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Five Books to Read This Summer


I think if I could travel the world, have a dog, and read books for the rest of my life,
I would be completely happy.

— my sister, last week —

This past week I dove into the most wonderful group of novels, one after another, barely coming up for air between them, tearing through them hours on end, waking up early and going to sleep late to read and read and read. Afterwards I laughingly said I’d gone on a “book binge,” my first in a long time. I’d forgotten what that felt like.

So if you’re looking for some yummy reads, look no further! Here are five books I haven’t been able to put down:

I’ve talked about this one before because — oh! — I loved it so much. I laughed, cried, and left feeling like I’d made a new friend. It’s a warm, tender, open-armed memoir of the author’s life and kitchen table. It’s a manifesto for pouring wine, breaking bread, and making room for friends around your table and in your heart. Woven between the author’s favorite recipes are beautiful, honest stories from her own life. I made her lentil soup for dinner tonight!


This was a Book Club choice, and I was ambivalent… until I realized that it is based on a true story. And then I was blown away. It’s a sweeping Southern drama, telling the story of Sarah Grimke, born into Charleston belle privilege, and Handful, the slave she was gifted on her twelfth birthday. Sarah goes on to become one of the first female abolitionists, and her story is painful, riveting, and inspiring. Read it to be taught as well as to enjoy.

becca-garber-recommended-summer-reading-1 copy

It’s a short, easy read, but the fact that it is also based on extensive historical research makes it powerful and memorable. The book follows the story of Vivian, an orphan in NYC who is put on the infamous “orphan train” heading West to families in need of shop labor or farm hands. Some of the orphans’ stories are devastatingly sad, and Vivian’s takes sickening turns. But the ending is sweet and redemptive, and I loved the modern-day orphan story woven back and forth through the historical narrative. Read it!


This was one of the books from my book binge. I inhaled the 450-page novel in about 48 hours, scrambling to think of things for Lena and Gil to do by themselves so that I could just keep reading! The story begins in the 1960s when teenage Laurel, up in the tree house on her family’s property, witnesses her mother open the door to a strange man and then kill him in cold blood. Unable to forget the murder years later, Laurel goes on a quest to uncover her mother’s past, taking her deep into WWII London during the Blitz.

(Note: I also read The Forgotten Garden by the same author that week, and it was good too.)


What a treat. Reads like chick lit, but the author is smarter and keener, and she knows how to deal with deep heart issues while keeping the tone light and fun. The main character, Alice, hits her head and wakes up thinking that she is newlywed, pregnant, and completely happy… none of which are true because it’s actually 10 years later and she has three children, an estranged husband, and a lot of water under the bridge with her sister and friends. Will losing her memory let her to redeem her family, friends, and life? Or is it too late?

(Note: I also read the author’s newer book, The Husband’s Secret, and loved it almost as much. Highly recommend this one too!)

And here are a few more honorable mentions that I’ve loved over the past few years:

  1. A Severe Mercy — a true love story & the book Elliott and I read when we were falling in love
  2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? — light, fun, mother-daughter story
  3. Unbroken — riveting WWII memoir (I think I was the last of my friends to read this)
  4. The Glass Castle — family, heartbreak, memoir
  5. The Light Between Oceans — infertility, love, & Australia
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale — distopia with a “Biblical” twist
  7. The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love — FAVORITE!!!
  8. Bringing Up Bébé — American vs. French parenting, ie. my kind of brain candy
  9. NutureShock: New Thinking About Children — game-changer for parents
  10. 84, Charing Cross Road — handwritten letters, books, love
  11. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster — EDGE OF MY SEAT
  12. My Life in France — Julia Child, FOOD, France

Do you have any recommendations for me? Happy reading!

14 :: in book reviews, goals, good reads

my goals for 2014


a few things that describe my goals for 2014

Thank you for your encouragement about setting goals and working them out in everyday life. I’d love to hear what your goals are for the year!

When Elliott and I went on a recent (glorious!) 24-hour getaway, we spent an evening talking about our goals for 2014. I wrote them all down in an email draft, and then my phone didn’t save it and the email evaporated. So frustrating! I went home and tried to think through every one that we’d discussed. Now I’ve written these goals down not once but twice, thought them through and through, and I think I’m going to stick with them!

1. Love Elliott, Lena, and Gil.

To expand on this goal from last year, I have a few specifics for each person:

Elliott: Encourage him to write. He asked me for this one! He’s writing a book and wants to have it completely finished by the time we leave Sicily this July. I’m going be invested in his writing and progress by checking in with him, helping him carve out blocks of time, and motivating him to get started each day.

Lena: Establish a morning “school” period with Lena for 1 hour at least 2xs/wk when at home. I’ve been thinking about this one, and I’m excited as well as a little overwhelmed by it because it will be more structured — and require more planning — than any mother-child teaching I’ve done so far. There is an obvious chunk of time for this every day: Gil’s 2-hour morning nap. Generally this time is spent doing household chores together, but I want to devote at least one hour of it to: reading books together, working on a craft project (play doh, artwork, sewing), doing a Montessori activity (learning to set the table, planting and caring for seeds, helping with the laundry), or practicing numbers, letter sounds, and [eventually] reading.

Gil: Read one book with Gil every day. By the time Lena was 4 months, we read faithfully to her before bed as well as during the day. We haven’t nearly made the same effort with Gil. But we’re committed to reading with our children! So here we go… now where’s that copy of Peek-a-Who?

2. Read, Read, Read

3. Make contact with my siblings (Eric and Emily) once per week via email, phone call, letter, package, or a visit. We’re growing up (or have grown up?) and our hearts and lives are so full. Days turn into years so quickly. I want to share more with them and reach out regularly to love them.

4. Write daily in my One Line a Day Journal. It takes 2 minutes. I love flipping through my [sporadic…] entries for the past three years.

5. Learn more about and practice the manual settings on my camera. The photographer whose work I admire most is Paige; her use of natural light and the simple beauty of her images always leaves me breathless. My goal is to photograph more like her by the end of the year. Aim for the moon and I might land among the stars!

6. Publish a piece of writing (fiction or non-fiction) in a non-blog setting.

7. Write 12 guest posts for other blogs (average of one per month). This is a huge, enormous goal that will require a great deal of time and putting myself out there. However, I love this blogging community and I do aspire to contribute to it and share with it. I get in a rut of just focusing on my own blog and not interacting with and contributing to the community. Here’s to changing that in 2014!

8. Study Italian: finish Italian Made Simple before we leave Italy in July 2014. Which means… start working on the workbook every night, right?!


Several bloggers I admire (such as Mary Beth) have chosen one word to encapsulate their goals for this year. I thought about these goals and the driving motivation behind them, and I honestly think the best way to describe them all is love.

I want to love my family by making their goals and success and progress a part of my mission for this year. I want to love other bloggers and blog readers and the military community by not just being encouraged by them but also by contributing my own thoughts, experience, and encouragement to them. I want to love my siblings by pursuing them with time, words, prayers, and individual contact. I want to love the place where I live — Italy — by reading about it and studying its language. I want to love and treasure the good things of this life by reading great books, recording our days, and sharing God’s blessings and involvement in my life with others through the written word.

So love it is!

What is one word that would describe your goals, hopes, and dreams for 2014?

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