enough to get me into the habit!

    • Becca March 12, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

      Loved both the first and the last books you mentioned! Couldn’t put either one down — I LOVE great non-fiction! Haven’t read “Happier at Home” yet but I am on the hunt for it.

  4. Poppy March 12, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    No matter how many times I read the Little House books out loud to family, I still found myself sneaking back to re-read them all by myself. Always feels like I get to travel back in time and savor the tastes of the American frontier.

    • Becca March 12, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

      Yes! I had completely forgotten what a treasure they are.

  5. Joy @ Jumbled Up Joy March 12, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    I tend to read nonfiction more (as in, not biography or literary but more how-to etc.) because it’s easier to put down. When I’m reading good fiction, I tune out of the things I need to do too much. For instance, when I read The Help (several years ago), I seriously could NOT put it down. I put it in the bathroom and then found myself sneaking into the bathroom so often that my kids were actually knocking on the door asking if I was okay! ;-). So lately I’ve read Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker and Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup. But I decided I really needed to read some fiction so I have been catching up on old recommendations — What Alice Forgot and The Paris Wife. Right now, though, I’m reading Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Nonfiction, but literary. :-)

    • Becca March 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

      My mother-in-law gave us “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” for our anniversary, and I am looking forward to reading it. I’ve heard some mixed reviews, but overall positive from readers I deeply respect.

  6. Sara March 12, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    Charlotte’s Web & Little House in the Big Woods are two of my all time favorite children’s books. I can’t wait to read those to my 5 year old & 3 year-olds. I just finished (last week) reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my oldest children (ages 13, 11 & almost 9)….we didn’t want it to end!! It was so much fun reading it aloud to them for the first time.

    I just finished Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch, a memoir about a woman who leaves a job she hates to open a used bookstore with her Scottish husband in a small town in the Central Appalachian coalfields. I grew up in that region of Virginia, and it was interesting to read about how they reached out to the community and the town embraced them. (Appalachian communities can be tight-knit & it can be difficult to be accepted as outsiders) I also recently read A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. It’s about the psalms of Ascent and is excellent.

    I’m currently reading Paris Letters. I’m not sure why I’m interested….this is the third book in the past year that I’ve read a story about a woman dissatisfied with her life who does something somewhat extraordinary. (The DIrty Life is the other one I read….journalist falls in love with a farmer & leaves NYC to farm in upstate NY). Anyway, I guess I just find these types of stories fascinating (even if I don’t completely relate/sympathize with the writer) & they have all been really fast & easy reads which I appreciate since I don’t always have lots of time to read!

    • Becca March 12, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

      Wow, Sara, you are so impressive with so many kids and reading such good books aloud! Your comment was so inspiring.

      Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is on my to-read list but our library here doesn’t have it. I’ll check in the big downtown library. It sounds like it would be right up my alley, and I love anything about Virginia.

      “The Dirty Life” is probably one of my favorite books of all time! So richly, eloquently, passionately written and so very inspiring.

  7. Amy @ Sunlit Pages March 12, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    Please continue to share what you read with Lena! I always include the books I read with my boys in my yearly count. Often times, I enjoy those books more than the ones I’m reading by myself!

    • Becca March 12, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

      I will! Lena and I just finished “Pippi Longstocking” and now she wants me to read it to her again. She just loved it! I need to go hunting at the library for the sequel. I think boys would love it too. Elliott also read “My Father’s Dragon” to her after a recommendation from a blog reader, and they both enjoyed that as well. It’s amazing what young minds can absorb and appreciate!

  8. Carey Beth March 13, 2015 at 8:08 am #

    becca, I can’t wait to read Burial Rights and we were Liars. Question: how did you/do you find time to read with a newborn? Liza Love is an angel baby (so far!) but even when she sleeps I still am doing other things like my quiet time, cleaning up, making cookies, etc. of course, my mom has been here the whole time and so we talk a lot, but sometimes I feel like I may never read again!

    • Becca March 13, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

      I read this comment this morning but only just now had time to sit down and write a response, so I’ve been thinking about it for awhile!

      My answer is: don’t worry about it. You are still in the VERY early stages of motherhood, and this is a sweet, precious, unforgettable honeymoon period right now. If you aren’t finding time to read, you don’t want/need to read, and I don’t think you should right now. I barely got my quiet time done for months when Lena was a newborn, and mostly that was because I was SO HAPPY and just had so many new, more interesting things to do with my life.

      When Gil was born, I was back in the routine of reading again, and so I kept reading. He, unlike Lena, was NOT an angel baby, and so it it became a quiet survival technique. I also had an almost-two-year-old then, so I needed all the quiet, adult mental time I could get. I like to nurse my babies while lying down in bed on my side because they can position themselves and get a comfortable latch (and often fall asleep!) and I can completely relax and maybe have both hands free. That is how I read a lot when Gil was a newborn: while I was nursing.

      Reading a lot has been an important part of your identity, but now new and precious things have been added. Work reading in when you feel the need for it again — but don’t worry about setting that part of you aside for a bit. The books aren’t going anywhere! They’ll still be waiting whenever these fleeting days slow down. :)

      • Carey Beth March 15, 2015 at 4:28 am #

        You are so right for the reminder to simply cherish these days with her! That is what I am doing. And that’s so true – books are not going anywhere, thank goodness! Thanks Becca.

  9. Simone March 15, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    Some of my favourite childhood books along with The Magic Faraway Tree Series.

    some of the books I’ve read and can highly recommend because I really enjoyed them are

    Birdsville My Year in the Back of Beyond by Evan McHugh
    Sisters of Spiceville by Fran Cusworth
    Second Chances by Charity Norman

    currently reading Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp which I’m also really enjoying

  10. Bethany March 28, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    Not sure if this one has already been suggested or not, but I just finished reading Jo Baker’s “Longbourn” — Austen’s Pride & Prejudice re-told from the POV of the servants! :) A great read.

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